Culture

9 Questions On Music And Faith With Singer-Songwriter Melanie Penn

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1. How long have you been interested in music? When did you begin singing and writing songs?

I sang my whole life. I sang to the trees in my backyard before I had any friends, growing up in Virginia.

I always wrote songs in my head, but I didn’t pursue it formally until my late 20s.

2. Can you share with us a little about your faith journey?

Yes, gladly. I was raised in a Christian home by wonderful, believing parents. Singing was the way I accessed church and I always sang in church services – from about the age of 6. So Christianity for me was really about being able to sing at church.

I lived in NYC during 9/11 and witnessed that tragedy first-hand. Experiencing death like that – on such a large-scale shook me out of a spiritual slumber I was in. I went to Redeemer Presbyterian Church after 9/11 and sometime in October 2001 I had a powerful encounter with Jesus during a Redeemer service.

The rest is still the journey.

3. What is the songwriting process like for you?

Songwriting for me is mostly agonizing, painful, and something I try to avoid. This is not an overstatement.

4. How do you weave scriptural truths into your songs? Do you seek to write a song based on a verse or idea, or do you start writing and discover that a concept will fit in the song?

I’m not sure I do a very good job of weaving scriptural truths into songs! However, I am obsessed with nature and how God’s creation speaks to us. I love writing about natural things – the things of earth, like plants and stuff – the sun! – and find that scriptural truths often come out of that. It’s all there – in nature – birth, growth, death and resurrection (the best part).

5. How does your faith in Jesus inform your music? How does music inform your faith?

Jesus is just there, in everything I write. I don’t really try to do that – it happens by itself. I’m very glad of that.

Music informs my faith because singing – and beautiful songs – are the best way I know to guess what might be going on in heaven.

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6. What are your thoughts on the Christian music industry?

A lot of very committed, amazing artists are making some great music. Each aspect of the arts is currently reinventing itself, and I’m interested to see how Christian music will reinvent itself.

I love how so many people are hosting house concerts or smaller concerts at their churches. It seems like the goal is not to have a “worship concert” either – but to bring people together and have family-style arts gatherings for their friends.

7. What musical artists inspire you?

Currently Neil Finn, Nada Surf, a band I just discovered called Rocket and the Ghost, literally everyone who’s making music in NYC during such a hard economic time, and most of all my dear friend – jazz pianist and vocalist Laila Biali.

8. What advice can you share with believers who may be interested in music as a career?

God has a plan. Don’t be discouraged. It’s impossible to make a wrong decision. Make decisions.

9. What can you tell us about the new album?

This album was a true collaboration between Ben Shive and me. It’s a step forward in every way, and I think there’s something for everyone. I wanted to make a “road trip” record… so if you’re taking road trip, play Hope Tonight and then report back to me if the record held up! [email protected]!