Your Gateway to Music and More from a Christian Perspective
Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
In this the first part of a two part series concerning Lauren, Alyssa, and Rebecca Barlow, the three sisters who comprise the rock band BarlowGirl talk about their ministry to teen girls and how their own struggles and joys have imprinted that ministry. In the second part of the series, the trio will discuss their views on relationships and the challenges and stresses of a touring band.
Wondering where their passion for ministering to teen girls comes from, I turned to the baby of the group, twenty-year-old Lauren, who backstops the band on drums. Lauren, before we get into discussing the passion for ministering to teen girls let's discuss another passion of yours drumming. "Being a drummer is really fun; you get all of your energy out, you get to hit things really hard. I have an amazing time doing it," she says while adding, "Being a girl drummer is not really common so that is cool."
Lauren tells me, "Mom and dad told us from the time we were little kids that we had a chance to shake up history and to change this world for good or bad. (They challenged us) are we just going to live our lives out or are we going to realize that each and every one of us has a calling upon their life? We didn't know that meant music, being on a label or being on the road and in the public eye."
She says the passion for teen girls didn't necessarily come from their parents but the will to live out their convictions with passion did. "It was a priority for them to get us to be passionate people. They didn't want us to be just lukewarm Christians. They wanted us to live passionately. They wanted us to be just crazy for God. We girls have found things in our hearts to stand up against or believe in. I guess it is just in our nature to be very passionate people and to be passionate about everything-especially in fulfilling God's calling on our life."
As I turn my attention to twenty-five year old Rebecca, I ask her what type of girl she is, "I am a Fender girl for the most part," she says. Well, it wasn't really what I had in mind when I asked you that question, but since you brought it up, let's talk about your guitar playing for a bit. "I have my Tele (Fender Telecaster). It was my first guitar. When we are flying every place I only take my Tele and my Gretsch (guitar).
This guitarist and bassist who likes to rock out to songs like "Let Go" from their newest release Another Journal Entry has been inspired by guitarists such as Barry Graul of Mercy Me. Prior to his Mercy Me days, Rebecca had an opportunity to see him in concert. "I first saw him when we went to a DC Talk show and I thought (to myself) he is the most amazing guitar player ever. It is so cool because the last record we made I had an opportunity to work with him. It is kind of a dream come true. It was really cool."
As they sit at home in their parents' one-hundred-year-old house in Elgin, Illinois, I hear Alyssa in the background imitating an electric guitar when I ask about favorite songs they like to perform. Rebecca dissolves into laughter at her sister's imitation and wants to make sure that I heard it over the telephone. "My God's Enough" is a song that Alyssa offers up as a favorite. Rebecca refers to "Let Go" because as she says it gives her the opportunity to use several guitar tricks and it is a fast paced song.
Rebecca giggles again when I ask her about her rock roots and says, "Oh I'm scared." She then regains her composure and says, "Dad was a musician who played old James Taylor and Beatles songs while we were growing up. He was also a singer/songwriter. We grew up listening to dad singing in different places and he recorded a record. When we were a bit older he began working at a church and we were his backup band."
Alyssa expands upon some of the artists who have inspired them personally and creatively, "The thing that really catches my attention most is their heart. I love to see their heart to serve people and to minister. I have really seen a lot of that in people like Todd Agnew and his band. It has really encouraged me and challenged me on a new level."
Rebecca trumpets Alyssa's endorsement of Todd Agnew, "We have been on a few tours with him and just love his heart, what he has to say to people."
Alyssa adds, "The Afters is another band that I am so impressed with. They really inspired me by seeing their heart for ministry. They really seem to have their heads screwed on straight."
Rebecca enthuses, "Also Rebecca St James, we love what she has to say. She is an amazing woman of God. We love her. Her ministry is amazing. She has been doing this for so long and she still has the joy for what she is doing. That speaks volumes to us. We also look up to Third Day and Mercy Me, people who have been around awhile and they are still going at it."
Alyssa, a little while ago, I tried asking your sister this question and got a different than expected response so I will try it out on you, what kind of a girl are you? "I'm a Fender girl. [editor's note: It must be hereditary] I have a Fender endorsement. I actually play a Fender PJ8 combination right now. Actually, my new one is a custom body. It has the F 1 pickups which are my favorite pickups. They will be sending that soon. I have a bass head that I love and an amp that I love." Alyssa says she isn't really into special effects.
You can almost expect Lauren is going to feel left out that I didn't ask her what type of girl she is so she offers up that she plays a D W Custom drum kit.
It should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the career of BarlowGirl since they burst onto the music scene in 2003 that their songs are personal. Alyssa notes, "Every single song that we have written has come from an experience or a journal entry. It has been very cool."
In fact, Alyssa says that the most common questions they get asked by their fans center around their journaling. She tells me, "I was on our message board yesterday and reading what the kids are asking us about journaling. It has become such an interesting thing for kids because a lot of them are saying, 'I have never been able to open up to anybody.' They are saying, 'I have so many secrets or hidden things in my life that I have never been able to tell anybody.' They ask, 'If I write these things down in a journal how is this going to work? How can I be so honest with God?' A lot of kids have been asking, 'How do you journal? What good is it in your life? What has it done for you?'"
She continues, "I like to explain how journaling is a way of life for me. Mom and Dad taught us at a very early age to journal. They highly encouraged it. I just love the honesty that I feel I can pour out in my journal to God. It is just me and Him. It is just letters to Him. Some days I will write five pages of things that are just weighing down on me or things that He has been teaching me. It is so cool for me to look back and say, 'look what you did in my life. Look how far you have brought me. Look at what you taught me.' I always explain to kids that it is a great way to write the story of your life. You will have books and books of this one day. It is a great way to see how God is growing you. It is also a good way just to get things off your chest. It's awesome just to be able to be honest."
Alyssa, the middle sister at age twenty-three, knows what it is to face adversity. She was just seventeen when the talented young stage actress had her career come to a thundering halt. She fell down some stairs while dancing. She offers this cautionary note, "Let me tell you, don't dance down stairs."
After twisting an ankle that only seemed to get worse, she was eventually diagnosed with RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy). Alyssa explains, "It is a disease that usually happens in the elderly. Your nerves begin to fire at a rapid pace and it begins to spread throughout your entire body. It is a chronic pain that eventually takes over. It had spread past my knee in a couple of weeks. I couldn't even put a sheet on my leg as I lay down in bed. I would just scream. They put me on extremely heavy medication which didn't end up working. It ended up just burning holes in my stomach and I vomited all the time because of the medication. It is just a chronic pain that takes over so you are unable to move and to walk. (I was told) the only way to treat it was to clip the nerve on the back of my foot. I was also told I would have drop foot the rest of my life. My mom and dad said no, God has a plan here we aren't going to go down that road yet."
"I just remember lying in bed going not only did you ask me to give up my dreams but you took them from me. I remember thinking I will never dance again. I will never go to Broadway. My dreams are all taken from me. I can't serve you now and I don't want to serve you anyway. It was during that time I felt Him love me like I never felt His love before. I was so angry. I was so mean to Him. I was so mean to everybody. I felt the most unconditional love from my family and from Him. It was in that place of brokenness that I started asking who are you? What do you want? Why are you calling me away? If you are really good, then maybe you have something better for me than I can even imagine."
Alyssa recalls that prior to her accident, God had already been speaking to her about her love for theatre and says, "Through that time He just got my heart. It was a hard time but He captured my heart then. I just decided I don't know what it is going to take but I just have to live the rest of my life in the center of your will. I don't want to be away from you. It was during that time that He healed me. I said I don't want to dance. I don't want to go to theatre I want to see what you have for me. It was about a year and one half later that we wound up getting signed and doing the whole music thing. I look back at how angry I used to be at Him taking my dreams and I just go, we are called to live the dreams that he has for us since the beginning of time! I could have missed out on the greatest thing for me if I had been stubborn but fortunately, He captured my heart and got hold of me. I can't imagine anything filling me up more than exactly where He has me right now. I love every second of this."
Drawing upon her own experiences, I asked Alyssa what words of encouragement she might have for the people living in the southern United States who have been battered and torn by two hurricanes, "God gives people grace in the midst of trials and the midst of trouble. When you submit to Him in that time and just say I don't know why this happened or why these things have been taken away from me, I don't know what is going on. Teach me how to trust you. Teach me how to have a peace that passes all understanding. You can't understand why, but He gives you a peace and a grace in that time to handle and to deal with what is going on. When you come through that wilderness and when He brings you out one day onto solid ground again you will see all along that He has been holding you. He has a plan and He can take the things that the enemy has meant for evil and He will take it if you let Him and turn it around to be amazing in your life."
Alyssa, the final word goes to you, "There is nothing more satisfying and exciting than realizing that God allowed me to be part of impacting someone's life. There is nothing greater than that."
By Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved
Joe Montague is an internationally
published journalist / photographer. His ministry is dedicated to the memory
of his late son Kent David Montague who went to heaven at the age of 18.
All copyright and distribution rights remain the property of Joe Montague.