Tiffany Arbuckle Lee, perhaps better-known by her stage name Plumb, is a songwriter, recording artist, performer and author. She has sold over 3 million albums and singles over her almost 20 year career. Her seventh, and most recent, album, Exhale, was released May 2015 making it to 3rd on Billboard's Christian Album chart. "Need You Now - A Story of Hope" was her first published book, and she is in the process of finishing her still untitled, second book. Plumb was gracious enough to talk with us for a few minutes backstage at the K-LOVE Fan Awards about her nominations and tour experiences.
This isn't your first year at the K-LOVE Fan Awards, but this time you are taking the stage as a presenter. How was the preparation different this year?
Well, way easier because when you perform you've got to think about all of that, but when you're presenting you just read a teleprompter. Last year we had acrobatic dancers and rehearsals and things like that, so it's just a lot easier, but equally as much of an honor to be asked to present or perform. And obviously being nominated is just like getting one gigantic compliment from people that you love.
You've been nominated for 2 K-LOVE Fan Awards this year: Best Lyric and Female Artist. Being that these are fan based awards, how is this recognition different from other industry awards?
It means 1,000 times more because it is the people who are listening and the people who are being impacted by it, the people who are intentionally seeking out and buying it. They are the reason why you do this! So there are some things you get awards for based on some logistics - a computer turns out a number that says this one sold the most so it gets the such and such - but this is just more organic to me. This is more authentic to me, and whoever wins, truly deserves to win because the fans have been impacted the most by them throughout this year. If someone wins, and they consequently will, it means they are really impacting people. In this kind of industry, for me especially, there is no type of jealousy or competition; it's like 'way to go, Kari Jobe! - because that's totally who I think is going to win'. But you're advancing the kingdom of God, and you're obviously doing a good job of it, so just to be nominated, I already feel like I've won, in the sense that they narrowed it down to 5 and I get to be one of them.
"Exhale", nominated for Best Lyric, has really become an anthem for Christian music this past year. What do you think is so special about this song that really connects with the listeners?
I think it's the opening line, 'it's okay to not be okay'. The song was birthed out of my husband and I being separated, and the first Sunday, his friend drug him to a different church than we had gone to, kicking and screaming. In the church that he went to, the pastor came out and welcomed everybody and he said, 'if you're new here today, you're in a safe place. It's okay to ask questions and not be okay.' And my husband, who was absolutely not okay, was in a really dark place and didn't want to even be there, felt like that was the first time he had heard God speak to him in his whole life. He felt like he had the freedom to just let go and be a broken mess, and that it was almost welcomed and encouraged, to just let go. So it was weeks later before we even spoke to each other in our story and I remember him sitting down with me and saying, 'I went to church with Ricky and I don't know what will happen with us, we may still get a divorce, and I don't know what my life is going to look like, but I am broken and I found myself in a place where it's okay for me to be that way, and I've never felt that way before.' And so I told that story to Joshua Silverberg and Matthew Armstrong, and we were songwriting.
Months and months later that same pastor had become our pastor, as we remarried and stayed together, and that became our home church. And he was preaching one day and said, 'we just don't exist for us; we exist to breathe in grace that changes us that we don't deserve; we exist to serve that out and share it; just exhale'. And I got my notes app out and started writing it down and found him after service and told him that I wanted him to know I was going to use that in a song and was that okay? And he said, 'Tiffany, your songs have inspired my messages, so if my message can inspire your song, we're good.' So I just want to give credit where credit is due because God used him to speak into our marriage, and into my husband's life especially, and into that song. So I feel like it tied those two together: breathe in and let it change you and then breathe it out - don't sit and wallow in what you did because your past isn't your identity, you're not there anymore; God has already forgiven you before you even asked him. So now, buck it up and go out there and tell the world who you are in Him and share that story because it can give hope to people, but it has to start in the pew with an 'it's okay to not be okay'. So I think that's why - people want permission to do something that they should have permission to do, which is be themselves, and a lot of times that means [being] broken.
You recently finished touring 4-5 months, hitting 60 cities, with Big Daddy Weave and Jordan Feliz. What was touring with those guys like?
They have become my brothers, and I love them and miss them! In fact, we have been doing a tour where we are 10 days on/10 days off. Today has been 13 days since I've seen them, so I'm actually excited to see every single one of them, since this is the longest I've gone without seeing them in months. But in the fall, I get to go back out with Big Daddy Weave again, Jordan won't be joining us, but there will be another artist that will. I have to give credit to their whole camp, Red Letter Management and Big Daddy Weave, and the collaboration of that because they turn it into a community. It's not a concert, it's not a performance, it's a worship experience that you're a part of and you literally watch God move every night. So I feel like I've been allowed into something that is so much greater than myself or anything that I could have put together. So I would defend them to the death; I just love them! They are the real deal, both of them. Mike and I are kind of like brother and sister - we both have 7th grade boy humor and we have a tremendous amount in common with the way we were raised and what we believe - so we get along very well. And I think we are about a year apart in age. And then Jordan is like our new little brother. We just want to protect him and take care of him, but I think he is going to take the world by storm.
What was your favorite moment of the night, or song to perform, on that tour?
So my favorite song in my set is a song called "Smoke". And with Big Daddy Weave, at the end, we all collectively come out to lead worship together, and in that setting my favorite moment is when they sing "Lion And The Lamb", which I believe is a Leeland song they have covered and will be releasing as their next single, but I'm not sure. I just can't get enough of it! I just look forward to it every time I see it on the set list just because of the lyric in it:
'Our God is a lion / He's a lion of Judah / He's roaring with power / and fighting our battles / and every knee will bow before Him'
And it's not a 'you better kneel down before Him', I see Aslan in my head - a tremendously powerful, compassionate Father that is fighting for us, conquered hell for us, died for us - and this almost romance comes over me when we sing it, because I'm in love with Him. Even as a woman, to feel protected like that, that's who God is, and I love Him. And so that's my favorite time of worship and to see people's faces almost be empowered that He is ours and fighting for us.
But in my set, the song "Smoke", it is capturing my current testimony of how God has turned a lot of ash in my life into beauty, where my husband and I were getting a divorce and we ended up remarrying each other; we lost our house and God gave us something else, the Hope House. He's exceedingly and abundantly done more than we've asked or imagined, and so the song captures that. Where smoke is not breathable, ash is worthless, but when God redeems something it becomes oxygen, which is truly better than before and beautiful. So there's a part in the bridge where it just falls off and we talk about Him being our Protector and our Provider and our Healer and our Shield and our Source and our Strength. And you literally watch revival break out. And every night it's different - you'll be in a community that is so hungry for that, that they are going nuts, and then you'll be in a community that's really hard-hearted and just see that one or those two that in that moment just surrender in front of your face. You were a part of watching someone surrender in front of you and be changed; and it's just humbling.
Our sincere thanks to Plumb for taking the time to talk with us. For more information and to check out her fall tour dates and cities, visit http://plumbmusic.net/.
[Photo courtesy of Getty Images/K-LOVE]