Award wiing singer-songwriter Christa Wells is back with her brand new album "Feed Your Soul." Comprising of some of her most honest songs about family, home, grief, pain and God, "Feed Your Soul" has been warmly received by critics and fans alike. Besides her own singing projects, Wells is also a well established songwriter who has been awarded GMA's "Songwriter of the Year" in 2006 for crafting Natalie Grant's "Held." She has also written Point of Grace's No. 1 smash "Day By Day," Plumb's signature tune "Need You Now (How Many Times)," as well as songs by Selah, Sara Groves, Jessica Campbell and Nicol Sponberg. We are so honored to be able to catch up with Wells for this exclusive interview:
Hallels: Thank you Christa for spending some time with us. Congratulations on the release of your new album "Feed Your Soul." For some of our readers who are not familiar with your music, how would describe it?
In general my music falls under the indie-pop umbrella, but of course, that can be pretty broad. The songs are highly lyrical & piano-based, in that I write on piano, not that production always revolves around piano. I've heard my lyrics compared to Sara Groves, my voice to Regina Spektor or Natalie Merchant, and overall style to Over the Rhine/A Fine Frenzy/JJ Heller.
Hallels: Tell us a little of the process of putting together "Feed Your Soul." What were some of the joys and challenges of making this album?
In some ways, the joys were the challenges and the challenges joys. This was a crowd-funded project through Kickstarter, and I've shared elsewhere that the experience was terrifying to me but also a beautiful growing opportunity. This wasn't a case of having made the album and then asking people to get on board to help reimburse those expenses or promote the project. I honestly wasn't in a place to pay for the project up front without the help of my community. It's uncomfortable to need people; I think we all prefer to give than receive, really. And to prepare my heart for the joy of doing the project while also preparing for the possible disappointment of not being able to do it...that was an emotional challenge. At the same time, learning to lean into community is a joyous thing, and it was overwhelming to receive such love and support from the most unexpected places and people. Of course, taking the songs into the studio and watching them come to life - that's an incredible experience every time. And after all that, to hear from people that the music had really found a home in their hearts - it's almost too much. So awesome.
Hallels: Since you wrote or co-wrote your own songs, where do you find inspiration to write?
Each song really has its own story; inspiration comes from other people's stories and struggles, as well as my own. Then all the reading of books and listening to sermons & conversations serves the songwriting because I'm always absorbing and learning and letting all of it speak into the lyric. It feels like the song comes together simultaneously with my own understanding of a particular truth or insight. Various threads of thought from multiple sources will suddenly begin to converge and add up to something, mostly on an intuitive, subconscious level.
Hallels: A song on "Feed Your Soul" that is constantly on repeat in my own iTunes is "This Thing Is Not Going to Break You." Can you tell our readers what the song is about? And what inspired you to write this song?
I had become acquainted long-distance with a young girl named Bonnie Kate Pourciau, who was a survivor of the theater shooting in the Aurora, Colorado in 2012. We connected through a song of mine called "A Thousand Things" which had been helpful to her family during her recovery. The more I heard about Bonnie Kate through her friends and saw of her via videos & interviews, the more I grew in admiration and affection for her. I'd written all of the other songs for the album but wanted to write something for her and had had this rather unconventional title rolling around in my head. I sat at the piano late one night and wrote the song in an hour or two. It's simple melodically, and I think that's part of what carries the lyric straight into people's hearts.
Hallels: You have also written for many other artists such as Natalie Grant's "Held," Plumb's "Need You Now" and also songs for Ellie Holcomb's brand new record which just lodged in at No.1 on iTunes' Christian chart. How do you decide when to give a song away and when to keep it for your own?
For the most part, I haven't needed to choose. At the time of my first few cuts (Held, Day by Day, Our Hope Endures), although I didn't write those songs specifically for the artists, I also was not recording my own work yet. So it was a no-brainer to share them with artists who was already out there. I love hearing my songs interpreted by other artists and would love to see more picked up, even songs from my indepedent records. "Need You Now" (Plumb) and "Night Song" (Ellie Holcomb) were written specifically with those artists, and I never had any intention of recording them myself. So far in my solo recording career, I haven't recorded any co-written songs, with the exception of "Feed Your Soul," title track of my newest album. I tend to feel less connected personally to songs I co-write. "Feed Your Soul" is a co-write, because I was inspired by and drew lyrics from poet-blogger Holly Grantham. But we never sat in the room together to write (much as we'd love to!).
Hallels: On the title track you talk about feeding our souls, how do we feed our souls?
I think we feed our souls constantly, and it's more a matter of what we are feeding them. Still, I use that phrase and theme to mean being intentional & thoughtful about what we consume. Lots of things can make us healthier in mind & heart: reading solid, artful literature (fiction & nonfiction), appreciating all the various art forms, participating in community life, enjoying the natural world, practicing generosity, listening to provocative sermons & conversations. Surrounding ourselves with things that reflect Truth & Beauty (which isn't always pretty or easily digested). Even taking care of our bodies, creation and each other ends up nourishing our spirits. Some days a movie or a nap or sitting at the piano is what I need. The trick is to not let our fatigue fool us into living on cheap entertainment (like potato chips) that deaden or reduce us & leave us dissatisfied in the long run.
Hallels: What's next for Christa Wells? Are you currently writing for other artists? Working on a forthcoming project?
I'm working on a variety of things this year, doing a bit of "free play" after focusing so heavily on the two album releases last year (Feed Your Soul & More Than Rubies). Writing and recording several one-offs, songs connected to/inspired by other groups and artists - a couple organizations, a book, a couple of films. I'll be writing with and for other artists & am considering an EP or two of my own, along with some Feed Your Soul videos. I'll be doing some touring, though less than last year and some events in partnership with several author/speakers. Of course, I'll be spending a week with young artists at Masterpiece Project 2014, which is a highlight of every summer.
Hallels: Where can our readers go to purchase "Feed Your Soul" and find out more about you?
You can find me at www.christawellsmusic.com, as well as the usual social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).
Great questions! Thanks so much for your interest & support!