(Photo: The M Collective)
Christian singer/songwriter Sara Groves is releasing a compilation album on Sept. 17 called The Collection, which will highlight what she feels is the best music of her 15-year 10-album career.
Groves exclusively debuted her first promotional performance video, "All Right Here" on the Christian Post two weeks ago, and now has answered a few questions about her upcoming album, her life right now, and her thoughts about her career s a whole.
Christian Post: You are releasing The Collection on the 17th. Why did you feel it was the appropriate time to put together this album, and will it differ from the standard versions of them?
Sara Groves: We hit ten records and fifteen years on the road I thought it was a good time to reflect back and celebrate that time. I won't claim that it is much different from other best-of albums, but we did work to assemble the list ourselves, so it is not just a list generated by our label; it was lovingly assembled! And then there are four new songs on the record.
CP: Why did you choose for the first video to be "All Right Here" and do you think these live performance videos offer a different side of you?
SG: "All Right Here" basically says that my life is a collection of all of the experiences that have happened to me, so it seemed fitting to feature that song in a stripped down version. I have always loved singing, "every heart has so much history/ that's my favorite place to start / sit down a while and share your narrative with me / I'm not afraid of who you are."
CP: When played in the order you have the songs, do you feel the music carries a theme or flows in a different way than they did apart?
SG: Yes, I think with this collection you see themes emerge. Some of my most visited topics would have to be marriage, our role in social justice, the integration of faith into our everyday lives, the intimacy of a walk with God, and letting grace abound!
CP: How have you grown or changed as an artist since releasing your first album?
SG: Well, I've just gotten older! That has brought children, and now a teenager even, and life change – but I think my goals for myself have changed a great deal. I feel a real desire for simplicity, and to lean into the things that I am made to do and be. I feel in my gut a desire to make a record that really takes it out of me, to write something that goes beyond my ability. I have always written from a very emotional place. The craft of songwriting has always been a secondary thought. But when I read good literature, and hear good songs, I see a lack of self- consciousness by the author that I have not yet attained. I have been moving in that direction, but I wonder what that would be like for a whole album.
CP: How do you feel the four brand new songs hold up against some of your best work?
SG: Yeah, it was hard to write songs to put on a 'best-of' collection. I decided to think reminiscently instead about those 15 years. We have lived on the road for a decade and a half on the kindness of strangers – that felt like a good complimentary theme. "Blessed Be the Tie" is one of the only hymns written about Christian community and also felt like a good fit to our journey with other artists, and with the people listening to the music. "Strangely Ready" is also a fit for that place of reflection and vision – I don't know where I'm headed, but I feel a strange preparedness for what comes next in this spot in St. Paul that God has led us to. "Lay it Down" rounds out these same ideas – our struggles are common to all men, so don't go it alone.
CP: Now that you have the greatest hits out of the way, what is next for you, and can you see yourself going another 15 years or so?
SG: I hope to take some very intentional time in making my next record. I feel something inside that I don't have language for and I sense a real challenge in getting it right. Aside from that, Troy and I are still enjoying our work with Art House North in St. Paul, MN and plan on bringing more thoughtful people to the Twin Cities. I haven't ever followed a big career plan. I will keep making music, and if people keep listening, that's great. And if they don't, I will probably still be playing and writing anyway.
CP: Do you think music is a good tool for the gospel? Why or why not?
SG: I will say yes, but with a caveat by Charlie Peacock who once said – "the Gospel is the ocean, and we keep writing about a cup of water." We could also have a longer conversation about music as tool, where I would heavily quote Makoto Fujimura's thoughts on art as utility!
CP: What would you say to young girls or teens whose only role model for a woman is what they see on television?
SG: I think I can't fill voids by talking about what is missing – I have to seek out things that are inspiring, whole, noble, excellent, praiseworthy and expose my kids to those things. Then they are drawn to what is, instead of standing at the edges of this chasm that I have created by telling them what everything isn't.
CP: After all these years playing music, does the purpose and focus of creating music ever waiver or change?
SG: Sure. I go through seasons of great frustration and doubt, and then ride the euphoric waves of creativity and vision again! But the role that music plays in my life hasn't changed much – this is how I sort out my life.
Groves released her first album, Past the Wishing, in 1998, and earned an Album of the Year title for 2005's Add to the Beauty by CCM Magazine. She has three Dove Award nominations and had a contribution to the book, The Art of Being, in 2004.