July 14th, 2010
12:16 PM ET

Audrey Assad hopes to strike a chord with her lyrics

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:

“Lead single “For Love of You” tells you all you need to know about the promise of Phoenix-based songwriter Audrey Assad. The vertical lyrics mesh beautifully with strong melodies a la Brooke Fraser or Sara Groves to create moments both powerful and memorable.”

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.

- Producer/Writer

Filed under: Catholic Church • Culture & Science • Middle East • Music

soundoff (23 Responses)
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    March 18, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  3. Kathy

    What really amazes me is the wisdom expressed in "Show Me". Audrey appears to be in her 20's. I'm 60 now and it took me about 40 years to learn the lessons expressed in this song. Reminds me of Job.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:22 am |
    • Binu

      Lebanese investigators nmoitoring cellphone usage in the vicinity of the car-bomb explosion that killed Hariri lucked into a breakthrough discovery.According to the report, the cellphones were used exclusively for phone calls among the alleged assassins except for one instance when one of the suspects used a phone to call his girlfriend.From that single call, investigators figured out the name of the operative. .clipHariri was enormously popular among all Lebanese groups, and if it's true that the United Nations tribunal has concluded that Hezbollah was behind the assassination, it would have a huge effect on the country, where a critical election is being held on June 7. what proceeded the turn to hizzbollah was . that was time magazine may 13th. the big der spiegel blast (a very weird place to break the story) was on may 23rd and i recommend this thread for more details, but here's a warm up. the writer is german lives in germany.I personally know a bit or two about the Spiegel publications interior workings and the above leaked Hariri story is quite curious:Spiegel is the biggest German news-magazine and the Hariri/Hezbollah story is part of next weeks print edition that will not be available for sale until Monday. The German Spiegel website carries some of the Spiegel print stories but only after the print edition published them. It mostly creates its own content. The English part of the Spiegel website carries translated stories from the German website and very few pieces from the print edition. Those usually with a few days timelag.This is the very first time I see a story from the German print edition pre-published on the (money losing) English Spiegel site while it is not even available on the (profitable) German Spiegel website.Someone really felt a huge urge to get the Hariri/Hezbollah story out in English very, very fast and pulled some serious string at the Spiegel chief-editor level to get that done. This might well be the same person(s) that leaked the story.One of the two Spiegel editors-in chief is Mathias Mfcller von Blumencron. He was Spiegel's Washington and New York correspondent from 1996 to 2000 and still has excellent connections there. After 2000 he edited the Spiegel website, turned it to the right and introduced the English part. Since 2008 he is one of the two editors-in-chief of the whole Spiegel publishing group.Thanks to Mathias, the Spiegel English website has an exchange agreement with the New York Times website. Expect a reprint' of the Hariri story there soon.Now who gave Mathias that call?also, time magazine didn't exactly break the spy story, they just broke it in the US. hizzbollah had been busting spies in conjunction w/the lebanese police and government before these accusations surfaced, so there was plenty of motivation to put a stop to hizzbollah's rise in lebanon, also, keep in mind the charges against hizzbollah center around this one cell phone call. remember that explosive showdown when hizzbollah wanted to bypass the lebanese phone system since they thought it was compromised? they have since indicted many of it's employees but this started prior to these accusations surfacing about hizzbollah didn't it? the whole thing is very fishy. more from time magazine (circa 5/09 before the UN charges were made against hizzbollah:The Shi'ite militant organization suffered a blow last year with the assassination in Damascus of its security chief, Imad Mughniyah — wanted by the U.S. for his alleged involvement in a number of terrorist attacks, including the 1983 bombings of the U.S. embassy and a Marine headquarters in Beirut. Although Israel officially denied involvement in the hit, the Mossad was credited with authorship both by Hizballah and the Israeli public and media.Since then, Hizballah has stepped up its counterintelligence operations — ironically, with the help of Lebanon's Internal Security Forces (ISF), the U.S.-trained national police force. Officials say the ISF three years ago began tracking Adeeb al-Alam, a former colonel in General Security, another state security branch. When the ISF intercepted communication between him and Israeli intelligence, they began working with Hizballah, and together extracted enough information from al-Alam — whom the Lebanese now believe has been spying for the past 25 years — to crack open eight other spy cells. since then dozens upon dozens of spies have been busted. israel has lost it's spy network in lebanon, or a significant portion of it anyway.

      April 3, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
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  6. Frank

    Nice to see a faithful Catholic music artist. I'll check her out.

    October 5, 2010 at 5:55 am |
  7. Robert Collins

    i have panic attacks and my doctor reccomends relaxation exercise.*.

    October 5, 2010 at 5:29 am |
  8. clara

    My son is 45 and has cancer of the esophagus. He will be operated on Sept 8. I have bought 4 copies of Audrey'salbum.
    I heard one song from her and believe she is truly gifted and has a mission. Her devotion to God is unmistakeable. Theories mean nothing. Suffering is real and faith is earned. I salute you Audrey Assad. Your music has comforted me.

    September 5, 2010 at 11:09 pm |
  9. Ryan Martin

    It is absurd for the writer to say her surname is from the middle east but her faith is Christian. Christianity originated in the middle east and has long established roots there.

    I wish people would educate themselves. Coptic Christians in Egypt have been around a lot longer than Baptists.

    August 15, 2010 at 7:14 pm |
  10. Terri

    God bless you, Audrey, and all you are doing for His Greater Glory!!!!

    July 18, 2010 at 3:30 pm |
    • Ayman

      Beautifully written. I ngmaiie it is hard and awkward having to tell friends that you are a widow – I'll bet there are times you wish you could find another word to describe your situation. I pray that soon God will bring someone into your life so you can turn that "W" upside down again. Much love today!

      April 1, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  11. Joshua Johnson

    Audrey Assad has truly been blessed with a powerful gift that I hope and pray will lead many to experience the love of Christ Jesus. As far as the negative comments concerning the Catholic Church from Reality, I will pray that you research a religion before you judge it in such a negative way and uncharitable way. A book that I would encourage you to read would "Rome Sweet Home" by Scott Hahn or "Unabridged Christianity" by Fr. Mario Romero. May our Lord reveal His infinite love to you all in new ways this day and all the days of your lives. God Bless!

    July 17, 2010 at 9:48 pm |
  12. Veritas

    "There are not 100 people in this world who hate Catholicism, but millions who hate what they mistakenly believe Catholicism to be."

    July 15, 2010 at 9:57 am |
    • William

      And now we have "Veritas" on the site? Yeesh. Come on and use your real name.

      July 15, 2010 at 12:16 pm |
  13. William

    I was merely pointing out the irony that you would be so bold as to name yourself Reality. If you are a Christian, you ought to save that title for your One True God. If you are not, you might consider checking your ego.

    As for the rest of your words, you have made no argument. You have only thrown mud and rocks. I suggest that you handle condemnation and judgement with care— lest the same be cast upon you. I would quote some scripture, but I am confident that you are as familiar as I with many that apply.

    If you have been hurt by the Catholic church, I am grieved by it. I am sorry. I pray that you will be able to forgive, so that you may be free. If you have not been hurt, I hope that you will someday see the billions it has led to pasture in Christ— despite it's imperfections and your personal theological disputes. 

    July 15, 2010 at 2:28 am |
  14. Robert

    Don't forget Sarah Hart as a co-writer! I don't mean to be harsh, but the blog talks about being a woman in a man dominated field, but you forgot to mention a woman who co-wrote three songs on the CD.

    July 14, 2010 at 6:21 pm |
    • William

      This is true. Sarah is SUCH a good writer. Throw her a bone Steve!

      July 14, 2010 at 8:06 pm |
    • Abbi

      Agreed! She is so good! I'm glad and Audrey wrote together.

      December 1, 2010 at 1:11 am |
  15. Reality

    Audrey Assan's next favorite song after “House You’re Building” should be called "Myths and Mythianity".

    July 14, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
    • William

      Haha! That's an absurdity, "Reality."

      This album is really incredible. Lasting, incarnational, real, hopeful, redemptive and annointed— all words that can be applied to the album, the artist and the person.

      July 14, 2010 at 6:04 pm |
    • Reality

      William, If Audrey believes in all the RCC mumbo-jumbo of resurrections, assumptions, atonement theology and 24/7 blood sacrifices then the only appropriate song for her would be Myths and Mythianity.

      July 14, 2010 at 9:56 pm |
    • Bro. Cody

      What happened to civil discussion? You say that what this young woman believes is "myth and mythianity." What is to stop me from saying that what you believe is the same? Why do you insist on forcing your religious beliefs–or rather lack thereof–on other people. I understand that that might have happened to you, but it certainly does not entitle you to do the same to others. It's a vicious, wicked circle.

      I don't care if you don't believe in the incarnated Christ. I don't care if you think God is the biggest hoax in the world. I don't care if you think Catholic priests are all a bunch of rapists. If you want to believe all of those things, please do. If I chose to believe otherwise, by God, give me the right and the respect to do so.

      I've heard that Ms. Assad's music is lovely, although contemporary stuff isn't my favourite music. May God hold you all in Her loving hands.

      July 27, 2010 at 11:49 pm |
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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.