Julie Elias, who released her debut album A Wild Rose in 2012, and her sophomore worship album Love Rains Down in 2014, unveils her brand new all original studio album Unbroken in around a couple of weeks, with personal highlights such as the title track, “Butterly”, “Home” and “The Love Of The Lord Endures”. I had the privilege of interviewing Julie via email, as we discussed the upcoming album, what she hopes listeners will experience when hearing these 12 inspirational, personal and hope-filled new songs, as well as any hopes she has of the upcoming year ahead. Check out the interview below.
- First of all, you have released three albums so far (your 2012 debut album A Wild Rose, the 2014 sophomore album Love Rains Down as well as a Christmas album in 2013, Holy Night. I really enjoyed both those albums, especially songs like “In His Plan” and “Breathing Room” from the first album, and “Rooftops”, “Burning In My Soul” and “Oceans” from the second album. Listening to this new album is also enjoyable to me- what has God been teaching you over the past year in between albums, as you were creating these new songs?
Thanks! I can’t believe I have done four albums so far…what an amazing blessing and journey it has been so far. You know, every time I feel like I have life figured out, my mind is blown with something else God wants to teach me. “Love Rain Down” was very much a worship album and I covered many of my favourite worship songs. “Unbroken” is my first original album since “A Wild Rose” so it has encompassed a lot of time and lessons learned. The biggest thing I have had to learn is about moving forward. It is easy for me to stay locked in my head and dwell on the past, overanalysing things way too much- thinking of things I could have done differently, playing the “what if” game. I think I have always been that way but only recently learned why it is so detrimental. Of course we need to learn from the past, but it is important to move on from it and not spend too much time there. If you do, there’s unhappiness, stress, regret, bitterness…all things that keep us from enjoying the wonderful present and amazing future God has in store. That has been and continues to be a struggle for me, but at least now I am aware of it and know what I need to focus on and pray about. Moving forward is a big theme of “Unbroken.”
- This new album is slightly more musically rockier and electronic than your previous albums- is there any particular reason for this change or was it what came out of the recording sessions naturally? What has stayed the same and what has changed when comparing your 2012 and 2014 albums with this one?
I have eclectic musical tastes for sure- if you look on my iPod you would find everything from musical theatre to Billy Joel to Carrie Underwood. I think in my earlier albums I was still experimenting with which style was the most true for me, and my talents and expression. One of the freedoms of being an independent artist is that I can create an album that is 100% me. The stylistic changes on “Unbroken” were very deliberate (and I am glad you noticed them!) and right now, I feel like this is a very accurate representation of who I want to be as an artist. One thing that stayed the same from the previous albums is musicality – I really like musicians and what they bring to the table and a lot of production – strings, synth, guitars, etc. What is funny is I love listening to more acoustic things, like Colbie Callait or Mumford and Sons, but for this album, this message and where I am right now, the style of “Unbroken” is very much a reflection of where and who I am today.
- For those who do not know your story or your testimony, how you started in music, or how you transitioned from TV to music; can you tell us a bit about yourself, and how the new album Unbroken came to fruition?
Unlike most Christian artists (and really most musicians in general), I did not want to do this “my whole life.” In fact, it was barely an option. Music was fun, a hobby: I took piano, sang in church occasionally, that sort of thing. It wasn’t until college that I got really into it on a bigger level. I changed my major to musical theatre, so both singing and acting classes entered the picture and I loved them both. I felt like acting was where I wanted to head, so I moved to Hollywood. After some amazing experiences and very cool stories, I felt like I was missing something significant: purpose. I started praying that God would reveal this to me even if it meant shifting me away from acting. He almost immediately opened some doors in Christian music and going through them, I had a sense of certainty I had never had before; a calling. It has by no means been easy – in fact I often say while it is one of the best decisions I have made, it has also been the most challenging. “Unbroken” is the story of what I experienced after leaving acting until now – the good, the bad and the ugly.
- Speaking about your stint in TV, would you say that door is completely closed now, or slightly ajar if God moves you to that direction again. Are there any people in the movie/TV industry that you have intentionally kept in contact with, as a mentor to you, or just to keep you in the loop with what is happening? While you were in Hollywood, did you ever have the chance to share your faith with others, and what was the result?
That door is definitely not closed…it takes a lot of time and energy to do music or acting on their own and I simply don’t have enough to pursue both. I have no doubt that if God wants me to go back to acting, it will be very obvious but I don’t feel like it’s something I will be seeking out again. While I was in Hollywood, there were definitely some people whose kindness stayed with me. There were some astounding people that had great attitudes on set every day and I observed how meaningful that can be just in a professional sense. It’s been cool to go back to sets I worked on a lot, like “Grey’s Anatomy,” and share what I am doing with friends there. There are many people there I know aren’t Christian but are very supportive of me for following my passion and trying to make a difference in the lives of others.
Naturally, I am not a huge evangelistic personality. I never, ever, ever want to be seen as phony so I don’t pretend to be this way. I have found a lot of value in trying to live my life the way I know God wants me to and trusting that He will use me if I am obedient. I have had many non-Christians say “You seem so normal, not pushy or judgy like other Christians.” People have different personalities, and what brings someone to Christ may turn another away completely. I think when love is at the center of what you do, people notice that and that is how I want to represent Christ.
- Which song on the new album means the most to you? What was your favourite song to record? Can you tell us how these 12 songs came to be? Personally I love “Butterfly”, “Home”, the title track, “I Won’t Cry” and “The Love Of The Lord Endures” (which was originally recorded by Joy Williams!)! Speaking about Joy Williams, describe the process that occurred when you decided to cover her song!
I think Joy Williams is great – she sang at my church when I was in high school and she actually drove to lunch with some friends and me, which now looking at her “star status” is kind of cool! She is so talented – after she sang at the church, I had wanted to sing one of her songs and it was “The Love of the Lord Endures.” That song had stayed with me in the years following and when I was thinking of songs for “Unbroken” I was thinking how cool it would be to include that song; one that talks about how God stays with you, through a song that has stayed with me.
I am so glad you are enjoying the new songs, thank you!! What I most enjoy about the new songs is that they all have a purpose and a theme – break-ups, power of the tongue, beauty, etc. – all issues many of us face throughout life and we need God to overcome them every time. It is very hard to pick a favorite because they all have such a unique place in the album. IF I had to pick, I really, really enjoy “I Won’t Cry.” That’s definitely one of the more angsty songs I have written and, ugh, being angry and wanting revenge are such real human emotions but nothing we can do can change it; it has to be up to God. There’s a scripture I have looked at many times especially when I feel hurt or betrayed in Exodus 14:14 that says: “The Lord will fight for you; all you need to do is be silent.” This is so hard to do but I have found when I do? I never, ever regret it.
- What can you hope listeners can hear and experience when they check out your new album? If there is one take home message from listening to Unbroken, what would you like listeners to gain from the 12 tracks?
As I mentioned before, a lot of this album is moving forward- learning from experiences but looking ahead and realizing what you have gotten through will only make you stronger. One of the theme verses is in 1 Peter 5:10: “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” Everyone suffers. Everyone has to make the choice to move forward. You can either become a victim by what happens to you, or you can be a conqueror. With God, we are “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37) but you have to CHOOSE God. He has already chosen- us but we have to be active in our own lives. In the title songs, there is a lyric that says, “Unfrozen, I let the damaged pieces lie” – we can be so trapped by our inaction and passiveness- we must let things go in order to move on. I want this album to empower people to choose not to become victims; to choose God.
- What has been the overall highlight of the whole process of making Unbroken? 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?
For me the highlight was seeing the growth from 2012 till now both in how I felt about the album but confirmed through the comments many people have given me so far. It was a lot of fun to produce it myself and write a lot of the songs, so any connections people have to the songs is super meaningful and makes me so grateful that God has given me not only the songs, but the experiences that inspired them There were a LOT of hard moments on this album, way more than any other project I have done- it is hard to revisit past hurt but I almost feel like putting them into a song is closure, like that’s my summary of what happened and I can close the file. The hardest songs topically were the easiest to write because I knew so clearly what I wanted to say. God was definitely there throughout the whole process, and especially in those tougher songs.
- Both musically and lyrically, how does the new album capture the experiences of the band throughout the last few years of your musical journey? As you move into your next step in your Christian music career, is there anything you hold onto that God has spoken into your life?
I think a lot of the growth I have been talking about both spiritually and musically has been the core of this album. I see what I have learned and how I have changed in the last three years and it makes me excited for the next three years, you know? Life is such a journey, of mountains and valleys, storms and sunshine but it is beautiful and unique to each and every one of us. We all have a story unlike anyone else’s- you don’t have to be anyone other than who God made you to be. I have found the greatest impact I have had on people is when I am being myself, when I am transparent, honest, and a little bit goofy. The biggest thing I have held on to is to be myself – I can always (and should!) strive to be a “better” me but that is to honor God’s creation of me, not to impress other people. I’m already loved and cherished, and anything more I do is just icing on the cake!
- Who were your favourite artists you admired and looked up to musically in your earlier years, and is there any artist or band that you admire within the music industry currently, as a fellow artist, a spiritual mentor, or someone you ask advice from?
There were always a lot of artists and bands I liked, but I never really had any I specifically looked up to. I think Joy Williams was up there just because I had met her in person and we are about the same age and I just thought what she was doing at the same time I was in high school was just so cool. Now that I have been through some of the “industry” things, I have a heightened respect for people who have had long careers and stayed true to themselves, whether in Christian or secular music. It is HARD. There have been some incredibly kind artists I have met along the way who have been very supportive and encouraging including Tim Timmons, the City Harmonic and Casting Crowns. There are some truly great people making music out there today and its an honor to have gotten to know some of them.
I have some AMAZING people in my life that I know are there for no other reason than being gifts from God. I have a few great mentors who I think I would rather not mention by name, because they don’t want or need the accolades and that makes me like them even more! I have a wide net of people I can ask advice from that I have worked with – past producers, session musicians, worship pastors – and I am so thankful to have so many people that I can trust and learn from. I think if you ever feel like you have stopped learning, you need to re-evaluate your goals a bit!
- Has there been a recent song that has been ministering to people on the road, and what are some of the encouraging stories you have heard from the impact of your songs on this upcoming album?
Hands down so far the biggest response has been about the song “Butterfly.” This song was written for those who are feeling different and unloved. So many times we get our self-esteem from what we think other people think of us…unfortunate, but true. If only we saw ourselves the way God sees us, as unique and wonderfully made, just as we look on a butterfly. That butterfly has no idea how captivating it is; it doesn’t try to compare itself to others or change who it is, yet we can’t stop staring. That’s how God sees us and that’s how we need to see ourselves.
A lot of people tell me they have thought this way about butterflies before, how they can’t help but smile when they see one. One lady in particular told me about her son who has special needs and recently had passed away. She said he always loved butterflies and now whenever she sees one, she thinks of him, and his uniqueness and how beautiful he was to her- it made me get teary as she told it but yet she shared it with such gratitude for that connection she felt with the song. Stories like that are why I love doing what I do.
- Touring wise, you recently played at Creation Festival in England, and soon you will be at the Lake Tahoe Women’s Retreat and the Aurora Conference later on in the year. Can you tell us about touring with these musicians and at these venues, and what we can expect from you at a live show?
A lot of times the realities of cost prevent me from traveling with a full band, but I do try to make that happen whenever I can! I have great musicians I bring with me, sometimes just a pianist and a percussionist and believe me, with the right people, you can get a lot of energy going! I like energy…you won’t find a lot of dead space or more than two ballads in a row with me. I also really like to prepare for my audience – if it’s younger, I will throw in some games or silly stuff; if it’s mostly adults it will be more storytelling. You can expect to get to know me, both onstage and off, as I really cherish the time I have meeting people and hearing their stories at my table after the event almost as much as I do singing, maybe even more in some cases.
- Let’s talk about personal, touring and musical goals for 2015 and beyond! What is on your ‘bucket list’ for 2015?
I actually just did one of my bucket list entries – singing in England! I LOVE the UK and it had been a dream of mine to sing and share my story there so I was so glad I was able to do that this summer. I would love to come sing in Australia someday – I don’t know about 2015, but definitely someday! I really want to see my teen girl conferences, the Aurora Conference, grow in both impact and number…that is something I am really focused on right now.
- In your spare moments, your downtime, is there anything you like to do? Play sports, watch TV, movies, hang out with friends, cook, read?
I love spending time with friends. Unfortunately many of my closest friends do not live nearby but fortunately I love traveling so making plans where I visit them or where they visit me is a big priority in my down time. I love going to spend time with my family in Northern Nevada, especially in the winter when it is ski season. I think my favorite way to unwind and really relax is to be on a beach with a book. I will literally sit there from 8am until sunset. And let’s be honest – who doesn’t love a good Netflix binge every now and then?
- Is there anything in your life that 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 why you chose music as a career and ministry?
Life is ALL about perspective. I have been talking a lot about my challenges and struggles but all it takes is one conversation with someone about their own struggle with say, cancer or losing a child, and it puts it all in perspective! I go from feeling a bit down to so incredibly grateful. It is so easy for us to think about all the people who have it better than us, we forget that there are a lot more people who have it way worse. It is sometimes almost embarrassing if I catch myself complaining about something so trivial.
There are two quotes about music that I love:
“Where words fail, music speaks.” – Hans Christian Andersen
“Music expresses that which cannot be said, and on which is impossible to be silent.” – Victor Hugo
All cultures have music. It is the most universal of all languages. Music enhances words to something so much bigger, something that you feel throughout your whole body. Many times you can just hear a melody and you know right away if it is happy, confused or sad and then the words just complement it- to combine this with the influence and spirit of God makes for an immensely powerful medium by which to share Him with the world. I feel closer to God through music than any other time; it is not only a powerful connection for me but also for millions of other people, many of whom may not even realize it yet. I would love to be used to help them realize that.
- Is there anything else that you would like to add that hasn’t been covered in this interview yet? Any parting words, and encouragements that will impact the readers of this interview, either from your own life or from others around you? How can fans stay connected with you via social media?
I am pretty active with social media, so that is a great way to stay in touch! On Instagram and Twitter my handle is @julieeliasmusic and on Facebook, just search for Julie Elias Music and it should come up! I think I have covered a lot in this interview – thanks for staying with me through it and thank you, Joshua, again for your support of my ministry and music!!
There is one other scripture I would like to leave you with:
“Forget the former things. Do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing- watch it spring up- don’t you see it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” – Isaiah 43:18-19
God can turn brokenness into something beautiful. But you have to choose to let Him. You cannot choose what happens to you but you can choose how you respond. Take charge of your life by trusting God and then you will find yourself unbroken.
Be sure to check out Julie Elias’s new album Unbroken releasing September 11th. Til then, check out Julie’s youtube page for all the latest music videos and behind the scenes videos! Enjoy reading and watching!