TCB Exclusive: Wild Harbors Opens Up About Storytelling Style

Chris and Jenna Badeker began making music together at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland, and have since released two EPs—Monument Part One and Monument Part Two—as Wild Harbors. Their songs “Abigail” and “House On Fire” were among UTR Media’s top tracks of 2018, and the duo’s music has been featured on such Spotify playlists as Indie Spirit, Faith Finds and New Music Friday. Now, the Maryland-based husband/wife duo is set to bow their highly anticipated full-length debut, Monument, March 15. Produced by Andrew Osenga (Laura Story, Caedmon’s Call), the alt-pop singer/songwriter collection features 10 story-driven tracks wrapped in memorable melodies and warm harmonies. Recently, Chris and Jenna talked with us about the couple’s storytelling style and message for listeners.

Congratulations on the upcoming release of Monument! How are you feeling about the release date coming so soon?
Chris: Thanks! It feels great, if not a little surreal. We've spent so much of the past year preparing for its release that it's hard to process all the feelings. I think at the end of the day we're both very ready for it to be in people's hands.

With the debut album creation complete, how did this process compare to your expectations?
Chris: It was worlds different than any recording experience we've had in the past. We had never recorded with people we weren't already friends with, and we were thrilled to discover what a kind, generous, and caring group of people the players in Nashville were. In terms of investment, our producer, Andrew Osenga, went above and beyond to make sure that not only the recording sessions would be fruitful, but that our release plan for the record would be too.
Jenna: Working with Andrew and the team was a dream. We released several of the songs one at a time over the past year, which is new for us. It's been a rewarding way to connect with our fans and give each song its own story. Because of that, I think people have gotten to know us better through the release process.

What were some of your biggest inspirations, spiritually and musically, in developing this collection of songs?
Jenna: We are both drawn to singer/songwriters and groups with great harmonies. I was listening to a lot of Joseph, Brooke Fraser, and John Mark McMillan at the time. Spiritually, there are songs on the record that have some direct tie-ins. "Water" was inspired by Eugene Peterson's quote, "All the water in the oceans cannot sink a ship unless it gets inside. Nor can all the trouble in the world harm us unless it gets within us." The song "Battle" came out of reading The Armor of God study by Priscilla Shirer. In general, the record reads a little bit like a diary entry to me—so many of our faith struggles and lessons came out in these songs. Songwriting has been a great way for God to help me work things out with Him.
Chris: I was listening to Revolver by The Beatles quite a bit while we were writing this record. I think to see the way they put songs like "Eleanor Rigby" and "Yellow Submarine" on the same record was freeing to me in terms of establishing the musical and topical scope of the record. We hop around a little in terms of style, but I think all the songs live comfortably together on the same record.

Which track are you most excited for listeners to hear and why?
Jenna: The title track, "Monument," sums everything up well for me. It came out of making some tough decisions, namely leaving a decade of other careers behind to give all our energy to the music we were making. I think it reflects the urgency we were feeling to capture the moments when we're certain God has spoken, knowing that when circumstances get harder, it's easy to forget why we started out in the first place and question whether we're doing the right thing.
Chris: I think for me, "House on Fire" very much captures the essence of what we do and distills it into a three-minute pop song. It was one of the very first songs we started sharing live from the record and from the very start we have been blown away by people's reactions to the song.

If you had to describe your music to a first-time listener, how would you describe your songwriting and musical style?
Chris: I'd say we write gutsy pop songs that challenge the status quo. Musically, we've arranged the songs on this record in a pretty traditional manner, most songs are supported by drums, bass, and guitar. That said, there are a few moments where we experimented a bit. One of my favorites is on the song "We're Getting Better," where we recorded a toy horn and pitch shifted the audio to create the song's intro.
Jenna: We treat our vocals as another instrument when we arrange the songs. We're constantly trading the melody back and forth, weaving harmonies together that are hard to separate once they're joined. As for writing, I'd say that when it comes down to it, we try to be transparent and honest in our lyrics.

What is one key message that you hope listeners take away from this album as a whole?
Chris: The process of making this record required us to really step out of our comfort zones. I think it can be scary to be honest about what you want. So, I guess if this record helps someone reconnect with their own desires and face them with even an ounce more bravery than before, that would be awesome.
Jenna: Yes! We really believe that everyone was made with specific gifts and desires that are God-given. If someone feels a spark of remembering what it is they love, whether it's a job or a hobby, or a relationship they care about, then I hope our record gives them encouragement to know they're not alone as they set out on that adventure, however big or small.

TCB recently debuted an acoustic video of “Battle” from Monument. What was the motivation for you to record this particular song with an acoustic sound?
Jenna: It's funny, but we didn't touch "Battle" for quite a while after we were done recording it. I eventually realized that subconsciously, I was avoiding singing the very song that I needed to hear in the midst of a tough year. When it was time to film, someone suggested we think about that song, and I'm so glad. It carries a lot of emotion for me. I needed the reminder that I don't face my battles alone. We figured that someone else might need that reminder, too.