Media > Interviews > April 16, 2001

Telephone Interview: April 16, 2001

How long have you been playing the guitar?

I've been playing for 2 ½ years. I started out with a really bad guitar. One of those beginner guitars that you never ever heard their name - that's cool - stuff like that. It just looks really cool. It was like faded blue. Stuff like that. Now I've got myself a Taylor. A c-314. It's really rockin'. I'm so thankful and so grateful.

How many guitars do you have?

Guitars that I wanna say I own? I've never paid for a guitar in my life. They've all been gracefully given to me. I have an Ibanez 12 string that I've never played. But it doesn't have any strings on it, so I'm just looking to donate that somewhere. That, and I have one that an endorsement company gave me, it's called a Daisy Rock guitar. Oh, please no. It's like flaming hot pink - I can't do that. (laugh) And then I have my Ovation Celebrity which I've played for a long time and I still play that sometimes. But, just when I pick up my Taylor I'm just like mmmmm….

And the Taylor is the one that you play in your shows?

I play my Taylor right now, yeah. It's really cool. I'm really excited about it. I had writer's block for like six months - got the guitar - and I was like dude, poppin' out songs every four minutes now.

So what inspires to write your songs - what influence do you have from other singers?

Well, that's kind of an obvious question and we all know that (Jennifer Knapp). But in more depth, writing songs is like a shrink to me. What I get out of writing songs are a release, comfort, understanding, and a better knowledge of who I am in Christ, and who God wants me to be. It's kind of like questions and cries and calls - all my songs are about my life - and most of them about my disappointments, because I just I have way too many of them to write anything happy. (laugh). I'm kidding. I'm not like that. But, I mean, people inspire me. I mean, everyone's like a certain artist inspires me and influences me. Yeah, I have tons of those. I've got everyone from Jonatha Brooke to Diana Krall to Patti Griffin to Beatles. Love the music!
Ashley Cleveland rocks. I like a lot of melodic stuff like Bush, and I love Luna Halo, and I love Earthsuit. Just good music in general. That all influences me, whether it's cool or whether it's not cool. I'm gonna listen to good music, I don't care. I love Frank Sinatra. But that's musically. But writing and stuff like that - that's just living my life. God influences me completely. Just taking some time to go chill and be quiet and listen and think about everything.

If you write with just a guitar, and you play with just a guitar. Where did the production on your CD come from? Was that you wanting to experiment?

My CD is the process of me finding out who I was, and kind of experimenting, and kind of saying "well, I'll give the label some leeway and they can take it the direction that they want, somewhat."
Your first CD, honestly, has to appeal to a wide audience, because you've gotta build that fan base. You can't just be in that genre that's just secluded to a fan base of like 15,000 people in the world, are the only people that like that kind of music. That's cool if you wanna do that, but that's not what a record label has in mind. (laugh) If your heart's there, then that's for you and not for a label.

Do you have another album on the horizon?

No, not real soon, but there's always another album coming out. I haven't gotten anything figured out. I'm writing right now - I'm always writing. I don't have a certain time slot that I write. I just do it because it's part of who I am. So I've got some good stuff. It's sounding fragmented. I'm kinda scared, because most of it doesn't have solid choruses or hooky lines, and stuff. It's just like three verses and one chorus, maybe. But I love it, I love it, I love how it sounds. I love how my songs are developing into stories more than just telling you what to do, or "be this" or "be that". It's a story line. I like that. I'm sure somebody out there likes that.

What's been the most challenging thing in your career thus far?

Having expectations, and having them be broken one after another.

How so?

Well, I have really high expectations of what I think should be - what I think should happen with an artist in the industry. You find out that a lot of things aren't always what they seem. For instance, coming into this whole thing a about year and a half ago is like I was this iddy-biddy consumer. I never grew up on mainstream music. I always had a Christian CD, Christian tape in my tape player. So, I absolutely loved it. I loved all that stuff. Just meeting the people, it's like "Oh, really….cool?….I loved you….forever?" (laugh). There's a lot of people in the industry that deserve so much respect and then there's a lot of people that I'm like "Oh, I'm praying for you." We all have our trips.

Do work with Jennifer Knapp at all?

Yeah - I was on the road with her for a few days. I don't get to talk to her a whole lot, 'cause she's been on this Bebo Norman, Justin McRoberts deal on tour. But when I do talk to her - it's like, she's my mentor. She's the one that's showing me the law of the land. Just totally showing me what to do and not to do. Just being total mentor, total influence, and I'm just sitting by the sidelines listening, and taking it all in. She knows exactly what she's doing, and she's doing a good job of it. Steve, on the other hand, is more of the business, nitty-gritty stuff, you know? But she's really cool. We have mentioned doing some summer festival dates together, just slipping me in, and stuff like that. And even if I don't get to play, I'm so cool with that. I don't mind at all. I'm just like, I'm here along for the ride, and the ride can be as important as playing, because you get to see everything that goes on. You really have to learn. Everyone is like "well, living on the road you have such a hard life, and it's such a free life.". You have to learn a lot. It's a lot of like getting your priorities straight, time management, and things like that. Because if you don't have that on the road, oh, everything just falls underneath you.

How many shows have you played since your album came out?

I was on the Strangely Normal tour with Phil Joel. It was a lot of fun. There was always something spontaneous going on. I did that tour, and that was my first round of shows that I've ever done back to back. I have not paid any dues, which is the sad thing. I mean, I'm only 16, I don't even have my license.

What are your favorite songs to play - of yours?

I love, love, love playing "Search Me". Absolutely love it. I think it's because that's the one that I've practiced the most, and got down to a key. I love playing that one. That one's always so new and so refreshing to me. I love the fact that even when I'm having the dirtiest day, worst day and I have to go up and play "Search Me", and talk about how God searches us, and I really don't want it. But I have to sing this song, so in the midst of all of the things that I don't have to do, God searches me anyways. It's like "I don't really wanna do this, but I have to open up my heart...". I'm refreshed in the process.

What's your favorite book, or who is your favorite author?

Right now, I'm kinda still reading "Everything You Need to Know About the Music Business". I really love, like, turning my brain on for a second, and getting to know the nitty-gritty inside appeal of the music industry, and what I should do, and what I shouldn't. I like to read things that help me further me, whether it be in my career, or in my relationship with God. I love fiction. I've read a lot of fiction when I was 15, 14, read a whole lot - like I'd check out 10 books from the library. Now it's like "Read a lot of fiction, now I need to read something that'll help me". I've gotta go get my eyes checked, dude. Everytime I start reading it's like "I'm falling asleep". Either that, or it's just my lack of.

Does it ever feel, being at such a young age, that when you're talking about God to your audience, that they're just ignoring you because you're a teenager, and they think that teenagers can't know as much about God as a 45-year-old? It's kind of a weird question.

No, that's a great question. You know, "Growing Pains" is about me and give us some credit at my age. I think sometimes I do struggle with that, because I have different audiences. Like, next week for GMA week, it's gonna be a tough cookie, because I'm gonna be playing in front of all these older people that have seen it all. They just sit back, hands folded, like "show me what you've got". I don't like that. I like to help out, and kinda minister to the people. It'll be a little weird, but I'll hopefully just stay focused and remember that God doesn't put an age limit to a willing vessal. I always say that, because it never says anything like that. It does "Wisdom comes with years", of course. Like, Proverbs is all about your parents having widsom cause they're a little bit older. All those stories about how little instances where people my age have - God has worked through them to influence everyone around them. I just think "Be smart in what you're saying, and try to have things to back it up". Basically, if you have the Bible to back it up, what are they gonna argue with? I think you're always gonna be faced with that - a tough cookie in the audience. There's so many ways to soften those people up. You know, when people seem all hardcore, it's just like, all you've gotta do is love on them and be compassionate. I'm just a teenager.

My songs are my life. It's like a journal, it's my diary. I know somebody out there would be willing to listen to it. I'm trying to be as honest and blatant as I possibly can without scaring everybody. We as Christians like to beat around the bush so much. It's gonna have hard times. Nobody ever said it was gonna be easy. It's just life and you gotta deal with it. You always have someone that's gonna be critiquing you, and not liking things, and just a little analystic about it. But, you don't have to live for those people. You don't live for your audience - you live for God. For me, what I get out of my live shows - I don't care if I please my whole audience, because I know you can't please the world. If I'm speaking to 4 or 5 people directly, and they're being affected, and they're having a spiritual release with God right then and there, then I'm just all over that. Because those 4 or 5 people matter SO much. Maybe they were having this crummy day of horribleness, their parents walked out kicking their dog. It's like, they needed something, and hopefully I can convey that through what I was feeling at the same time too.

I went to a show - Sara Groves - new artist. I love her live shows, and she says it so well. She says she's living her life for everybody, and she could never hold up to the expectations of it, and she was writing a song one day and God was telling her "You can't do this - you're so burnt out - you have to live your life for an audience of One". I was sittin' there, totally worst day of my life, stressin' out, bawling, crying, and I was just like "Yes Sara, you know exactly what you're talking about, I'm am SO doing that now". And that's how you have to be. People are people, and people fail. God doesn't. Period.

Well put. Well, that's about it. Thank you for your time.

Well, thank your for your time and effort. My effort is just rackin' my mouth off. Anyways, thank you, and I'm sure I'll see you around.