Inpop artist Karyn Williams, was kind enough to answer some email questions by Christian Music Zine’s Joshua Andre! Below are her responses:
Thank you for taking some time out to talk with CMZ.
Q1: Your debut album is quite amazing! Your sound, and especially your vocals, is very similar to Point of Grace, Avalon, and Kerrie Roberts. Can you give us a background of how you came into music, and your testimony of how you came to Jesus?
I was very blessed to be raised in a Christian home. Going to Sunday School and church on Sunday is all I’ve ever known. I accepted the Lord when I was 5 years old kneeling beside the bed with my mom, but it wasn’t until high school that my relationship with Him became real. From a young age, I knew that I wanted to surround myself with music; it’s the only thing that has ever really made sense to me. Growing up, my dad spoke in churches a lot and my mom would travel with him and sing, and one night when I was about three years old, I begged my mom to get up and sing with her. She reluctantly agreed thinking I would hide behind her skirt the whole time, but when the music started, apparently I grabbed the microphone and took over the song. She sat down on the pew in the front row and watched me finish! I was hooked and music became my thing.
In the summer of 2007, I packed my car, said goodbye to my family in Orlando where I grew up, and stepped out on faith and moved to Nashville. It was the scariest experience of my life, but it’s also the time when the verse that talks about a “peace that passes all understanding” came to life for me. I cried the entire way to Nashville, but I also had a peace that I couldn’t explain. I didn’t know anyone or anything other than the fact that if the Lord was leading, I knew I was in good hands. I made a promise to the Lord on the drive that day that I would walk through every door He opened, as long as I felt it was from Him. I have kept that promise and the doors He’s opened led to signing a record deal at Inpop Records in 2011, becoming label mates with the Newsboys, Jaci Velasquez, Mat Kearny and releasing my own full length project in the Fall of 2012.
Q2: You’re a relatively new artist signed to Inpop Records. Can you give us a backstory as to how you signed with them? It must be fun to work with Jaci Velasquez, The Advice, Mat Kearney, Superchick, Jimmy Needham and the Newsboys!
Looking back now, it’s quite surreal to think that I am now label mates with artists I have admired for many years. I was working on an independent record with my producers Barry Weeks & Brian White when my manager (Mike Atkins) set up a meeting with Andrew Patton, the GM at Inpop. It was a definitely a divine appointment and from the minute we met, I felt it was the right relationship. The roster was full of artists who’s ministries I respect and I feel blessed and honored to be following in their footsteps and being given opportunities to share the greatest story ever told!
Q3: “Rest In The Hope” is the lead single from the album. Can you give us an insight into how that song was written and why it was chosen for the album?
This song was written out of a very difficult experience. In January of 2011, my dad was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Multiple Myeloma. The phone call in which he told me this news was the most devastating moment of my life. I’ll never forget it. I was rocked to my core. My first question was, “God why? Why my dad? Why cancer?” For weeks I walked around in a fog trying to make sense of it all, but finally I realized that what I needed to do was trust—and rest knowing that this diagnosis came as no surprise to God. Our human instinct is to wrestle with the things that are happening in our lives, but what God is saying is, “Rest, I’m here.” Easier said than done for sure, but as believers, we need to have confidence that we’re not alone and that God really is right there in the middle of whatever we’re facing. Not long after my dad’s diagnosis, he said, “I thought I was close to the Lord before, but now I feel like I’m sitting on his lap hugging Him around the neck.” I thought that was such a beautiful picture of resting in the arms of Jesus and when I sat down with my husband Brian White & Trey Heffinger to write that day, this is the song that came out. When I realized “Rest In The Hope” would be my first radio single to the world, I was overwhelmed. This song is personal for me in a way that’s hard to explain after walking through my dad’s illness. My prayer is that whoever hears this song will realize that the Lord is right there in the middle of whatever they’re going through, and that they really can rest knowing that we belong to Him.
Here’s a blog I wrote about the entire experience:
Q4: As one of the first people to listen to your preview EP back in November, I fell in love with many of the songs, as well as your singles ‘Rejoice’ and ‘A Little Christmas’. Which songs throughout your career have been your favourite to write, and perform? At the moment, which song/s is God speaking to you through about your walk with Him?
One of my favorite songs to be a part of as a songwriter is “Hey There.” When Barry Weeks came to me with the idea, he had already written the first few lines of the first verse and I jumped all over it because I loved the honesty of those first few lines. “Every day it seems you’re lost in the mirror, there’s no reflection anymore it’s disappeared…” This song is like a big hug for anyone who is hurting. There is so much pain that we all carry around, and we are really good at hiding behind the smiles that we learn to wear. I know there have been times in my life where I’ve looked in the mirror and felt completely lost. But to know that the God of the universe knows right where I am, and exactly what I’m going through—that’s a pretty amazing thought and that’s a promise I’m not letting go of.
Every time I sing “Only You”, I am overwhelmed. Every time I sing that song, I am reminded that at the end of my life, none of the things I’m worried about right now are going to matter. That’s what this song is all about. “Only You” came to me in the middle of the night when I was walking through a very frustrating time with “worldly” things hitting me left & right. I felt like as soon as I got up from one thing, something else came and knocked me down. I was wide awake all night and I felt like the Lord kept saying, “At the end of your life none of these things are going to matter. The only thing that will matter is whether or not you knew Me, loved Me, served Me and told everyone you could about Me.” That’s how this song was born. The fact that it is the title track of my first record is the coolest thing in the world for me. This song is my heart put to a melody, it’s what I want my life to stand for.
Q5: For me the themes of this album are finding out your purpose and that God holds everything together. Can you describe the themes you want to convey to the listener, the take home message of the album?
As I’ve traveled and shared these songs, I’ve realized that there are a lot of hurting people. We have brothers and sisters all over the world who are walking through some very difficult situations and feeling very hopeless. I wanted the overall message of this record to be “HOPE”! We have the ultimate hope that we can rest in. The hope that God’s mercies are new every morning. The hope that no matter how far you’ve gone, it’s never too late to reach out and start walking with Him. The hope that we will meet Him face to face one day in heaven. As humans, we can live without a lot of things, but hope is not one of them and as a Christian artist, one of the main things I want to do is spread hope to a hurting world.
Q6: Who were the artists you admired or looked up to when growing up? How was it like to work with many talented writers on this project? Which artists would you love to work with in the future? Which albums are you listening to right now that have helped you in your walk with God?
I grew up listening to artists like Amy Grant, Steven Curtis Chapman & Michael W. Smith. I used to sit in my room for hours listening to those records, studying the lyrics and just get lost in the music. I guess I was studying songwriting long before I ever started writing songs! As I got older, I fell in love with the harmonies and the stories that country music told and I loved artists like The Judds, Faith Hill & Martina McBride. My taste in music is very eclectic, so when I write there’s probably a little bit of everything that comes out.
I was able to work with some phenomenal musicians, writers and producers on this record but the most special for me has been working with my husband. It’s safe to say that this record would not have seen completion without his heart, his passion for ministry and his gift of music. He is my behind the scenes partner in every way and there’s no way to sum up into words how blessed I feel to have him by my side.
Q7: You are quite an advocator for adoption, along with singer/songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman. Can you explain your heart behind this notion, and the catalyst for the stirring within you to advocate for this? I love that you recorded a song about adoption- ‘Just May Be’! It is one of my favourite songs on the album!
I’m so glad!! That’s a special song for me because of my family story. My heart behind adoption is very simple — when I was four years old, my parents adopted 2 little girls from South Korea. The minute those girls were carried off of the airplane, my parents were hooked and over the next 10 years we had a total of 14 kids from all over the world join our family as adopted brothers and sisters. My parents had a few kids of their own (me included), and at the end of it all we totalled 19 kids! Growing up in my unique, international family has truly shaped me into who I am. When I was 12 years old, I travelled with met mom to Romania to bring home one of my little sisters, Gabriela. I was able to see the orphanage where she spent the first 6 years of her life. Even though I was still a pre-teen, it really impacted me and I realized right then how blessed we are and how much of an opportunity we all have to make a difference. We all have a ministry, for my parents it was adoption but maybe you feel led to be a foster parent or volunteer with an adoption organization. Whatever it is–all you have to do is say “yes” and watch the unexpected blessings that will come out of it. My parents could have done a lot of things with what they were given, but instead of building a bigger house or going on expensive vacations, they chose to open their hearts to kids in need. A few years ago when we were all home for Christmas, I looked around the room and realized that we were all born on different sides of the world, but because of the beauty of adoption, we can celebrate under one roof as one family. As a result of my parent’s willingness to put their fear aside and say “yes”, they have changed our family history for generations to come!
Q8: In a family of 19 children (wow, that’s a lot!), I’m sure you and your siblings are very close. How is growing up in a family that big, and what would you say to those considering adoption?
Growing up in a family that large is definitely unique! We had our share of struggles, I don’t want to paint a false reality that it was perfect all the time. It was definitely challenging bringing so many different backgrounds and nationalities under one roof. But my parents did a great job of keeping things organized and under control. We had morning and evening jobs around the house that we all had to participate in, and my parents did an incredible job of making us all feel special and loved. My dad used to say, “I have nineteen kids, fourteen of which are adopted…but I forget which fourteen.” I always loved it when he said that because there really was no difference to him. He saw us all the same. As I’ve grown in my relationship with Christ, I realize that’s how he sees us. He doesn’t have favorites. He loves us all the same and we can all gather under one banner and that’s the banner of His love. We’re all adopted into the family of Christ. It’s a gift that’s available to everyone, it’s up to us to accept it.
For families considering adoption, I’d say first and foremost–pray about the opportunity to change and child’s life and seek out what the Lord would have you do. Second–get in touch with Holt International Adoption Agency. They are a Christian based organization out of Eugene, OR and the people there are phenomenal. Eight of my brothers & sisters were adopted through Holt and I have partnered with them as an artist to help encourage families considering adoption. www.holtinternational.org
Q9: As for touring in the future, in your opinion where are your must-see places, cities, within the States and internationally? What are your personal goals for the next few years?
That’s a great question! I have been very fortunate to travel all over the world during my lifetime. I have visited 12 different countries and almost every state in the U.S. It never ceases to amaze me what a beautiful world we live in and how carefully God constructed each region. My promise to the Lord on the day I moved to Nashville was that I would walk through every door He opened no matter what, so as far as where I’d like to go — I’ll go wherever the doors open. My goal in life is very simple — to spread hope through music wherever I go, and to take as many people as possible with me to heaven! Life is short and our days are numbered. We never know which day we’re on so we have to use our time here on earth wisely. I want to use every day to make the Lord’s name famous, wherever that takes me.
Q10: There’s a concept and trend around lately of artists asking for fans to submit in stories and songs will be written and recorded based on the topics presented in the stories. (Actually, Matthew West has effectively grasped this concept for his past two albums; I can’t remember who else does this!) Is this something you would like to do for you next album? A Christmas album, or worship album in the future would be awesome!
As artists, we have so many opportunities to connect with people in this Twitter / Facebook world we live in. I love hearing stories from real people going through real stuff in their lives, that’s how we are able to write songs that get down to the heart of the matter. I’ll definitely figure out a unique way to weave people’s stories into my next records. As far as a Christmas Album, Christmas is my favorite holiday and the songs of the season and the story of Jesus move me. I will definitely record more and hopefully put together a project of traditional and original songs. And worship is so close to my heart and my personal walk that I really want to write and record as those songs come to me.
Q11: What is God teaching you lately through Scriptures, other people, or the media? Is there a particular Bible verse that has resonated with you? Can you share with us what the Lord is showing in your life that is relevant to listeners, either through songs from your album or from other places of inspiration?
The biggest thing the Lord has taught me this past year is to rely completely on Him. We read about it in scripture and hear it preached in sermons all the time, but learning how to effectively do that is hard sometimes. As humans, our nature is to control things and many times we think we are in control. But these last few months for me between my dad’s cancer diagnosis, walking through the process of making a record and so many other personal things in my life, the Lord has really helped me understand what it means to rely on Him in new ways. He is in the One driving my life. I find it works a lot better that way!
The scripture that I have made my life verse is Galatians 1:10, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God?” We get so wrapped up in the busyness of our lives, and sometimes we forget that there’s really only one thing we were put here to do and that’s honor the Lord in everything we do. So I have found that decisions in my life are a lot easier when I have a Galatians 1:10 mindset. I also try to live by a very simple question: “What is the wise thing for me to do?” Not the popular thing, not the easiest thing — the “wise” thing. When I have those two things in focus, tough decisions in my life become a lot easier when I stop and ask “What’s the wise thing and who am I really trying to please here?”
Q12: Is there anything else that you’d like to add that we haven’t covered? Any parting uplifting and encouraging words, for anyone who is having a tough time, or for one who needs God but can’t see Him?
I have definitely walked through times in my life when I couldn’t see God, couldn’t feel Him, couldn’t hear Him. Sometimes you feel all alone and wonder if your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling and hitting you in the head. Let me encourage you with the words from “Hey There” — “He knows right where you are and what you’re going through. He knows everything you feel…” During one particularly difficult season in my life when I was still living in Orlando, I was a wreck one day over a situation I was in…I mean a wreck. I was in the middle of crying my eyes out when I was overcome with the urge to get out my Bible and open to the beginning of the book of James. I started reading, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” Off to the side I had written in my Bible “not if”, as in when you face trials, not if. That was such a comfort to me that day realizing that so many people before me have felt the same way and it’s our tough times that shape us, strengthen us and teach us to lay it all down and let God be in charge. Not long after my dad’s cancer diagnosis he said, “I guess I had more to learn in this life and Multiple Myeloma is going to be my teacher.” I was floored. He was choosing to look at cancer as a learning experience? That’s just crazy. Or is it? I heard Laura Story talking about her song “Blessings” as a “journey of redefining what blessings are in our lives.” We tend to think of ourselves as “blessed” when things are going good in our lives. And when things aren’t going as well, we question God and wonder what we’ve done wrong. If you’re going through a tough situation right now, God is not punishing you. I believe He allows things to happen in our lives to shape us, and mold us into who He wants us to be. The key is understanding and accepting that nothing happens to us that isn’t Father-filtered and He is right there with you through it all.
So my advice to anyone who is hurting right now is this: Tomorrow morning take a big deep breath and then get up, suit up, show up, do the next right thing and trust God with the results. Your life is in His hands. He never promised us life would be easy, but He did promise us He’d walk with us through every single day. That’s a promise I’m clinging to!
God bless you Karyn! Have an awesome 2012 and 2013 with Jesus!
Karyn William’s debut album Only You releases via Inpop Records on iTunes, Amazon mp3, and other digital media outlets August 28th 2012, and exclusively to Family Christian. The album releases physically everywhere else in February 2013. Here is a link to the press release of the album; and be sure to check out Karyn co-hosting The Daily Buzz Friday July 27th from 6am-9am at www.dailybuzznation.com.