Provident Label Group
Release Date: August 7th 2020
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Hallelujah Even Here
- To Be Loved
- Meet Me There
- How You See Me Now
- I’ll Be OK
- Where Your Heart Is
- Here Again
You know how you listen to an artist and how immediately think of another, and how the voice of this particular artist that you have just been introduced to, sounds exactly like someone else…in the best way possible? That is exactly what has been happening with the new music from singer-songwriter/new artist Lydia Laird. Signed to Provident Label Group, home to other aritsts like Matthew West, Matt Maher, Tauren Wells, Zach Williams, KB, Rhett Walker, Leanna Crawford and Casting Crowns, to name a few; Lydia’s presence on such a roster full of amazing and encouraging artists, only encourages us all to check out Lydia’s own music and material- if she’s signed to Provident Label Group, she ought to be alright…right? From first listen to the EP, I am impressed by Lydia, and immediately draw parallels, vocally and musically, to chart-topping power-pop legend, Francesca Battistelli. In fact, if I didn’t know that Lydia Laird was the artist singing, then I would automatically think it’s Francesca, all the way. That’s how similar Lydia’s vocals are, and that is a very, very good thing- a compliment. A hopeful encouragement that maybe, just maybe, fans of Francesca’s music will listen to this EP and thoroughly enjoy these 7 songs, I am blessed to have heard these songs, and am reminded that it’s not always the well known and popular artists that make the songs that hit the hardest- Lydia’s craft has been formed even before she was on the label of Provident- one of her songs ‘I’ll Be OK’ was unveiled to us independently in 2018, and now here on 2020, her presence on a record label, hopefully doesn’t mean that her subsequent albums/EPs will be shaped in a ‘radio-friendly’ format. Nothing against record labels and radio formats, but upon hearing this EP, and being remidned of Lydia’s own fervour, passion and enthusiasm, not just here on the album, but in previous recordings not on a label, as well; Lydia’s work is a testament to her hard-working skills, and being able to share with fans, her own journey, and us being reminded wholeheartedly that there is a vulnerability that comes when you’re independent, or newly signed to a label. Without any pressures and expectations from outside label forces- this EP is as emotive, raw and honest as you can get, and for that, is one of my faovurite EP’s of 2020 thus far!
‘Hallelujah Even Here’ is the first radio single from the EP, and is actually one of the singles come out of left-field that has encouraged me in my own walk with Christ of late, alongside the Hope Darst radio single ‘Peace Be Still’ as well. Lydia’s track of vulnerability and worship in the midst of trials, is something that is very fitting for this time of society that we are in right now with COVID-19. ‘Hallelujah Even Here’ is something that maybe even Job could’ve sung back in the day in the Old Testament, or words to that effect, would be whatever Paul was experiencing and declaring when he was in prison for his faith, where he was writing the most of the New Testament. Lydia’s track is heartfelt, emotional and ever-challenging as we learn to say the words ‘hallelujah’ in each and every circumstance, something that we as humans don’t often do, because how can you really say ‘hallelujah’ through the trials? I am reminded with James 1:2-4, where it says that we ought to consider our trials and difficulties as pure joy, because it is in the experiencing of them that our perseverance grows strong and that through perseverance, our lives can be mature and the Lord can finish His work in us, as we become complete and not lacking anything. A song that has become an anthem for people, myself included, with the last few weeks or so, Lydia’s first radio single is one that is a personal standout of mine in 2020, and an encouragement to us all, to hopefully declare at some point in our lives, that ‘…when the storm is relentless, hallelujah, when the battle is endless, in the middle of the in between, in the middle of the questioning, over every worry, every fear, Hallelujah, even here…’
Originally released in 2018, ‘I’ll Be Ok’, is another vulnerable track from Lydia, and a song that has become an anthem of hers and a personal track that has a lot of meaning. A song that declares our safety and security in Christ, especially during the difficult moments in our lives; Lydia’s emotive track is one of the emotive reflective anthemic moments I’ve heard in 2020, ever since Cody Carnes’s ‘Run to the Father’ at the beginning of the year. As Lydia herself has declared, about the song and her thoughts on it and what it may mean to people, we see a vulnerable moment of hers as we get a glimpse into her life as she has lived with anxiety and depression for a while in her life. In her own words, ‘…I was going through a very difficult heartbreak, and I was at a friends house during a party. I just couldn’t shake the heaviness my heart was dealing with, so I snuck away to my friend’s music room where she had an old piano. I sat down and started a kind of prayer as I wrote this song and asked the Lord for what I so desperately needed in such a dark time. I didn’t end up finishing the song until later (with the help of some dear friends of mine) but I’ve come away from writing this song with such a beautiful truth nailed to my heart. When you are broken, in the middle of a storm, facing something that feels worse than death, etc., it’s not necessarily an immediate healing, answer, or quick-fix that you need – It’s the knowledge that you are not alone, have never been alone, and you never will be alone, because Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world promises He will never leave you or forsake you. I know the darkness of depression. I know the fearful grip of anxiety on your precious heart. I know the worse-than-death feeling of having your heart broken. I know. But, I can promise you that what you are actually looking for can only be found in Jesus. That may sound silly, but it’s a promise. Only he will never forsake you, will never fail you, will always love you and understands every ounce and millisecond and heaviness of the pain you are walking through. So, I hope you know this truth. You will be OK because HE is with you…’ It is in this quote that I have come to continue to appreciate Lydia and her music all the more, and especially this song. There is a sense of longing, hurt, and expectation with track, something that a lot of radio-friendly CCM radio stations need at the moment. There is a time for polished radio hits, but what Lydia herself brings is something new and different, and these two songs ‘I’ll Be Ok’ and ‘Hallelujah, Even Here’ are both evidence of this!
‘…it’s so funny, because it’s produced in a very lighthearted way, but what it’s saying is really serious. I grew up in an incredible family and good Christian home, involved in church, wonderful parents, but there was something in me and in the world that I was in that constantly felt like I had to earn God’s love. It was a subconscious belief that nobody necessarily taught me. You can’t be completely honest. You can’t be completely open about your crappiness and your sin and your issues, because God’s going to be upset with you. That was a struggle through a lot of my young life, even into my twenties, where that made my depression and my anxiety even worse because I just constantly shamed myself and felt like I could not do enough to earn God’s love. For me, this song was such an incredible journey of going, ‘You know what, fellow Christians? That’s not who God is.’ We may love each other that way, where it’s like, ‘Oh, you disappoint me. I’m mad at you,’ but God’s not like that. I’m hoping this song sets people free, because I’ve been set free…’ [TO BE LOVED] ‘…when I wrote that, I was really struggling with depression and it was a prayer. I was literally crying out to God. What you hear in my voice is a cry. I sat at my piano and it was the kind of thing where I couldn’t feel peace or feel happy if I wanted to. All I could do was cry out to Jesus: ‘This is where I’m at, so please, Jesus, meet me there.’ I had written a good portion of the song, and then I had a writing session with Michael Farren. I said, ‘Well, this song is more like a prayer, but I’m going to just read it to you. See what you think.’ He just sat down at the piano and we finished it in 45 minutes. It was just completely emotional for me, because every bit of it is how I feel…’ [MEET ME THERE] ‘…lyric is the most important thing to me, because that’s always been what I am passionate about. I love myself some good pop music, but I’m not one who can ever write throwaway lyrics just to have a fun song. It was me, Matt Armstrong, and Jeff Sojka, and we started talking about the struggle it is when we look at ourselves one way and God looks at us another way, and how often we get so caught up in our past mistakes, or even our present ones, that we can’t stop allowing them to define us. This song goes, ‘If I could only see how you see me, I would lose these chains and lay my shame down.’ So it’s one of those where it feels fun and upbeat, but I still think it’s such a powerful song, because the lyric is something I need and I believe other people will need as well…’ [HOW YOU SEE ME NOW] ‘…when we wrote this, I wanted it to be very anthemic and almost like a movie, like a film score or something. The music of the track, it just feels giant. I wrote it with Rusty Varenkamp. We were talking about, ‘Man, being a Christian right now in today’s world, it can be very difficult.’ Because we hear a lot of different voices, and we can get confused on which side we’re supposed to follow and what we’re supposed to do. For me, the cry of this song is ‘All I need is you. So wherever your heart is, bring me there.’…’ [WHERE YOUR HEART IS] ‘…this is a cover by Elevation Worship. To me, it’s one that the church needed and continues to need. It goes back to the foundation of the gospel. I think we get so caught up in ‘religion.’ We show up on Sunday and we do this and we do that, and we almost forget just what the simple truth is. My favorite lyric in the song is when it says, ‘Come, Holy Spirit, dry bones awaken.’ Because I think as Christians, we can get stagnant. We can get lukewarm. We can get to this place where we’ve kind of forgotten it’s about Jesus; it’s about his love. And there’s so much power when we come back to this place…’ [HERE AGAIN]
‘To Be Loved’, ‘Meet Me There’, ‘How You See Me Now’, ‘Where Your Heart Is’ and ‘Here Again’ are the remaining five songs here on this 7 track EP, and while these quotes above are by Lydia herself for the Apple Music service, what better way to explain these songs, than the artist themselves. And what I will say is this- that Lydia’s music is a joy to listen to and fun experience to have- it’s kinda like listening to Francesca Battistelli all over again, and it’s very, very rewarding to hear this EP, from the joyous funk of ‘To Be Loved’, and the piano and string prominent ‘Meet Me There’, to the declaratory gospel-tinged ‘How You See Me Now’, the anthemic ‘Where Your Heart Is’ and the Elevation Worship cover ‘Here Again’. For it is in this EP that I have come to appreciate first-albums (and EPs) all the more, because it is in these EP’s and first-albums that we can discover a lot more of the artist than subsequent releases- the artist has a lifetime to write about album/EP #1, but only a few years until #2- hence, much more though can sometimes occur in the debuts of people’s albums, Lydia’s included. An EP that will be enjoyed and loved by anyone Francesca Battistelli fan, or just a fan of Provident Label Group and the artists there; Lydia Laird EP is one that I myself would spin for quite some time- for the next few weeks/months at least. An album that Lydia herself should be proud of, it is songs like ‘Hallelujah Even Here’ and ‘I’ll Be OK’ that can impact people around the world. Well done Lydia for such a powerful EP, one that ought to be shared with people for them to hear, in the upcoming weeks/months ahead.
3 songs to listen to: Hallelujah Even Here, I’ll Be Ok, Where Your Heart Is
RIYL: Francesca Battistelli, Natalie Grant, Delta Goodrem, Kim Walker-Smith