I recently had the privilege of interviewing indie pop/CCM artist Karyn Williams via email as she readies for her new album ‘Letting Go of Perfect’ releasing October 20th 2015. We discussed her new album, and what she longs for listeners to hear and obtain when enjoying the collection of 10 new tracks. Check out the interview below, and be sure to check out the new album come next week.
- First of all, congratulations on your new album releasing at the end of October. I’m sure it has been a long time coming. What has God taught you throughout these last few years, and what has been the one thing that He has taught you during the season between your first and second album?
Well, a LOT has happened in between these 2 releases! I have been on the road touring and done shows with some amazing friends – Mandisa, Brandon Heath, Michael Tait, Danny Gokey Third Day; I sang a duet with Mac Powell on the new Third Day record; and also shot my first movie. This has been an amazing season – obviously a very busy one, but also a time when the Lord has reminded me that I have to be very careful to stop and take time to rest when I need it. A lot of the songs on my new record came out of learning (or re-learning!) that. I’ve learned how important it is to quiet myself and spend time with the Lord so that I will have something to pour out to others.
- This album is a much more experimental album than your last- the ukulele is heard on “Who Says”, “You Are My Rest” is much more acoustical than anything on Only You, and “Running To the Sea” brings in electronic keyboards and vocal distortion effects. What would you say has been the most fun thing to explore on Letting Go of Perfect musically? Is there any musical style you haven’t delved into yet that you may in the future?
It was a blast going outside the box with this record! We tried to give ourselves the freedom to be creative musically while maintaining an honesty with the lyrics. “Who Says” was one of those times in the studio where we were using whatever we could to create the rhythm track. We were sampling sounds, and beating on everything from boxes to suitcases to create tones that we thought sounded unique. And I played the ukulele on that track, so that was extra fun!
In making a record, you’re creating an ‘experience’ for people and you always need a fun opener. “Running to the Sea” is definitely that! It’s a little ’outside the box’ for me, and that’s the fun of working with great producers who push you creatively. I believe there is something for everyone on this record—from high energy sing-along songs to quiet moments in worship.
- You were recently on Inpop Records, and are releasing this album independently. What has been the benefits and challenges of both being on a label as well as being an unsigned artist? What has God shown you about Himself and yourself through both these experiences?
On a label, it becomes very easy to become dependent on the “team” you have working to help you carry the ball. As an independent artist, I find myself really letting go and trusting God with every aspect of this record. It’s been a growing experience for sure. There is more to making a record than just writing and producing great songs – there’s a LOT that goes into the planning that I am learning for the first time! God has shown Himself in more ways than I can count throughout this process. I am very grateful to Inpop for the opportunity they gave me to release my first record there. It was such a special time, and those friendships and relationships still to this day that play a vital role in my music ministry.
- “You are My Rest”, the first single, is a call for everyone to lay down their troubles and worries and accept the rest that God willingly offers. What does the single mean to you personally, and what do you hope listeners will gain from hearing the first single? How was recording with American Idol alum Danny Gokey on the song? Any other collaborations in the pipeline (maybe you guesting on another artist’s album, other than Third Day’s live rendition of “Born Again”)?
“You Are My Rest” is one of my favorite songs I have ever been a part of. It’s exactly what the title suggests – coming to the place of complete rest and surrender in every aspect of your life, whether emotional, spiritual, physical, financial, career – it’s learning how to rest knowing it’s all in God’s hands. That’s what I want people to understand. God longs for us to trust Him with every area of our lives, and to rest with confidence knowing that He can handle it.
Danny and I go to church together, and have done shows together….we are friends…so for him to lend his voice to this song was a huge treat and honor. He brought such an incredible emotion and passion to the song that I felt when I wrote it and sang it. I could NOT be more excited about how it all came out and I am praying it will be a song that impacts many hearts to take a deep breath and understand it’s okay to take a break and let God be God in whatever situation they’re up against.
- Other songs on the album that are favourites of mine include “Who Says” (acoustic), “Nothing Less” (worship), “Ordinary Angels” (country) and “To The Sky” (electronic/pop), each of them being unveiled to us with you delving into different musical landscapes. Which genre of music has been the most impacting to you over the years? Which has been the most impactful to others as you perform songs live?
First and foremost – I am a fan of music. I love all kinds, styles and influences and I’ve seen music have a huge impact on people’s hearts. Music has played an important role in my life and I have been influenced by everything from country music by The Judds, to the inspirational music of Amy Grant, to the pop of Colby Calliat, to the rock of Third Day, to the worship of Kari Jobe. I believe music has a way of stirring emotions and feelings, and opening ourselves up to that allows God to speak to us in a lot of different ways. I like to be eclectic in the styles of music I listen to; I believe that helps me as a songwriter to not become stagnant. It also allows me to see how creative God is.
- Which song, encompassing both this album and Only You, has made the most impact to your personally and to listeners? If there is one thing that your music has been ministering to yourself over the years, what has it been?
The biggest impact song for me off of my first record is definitely “Rest In the Hope”. That song was written out of my dad’s journey through cancer, and ultimately full remission. It was a very transparent song for me. The song off of my first record that I think impacted my listeners most was either “This Is Freedom” or “Waiting In The Rain”. Every night that I sing those songs, I see the Lord move in a powerful way.
Off this new record, the song that I’ve seen impact listeners the most is “Nothing Less”. It’s a powerful moment of worship every night that we sing it. I have a hard time listening to it or singing it without ending up in tears because that chorus is personal for me in a way that’s hard to explain. I have always known God is faithful to provide for our needs and that He cares about every aspect of our lives, but He has proven that to me in new ways these last couple of years. We wrote “Nothing Less” based around Psalm 91 which is a beautiful promise that the Lord will protect us, He will fight for us and He will always be there. It has been so beautiful to see churches all over the world take this song and teach it to their congregations. It’s a constant work in progress to continue letting go of what I want for my life and my career, and trusting God to take it to the place He wants it to be. When you come to the end of all you have, that’s when you start to discover the beginning of all God has in store for you. The key word in that whole song is “seems”. The enemy wants you to think there’s nothing left and that it’s done — but it only SEEMS that way because God is faithful and He has bigger things in store!
Another song that hits me the same way is “Lately”. I’m becoming more and more aware of how God works through my imperfections, and this song brought me to the title of the whole record “Letting Go of Perfect.”
- What has been the overall highlight of the whole process of making the new album? Were there any difficult songs to write, sing or even record, either because they were based on personal experiences of yourself or others? What has God used to speak to you more- the songs that were easiest to write or the hardest?
The highlight of making a new record is having the opportunity to make another record! I don’t take for granted and I don’t take lightly the opportunities the Lord gives me to share my heart through music. Every song begins to take on a life of its own during the writing & recording process. Songs like “Head Up” and “To The Sky” are a blast to sing in the studio! They are fist pumping, roll your windows down and celebrate the love of Jesus type songs! A song like “Who Says” is so much fun to sing because of its light-heartedness. And then songs like “Nothing Less” & “God of All Comfort” are a joy to sing, but difficult to hold back the tears because of the meaning behind those lyrics. So the overall process of making a record takes you on such an emotional journey! God has literally used every song on this record to speak to me at some point and in different ways depending on what’s going on in my life on any given day.
- What is next for Karyn Williams in 2015/16? What do you hope God will convey, to yourself and others, when you venture on the Focus on the Funny Tour with Chondra Pierce and Lindsay McCaul?
My prayer every day when my feet hit the floor is that the Lord would direct my steps and that I would be sensitive to wherever He is leading. The “Focus On the Funny” tour kicked off a couple of weeks ago, and we are having a BLAST so far!! It’s a beautiful thing to be able to travel with such talented women who love Jesus with everything they have. I toured with Chonda Pierce this spring, and she quickly became one of my favorite people. She makes me laugh every night, but more than that, we connected as sisters in a very real way. I love her authenticity when she is telling her story. She has been through SO much adversity, and no matter what, she points to the faithfulness and goodness of Jesus. I am moved to tears every night as I watch women respond to the gift of laughter and communication He has given Chonda. Laughter is healing and it’s so cool to me that God chooses so many creative ways to pour His love and compassion out on us. Sometimes you need to sing loud. Sometimes you need to laugh loud. Sometimes you need to sing quietly in worship. I’m learning all of this in a new personal way this year.
As far as what’s next—I have a movie coming out next year. I’m embarking on some great ministry opportunities in conjunction with the NBA, and my 2016 touring scheduling is filling up as we speak! My passion and my desire is to be faithful above all things to God’s calling on my life. If I can help one person understand come to know Jesus, then everything is worth it. Making records is fun. Touring is amazing. But a heart that comes to know Christ is why I do what I do.
- Who do you look up to in the music industry, either as a spiritual mentor, or someone you ask advice from? If anyone reading this interview is wanting to move into the music industry, what would you say to them as advice?
I have had many amazing spiritual mentors and ordinary angels in my life. Thankfully I was raised by 2 people who are still to this day spiritual mentors for me. I have also had Sunday School teachers who, even into adulthood, have continued to invest in my life. In the music industry, I look up to many of my sisters—Natalie Grant, Mandisa, Lindsay McCaul, Francesca Battistelli, Tiffany Lee (Plumb)—who work so hard at the calling the Lord has placed on their lives. The thing I admire most about them is that they always put their families first, and they are completely sold out to their craft. We are each other’s biggest cheerleaders, encouragers and prayer warriors, and that to me is what it’s all about!
For anyone wanting to become part of the music industry, I would give you the advice my dad has always given me: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” If you love to lead worship, then lead worship at your home church or youth group. If you love to write songs, find people in your home town you can write with. Operate within your gifting and make sure it’s what God has called you to. Then surrender it to the Lord and ask for Him to lead you to the places HE wants you. That’s the only place you want to be anyway.
- Other than Letting Go of Perfect, your own album, has there been an album that released in 2015 that has made an impact in your walk with God this far? Is there any new album (that hasn’t released yet, either this year or in 2016) that you are excited to listen to in the near future?
Well, I’m a little partial to Third Day’s new “Lead Us Back” record….but that might be because I sang a duet with Mac Powell on it. 😉 I love Danny Gokey’s record, he could pretty much sing the phone book and I would listen. There is a genuine passion in his voice, and you just know he believes every word he’s singing and that it’s from his heart. His voice is anointed. There is also a new group out called “Bonray” that I absolutely love! I have been listening to some of the songs off their EP and they’re out on the road right now with Sanctus Real. They are fun, current and the songs are fabulous….so if you haven’t heard of them yet, then I would definitely check them out!
- Has there ever been a song that you have sung in concerts that you didn’t think would have the impact that it currently does? Or has there been a song where you thought should’ve had the impact that it currently doesn’t? What has God shown you through both/either circumstance?
There have been a few songs that have taken me by surprise, in a very good way. I will never forget the first time I sang “Waiting In the Rain” at a concert in Orlando, FL. People spontaneously stood up and lifted their hands in worship. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, and I had to work hard not to dissolve into tears. “This is Freedom” off my Only You record also continues to have an incredible impact. Campus Crusade for Christ made a video out of that song that still to this day takes my breath away.
Off the new record, “Who Says” is so fun to sing. There is a line in the chorus that says, “There right in front of you, look up in your rearview, everywhere you turn, His fingerprints are visible…” And the other night at a show, a lady came up to me and said, “I’m going to have a sticker made with a white finger print and put it in the lower corner of my rearview mirror to remind me to look for God’s fingerprints everywhere!” I thought that was so cool, and it’s another reminder of the impact our songs can have.
- For anyone who is reading this interview and is feeling discouraged or down, either because of something in their life currently or something spoken over them, what can you say to them?
I can say to them—I have been there, and I understand. People sometimes think that artists live a charmed life and we don’t deal with any “real life” issues. Trust me, we do. We pay bills. We get flat tires. We do laundry. Our roofs leak. We have down days. And sadly, we have people speak discouragement in our lives sometimes too. My advice is this: allow yourself to feel what you feel and don’t shy away from it. But DO NOT stay there! Ask the Lord to wrap His arms around you and comfort you in a very real way today. He has not left you and He hasn’t forgotten about you. Our God is so faithful, and He knows exactly what you’re going through. Let Him be your strength.
Also: find a support group, a Bible study group, a Sunday School class. My girl’s group has been the greatest source of encouragement and strength when we are able to get together when we’re in off the road. We pray together. We cry together. We laugh together. And we eat a lot of chocolate together!
- You have been in the music industry for a few years. What keeps you grounded and places things in perspective as you travel and create music? Is there any song, or Bible verse, or even famous quote that reminds you about why you do what you do and the motivation behind it all?
Well, I’m fortunate that I have amazing people in my life to help me keep things real. My husband is the greatest man on the planet. He has been in the music industry for a very long time, so over the years, he has helped encourage me and keep me grounded. I was also raised in a “high profile” professional sports family, so I know that with a platform comes a responsibility. I understand my calling in sharing the love of Jesus with whoever I come in contact with, and encouraging them along the way. My dad taught me that. I am thankful every day for the places I get to travel to, the things I get to experience, and the people I get to do this with. My life verse that keeps me grounded every day is Galatians 1:10 – “Am I trying to please man or am I trying to please Christ.” I pray that verse every day, and that I would NEVER lose sight of why I do what I do.
- What do you do in your downtime- any music that is on your iTunes playlist currently? Any TV shows you are currently binge-watching?
I tape re-runs of old “Friends” episodes and I put those on at night as my way of ‘decompressing’. HA! My husband likes to tease me, but he knows that I am very driven and very dedicated, so from the time my feet hit the floor in the morning, I am off and running. I go hard every day, and I’ve learned that I have to find ways to allow my brain to rest. I love to make crafts and decorate, so on days off at home, I help friends re-decorate rooms their houses. My husband and I love to workout and we enjoy doing that together, and I LOVE to read about healthy, natural living.
- Any parting words, encouragements or anything else you want to share to listeners of your music that you haven’t discussed in this interview yet?
Thank you for sharing this with your readers! Recording a new record is a long process and we spend a lot of time making sure everything is right for the people who will listen. I realize that there’s a lot of music out there that people could choose to listen to. So my prayer is that I’m not just adding to the noise in the world, but that I’m adding to the message of hope. I’m honored anytime someone plays my music, because the song they are listening to is a piece of my heart put to a melody. I pray that the Lord would speak to people through these songs, that they would be a source of strength & encouragement. And I’m so grateful to people like you for taking the time to get to know me and my heart, and share it with your readers.