1. In your biographical video, you state that "songwriting is healing for both the artist and hearer." How do you think that works? What is it about the song, be it melody, harmony, or lyrics that seems to "heal" you and the audience?
One of the songs I've written called "Fireflies" has been healing for me, helping me to acknowledge pain and loss and also to move on from it. "Fireflies" came from that place, went on the album, and I heard stories later of how listeners made it their own. A year and a half later, my grandfather passed away and I heard "Fireflies" as if for the first time, in a very different context. I've been re-discovering this healing idea in music over the past three years.
2. How have you wrestled with the gift of songwriting? How have you come to understand it more peacefully?
In the beginning, my producer and his wife "mentored" and processed songwriting with me. It was, for me, a process of allowing myself to trust and be more vulnerable; I was scared of sharing my thoughts. Yet in the process of writing and sharing, I began to see how people inserted their own stories, saying, "This song affected me this way...." I found a love of songwriting and more freedom in actually being vulnerable; I can write anywhere now: Starbucks, on the road, here in Calgary. Music, I've found, transcends barriers and it goes to the heart. Of course, that means I must be more aware of its power.
3. I'm going to borrow this question from the Johnny Cash biography, Walk the Line. If you had one song to sing to God, what would it be? What would sum up your days here on Earth so far?
For me, at this point in my life, that song would be "None but Jesus". As a Christian, there is nothing else for me, but Him; He is my everything and I hope that, at the end of my days, I've tried to be a faithful representation of Him.
4. How long have you been playing, writing, or singing?
I grew up in a very musical family, so it was natural and normal for us to sing around the house; it was understood as a part of life. I started piano lessons when I was four years old and finished my Royal Conservatory of Music ARCT in high-school. I began singing in church when I was ten years old. My piano-teacher was one of many integral role-models for me; she inspired me to keep pursuing music. When I was sixteen years old, she asked me to join her band and be mentored by her in worship leading; I did that, also playing with her band. My producer's brother was at one of our shows, met and talked with me, and my first stabs at writing and recording came after that.
5. Do you have any advice for the fledgling songwriter?
There is no better place to be than in a supportive atmosphere; there's grace there, but there's honesty--spoken with truth--there too. It's good to be involved in a church which is willing to expand its horizons; the church I grew up in, for example, had "talent nights!" They were integral years of growth. As a Christian, the invitation of God into my heart remains central to my experience as a songwriter; for me, God-inspired music speaks and I can't ignore that experience.
6. What do you hope to accomplish as a songwriter?
Well, I would say that I have no knowledge of where it's taking me; I'm surprised by it all the time. I hope that I am continually surprised. I hope to write more personal songs; more like journal entries, I'd say.
7. How does your faith as a Christian impact your writing? Are there any topics, such as depression, suicide, pain, or grief that should be "off-limits" to Christian songwriters?
I don't believe so. Christians have ignored a lot of subjects of brokenness. There's a need to address those subjects and call them on what they are. The work of other artists inspires me because I sometimes get frustrated with the Christian cop-out mentality. I am a broken person, but God is in the process of healing and restoring me. I want to get that transformation onto paper, into songs and words. What is missing in these Christian songs is a bridge between happiness and where we're at, between the ideal and the real. How did we become whole? Music is in the gap between that, the journey and the process between brokenness and wholeness. Hope is in my music and it's my hope that people see the God-given hope in it. God is present in all that I've been through, but I won't ignore the dark places that I've been. For girls, especially, the issue of self-worth and the place where we find it is important to me.
8. What are some of your influences?
Musically, I enjoy Sarah McLachlan, Nichole Nordeman, Norah Jones, and John Mayer. Lyrically and otherwise, the Bible is very important to me; Jesus as my Lord and sustainer; people that God has put into my life, such as my producer and his wife and their work with me more as a person than an artist, my first piano teacher, parents and family, my record company, and Family Life Network. It's really a team mentality.
9. Finally, what are you reading these days?
I've enjoyed reading--when I have time--Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz and Staci and John Eldredge's Captivating.
Writer: Soul Shine Staff