Inspired by musicians like Chris Daughtry and Kelly Clarkson, former "American Idol" contestant Brooke Barrettsmith today releases her powerhouse self-titled debut album. While the songs' themes are definitely Christian (a few more overtly than others), Brooke doesn't hit you over the head with her Bible. Instead, her songwriting skills allow her to share stories and experiences that anyone can relate to. Most of these songs could - and hopefully will - be played on mainstream rock stations.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Brooke on "Christopher Closeup" (full interview here). She has an infectious enthusiasm for her faith that made me smile and that undoubtedly allows people to see a loving God reflected through her. Here are a few excerpts from our chat:
TR: One of the great things about your new CD is that it’s definitely an authentic rock album. And on some of your songs like “Anymore,” you’re not afraid to convey feelings of anger, fear and hurt. Why do you think it’s just as important to acknowledge those darker emotions as it is to convey the healing and redemption brought about by your faith in Jesus?
Brooke Barrettsmith: I think it’s important for everyone to know that keeping that kind of anger, bitterness, and hurt inside is more dangerous than anything...You have to share it in a healthy way. Sometimes…singing a really loud song at the top of your lungs, which is really what I did with “Anymore,” (gets out those) feelings...You can’t let that get unbearable. It’s unhealthy and that’s not what the Lord gave us brothers and sisters in Christ for. He gave us those people in our lives to be able to share, ‘Hey, I’m human, I’m hurting right now, I don’t have my act together all the time.’ I think that vulnerability connects everyone because everyone’s been there.
TR: Well one song I particularly related to myself was “Quiet My Heart” because my brain is always jumping ahead to what I have to do tomorrow or the next day. You’re a performer so your life has got to be a lot busier than mine. How do you find the time to quiet your heart?
Brooke Barrettsmith: It has to be a purposeful thing, definitely, with how busy life’s gotten in the last year. I have to make a point every day when I wake up to spend time with the Lord no matter where I’m at because, if not, my relationship with God - and my quiet time just for my own sanity - gets lost in the bustle. So it has to be a purposeful thing, it has to be a commitment you make to the Lord every day to meet him in that secret place, wherever it is, and just give Him that time, quiet your heart before Him, then face your day and all the worries of the day. Then it won’t seem so bad because God’s already calmed your spirit.
TR: In spite of the efforts you make to stay connected with your faith and with God, do you ever go through spiritually dry periods where, even when you’re trying, it just doesn’t feel like it’s there?
Brooke Barrettsmith: Oh absolutely! I think that it happens to every believer more often than we’d like to admit. There’s a song called “Breakthrough” on my album where I talked about that valley and how I hate being there...No one enjoys feeling distant from God. For me, the way the Lord always brings me back around is just Him pressing on my heart to press into Him and to really dive into His word and just kind of get desperate for Him...Sometimes He allows us to be in that valley so we cherish the times we’re not, and we value that closeness to the Lord when we have it.
TR: Brooke, you mentioned that you had a period in your life when you were not close to the Lord. What happened to get you close?
Brooke Barrettsmith: For me it was an anxiety problem. In high school, I wasn’t really interested in knowing God and having a relationship with Him...I had been a Christian my whole life because my Dad’s my pastor...but I hadn’t really owned Christianity for myself, made myself have my own relationship with God. So He allowed an anxiety problem to creep in and...allowed fear to become more real than I knew God to be. Sometimes he allows those things to happen to get our attention...For me it was anxiety...It manifested as panic attacks and feelings of hopelessness and not making it to tomorrow. That was a crossroad. I could either choose to be on the fence and never fully embrace...a relationship with God – or I could try and see what He has to offer...So I chose the latter because I have wonderful parents who pointed me in the direction of having that relationship with God. And I’ve never been more fulfilled in my whole life since that point. And through…the anxiety, God was able to teach me dependence on Him and slowly take that problem away from me.
(To hear Brooke's full interview - which includes comments about her "American Idol" experience and the message she tries to convey to girls and young women when talking at church groups and conferences - visit www.christophers.org/closeuppodcast.)