Lauren Daigle is the fastest selling new artist in Contemporary Christian music in the past decade. In addition to this year's GRAMMY nomination, Lauren has won three Dove Awards (nominated for four) -- "New Artist of the Year," "Song of the Year" ("How Can It Be") and "Contemporary Song of the Year ("How Can It Be"), and won the 2015 K-LOVE Fan Award for "Worship Song of the Year." Her debut album reached #1 on the Billboard Top Christian Albums Chart and #1 on the iTunes Christian Gospel Top Albums Chart with more than 200,000 album sales and 600,000 track sales. Her singles "How Can It Be" and "First" both reached #1 on the iTunes Christian Songs Chart and #1 on the Christian Digital Tracks Chart with "First" also reaching #1 on the NCA radio chart. Now, Centricity Music will be releasing the deluxe edition of Lauren's debut album titled How Can It Be Deluxe Edition on May 6. We recently went backstage on the Empires tour stop in Cleveland, Ohio to talk with Lauren about her new release and touring with Hillsong UNITED.
First off, we have to say congratulations on the upcoming release of the How Can It Be deluxe version! It’s release week! Tell us about the decision to release a deluxe version of your debut record?
It was definitely interesting how it all started, but basically we have a lot of songs that we write for a record. And I wrote for about a year and a half for the last record, so there were several that get combed over when you are trying to make your final selections. So what’s on the deluxe edition are two new songs that we wrote back then, but that I really still love, and they just didn’t make the cut because we have to select a certain amount. But I still resonated with them. One is called “Wordless” and we’ll actually be singing it on the Empires Tour, which is exciting! It’s all about being in awe of God and Him taking you to that place of worship. We’re blown away by who He is. I wrote it with my piano player, Hank Bentley, and one of our other friends, Mia Fieldes. I love it; it’s one of my favorites, so I’m really excited to get that one back on. During Winter Jam, we recorded a live version of “How Can It Be”, so that will be on there, and a couple of others that were on the original, but have been remade a little bit. When you come out on the road a lot, you live with songs and breathe with them for a while, and then they start taking different artistic shapes, so we revamped a couple ones too.
As you mentioned, the deluxe version includes two new songs that we have to ask you about. Let’s start with “Now Is Forever.” Can you tell us how this song came about?
Well, my grandfather passed away during the writing of that album, and one of my really good friends, who is also my producer, was talking to me about death and what it means on this side of the world. And he was telling me how his son came to him one day and told him he wasn’t afraid to die and in child-like form, started explaining the simplistic way of how beautiful Heaven is going to be and how he shouldn’t be afraid of death. And it took my producer by surprise because typically you’re afraid when you’re little. And so as I was talking with him he asked, ‘what if we cognitively became mindful of the fact that we actually are in existence for eternity, even though we haven’t necessarily died yet. What if now actually is existing for forever?’
“Wordless” is the other new track on the deluxe album. Can you share with us some of the story behind this song?
Sure; I wrote it with Hank Bentley and Mia Fieldes. I think it is God’s sense of humor. In the making of the original version of How Can It Be, I made a rule for myself. I put limitations around what I was able to put on the record because someone once told me that limitations are the source of creativity because you then have something to work around. So that idea was really interesting, and so one of the limitations I set was that I didn’t want any ‘woah’ hooks in the songs. And, I walk into this co-write and Mia is there and is telling me about this idea she has of us just being before the Lord, completely in awe of things He has done, and it totally related to what I was going through, with how God breathed on the album. So we were talking about being in awe, and she says ‘what if we were just completely wordless, that we couldn’t even come up with words to express; it’s just us singing to the Lord with melodies?’ And so the chorus became ‘wo-o-o-ah’, which is just hilarious because that went against my limitations! But that was the one exception I had because it was just so beautiful and expressed so much that I already cared about too.
You mentioned that when you are on tour you rework the songs as you play them repeatedly; is that a process you’ve found that you have to work at, or does it happen naturally?
I feel like it just kind of happens. You see the way the crowd responds to certain moments, and while I’m leading, I realize I connect to different parts a little bit more and I would love to sing it this way. So you mix it up night after night and find different ways to try and communicate what you are trying to – whether it’s the song lyric or the melody. So I play around with it a bit and mess with it.
You recorded stripped down versions of two popular tracks ("First" and "Come Alive") from the original release. Was it more or less difficult to come up with these other interpretations?
That’s a good question; I think it’s a different challenge because when you are writing it for the very first time, it’s the challenge of pulling something from nothing. We create and are in a mode of not having a palette laid out; we have to come up with that. But the second time around, when you know it’s successful in its specific way, you have to be careful to not imitate what has already been created, but instead allow the second thing to flourish as well and complement what has already been created. So it’s different challenges, but I don’t know that one is more difficult than the other.
Your team recently released a beautiful “How Can It Be” live music video that was filmed with a massive audience at the Georgia Dome on this year's Winter Jam Tour Spectacular. Take us back to that night and tell us what the atmosphere was like.
That night was so special! The day before we were in Nashville, and I remember thinking, ‘Gosh, that didn’t go exactly as I had planned’. And I was so nervous; and when I get to a certain point of nerves, God points out that I’m depending way too much on myself, need to stop the nerves, and become kingdom focused. So that second night, I went up and just prayed to God saying, ‘let this capture the nature of Your presence and how You meet us every single night’. So I was in a completely different headspace that night, and we all felt it; the whole team felt it while we were up there. And people from Georgia are amazing – they are already zealous in their approach to worship – so it was really beautiful!
Speaking of new music videos, the “Trust In You” video is being shot on this tour by your fans? Tell us more about this project.
Honestly, my manager came to me and presented the idea asking if I thought it would be cool. The way my management and I work, we are all dreamers together, so it’s not just one person – all of our heads are in the zone together. And I loved the idea – seeing what it would be like from their perspective. And putting it in the hands of other people, it brings out camaraderie and makes us all a family.
“Trust In You” continues to soar on the Billboard charts. Again this week, your current single was #1 on Hot Christian Songs (8 weeks in a row) and Christian Airplay (6 weeks in a row) charts. What do you think is so special about this song that has really connected with listeners?
That’s crazy! I always find out the specific numbers in moments like this. That’s awesome; I didn’t realize it had been that long. I think it gives a sense of security when things are out of our control; this song does that for people. A lot of times we lean on the promises of God, a passage in scripture that will be our anchor promise, because that promise will fulfill x, y, and z in my life. And when we cling to that promise and it doesn’t fulfill x, y, and z, we call out to God telling Him He messed up the equation because that’s not what I expected, planned for, and desired. And that can create bitterness for people against the heart of God; it can be a frustration or anxiety in day to day life. And I feel that at the time my grandfather passed, this was the song that came out of that season, where I believed in the power of God to heal him, so I would proclaim over my grandfather all the time, and then when he passed it was a lot different than the expectation that I had. So the Lord told me, ‘you have a choice to make; you can believe My ways are higher, My thoughts are higher, and trust Me in that situation, or you can seek your entire life for clarity, but trusting Me and leaning not on your own understanding will promote a healthy relationship between Me and you.’ That was the foundation I had to walk out with. At times I’m looking for the next piece in the puzzle, and need to ask God for clarity on what His will is. But a lot of times when His will turns out different than what we expect, we have to decide for ourselves, are we going to believe that even though if His will is a bit different, He’s still just as equally sovereign.
The second leg of the Empires Tour kicked off last week. How have the first few concerts been for you?
It’s been amazing. This is my first leg; Rend Collective was on the first leg of the Empires Tour. So this is like a brand new tour for me; it’s been amazing! Last night we were in Toronto, and I just felt the presence of God like never before. It was so special; it was like he refreshed us going into the rest of the tour that night – so early on – to prepare us for the rest of what’s coming. It was just so special!
You’ve talked a little in the past about the influence Hillsong United’s music had on you in your earlier years. What is it like to now share a tour with them?
Yeah, it’s been out of control! In their set, and they have a really long set, which is awesome, I’ve sat out there a couple of nights and heard the songs that I grew up singing and started leading when I was 16-years-old. And seeing the songs transform the room, the same way they did when I was as a kid, it’s amazing! It makes me wonder if God just has a smile on certain songs. It’s really special just seeing how it was back then versus how it is now.
We saw some new merch at your table today, including head wraps and t shirts. Who comes up with these cool designs and how much input do you have in the creative process?
Team-wise, we all work together. But I love being hands-on in those kinds of processes. When you are creative and honing in on your craft, it’s hard not to go all the other places as well. I love art, and I love fashion. And a lot of the things that are on the table, like the headbands and the bracelets, were things that I came across on my own from a company called 3Seams that my friend introduced me to. When I asked if there was a way I could put this on my merch table, they asked how serious I was, and right then we got on FaceTime with someone from over in Cambodia and started talking about how to partner with each other. Those are the kinds of things that make the merch area really special, and a place that connects with my heart too.
In addition to the GRAMMY nomination, 3 Dove Award wins, and victory at the K Love Fan Awards, you also recently scored 2 nominations for the Billboard Music Awards for Top Christian Artist & Album. Congratulations! Has it hit you yet? Every time you hear the news does it feel like the first time or are these honors starting to feel a little routine?
It does still feel like the first time. I think actually once the Grammy’s hit I first learned how to process it. Up until that point I was waiting for when the people were going to pull the rug out from underneath my feet; that’s how it felt every single time. But when the Grammy’s came, it anchored receiving awards. It’s hard to receive awards or nominations, like the Grammy’s since I didn’t win, in front of people. The Lord spoke to me on that how true humility is being recognized and being able to take on an award or an accolade with excitement, and not just say ‘well thank you so much; I appreciate this’. But true humility is actually living and investing in what they are handing over. So I would say it’s getting a lot more exciting as times goes, and you also realize how much work goes in behind it.
In addition to touring and releasing new music, you are also a confirmed guest for the 2016 IMMERSE training and mentoring conference in June. How important is it for you personally to try and help the up-and-coming writers and artists?
Well I did it a couple years ago with one of my dear friends, Jennie Lee Riddle, and we did a camp together as well. And that camp was with a lot of IMMERSE kids, and you realize how tight the community gets from people who might be from different parts of the country but are walking through the same thing at the same time. So to be a part of those stories that are getting formed and the friendships that are being formed, and being able to encourage and lead, it’s really important to me! I love being able to be in that role for them!