If the face of Julie Elias looks familiar, it's because she has appeared in some high profile TV shows such as "Grey's Anatomy" and "CSI:NY" before. She also had acting roles alongside such big screen stalwarts such as Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. Having moved on to a new chapter in life, Elias is now a song writer and worship leader helping young people worship through her Topic-Driven Concerts. Inspired by her worship experiences with teenagers, Elias has released her debut worship record. With two songs that she has written, "Love Rain Down" features Elias tackling worship covers from teams such as Hillsong UNITED, Bethel Music, Jesus Culture, Chris Tomlin, Jared Anderson, Desperation Band, Kristi Brown and others.
We are so honored to be able to catch up with Julie Elias for this Hallels exclusive interview.
Hallels: Thank you so much for your time, you have an actress who has had appeared in some high profile TV shows such as "Grey's Anatomy" and "CSI:NY" and you have even in films with the megastars like Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. Why did you decide to leave the entertainment world?
Thanks for the interview! I love acting and I really love movies. Being an actress was a dream of mine and I achieved many of the goals I set for myself there but at the end of the day, I didn't feel significant from doing it. I couldn't picture myself doing it for the long haul or felt like it would bring me satisfaction. Since I was a little girl, I believed God had big plans for me and I wanted to feel like I was doing something special. I prayed that He would reveal that to me and for the strength to set forth on it. Oui la, some opportunities in Christian music - that at the time seemed totally "random" came upon me. The timing was too weird to ignore so I prayed about it a lot, for a few months actually. I consistently felt God push me that way and being stubborn, it took me a bit but I eventually walked through those doors. And I am so glad I did. The feeling I craved of making a difference happens now, every time I lead worship or do a student concert- I finally know I'm doing what I'm meant to be doing.
Hallels: Currently, you are very much involved in leading worship especially with the youths, how did the Lord birth that passion in you?
For me, being a teenager was the hardest time in my life, namely middle school. It's confusing, awkward and everyone around you - especially girls - are so insecure and they take it out on each other in mean ways. I grew up in the church but nothing connected me better to His presence than music and I want to use music in their lives, as it helped me. I want the teens who are feeling hurt and afraid to turn to God. I also want the ones who may be lashing out toward others to have God in their hearts because He can help them control that behavior that is hurts someone else. So many issues that I faced as a teen - rejection, feeling beautiful, etc - come back in your life as an adult and by trusting in God's wisdom and love NOW, it may save them a lot of stress, maybe even some tears, in the future.
Hallels: I believe it's through your ministry with young people, this new worship album "Love Rain Down" was conceived. What do you wishthe Lord would accomplish through this worship album?
During some of those tough times, I wish I would have had some uplifting songs that reminded me I wasn't alone- that is 100% how this new album came about. I wanted to give teens an energetic, heartfelt, quality worship album that would be that encourage them to connect with God. Even though I created this album for teens, I have been getting feedback that people of all ages have really been impacted by it which is awesome! My dream would be that teens - and adults - who maybe don't listen to Christian music find something special about this album and through the music, open their hearts and mind to Christ, when maybe they wouldn't have otherwise. That would be amazing. That is my biggest prayer.
Hallels: You did write 2 new songs on the record, do you mind telling our readers more about them?
The title song, "Love Rain Down," is inspired by Psalm 36, especially verses 9-10. That scripture says: "For You are the fountain of life, the light by which we see. Pour out Your unfailing love on those who love You; give justice to those with honest hearts." I love the imagery of water and how it refreshes us. In Texas right now, where I live, it's 100 degrees every day; it's hot, humid, and gross. There's nothing I want more than to jump in the pool and cool off! I think life gets like that - so overly heated with stress and anxiety - and we need God to rejuvenate us. Asking Him to "Let love rain down" is the acknowledgement where we say, "Life is getting a little hot right now - can You help me out, God?"
The other original song, "I'll Depend on You," deals with the topic of waiting for your prayers to be answered. If you get good news, you feel thankful and relieved. If you get bad news, you can at least work and plan to resolve it. But that in-between, waiting period...that's tough. Being able to rely on God during that time is a challenge but as believers, we need to know He has a master plan for our lives and He won't give us anything we can't handle or that He won't help us through. Philippians 1:6 says, "He who began a good work in you will see it through to completion." I think this is encouraging and I know even in my relatively new ministry it's been helpful. God's not going to call you to something and then abandon you. Every issue we face is meant to bring us closer to Him. A setback isn't the end; it's just a "plot twist" in the story of our life and like a character in any good novel, we use our talents, strengths and especially our faith to get through it.
Hallels: As for the rest of the covers you have chosen from quite a variety of worship artists including Hillsong United, Jesus Culture, Bethel Music, Planetshakers and others. Why do you feel a need to re-do them again for your record?
I don't think it's as much as a "re-do" as it is "I-love-this-song-so-much-and-want-everyone-to-know-it!" There are some AMAZINGLY talented worship songwriters out there. Many of the songs on this album are some of my personal favorites, especially "Oceans" and "Rooftops." Because these songs mean so much to me, they are easy for me to get behind and share with others. I wanted a lot of energy but also a lot of heart...lyrics that are very present and relatable and melodies that anyone - Christian or not- would get stick in their head. I'm not the best at straight up memorizing scripture but songs make it so much easier and all of these songs are birthed from scripture. Worship songwriters have a really special gift. There were so many other songs I wanted to include but I prayed specifically about which ones to use for this album.
Hallels: Being a worship leader, what advice do you have to give to some of our readers who could be also aspiring or current worship leaders in their churches?
If you're just starting out, talk to your worship leader at church and ask how you can get involved. If you go to a big church, maybe there are specific areas - youth worship, choir, contemporary praise band. Find what you connect with best and jump in! In this day and age with social media, you can contact worship leaders at other churches pretty easily. Ask them how they got started and what they did. Most everyone is happy to share and mentor someone else. If you're serious about really mastering fundamentals and principles, check out college programs or masters degrees. If you're trying to be a touring worship leader, get some good songs or at least master some worship songs out there and try to get some local bookings...at churches, coffee shops, etc...try to get a following. Figure out how far you want to take it - are you happy being a local worship leader or do you want to go all out and try for a label? Knowing what you want from the get-go will save you lots of time and energy later on (I'm speaking from personal experience there!!)
Familiarize yourself with worship songs and try to stay current but know the classic contemporary worship songs and also the hymns. There's a reason hymns have transcended generations; use them. Secondly, practice! Whether it's piano, guitar, singing - whatever! - the more comfortable you get with the fundamentals, the more you will be able to surrender to the Holy Spirit in worship. It's hard to really be worshipping if you can't remember the words! That's another thing: learn the words. Period. Screens make it easy to get lazy and not learn the lyrics like you should, but they SHOULD be there to remind you in case you get lost; the first thing I notice visiting a church is when people on stage look like they're reading the screen.
I think there is a fine line between "performance" and being "spirit-led." I hear this debate all the time...something it too showy, etc. The way I look at it as this: it is a privilege to be on the platform. You need to do your best to make the most of the short time you have with people to make a difference in their lives and that means being well-rehearsed and as prepared as you can be. While you want to encourage the congregation to sing to an audience of One, it takes some people awhile to get there and the average person will notice if your set is choppy, disorganized and poorly done. You are supposed to connect God's presence through song with the congregation, so do what you need to! There are always things that can go wrong - technical problems, sound issues, disengaged audiences - but if you can say you put your best before God, I think that's what He wants from us.
Hallels: If our readers would like to purchase "Love Rain Down" or find out more about you, where can they go?
My album is on iTunes as well as other digital outlets like Amazon.com, Spotify, etc. You can get a physical copy of my album on my official website at www.julieeliasmusic.com. There's actually some promotional packages and cool t-shirts there as well, so please go check it out- and I hope you leave inspired and reminded that no matter what you're facing, you are not alone and someone up there loves you a whole lot!