So my sweet online friend Marie Lemma asked me a few questions for a school paper, and the questions were so good, I asked her if I could add the interview to my tumblr.
So friends, here you go:
1) What type of Artist/songwriter would you classify yourself as?
Kind of like ‘Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch'….minus the rap and the underwear modeling. (: No…just a plain ole singer/songwriter who loves a good song with good lyrics that make people smile and think a bit.
2) Is there an Artist who you would like to perform with, co write or write a song for? And why?
I'd love to play violin with Justin Timberlake some time…..and would die to sing a duet with Bono or Chris Martin from Coldplay. Touring with? Norah Jones all the way.
3) How do you feel your life experiences have played a role in your songwriting? And why?
There are a lot of songwriters and singers who sing about things they haven't experienced—and I just didn't get that gene. In order to sing something convincingly, I have to have lived it. I think songs give snapshots into someone's heart…and I want those snapshots to be from places of healing with the same power to release something positive over someone's life.
4) Do you have any songwriting rituals? Such as using a particular guitar, sitting in a precise spot, etc? Do you feel they play a role in your songwriting?
I don't, actually. It's kind of like…wherever it comes out…it comes out. If I'm in a concert, or walking down the street, or driving my car…I just pop out my voice recorder on my iPhone and lay something down. If I'm writing on the guitar, I just play until something sounds good, and write around that. I'm definitely not a creature of habit.
5) You've worked with big names in both the Christian music industry (Michael W Smith) and Pop Culture (Jonas Brothers). What were some differences in touring with two artists that draw such different crowds?
Smitty (Mchael W. Wmith) was family. Not by blood, but in spirit. I lived with his family for years….so it was more than just a gig. The band/crew was a lot smaller and tighter…and I was with the same guys pretty much for 8 years. You get REALLY close…and it's like a little family out there.
The Jonas Brothers was a HUGE organization. It was fast paced, and all over the world…jetting over night to a different country and jetting back the next day. It was bright lights and high speed chases and surviving on tiny amounts of sleep to entertain millions of people in just a few months. It was a BLAST….and I'm so glad I did it…but it wasn't easy! Definitely a once in a lifetime experience!!
6) What was an average day on tour like? Did you ever feel as if you were “working”?
Oh, yes. Touring isn't quite as glamorous as people think. You see a lot of hotel rooms, and the bowels of arenas, and airports….It's fun, but it's definitely not easy. By the end of the Jonas Tour, I think my eyeballs were about to pop out from being bloodshot. We'd get on the tour bus after the show, drive to the next city, and the shows weren't usually THAT far apart, so when the tour bus rolled up 5 hours later, guess who had to get off the bus at 4 am! I have a hard time going back to sleep, so usually I'd just lay there for a few hours, and finally get back to sleep when the sun was coming up. We'd have bus call about 2 pm…so I'd get up at about 1 pm, which makes you feel like you've lost the day! We'd head to the venue, grab lunch, do soundcheck party, eat dinner, do the show….and then repeat it all over again the next day!
7) How did it feel when Jordan Sparks asked you to record “God Loves Ugly”?
I was SO honored. Jordin and Natasha Bedingfield called me one day apart from each other asking to record that song, so talk about a wonderful problem to have! Jordin had asked first, so she recorded it…and I definitely cried the first time I got the record! She's such a beautiful girl with one of the most amazing hearts in the industry I've come across!!
8) How do you feel about the fact that people are beginning to call the music industry ” a dying industry” and where do you see the industry headed?
Man….unfortunately, they're right. I have so many friends who are out of work because of illegal downloads. The music industry went from a multi-billion dollar industry to a multi million dollar industry. I think I heard the other day that Capitol Records is 1 billion euros in debt (don't quote me on that. It was brought up in a convo). It makes me sad…because I wonder what's going to happen to music for my children and their children. Not sure there will be the Billy Joels and Elton Johns and Bruce Springsteens—the huge artists that defined culture and created genres. So it takes $700,000 to promote one single to radio world-wide, and now, that artist might only sell 1,000,000 singles at $.99 a pop. that means, the record industry went from selling 1,000,000 at $10.00 (which is $10,000,000) to only making $300,000 after promoting the single. talk about shutting down an operation.
Because of that, people everywhere are in fear. Artists who are brilliant aren't being released by the label because it's ‘new' and ‘not what's worked in the past.' They're wanting track albums because they can be created in the studio with very little overhead (because it's a guy sitting on a keyboard creating a track) instead of going into the studio and creating a studio record with real instruments and people.
So, my first record is about to be released. We spent about $90,000 on it, which means, i'd have to sell 90,000 singles as an independent artist, or 9,000 records just to break even! talk about making it hard for musicians to make a living doing what they love!
I honestly don't know where the music industry is going. There has to be a new model. There has to be creativity that allows artists to create, knowing people aren't going to pay for their art. Not sure how that's going to work….but we've got to find a way—or great music and true artists will be a dying breed. I didn't intentionally write a book to solve that problem…but it does for me to some extent. People are still buying books. Not sure they will in 4 years (with iPads and Kindles out)…but for now, they are!
9) Do you feel the industry has changed from artists that just want to play music to people that just want their time in the spotlight?
I think you're always going to have those—and always have. There will always be people who need to be validated for their gift—and musicians and artists are some of the most insecure people I know (not across the board…but creative people tend to be insecure in their creativity). I think there are people who really love music, but like I said, with the industry changing and people not being able to make a living doing what they love….you're going to see people compromising with their art to fit in the box that ‘works and sells' as opposed to creating art for art sake.
10) The industry is very image based, and you spend your time making sure young girls realize their own beauty. What would you do to get the music industry to favor talent over looks? Do you feel that the media is influencing young girls too much on how they should look?
The industry is very image based. That's why I LOVE american idol. You fall in love with people and their personalities AND voices. There's people of all sizes, shapes, and backgrounds in the top 10 of that show…and iI love it. People are very critical by nature. Even the most beautiful girls in the world are crucified at the mercy of nameless faces behind their keyboards spouting opinions that spew poison. I think…people who are confident in who they are—regardless of what the mirror says—-I think THAT speaks louder than anything. If I can help to empower women to look in the mirror and see value…the beauty will be produced—on the inside AND outside. there's nothing wrong with physical beauty….in fact, i love to feel beautiful! But when it's the focus on the outside WITHOUT the inside changing…it's not real and lasting. I want girls knowing their worth INSIDE….and for that to permeate to every other area of their lives. When you believe you're of value….you'll act like someone of value—and that's an absolutely gorgeous characteristic.
11) Your song “The View” describes your first memories of living on your own in NYC, what was it like adjusting from a town in Texas to the “Big Apple?” How did this move influence your songwriting at the time? Did it create more of a drive for you to succeed?
Well, I moved from Nashville to NYC, so that was a bit more of a hop than a leap…but it was still culture shock. Honestly, I was in heaven. I'd walk around for hours at a time…just looking up at all the lights and people. Before I knew it, I'd have walked 6 miles, and would had 10 new song ideas just strolling around the city. Art inspires art….and New York City is one of the most creative places on earth. You can't live there and NOT be affected positively by that energy and level of creativity. So it wasn't as much of a drive to succeed as much as it was a morphing into what i was around. It just kind of…happened.
12) As a student, I continuously hear about how important networking is. How has networking helped you get to where you are today?
My take on networking is this…..every significant job or gig I've had has come out of relationship. Not relationship for the sake of networking…but genuine relationship. I got my first gig with Jennifer Knapp because I was working a lot with DC Talk's bass player, Sugarbear, and he thought I was great and made a call. I wasn't networking for the sake of networking…I was just living life in relationship. I got the Smitty gig because i went to church with Smittys drummer, and he recommended me. I got the Jonas gig because Smitty's manager recommended me to Kevin Jonas for their show at the Ryman. So I wasn't ‘networking' for the sake of getting gigs….but out of relationship, everything came about. I'm a very intentional person—and I really value my relationships….so having a ‘motive' to hang with people just doesn't sit right with my gut.
13) For me, songwriting is a very personal experience and can be sometimes a “diary”. Do you ever write for yourself without the intent of sharing your music with others?
I started writing because of that. I never thought anyone would hear my songs—and wrote them for me and my lonely fish. They were a sort of therapy for me coming out of the most painful time of my life—rehab for an eating disorder. It was a beautiful way to cope with the pain, and bring something positive out of something that had been so destructive. I write a lot of songs that never get heard. I feel like you have to get the fat off to get to the real meat of who you are as an artist and what you want to say. Not every song is a keeper. I've learned not to be so ‘attached' to them—it helps my perspective stay unbiased when i'm deciding what songs I want to go ahead with in a set.
14) You played violin in high school, did you ever think it would bring you this far?
I played the violin because I thought it would be cool as a little girl…then got to middle school and high school and hated it because it was just about the most UNcool thing I could have done…then loved it in college because a hot boy needed a violin player to join their band. I've always had a love/hate relationship with that instrument….but it's always been good to me. And no, I NEVER thought I'd still be playing violin and making a living doing it. It was just something I did on the side while I was growing up.
15) How are you preparing for the upcoming release of your book? How was the process of writing it, different from writing a song?
The book. The book has been like birthing a child. We're self-publishing the first round, so it's A LOT of work. I couldn't have done it without Studhubs. There's copyrighting things, and getting ISBN numbers, and registering with the Library of Congress, and trademarking logos…doing websites and covers and photo shoots and choosing printers and sizes for the book. Self-publishing is NOT for sissies! But I believe it will totally be worth it when it's out. There's enough people waiting for this book…and I want to get it in their hands as soon as possible. If I went with a big publishing company, the book wouldn't come out for another year…and they could release it for any price they wanted. this way, we can keep the price low—so everyone can get it….and if we need to sign a distribution deal or publishing deal later, we can. But for now, we just thought it was important enough to get into girls hands….before Christmas! So we started our own publishing company called ‘Love Bucket Publishing' (because we want to produce materials that are for the sole purpose of helping fill the love buckets of people's hearts!)….and the book will be released in just a couple of weeks!!
Writing a book is COMPLETELY different than writing a song. I can have a song written in a couple of hours. The book, however, took a year! You write and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite and get angry and start all over again and rewrite and edit and cut, and rewrite again!
16) In the future would you like to perform more as an artist, or will you continue to play in the band for other musicians?
The goal is most definitely to do my own thing. I've been honored to support some amazing people in my career for the last 10 years, but it's not the ultimate goal of my heart. I also know, if I'd gotten to my own platform with my own microphone before I had something relevant to say….I wouldn't have done anything lastingly significant. I know now…I KNOW who I am….what I want to do…what I want to release, and what i want my legacy to be. And it's time to go out and release that over the world!
17) What advise would you give a young person today trying to enter the industry as a songwriter, artist, or just a business person? Also, what advise do you have for the young girls today who want to go into the industry?
Advice. Oh…there's so much to say. If you want to be in the industry in any capacity…take EVERY opportunity, even if it's singing at church or enter a silly contest at the mall—do it. Don't wait until the platform gets big—do anything. Sing on the fireplace mantle in front of your family at christmas. Write songs in your spare time. Find out what kind of an artist you want to be—ingest all types of music.
Business-wise….you're probably going to need to get a degree. There are some great schools out there with degrees specifically in music business or entertainment. Belmont in Nashville is a great one…and they place people with internships in the industry that lead to a lot of jobs after school is over. i have a friend right now who is an agent at CAA out here in LA because he went to Belmont and he had to intern with CAA in Nashville as a course credit.
If you don't want to go to school, find a local band or artist that you love, and just start working for them for free. Start a street team or offer to manage or book them in your spare time. There's nothing like hands-on experience to learn.
Young girls who want to go into the industry. First of all…fame won't solve your problems. In fact, it will put them under the microscope and magnify them. So if you don't know who you are…or you're hoping that fame and fortune will make you happy…think again. Some of the most miserable, hurting, addicted, depressed people I know are famous people. Fame doesn't make you happy or heal your heart. You have to be healed and whole knowing who you are and loving yourself BEFORE you go in…otherwise….it's very hard to influence and not be influenced. Just look at the young female pop artists in the last year and the hard knocks they've taken because of the pain that came with fame. People will praise you in one breath, and then hate you in the next. It's not easy being under the microscope—your every outfit, bad hair day, zits, clothes….and dating life—everything gets judged and scrutinized by the world.
If you love to sing—then sing. Find out who you are and pursue your dreams. But KNOW you're doing it because you love music….and hold onto that love of music with everything you have. When industry and rocky seas come into play (and they will…)….you have to remember why you started in the first place and let that be your foundation.
xx, Sista Christa