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Photo by Joe Montague

Carolyn Arends Interview
  
Following a recent concert I sat down with Canadian songwriter, singer, producer, and author Carolyn Arends and discussed a variety of topics including the evolution of her career to her current status as one of North America’s most widely respected songwriters.
 
Carolyn’s passion for songwriting is evident when she talks about her experience leading a songwriting workshop at Break Forth 2005, North America’s largest annual worship event. “I sensed a wonderful camaraderie between the participants the shared passion for and frustrations with writing.  I got a chance to listen to several demo recordings of songs that some of the participants had written and was generally really encouraged by the level of excellence many of the writers had achieved.  I left the sessions inspired and encouraged and reminded of why I love being a songwriter.”
 
Carolyn has openly discussed the origins of one of her more recent songs, "Preparing For Glory." It was inspired by a Steve Bell song about his grandmother. Carolyn wrote "Preparing For Glory" on an airplane while returning from her concert with Bell.  She phoned him and asked permission to borrow his grandmother because she didn't feel comfortable in taking an idea inspired by another writer. Bell told her to go for it.  
 
When asked whether she has plans to borrow anyone else's relatives she responded, "If it leads to a song yes! I will borrow anyone's relatives but I have no immediate plans."
 
Most of Carolyn Arends' songs are born out of personal experience.  That is a far cry from how she began. Her first publishing deal was to write for other artists.  She described the songs as really generic.  They didn't have much to do with her. She said they were really bad songs.  She worried that putting too much of herself into the music would make it impossible for other people to relate to the songs.  
 
Photo by Joe Montague"When I started realizing the more personal you are about something the more real it becomes.  Sometimes the songs are based on emotions but mostly they are based on things that have happened to me."
 
In the fall of 2004 she released two CDs,”Christmas An Irrational Season” and “Under the Gaze”. These marked her 7th and 8th releases over a 10 year career. I asked if there was one career highlight that stood out more than the others.
 
"I think it was the time I launched into a song and it was "Seize The Day" and they (the audience) started singing along.  I realized that something I had written in my basement or my bedroom had become part of somebody else's life or several other people's lives to the point where they knew it by heart.  That meant a tremendous amount to me and to this day when it happens in concerts it blows me away. It makes me really grateful."
 
Carolyn cites two people as impacting her career early on. One was Amy Grant of whom she was a fan. The other was a friend, the late Rich Mullins. 
 
"I grew up listening to Amy Grant. She was cool. So there's probably some little part of me that turned out to be like Amy."
 
About Mullins, "My first tour was with Rich Mullins and that was kind of my school of how to do this thing.  It was an amazing school to go to because it is really really different from how most people approach a music career.  No pretense. I am not saying that other people are pretentious but he was just remarkably unpretentious, humble, generous, transparent, vulnerable and real with warts and all."
 
Carolyn says that having children, Ben who is 6, and Bethany, 3, has been an inspiration for her career. They take wonder in everything and detect miracles all over the place.  She describes it as "super inspiring" but also more challenging to be able to act upon that inspiration because of her parental responsibilities.  Finding the time to wear her many hats has proved trickier.
 
"But it is so worth it for what you get out of the deal," she said in reference to her children.
 
Having a family served as an inspiration for Carolyn's album, “We've Been Waiting For You (The Parenthood Project)”. Being a mother also provided the inspiration for her second book bearing the same name as the album.  In 2003 the CD was named Inspirational Album of the Year by the Canadian Gospel Music Association.  
 
In typical Arends fashion she responded in this way to the award.  "When you get affirmed for what you do it feels wonderful and you take that for the gift that it is and being recognized by your peers.  You just take that as a blessing and as an encouragement for the path that you are on."
 
What do her children think of mom's career?   Ben and Bethany are already budding songwriters.
 
“They're funny because they write songs about everything, because that's just what you do.  So if they are arguing with me about eating their vegetables they will sing a song about it.” 
 
Several years ago Carolyn decided to part ways with Reunion Records out of Nashville.  The parting was based on her decision to spend more time with her family. As her own producer she finds she has gained more control over scheduling her tour dates. When an artist is tied to a commercial record deal the demands to tour are much greater.  
 
Other artists whose music she enjoys include Chris Rice who she describes as a "phenomenal songwriter" and Sara Groves.  In the pop world she is also a fan of Shawn Colvin. 
 
Among the many things that put a smile on Carolyn Arends' face is, "A really good moment musically where everything is just fitting together."
 
However make no mistake about how this lady wants people to think of her, "As a good wife, a good mom, a good friend and as a disciple of Jesus."
 
By Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved
 
This material may not be redistributed without prior written permission from Joe Montague.
 
 

Joe Montague is a freelance Christian journalist / photographer who has been published in a variety of community, daily and Christian newspapers coast to coast in Canada and the United States.  Joe Montague's ministry of journalism is dedicated to the memory of his late son Kent David Montague who went to heaven far too early at the age of 18. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
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