I have always wanted to be a career musician. Always.
Everyone in my family sings. I come from a long line of proud Texans, Southern Baptists, and church choir members. As a kid I would put on concerts for a captive audience at family holiday gatherings. I was obsessed with Hannah Montana and daydreamed of becoming the next American Idol, and eventually I started writing my own music. I’ll be the first to admit my early work wasn’t any good (what can I say, I was nine), but over time I began to write songs that made more sense. By the time I was in high school, I had a handful that actually weren’t half bad.
But I didn’t really consider myself a songwriter until I released Summer Songs.
In a spare room in Georgetown, Texas, under cold starry skies during winter break of my freshman year at UT, three kids from First Baptist Church Georgetown recorded four songs in four weeks. I released them on February 17, 2017.
They broke no records. In the grand scheme of things, very few people listened to them. But they changed me all the same.
I cycled through several projects after that initial EP, including a synth pop alter-ego, an alternative rock band, and a return to my eponymous project earlier this year, but one thing has always remained the same: I made secular music.
I’ve always known I didn’t want to write Christian music. I think it was a combination of a few things:
- My musical diet was restricted to nothing but Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) until the ripe age of 11.
- My main source of CCM growing up, 92.1 K-LOVE (God bless them), plays about 75 songs on rotation every single day into perpetuity.
- In my completely unbiased and objective opinion on what constitutes good music, CCM just ain’t it.
My early influences were indie female artists I found in middle school through Pandora radio (yes, Pandora radio) like Birdy, Lorde, Ellie Goulding, and Florence + the Machine. These were the first of many female-fronted acts I would eventually fall in love with — CHVRCHES, Sylvan Esso, Maggie Rogers, and Billie Eilish, to name a few — all of whom I deeply respect and admire to this day.
Let’s just say I was more interested in Amy Winehouse than Amy Grant.
The decision to write secular music was something I never really thought twice about. That is, not until now.
I have had the thought, on occasion, that perhaps the reason my music career hasn’t taken off like I thought it would have by now is because I’m supposed to be doing something else. You have to realize how terrifying that thought was (and is) for me. My desire to be a full-time musician is the longest and deepest dream I’ve ever had; it’s almost as if I was born with that dream. I don’t remember life before it, and I suspect it will be on my mind when I near the end.
How could I do anything else?
I dismissed any thoughts of a potential career change because, if I opened that box, I feared God would call me to do something that I had absolutely no business doing. Like becoming a doctor. Or joining the Marines.
Or — God forbid! — going to law school.
I’ll just stick it out for good decade, I thought. If my music career hasn’t gone anywhere by then, I’ll throw in the towel.
But something interesting happened in October.
I worked the morning broadcast for ACL Radio (formerly KGSR) this year, and I had the opportunity to be side stage for Lauren Daigle at Antone’s. For reference, Lauren Daigle is headlining the Frank Erwin Center next summer. Antone’s holds 400 people. She could’ve thrown her shoe at me.
The morning broadcasts are intimate live shows featuring ACL Festival acts that are simultaneously broadcasted live on air. During Lauren’s set, Radio DJ Andy Langer asked Lauren something that caught me totally off-guard:
“Explain to me the ‘still-small voice.'”
And Lauren answered. She told Andy Langer exactly Who the still-small voice is, right there on live radio. Who knows how many people heard her? How many thousands of people were in their cars and listening online?
All I could think to myself was, Lord, I want to do that.
What if I wrote music that shifted the focus off of me and onto to something bigger? What if my career could point people — lots of different people — back to You? Maybe it wasn’t a career in music that needed changing, but rather my mission within it.
That was the first of several moments that eventually brought me to a point of true surrender. I’m giving up my dreams. Not giving up on them — just transferring ownership. After all, they weren’t ever really mine in the first place, were they?
And the beautiful thing is that since choosing surrender, I’ve had more peace and clarity about music than I’ve had in a very long time.
I’ve started writing worship music. Lots of it. And I am loving every second of it.
Someone told me recently that we have permission to dream big with God, and I’m experiencing it firsthand. I am so passionate about the new dreams forming within me — dreams of a songwriting ministry, of writing music that can reach audiences beyond the Christian sphere (much like Daigle’s), of spending the gifts and time I have left on this earth leading others to the throne of God.
Clearly, this is a complete 180 for me; I did not choose this. If I’d had my way, I would have been an international pop star by 16. I craved fame and was constantly disappointed by my Spotify numbers. For a while I let those stats quantify my self-worth, and it left me empty, always wanting more.
My hands were clenched so tightly around my dreams, it was too painful to even think of letting go. But slowly, gently, the Lord has unfolded each finger into surrender. I’m not sure I ever asked Him what He wanted me to do with music before. I couldn’t have given up my dreams if I’d tried.
If there’s something you can’t let go of, I get it. Trust me, I get it. I understand the anxiety that creeps in at the thought of losing part of your identity. I’ve been in a place where I believed, deep down, that God just couldn’t possibly know better.
But He does.
I’m 22 today. I don’t want to waste anymore of my life grasping for control. There is so little time. The Lord is teaching me that our dreams aren’t something He wants to take away; they are gifts He wants to realize with us. He’s got this. He wants to give good things to us and use us in ways we could never imagine.
All we have to do is surrender.