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Barlow Girl

Alyssa Barlow has learned the lessons of life well. You would expect that she and her sisters Rebecca and Lauren would be excited to attract the attention of Christian audiences and mainstream media during these heady days in their career. As you get to know Alyssa, and it has been my privilege to speak with her on several occasions during the past few years, you come to appreciate her sincerity in how she views the group's music. She considers the music of BarlowGirl to be merely the vehicle through which they can bring a message of hope and the gospel to others.
After just finishing a sound check in preparation for their Washington State concert, Alyssa emoted about the opportunities that BarlowGirl experienced with children from the Make A Wish Foundation. Alyssa Barlow is no stranger to physical adversity, as she suffered with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, during her teenage years.  She was left bedridden, suffering with excruciating pain that affected most of the nerve endings in her body, and from which at one point in time, doctors said there would be no hope for relief without surgery that would have left her with a permanent disability. Her parents did not support surgery, prayed for her, and to make a long story short, today she is fine.
Alyssa said that her physical trauma gave her a special heart for people who are going through similarly trying times or worse. BarlowGirl has twice been the object of a child's wish  facilitated through the Make A Wish Foundation , which grants wishes to children with life threatening diseases.
"It has been an awesome experience for us, because I have such a heart for people who are going through things like that. I know first hand what that is like. I know that feeling of hopelessness. I know that feeling of despair and discouragement, of asking, "God what do you have for the rest of my life?" I love when people get to share with me something that they are dealing with and going through. I think the coolest part of what we get to do is to pray with these people," she said.
Alyssa elaborated on those experiences, "One child came on a cruise we were singing on. We met another child and her family at Disney World last year. It is always amazing to us that we are somebody's wish. Once again, it has been a cool part of our ministry, that God opened the doors, so we could spend some time getting to know these people. The children that we meet are just amazing. You expect to see them downcast and sad about what they are going through, but they are so resilient. We are their wish, but we walk away having learned so much from them (the children). They challenge us to look at life differently and so it is amazing."  
Continuing to talk about BarlowGirl's involvement with the Make A Wish Foundation, Alyssa said, "We also get to pray with the parents of these kids. That is a really cool part of what we get to do. I love being able to look a parent in the eye and tell them that their courage, determination and profession of God, can change the course of their child's life.  I learned that first hand from my parents, who fought for me. Here I am. I think that is one of my favorite parts, is to speak hope into parents' lives."
BarlowGirl plays rock music with thundering drumbeats courtesy of Lauren Barlow, the youngest of the three, fabulous guitar riffs from Becca and Alyssa, as well as Alyssa's keyboarding skills. Their music cannot be mistaken for anything other than rock. They perform in churches as well as stadiums and arenas. BarlowGirl is the subject of television exposes, news stories, fashion magazine feature stories, and along the way have recorded numerous smash hits on the Christian rock charts.
"I don't know if those things (the media attention), has had an impact on people's awareness of us. We keep ourselves pretty removed from all the numbers and stats. You can get so caught up in that stuff. Am I popular?  Am I not popular? What do people think of me this week? Numbers and where we are on the charts, needs to be something that we don't pay attention to. We need to make our number one goal striving after what God wants us to be, and being obedient," said Alyssa in responding to my question on the impact the media attention has had on their career thus far.
What has become more apparent to the members of BarlowGirl is public recognition. Alyssa related an account of being in an airport when they were approached by a man who recognized them, "He said, 'I was an atheist, and hearing your music brought me back to God.' It almost made us cry. There are a lot of nonbelievers who have been affected by our music, through our being true to our calling."
Despite their successes and notoriety, BarlowGirl has discovered what most musicians and singers also experience at some point during their careers that the tough grind of touring, recording and the music industry in general can at times be so discouraging that you are tempted to give it all up. On their current CD How Can We Be Silent, produced by Otto Price, released by Fervent Records this past summer, the song "One More Round" talks about how the group dealt with that low point in their lives.
"On our new album, we wrote a jazzy theatrical song, "One More Round," that was cool. During the past year, we had been going through a lot of trying times in our personal lives. We were discouraged, and I remember at different times we would look at each other, thinking, 'I could just give up, go home tonight, quit all of this and I would be totally fine.' There was that feeling of, it doesn't matter anymore and that (desire) to go home," said Alyssa.
Obviously, they did not go home, they kept recording and touring, so what turned the tide?
"I remember hearing a pastor and former football player on Focus On The Family use a an analogy that compared life to a boxing ring. He talked about a boxer who kept getting knocked down, but would kept thinking, if he could just go one more round. In the end, the boxer wins. It shook us to the core. We felt at that time, that we were in a boxing ring, bloodied and bruised. We had been knocked down, but there was a spark inside of us that believed if we could just go one more round, stand in the midst of this pain and ugly time, God promises that He will get the victory and win. We are on His side, so we will get the victory too. When it came time to write for this album, we were at home and this song came up. Rebecca had her guitar out and was playing something really jazzy. I said, if we ever play something with this music, it will have to be a boxing song. Sure enough, we ended up sitting down and writing it right then and there. It has become one of my favorite songs on the album. It is something that got us through a very difficult season," said Alyssa.
The three Barlow sisters are very close and that translates to a very tight band on stage. When talking about her siblings Alyssa is effusive, "Lauren brings a great passion. I love seeing my baby sister come out from behind the drum set, grab the mic, and for three or four minutes share with the crowd about us being a generation set apart. We are called to purity, and called to sacrifice different things. The crowd response is unbelievable and it is contagious. Her passion is always contagious. When she was younger, she was the shyest little girl you would ever meet. She would hide behind me and hold onto my jacket. She couldn't even talk to people. She was so scared of people. Every time that she gets up there, I just get so filled with joy to see her walking out her destiny. It is what God made her to be."
Alyssa speech quickens and she often doesn't finish sentences before rushing into another one, when she feels passionately about something, "When she (Becca) plays guitar I am so proud of her. She is incredible, but she used to be afraid to play the guitar on stage. Now she is really into the lead, and will step to the front of the stage, playing incredible leads. I love it."
The CD is called How Can We Be Silent and you would not want them to be anything than what BarlowGirl is, a very good rock band, with high visibility and a humble attitude.
Alyssa Barlow's comments provide insight into the group's attitude, "When we first started to play (approximately eight years ago), we would get on stage, and what with all of these amazing guy bands, we would think, 'What are we three little girls from Chicago even doing on this stage?' It was extremely intimidating. We might never be the best musicians, or the greatest band ever, but we just have fun. We have found our place. We have found what works for us, and I think we have developed a confidence in each other. I think we have more fun (today), playing our instruments than we ever have. If you had asked me a few years ago, this is the last thing that I would have thought I would be doing."

By Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved

Joe Montague is an internationally published journalist / photographer and the publisher of Riveting Riffs, . 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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