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
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.
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
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.