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Heather Powers 

"I think a lot of times, when the Lord cleans us up on the outside, and especially in Christian cultures, we really forget how much grace we needed to be called a child of God," said Heather Powers, whose passionate vocals ooze jazz with a lilt of pop.
We were talking about Powers' decision to record six vocal tracks for the blockbuster movie Rent based on Jonathan Larson's Broadway Play. The play centers about the lives of a subculture of actors, musicians and other erstwhile performers in New York City. The subject matter is hard hitting as it tackles everything from alternative lifestyles, sexual orientation, drugs and AIDS. These are hardly Christian themes­ or are they? "A lot of times we become irrelevant to the outside world because we don't look vulnerable anymore. I really felt this would continue the vision and call that I have on my life. It has allowed me to share a lot of that. I want to go reach not just the church but the world also. It's what it is all about," she said.
The beautiful soulful strains of "Undone" from her CD Lay Them Down mirror the soul of Heather Powers. She explained the heart behind the song, "It is a lot harder to stay undone before the Lord than it is to become undone. A lot of times it is circumstances that break us. The act of standing before the Lord is something we have to do every day. It causes vulnerability and discipline. That's a real challenge. I love that it reminds me of what my job is for the Lord. Every time I sing it I feel that. It reminds me of where I need to be with Him."
To understand where Powers is today, you need to understand where she has come from. At the age of thirteen, she was sexually assaulted when someone broke into her home. At the age of sixteen, her innocence was violated again when she was date raped. All the years of pastoral training her father, grandfather and uncle had could not save her from spiraling downward into a life of drugs, alcohol and sex. It became a means to numb the pain and attempt to hide the emotional scars." You will cry when you feel the pain of a little girl as her lyrics of "Big Green Chair" recall; 

I cried awhile for that fretting little girl
 She saw too much, had to create a whole new world
 When she'd grown she thought everyone looked to her
 To hold it all inside, forget about all the hurt. 
The last thing a child needs--or anyone needs--to hear is some old saint saying, 'Just give them all to Jesus dear and everything will be fine'. You need people like Heather Powers who have experienced heartache, have come out victorious on the other side and whose heart is laid bare before you.
Powers said, "Concerning the rape, a lot of things weren't as readily discussed as they are now. I don't think we knew how to talk our way through it. I just shoved a lot of it down. It created a lot of problems later on. To have anything related to sex at such an early age it shapes who you are physically and emotionally. We didn't know what we needed to get through. My mom and dad did everything that they could. After the assault, my sister and I slept at the side of their bed for six months. We wouldn't even go into our own rooms. I think now there is a little more openness to talk about those things."
With a blizzard raging outside the airplane, Powers began checking cell phone messages during her six hour wait on the tarmac. She came across a message from Tom Wiel, the musical director for the original Broadway play Rent. "I didn't know who he was. He said, 'I got hold of your CD and I would really like to talk to you. We are looking to cast voices for some of the (non-singing) characters for the upcoming movie Rent. I love your voice and would love to have you come and audition,'" said Powers.
Powers struggled with whether or not contributing to the vocal tracks for a movie with this type of storyline was a good idea. She says, "It really isn't so far from my own story in a lot of ways. A lot of the drug scene and searching for love in all the wrong places, I could identify with so much."
She talks about that struggle to discern God's will, "I really had to pray about it. I knew the theme of the movie and because it was such a random thing I knew I needed to speak to the Lord about it. After a lot of prayer and seeking counsel on it I felt it was something that I needed to be a part of."
One of the most diverse artists on the music scene today you are equally likely to spot Heather in the role of worship leader at her church as you are to catch her act in a Jazz or dinner club. "I do a lot of music with non Christians and those relationships are ones that I cherish because I get to share God's grace with them," she said. Then giggling a response to my question about the Jazz lounge feel to some of her songs she said, "I cut my teeth (on it) growing up. My dad was a big Jazz fan. Part of my training in college was in jazz as well."
The CD Lay Them Down bears the fingerprints of two of the industry's finest with Marvin McFadden (Tower of Power, Huey Lewis And The News) and Johnny Colla contributing to the heavy horns impressions on this album. Colla is better known for his work on guitar and sax with Huey Lewis And The News.
"I like what Norah Jones did for artists that want to have a different expression or arena. Luckily I have a label that allowed me to be who I am (Thousand Mile Music). It (the CD) has been received well and I think there is a little more desire to have at least more intelligent music (rather than cookie cutter). You need to be relevant to the world. I think a lot of Christian music sounds Christian and part of my platform (stems from) when I walked away from the Lord. A lot of the places where I perform music aren't necessarily Christian. My listeners aren't always Christian."
Although she is thirty something (they will have to torture me for your age Heather!) you get the sense from her easy laughter and the many giggles that pepper our conversation Powers is experiencing the best years of her life. She is enjoying her marriage of four years to husband Josh. She cherishes the time with twelve year old daughter Carly and son Taylor, fifteen. 

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. 


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