July 14th, 2010
12:16 PM ET
Audrey Assad loves words. Loves, loves, loves them.
“I want to write lyrics that say a lot to people,” the singer-songwriter said recently by phone from her home in Phoenix, Arizona. She says it helps her to read a lot, everything from C.S. Lewis, to children books, to theological discourse, and other non-fiction works.
“I try to stretch myself by reading things that are hard and I think that it influences the way I write - my sentence structure, my vocabulary - so I hope it sets me apart because I really love them and I want to serve the language.”
But Assad's lyrics often describe pain. The pain that comes with being someone who hasn't fit in, someone struggling with her place in the world, someone seeking God's guiding hands, and undenying love. Her debut CD is a compilation of all that comes with that. And even making the album was something that caused her a terrible moment of uncertainty.
She said she went to Los Angeles several times to make the album. On the second trip she had what felt like a panic attack, she said, as the reality of a dream realized became forefront in her mind.
“You talk about a record in theory for a year before you actually make it,” she said. “All of a sudden it hit home. I am really horrible with change. So [making an album] seemed like a good idea and then it hit me and I was like, ‘I don’t know if I am ready for my life to change.’”
Her life will change this week when her new album, “The House You’re Building,” is released. Assad wrote one song herself and collaborated on the others with Matt Maher, Phil Larue, Ben Glover, Marc Byrd and producer Marshall Altmann.
CCM Magazine gave the album three stars (of four) and said:
Assad – whose breakout musical moment came last year with the song “Winter Snow” on Chris Tomlin’s “Glory in the Highest" album - said that even though “you have your whole life to write your first album,” it was still difficult for her. The songs echo her pain caused by recent family events including her parents’ divorce and their initial displease over her conversion to Catholicism.
“Writing [the songs] was hard to go through, to access those emotions and express them in such a way that isn’t dishonoring to anyone,” she said. “Writing can be cathartic but it can also be difficult.”
The songs are personal to her and are sure to be personal to the listener too. They are written by someone who is seeking private moments with God and bettering their relationship. Most of the songs are directed to God in the first person, the “you” she is talking to in her songs.
Of the 11 tunes, Assad said she really likes the title track and “Show Me.”
She calls “House You’re Building” her theme song.
“I know very well that I not only am flawed and sinful, but also unique and eccentric … and kind of an oddball,” she said. “When you are young you want to blend in and be shaped the same way as everyone else, but when you are older you want to be unique and known for who you are. So that’s what the [lyric] I’m a broken stone so lay me in the house you’re building is about. It’s about being in the church the way I am.”
(She also loves the 70's pop feel to it)
“Show Me” is a song about redemptive suffering.
“It’s about not wanting God to take away the pain just yet because I know it’s worth something,” she said. “And I have something to learn so just leave me here for right now, but be with me.”
Assad hopes her songs will resonate with the misfit in us. She knows we all have issues we face as we reconcile what kind of Christian we are, that our suffering gives us a chance to understand somewhat the suffering of Jesus. Being a Catholic helps her understand that, she said.
Assad also faces the issue of being a woman in a field dominated by men. She says she is very guarded and very careful when she is on the road and finds herself as the only woman. But she wishes for more female camaraderie.
She says that with so many worship leaders and songwriters being men, that the feminine heart is often missing and that could be “very starving.”
“Women express their thoughts, particularly about faith and relationships, differently than men,” she said, adding that she has conservative views about the roles of men and women in the church and home. “I love men; I want them to be empowered to be leaders … but I also think that it’s a shame that there aren’t more women doing artistic, creative things in the music industry.”
Other things you should know about Audrey Assad:
- Her surname is from the Middle East but her family roots are Christian.
- Her mom was a huge musical influence, always tuning the car radio to '70s pop groups.
- She really doesn’t feel the pressure of a “highly anticipated” debut, but she hopes people can distinguish the slow jazz feel of “Winter Snow” from the soft pop sound she has as a solo artist.
- She loves to cook, and her recent discoveries mean for better eggs.
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.