One of the most challenging aspects of my artistry is the sense of responsibility I have to not lead other people astray. More important than expression to me is truth. I have known the most fundamental of truths my entire life, from the earliest memories of my consciousness. And yet, there have been things that I’ve been passionately and completely wrong about. There have been facets of Love and Holiness that I have wholly misunderstood. And there have been questionable sources of influence and inspiration that have been graciously woven into clarity and wisdom and light – leading me back to what is true. Along the way, I have fervently vocalized and heavily endorsed songs and books and health trends and influencers that I would be hesitant to evangelize about now. If you peruse this space for any length of time, you may come across some. ha.

I know the topic of ‘cancel culture’ is pretty hot right now, and that’s not what I’m referring to. I am primarily referring to things that I presumed myself to have a strong enough filter to glean from, but later realized were staining my spirit . . . outputs from people who never claimed to be believers and are probably decent individuals, but are unapologetically yielding themselves to spiritual influences that I want no part of. I suppose I would also include groups and people and movements that do claim to be pursuing God, but may or may not be yikesy, and are – at best – not meant for me.

But that’s where faith comes in and it is wonderful. It’s also where humility and gentleness are developed and I learn to just be quiet and mind my own affairs. If God Himself is not stressed out about wheat beside tares {Matthew 13}, I don’t have to carry that burden on my narrow lady shoulders.

There are a few key liberating realities that I discovered in my twenties. One of which was the fact that we all see in part and know in part. As diligently and whole-heartedly as we may be seeking God, and as often and as clearly as He speaks to us, we still know in part. Those of us who prophesy prophesy in part {1 Corinthians 13}, and that’s been challenging for me to accept. I’d like the WHOLE truth, ya know? I want absolute purity and godliness without any of the grit and mistakes and simple limitations that seem to be terrestrially inescapable.

God is gently discipling me toward a fearlessness in my redeemed artistry that I have not yet mastered navigating. I am learning to surrender to Him in my selectivity and trust that in pursuit of Him I will be kept and ok. I’m not someone who believes that I should only ever consume art and music made by people who profess Jesus at the time in which the art and music were crafted, but I do believe that I have a responsibility to be aware of and intentional about what I allow to minister to my spirit and dwell in my soul. I believe in boundaries. I have experienced the aftermath of swimming too far in the deep end of a pool I didn’t belong in, and I’d rather not take another lap.

As I’ve mentioned in several previous posts, I recorded and released a studio album a few weeks ago. Here’s what I shared about the project when I posted it to Noisetrade the night I drove back home from Charlotte and was so hyped up on adrenaline and espresso and relief that I couldn’t fall asleep:

Lifter of My Head is a collection of songs inspired by the faithfulness of God in my life – from childhood and through very difficult seasons. The enormity of God’s grace towards me as I have wrestled with fear, frustration, longing, and disappointment has not only led me to repentance, but has forged in me a deep delight in His Fatherhood and in the joy that it is to live in my redeemed identity as His daughter. This EP is the softening of my heart-clay, an expression of my desire to declare with the Shepherd-Kings of Israel – I delight to do thy will O Lord. {Psalm 40, John 4,5,6}

I am consistently re-worked and humbled by this holy assignment to churn hurt and light and goodness and joy and story into something singable … and then actually sing it. It has become increasingly clear to me which fruit I am graced to produce, and by grace I am acquiring a taste for it. // But You, O Lord, are a shield about me; my glory and the Lifter of my head. {Psalm 3}

It’s technically an ‘EP’, which I think has something to do with the size or length of vinyl records back in the day. These days it usually has more to do with budget and vision and how much fresh content you have. For me, it was a mixture of those things and a leading.

I spent a large chunk of the last decade writing music. Songs that just came up from my soul and slipped out of my fingertips into chords, often effortlessly. And usually from some kind of angst and longing and lack of any other outlet that felt safe. I have found in writing music that I can tell ‘secrets’ without actually exposing details and identities. It’s still a very vulnerable craft to engage in, especially when it comes to actually singing in front of cameras and people.

My songwriting began while I was an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill term-papering and blue-book-examing my way to a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Jewish Studies. When I moved to California it was wrought out of grief and green eyes and glory. God was expressing His faithfulness to me in such lovely and indulgent and relational ways, and I was falling in love with being alive.

California is just so exquisite. And for someone born and raised in the South who had not yet learned to take up space in the world, it might as well have been another country. The raw, coastal geography and gorgeous landscape; the creative energy and attractive people; the well crafted coffee and internationally curated food; and the myriad of languages and skin tones in the San Francisco Bay Area all blend together beautifully under the hazy spell of near-perfect weather year round, giving the illusion that time hardly passes and you’re not actually getting any older.

There was no shortage of inspiration and aesthetic to fertilize the stirrings in my songstress soul. So when it came time for me to reckon with what it looks like to actually finishing sharpening my pencils and start my assignment, there were dozens and dozens and dozens of songs to sort through. Songs to sort through and inner gunk to navigate. Mostly pride and fear and perfectionism. In the process I came to identify a lingering strand of salty and immature reluctance that sounded like, ‘well if I’m going to be a musician I at least want to do it my way. I at least want to be this kind of musician. I want to be known for x,y,z.‘ But the more I prayed and sought my patient Papa, the more of my self fell away and the more I recognized what a weighty gift it is to be given a voice with which to vehicle riddled words and comforting melodies.

I usually tell people that I write folk music. And I do. But in the process of communicating with people who know me first as a client as opposed to a friend and/or co- worship leader, I picked up on the fact that the phrasing I have been attached to doesn’t always accomplish what I intend.

When I think of myself and my folk music, I think of the balmy Bay Area and the hours long residential hikes I traipsed up and down and around the Berkeley Hills. I think of the living room on Blake St. that taught me an apparently distinct style of strumming, and the picking technique I didn’t realize was a finger or two short until it had already become a muscle memory. I do think of banjos and mandolins and harmonicas, but the San Franciscan, West Coast, rambling kind. Not necessarily the formulas Nashville seems to cultivate.

‘Indie’ has seemed to be the most fitting pre-fix for the music I make and the way it sounds in my soul – often before my skill level catches up to the stories that resonate inside of me.

I don’t tend to keep up with mainstream artists or their lifestyles or journeys or processes. I find myself more attracted to the border-walking stumblers upon of their destinies. The ones that hop from one thing to another and some how end up in the Surfer’s Journal featured for their eclectic blend of giftedness and industry. In fact, my 29.4 came in the mail on Friday, and opens with an article on Evan Mock who had this to say:

Look, nine times out of ten, someone who is known for one thing loves other things, too. And maybe they put it out there, and maybe they don’t.”

So true. And exactly what I’ve been learning and conceptualizing lately – that all artists are icebergs. I remember coming across a post somewhere mentioning that a certain singer’s most recent chart-topper had actually been written eight years prior. Other artists whose journeys and lives I do follow, or have otherwise briefly collided with in books or online browsings have offered similar sentiments. That actually, they’ve been wanting to do this for twelve years and are just now in a place where it’s not forced, but finally coming together.

Now that I’ve finally done this myself – as stripped and simple a project as it is – I understand more now how musicians and songwriters and artists may not necessarily be ‘evolving’ as much or in the chronology or direction that one would assume by following the lines they draw. It could be that what you’ve been seeing and hearing all along is only just the tip of their iceberg.

My own EP is a humbling embodiment of this truth. Light Life and Morning Song (Greatly Loved) were written this year – in January, Lifter of My Head and Lens Flare were written within the past 18 months, and Adonai was written five years ago. The overall tone of this song collection is much softer and more feminine than what I had in mind for my first release, and is in someways not statistically representative of my song catalog as it currently stands. Yet, I would not have it any other way. It’s so much less about me than it used to be. I truly recorded and released this collection unto the Lord and with the weary in mind. Through creative mis-communications and COVID-19 delays, the Lord has purified so much more of my soul and her intentions. I don’t need to be known for savory lyrics or multi-instrumentation or innovative scripture storytelling. What I want is to be found faithful.

I’m very much looking forward to writing and recording and releasing the songs that I have heretofore gotten most stoked about . . . songs about Judges and Jonah’s fugitive sea-faring . . . songs written from the perspective of the unnamed, well-rested Israelites who lived during King Solomon’s reign. And as convinced as I am that the end of all things is at hand, I am also fully persuaded that God is more than just asking me to build in faith from a place of rest, to not be in a hurry to get the songs out, and to continually seek first His Kingdom.

The truth is, I am entirely reliant on the grace of God to get this right and live it well. To keep singing the truth to the glory of God, and to have the wisdom and resources to navigate the process of drawing up songs from the well of my soul and getting them recorded and mixed and mastered and released for streaming on Spotify and all the other platforms. Truthfully, my best songs are the purest outpourings of the times I spend quietly lingering with Him; and He knows what the people He made most need to hear in this allotted boundary of time.

Labor and delivery are often the analogies attached to producing an album or publishing a book, and I can 100% concur. Although I’ve never experienced pregnancy, the first few weeks after my studio sessions felt like I had just given birth . . . particularly as I waded through the digital distribution process and actually sharing with people that I had done a thing.

After sending my samples off to the producer to have the guitar tracks recorded remotely by an artist in Nashville, I drove up to Charlotte for my COVID-rescheduled studio sessions and spent one full day tracking vocals and the next mixing and mastering all five tracks. As I finally settled down a week or so later, the whole experience brought to mind the spotty sleep schedules, midnight feedings, and exhaustion that face new mothers after they’ve gestated a miraculous tiny human in their fruitful wombs for the better portion of a year, and spent however many hours pushing through contractions or tubed up behind a curtain.

Song stories from each track of the EP can be viewed either on IG TV, or my Youtube channel. If you visit my IG TV profile via the Instagram app, you should be able to select the ‘Lifter of My Head – EP’ series from the Series dropdown. The album itself can be streamed for free using this link, or incorporated into your Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, Amazon Music, or Deezer library. I hope the songs are a source of comfort and encouragement.

. . . & & // take heart.

C O M M E N T S

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