Describe your musical style.
Indie acoustic singer-songwriter. I’ve heard a lot of different descriptions and some that perhaps fit best are contemporary pop-folk/inspirational, acoustic pop/rock, or acid metal.
Okay, I’m kidding about the metal thing.
People often put me in the same basic genres as Sara Bareilles, Ingrid Michaelson, Missy Higgins, Colbie Callait, Nichole Nordeman, Eva Cassidy, Imogen Heap, or Norah Jones. I like them all so I’m okay with that.
What makes you unique as an artist?
I have experienced my own share of joys, hard times, hopes, dreams, hurts, and faith, so that is reflected in my music, and I think that is a big part of what makes me unique as an artist. We each have a different background that shapes who we are. Sometimes I have wondered if I haven’t seen more than is necessary for someone of my age, but I am grateful that the Lord knows what I can handle. I believe those things are much of what has made me who I am.
How do you find inspiration for your songs?
I write from experiences in my own life and from what I see around me. Nature often inspires me. People around me inspire me. The gospel inspires me.
Tell us about your new CD. What inspired the album name, Somewhere Between Sunsets?
I think certain moments in our lives stand out more to us than others for a reason. A lot can happen in that amazing space of time from one sunset to the next. For whatever reason, certain moments do stand out as time moves forward—as it always does. That’s part of what inspired the title. I thought of it years ago, actually, and even used it on a small EP (Extended Play) when I started writing. It seemed to fit then and it really seemed to fit now, so I changed the CD’s title from what I was going to call it to Somewhere Between Sunsets.
What was it like producing this CD?
Producing it was a real challenge, but very worthwhile. I had a few different goals. For one, each song came in a different way and time and I wanted to give each song an authentic voice that reflected the way I heard and felt it come. This was very important to me. Sometimes songs came at important crossroads in my life and other times just as life was moving on from day to day.
Another goal was to have the CD recorded in the best way I knew how. I wanted the sonic quality to be such that it could stand up against other records produced on major label budgets (while producing it on our smaller indie label budget).
I feel we’ve done that. We used some of the best musicians, arrangers, engineers, and mastering guys I know of. For instance, I was super excited to have Sam Cardon arrange some strings for this record. He’s a genius and intuitively just knew what to add to help the songs (like “More of Less,” for instance) speak. Everything he did just further gave expression to the feeling I had hoped to convey in that song. Ted Hinckley and Sam Cardon arranged it so that several of the tracks could have the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra play on them, and wow! I was blown away with the results.
Another dream for me was having Doug Sax agree to master the record. Doug is a legendary (not to mention Grammy award-winning) mastering artist, and it was a real treat to have him. He added a lot.
Does Somewhere Between Sunsets have a theme?
The theme really is a patchwork of various moments in time. Like snapshots on a camera—using the same camera to keep it cohesive, but using different lenses for different lightings, different places, different days and moments and colors. I wanted it to be authentic to life’s vicissitudes.
Can you tell us a bit about a few of your songs?
“Truth Speak” for me is about the way the Spirit is always speaking and it’s my choice how much I listen and allow it to teach me, despite the distracting, often busy life that tugs at me.
“And I’ll Sleep” came at a time when I was having trouble sleeping because of some things that were on my mind. The Lord sent me comfort in a really powerful and unexpected way and this song is a result of that.
“Looks Like Change” came from a journal entry in the fall when I felt inspired by the beauty of the transition around me. It made me want to embrace the changes that come and see life as an adventure. If I were to sum up that song, it would be with this idea: Change is opportunity for growth. It can be difficult. It can be beautiful. Many times it’s both.
Some songs on this album, like “Unbroken” and “Not Going Under,” were inspired by the experience of friends and family.
What has it been like being on tour this year?
This is my first official tour, and it’s actually two and a half months long (five states). It’s a 2010 U.S. western states tour. I am touring with another artist from L.A., MTV Duets winner Nikki Forova.
When we set out for the first leg of the tour—three weeks in California—in early July, I knew it would be a wonderful experience, but I honestly had no idea how memorable it would be. Oh, man—the people we meet! From city to city we find ourselves surrounded by many beautiful and fascinating people.
That’s what makes it really unforgettable—when my life intersects with another person’s in a meaningful way. When I can, for a moment, share the same space with someone and feel that we each are somehow lifted and are more than we were alone. That is when I feel most at home.
Right now we are playing the Utah concert dates (Moab, St. George, Utah County, etc.) and then it’s on to Idaho and Arizona. Our tour ends September 18th, but we have another couple tours in mind for later this year or early 2011, and we are already starting to book, so that’s exciting for us.
You’ve had many collaborating experiences. What have you learned from working with other artists?
There is something magical about working with other artists and writers. Each writer has their own dreams, passions, and life experiences, so every writer wears their heart a little differently on their sleeve. It’s really rewarding to be a part of helping with the creation of someone else’s dream. I learn from others’ hopes, frustrations, happiness, and heartaches. It helps me have a broader perspective of the world around me.
You’ve been the recipient of several awards, have performed for many good causes, and have had the opportunity to perform in big events all over the world, including the 2002 Olympics. What are some moments that were particularly special for you?
I would have to say being involved in concerts and events affiliated with a non-profit called USeb (United Survivors of Epidermolysis Bullosa) has been particularly special to me.
One of my best friends, Jamie Hartley Gibson, has the rare skin disease epidermolysis bullosa (EB), and she started USeb a couple of years ago. For years I have watched her work her heart out to help spread awareness and also raise money to help those with EB.
She puts together concerts and even holds a weeklong camp where people from all over the world with EB come together to learn new skills and enjoy being together. It’s taken her a lot of work. My experience helping out at some of these events has been meaningful to me because it reminds me how much I have and how many beautiful souls surround me.
August 9–14 was USeb camp week, and for several days I was able to mentor a small group of my EB friends in some songwriting sessions. I had the privilege of putting lyrics they wrote to music. I was really blown away by the depth of their songs and how well they were able to write from their hearts. We actually went into the studio to record some of these songs, and it was an incredibly special thing for me.
Another thing I’m excited about is to finish up the EP I’ve been producing for Jamie. It will be finished by November. Jamie has an angel’s voice and heart, and I think you can feel and hear that in her music in an almost tangible way.
What are your career goals?
I want to continue to write music and perform, as well as produce other people’s music. It is important to me to help other people create and achieve the dream and vision they have, capturing it on a sonic canvas. It really energizes and inspires me.
Also, my heart has always felt drawn toward jazz and blues, and so I want to continue to sing with jazz combos as I have been. People often mention that they can hear that influence of jazz and blues in my music. I like that.
What do you enjoy the most about being a singer-songwriter? What do you enjoy the least?
I enjoy most: talking to or hearing how people have felt touched by different songs.
I enjoy least: the long hours. Eighteen-hour days are not exactly my cup of tea; at least, not for any extended period of time. Around the time we were finishing up the record it was pretty rough, sleep-wise.
What advice would you have for an LDS artist interested in a career in music?
Give the best you have and don’t worry about what other people are and aren’t doing, or what they are and aren’t saying. Don’t be afraid. We each have different things to share and learn. Give, and have faith that God will help you be where it is that He needs you. I believe that what matters most to God is that we are giving with an honest heart and regularly check in with Him on how to use and develop our gifts. No one is a better career counselor than He is. He may not always choose certain things for us, but He will always give us good instruction and often can help us recognize paths or ideas we didn’t recognize before. There are so many different ways to serve through music.
How does the gospel affect you as an artist?
It is the entire framework and lens through which I view the world. Every hope, joy, frustration, fear, and loss is all interpreted through the lens of a believer. The gospel brings things more into focus for me. My perspective is enhanced. Colors and life become more vibrant and meaningful to me because I know that God does exist. He loves me. He is the reason I sing and write.
How do you see your work building the kingdom?
I believe that as I write and record music that is honest and that reflects truth, soul, and honesty, then the Lord can use that to bless others’ lives.
I think I often learn gospel truths more quickly and deeply through music. I feel the Lord’s love through music and it makes it easier to share that love with others.
Recently someone told me that a song I had recorded was the reason their son knew it was time for him to go on a mission. I just about fell over with joy. That meant the world to me because I pray often that the Lord will take the music I am doing and use it in a way that helps move His purposes forward.
Anything else you want to say?
CDs are available for order on my website, and they can also be found at Deseret Book and Seagull Book. Digital downloads are available on my website, iTunes, and pretty much anywhere else that online music is sold. ❧