Pentatonix’s Kevin Olusola, Author Donovan Donnell Team Up to Host ‘Imagine Faith Talk’ Podcast

Kevin Olusola, Donovan Donnell

It’s not very often that a former male exotic dancer turned life coach teams up with a multiple Grammy Award winning beatboxer to chat regularly about optimizing your own performance in God’s eyes.

No, this is not one of those jokes about a pastor, a priest, and a rabbi. It’s actually a new motivational faith podcast available now on a host of platforms including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Castbox.

Kevin Olusola, the beatboxing sensation for multi-platinum selling acapella quintet Pentatonix, has teamed up with author, life coach, and entrepreneur Donovan Donnell to host an inspirational podcast called Imagine Faith Talk. Its purpose is to take a deep look into the Bible to maximize uniqueness, weaponize the imagination, and to leverage faith in God for success.

I recently sat down with the podcasting duo to discuss the origins of the Imagine Faith Talk podcast, how faith can unlock everything that we’re called to be, and how playing the cello and beatboxing at the same time can not only be an interesting juxtapositon but be a rewarding career too.

Occasionally, friends will ask me to recommend a good podcast they can listen to. Other than recommending my own, I’m always looking for good podcasts to share with my friends. So, if someone were to ask me to explain what the Imagine Faith Talk podcast is about, how would you describe it to them?

Donovan Donnell: In short, I would say it’s a podcast that helps you. It’s a life hack that helps you maximize your uniqueness.

Kevin Olusola: It’s a podcast that’s kind of the confluence of understanding how your faith in God can be elevated, but also optimizing your own performance in life. Coming into the music industry, one of the things that I learned was that as I was trying to pursue this dream God had given me, I realized there weren’t a lot of people in the same space trying to do the same thing. I didn’t see them. And I knew that there were other Daniels trying to be Daniels in their specific world. You think of Daniel in the Bible. He was somebody who was an excellent human. He came in. He had this excellent spirit. He was one of three leaders over 120 leaders because of his excellent spirit, he had faith in God as well. And he was also in Babylon. So, I feel like there were so many more people like me who were trying to do the same thing. And I wanted to have a conversation about what it is like to have faith-based success in your field and how do you have God still stay relevant to you. Also, optimize your performance so you can show yourself excellent in what you’ve been given.

You two are an interesting pairing. Kevin, you are a former pre-med student, a beatboxer, and a three time Grammy Award winner with Pentatonix. Donovan, you, on the other hand, are a former male exotic dancer turned life coach, author, and entrepreneur. How did the two of you come together on this?

Donovan Donnell: It’s funny. We met at a Bible study. That was the interesting part. A friend of someone who was attending a Bible study that Kevin put together was a close friend of mine. They were like, “Hey, I think you would really like this Bible study. It’s for creatives. It’s for entrepreneurs. It’s for people like you who have experienced being a black sheep, have been outcasts, but feel like they have something very unique to offer the Kingdom. And so, I showed up and we just hit it off. Kevin is a very sincere person and I love to share. He created a safe space. I shared some more.

Kevin Olusola: As Donovan said, I started an in-person Bible study in 2018 before COVID for those people who I thought were Daniels, people trying to be in their sphere of influence in their worlds, trying to influence culture for the Kingdom. As we started that Bible study, every single time Donovan spoke, I was flabbergasted by the knowledge, the breadth and the depth that he brought every single time. (What he said) was speaking life to every single person in the room. So, he and I had dinner in Los Angeles over vegan food, and we became fast friends. And so, when we started doing the Bible study over Zoom during the pandemic, he and I started leading out with our friend Corey, who was a producer. Also, somebody I met 10 years ago in Beijing was looking for a Bible study. During that time, he said he was seeking Jesus. So I said, come to the Bible study. As he saw Donovan and my rapport, he decided, you know what, I think I have to tell you guys what God’s telling me. I think this (Bible study) is a podcast. So, we prayed over it. And then we got a resounding yes from the Lord. That’s when we started the development process for the podcast.

On your podcast, you go through the Bible and you try to unpack what it has to say about success and how faith in God can unlock everything that we’re called to be. Why is it so important for you both to consistently convey this theme on a weekly basis?

Kevin Olusola: That’s a really good question. I have seen so many people who have said that they pray to God and they pray and pray and pray. They see the thing that they feel like they’re called to do, but they don’t know how to get there. I think there is this confluence of how is your own performance affecting your faith in God? And how is your faith in God affecting your performance? When you look at the Bible, it says faith without works is dead. We don’t want people, especially in the United States, we don’t want them to have dead faith. We want people to rise up to the call that God has for them in their totality. Not just believe God can do it, but as Jesus says to so many people in the Bible, “You take up your cross, You rise up and walk.”

Your faith has to be activated by your decision to make a move. So, we just want to help people optimize the moves that they’re making so that their faith in God is efficacious, if you will. There’s a real trajectory because at the end of the day, when they get to that space in their success, the goal is not so that we have more money. That’s literally not it at all. It’s so that when you get there, when people look at you, you can finally shine light to Christ and you can shine light the whole way through your influence and your ability. 

Donovan Donnell: I think the importance of it is that a lot of people are pursuing somebody else’s definition of success. What’s going to happen is that they’re going to obtain it and not have any fulfillment or satisfaction. And so, we’re really trying to help people, not chase after something. That’s really not for them. Why dedicate your life to something that’s not going to produce any fruit? That’s why it’s important for us to do this weekly, to start to demystify and expose what’s been fed to us and say this is not for you. It’s not going to give you what you think it’s going to.

Amen. So with that said, what does a typical episode of Imagine Faith Talk look like? How is it structured?

Kevin Olusola: Usually what we do, we talk about things that we’re going through and we look through the Bible, almost like a Bible study for ourselves. This is a therapeutic time for us, and once we finally find the crux of what the answer is for each one of us, then we go back and try to unpack it from what’s the theme. What are we learning here? What is God saying about our imagination that we actually need to know? What is God saying about our uniqueness in this next series that we’re going to be talking about? Why is success exhausting? We unpack so many reasons why it feels so daunting to even try to climb the ladder and all those things. And then, as we look through the Bible, we try to subvert what the world says for kingdom culture. What if God actually pictured it this way? Not the way the world’s saying it. For example, the 24/7 work grind. With every single episode, we always have to make sure that there’s some sort of paradigm shift. That’s helpful, not just for us, but also for the listener as well.

Do you have a topic where you both feel this is our sweet spot, this is what we need to be talking about? Whether that’s due to your past experiences or you just hold strong opinions and beliefs on a topic, do you have one or a general area?

Donovan Donnell: Anytime we get to talk about uniqueness, that’s something that we’re both extremely passionate about. I’m talking about being unique, or going against the grain by faith. For example, Kevin took cello and beatboxing and put it together. Who would do such a thing?

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Psalm 77:19. It says, “Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.” And for us, that is talking about your uniqueness. It’s a way that no one really knows, but you and God. When we get to talk about the uniqueness of our life and our personalities, that’s when we both light up. We could just talk for hours about that. That’s how we want  to help people, to maximize their uniqueness.

Kevin Olusola: We want people to know that you don’t have to do it the way the world tells you to because faith is your multiplier, not hustle. I’m not saying you don’t need to work hard. I’m not saying that you don’t need to be efficient and optimize yourself because we want people for that. But once you’ve done that, you can rest knowing that faith is going to be the thing that takes you the distance, not your own work. You can now tell people, “It’s not my story. It’s a God story.” God is the one that opened the door. God is the one. And people will hopefully have an inquiry to who this Jesus Christ that we serve is.

After people have listened to an episode of Imagine Faith Talk, what would you like your listeners to get out of the experience? What’s your greatest hope for this podcast?

Donovan Donnell: Our greatest hope is that they become a part of the community. Let’s all do this together. That is the greatest hope, that this just multiplies and duplicates itself and that they start having these talks with their friends. Also, they’re helping unlock people’s potential and maximizing their uniqueness. That’s the goal for us.

And lastly, this came up at the beginning of our conversation. How does being a cellist and a beatboxer go together? How did you ever come to those two places in your musical artistry?

Kevin Olusola: Well, I appreciate that question. I’d always played cello growing up and I’d beatbox for fun. But when I was living in China, one of my Chinese teachers asked me if I ever played cello and beatboxed at the same time. At first it sounded crazy because like you said, cello and classical music has hundreds of years of pedagogy of how you play the instrument. You don’t really tarnish this beautiful legacy with something like hip hop as some may deem. But once again, this is the crux of the podcast, right? God has called us to be imaginative and creative. This is the way God called me to be creative. And I’m going to make art that you’re either going to like or you don’t. But I love what Jay-Z says. He says, “Look, if you don’t like it or you like it, at least you have to make a decision.” That’s art. That’s what I think Jesus did. Jesus came and He spoke a message that the religious industry of the time, if you will,  just did not like it. But it was because He knew what He was speaking about. And He knew who he was representing, and He came with authority. So, that’s why I think with this podcast, we want people to stand in the authority of their creative gift, whether it’s in the creative industry or in the way their mind works. To be able to serve others, whether you’re a parent or you’re professional, you’re an artist, utilize that, weaponize that, because now you may create something. Remember, you are bringing heaven on earth in a way people didn’t know. People may be up in an uproar about it, but at least, you know your assignment and you know why you’re here.

To Learn More about the Imagine Faith Talk podcast:

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