We girls have been having a lot of fun giving away some of our favorite things to celebrate The Gingham Apron’s one year “blogiversary.” We hope these giveaways have introduced you to some great artists that we love. When it was my turn to chose my favorite thing, my mind immediately went to the music of Sara Groves.
Sara: I am a pretty highly disclosing person, but still, I am susceptible to what Brene Brown calls a ‘vulnerability hangover’! What a great way to describe that post-sharing feeling. I don’t think that means that being vulnerable isn’t the right choice, but that it is hard to be vulnerable. We hold a lot of tensions, and a lot of things are true all at the same time. We are redeemed, but we are a mess. The world is more terrible than we could ever imagine, and it is more rich and beautiful than we could ever imagine. I think people feel that tension inside, and it is uncomfortable. I want to talk about that.
Me: One of my favorite songs from the new album is “Enough” (a song about God’s provision). I wonder if you’d share an example about how God has provided enough for you, not financially, but perhaps spiritually or emotionally or through community.
Sara: Well, at the end of the song “Floodplain,” I say, “Lord, please send a boat.” He has sent a whole fleet of boats this last season on the floodplain. I have this image of Him bending very low to meet me where I am. When I feel unworthy, spent, foolish, immature… He stoops low to help me along. This record would never exist without the amazing support of friends. Two friends who played on Add to the Beauty received a gift of free studio time at a gorgeous studio in Northern California. They called and asked if I just wanted to play, no strings attached, just have fun, be creative, no pressure. This kind of invitation is what I needed to get through my inertia.
I have this image of Him bending very low to meet me where I am. When I feel unworthy, spent, foolish, immature… He stoops low to help me along.
- Sara Groves
Me: Another very poignant song on Floodplain is “My Dream,” which you’ve said was taken verbatim from a conversation you had with your grandfather. I know that many people struggle with getting past surface topics with family members. Does talking about living and dying come naturally to your family, or are those topics that you’ve had to intentionally purpose to talk about?
Sara: I am laughing because you would probably not believe what we have talked about around our dinner table over the years! My maiden name is Colbaugh, and in the Colbaugh family, conversation is a sport. When dinner is done, we will stay at the table for hours talking about all kinds of things. Life, death, taxes. We are a pretty sensitive group, so there is not a lot of arguing (my husband and his brothers like to debate). But we all see how things are connected, and so we spend a great deal of time building on an idea, mapping out causality and meaning. When Troy first went on vacation with us, he kept asking, “so, what are we going to do?” He wanted to go rent jet skis or go for a hike. He wasn’t prepared for all of the talking! Eat and talk, eat and talk!
Me: On a more practical note, tell us about the process of writing an album, Do you start with a theme and then develop the songs from there, or vice verses? How do you decide which songs make the cut?
Sara: I don’t set out to develop a theme, but the ideas usually overlap. It is not something I am aware of, but the role of writing for me is very necessary to my processing life. I am not just sitting down to write something. I have something kind of gnawing at me, a set of ideas that I can’t let go. Something I am wondering about, or that keeps coming up in conversations. I can’t always see how the songs are connected when I am writing them. I will think that they are really varied in topic, but it is amazing how over and over, when I step back, I can see that they all fit together. I like letting songs overlap. I first did that on Add to the Beauty where a line would show up in a couple of songs. I thought, if I were painting a still-life of a bowl of fruit, the songs could be different sides of the same bowl.
Me: As a wife and mother, I am especially encouraged and challenged by the songs “I Feel the Love Between Us” and “Signal.” Is it difficult to write about your family in a way that is open yet doesn’t make them feel exposed?
Sara: Yes. In sharing about my own struggle with depression and anxiety I am very aware that other members of my family have not signed up to disclose all of their stuff as well. I want to respect that. That is their story to tell. I try to get permission if I am going to share a story about someone. I think the other challenge in writing about family and those core relationships is saying something creative that does not fall into cliche. That is where the song Signal came from… there are cliches about these years we are living, but we are living it, and it doesn’t feel worn and repeated! And then how do you write about a marriage of 20 years? With “I Feel the Love,” I decided that less words were better. I can’t put it into words. I let the music, the repetition of that one idea, and the tone of the song convey what I feel about Troy.
Thank you so much, Sara for your time and for sharing about your music!
Now, dear readers, I want you to experience Sara’s poignant, powerful music as well. For our next giveaway, we will be giving away two copies of her new album, Floodplain, to one lucky winner. Winner, please keep one for yourself and give the second copy away to a friend. Enter below!