On the day her sophomore album As Long As It Takes released, Meredith Andrews sat down at a restaurant in Orlando, FL with JFH's own Jen Rose to discuss the new album, God's pursuit of her... and her love for Hamburger Helper.
This interview took place on: 3/3/10.
JFH (Jen Rose): Your new album came out today, As Long as it Takes... for those who haven't heard it, how would you describe your music?
Let's see... the whole record As Long as it Takes is actually a little bit different from my first record The Invitation. The Invitation was a lot more piano-heavy, like musically speaking you know, and kind of like pop/worship if you will - if you can use worship to describe a genre of music. But this one is a little bit more guitar-heavy and maybe some Euro... synth... whatever. I'm not the greatest to ask about music. That would be my husband. *laughs* So I lay that down and then I'm like, "okay let's move on and write the lyrics." Cause for this record, for me, being the sophomore release, it was a lot more difficult to write for than the first record.
JFH (Jen): So the big difference I guess is the sound...
It was just a whole different process, and you know, I had to really dig deeper to get these songs out, because I felt like I'd already said everything in the first record and now it's time to do a new one and where do I start? Where do I begin? I was really forced to sit and just kind of wait on the Lord and not try to figure it out by myself.
I think our tendency in situations like that is to figure out the situation or make it work the way we think it should and the time we think it should, and the reality is the Lord just wanted me to sit and wait on Him because He had something -- a lot -- to show me and it came out on this record. And I'm so excited. I really do feel like it's my baby in a lot of ways because, you know, I wrestled through these songs, and they came from my heart, like the deepest parts of my heart, and they're very personal and very vulnerable because of that.
Meredith: Yeah, the sound is a little bit different, and the songs are more personal and honest, I'd say.
JFH (Jen): So, what is the writing/creative process like for you, and where do you find your inspiration?
Meredith: Well it depends. Like for The Invitation, I felt like the songs came really easy. So even like with "You're Not Alone," and there's a song called "The River" and a song called "Who is Like You," and those were the three that I wrote by myself for that record. And they all just came, just like moments that I had with the Lord at the piano. And just like, I didn't write this song. God just gave it to me. He was like, "Here, I want you to sing this for me." And those were incredible moments, and a lot of times, you know, I'll try and recreate those, but they can't be recreated. It just comes out of the overflow of your time with the Lord, and that's how it was for me. I'm just sitting at the piano worshipping the Lord with whatever song comes out of my mouth, and He birthed this song. And that's completely inspired. And then there are the songs that you just have to work through, wrestle through.
JFH (Jen): That's okay! I see that you work a lot with Jason Ingram... how did you guys meet, and what is it like working with him?
I think life in general is an inspiration. The things that I'm walking through, and what God is teaching me, and His Word. Because I want to be true to God's Word, because I realize that, you know, I can write some songs with some clever lyrics all day long -- and they may be great -- but if it's not lining up with the Word of God, and if it's not really speaking to people's hearts about who God is, then it's pretty empty, you know? It's just another song. And I don't want to write songs just to fill space on a CD. I wanna write songs that are gonna impact people's lives and make a difference for the Kingdom, and ultimately draw people closer to the Lord.
Meredith: Yeah. Well that's such a crazy story, because it was like the Lord just plopped that relationship right in my lap. When I had just moved to Chicago to be a worship leader at Harvest, Jason had some ties at Harvest, and he had heard my independent record that I released in college, and so he knew of me, and of course I knew who he was. I met him, you know, at a Watermark concert. He was opening up for Watermark in Chicago, and I just went up to him and I was like, "Hey Jason, my name is Meredith. I know that you have my independent record, and I just wanted to introduce myself and say that I just admire you and I just kinda wanted to meet you." And we had a really great conversation that day, and he ended up asking me if I wanted to come to Nashville and start writing with him. He just kinda took me under his wing and helped develop me as an artist and started writing with me and gave me some great advice.
JFH (Jen): And having a good friendship helps too.
He has such a great heart. Like he's so passionate about seeing the church worship the Lord, and he's the easiest person that I found to write with, for me. Like, we just go in and we write a song, and it's just like, gold! Not because it's us... it's just like there's some kind of connection the Lord has established between us, and it's just really cool when we get together and two perspectives come together, and you're just kind of able to create this song that actually says something. But Jason's been very influential in all of this. Like he's my producer, he co-wrote most of the songs on the new record. And I'm just so thankful to have him in my life.
Meredith: Yeah, absolutely... totally! Everything is based on our relationship with the Lord and we just get each other in that regard. But I know that he's such a busy dude! And that's the thing... like he's writing with Chris Tomlin this week, you know what I mean? (Jen: Wow.) And then, yeah, he takes the time to write with little ol' me. And it just means a lot to me. And I'll never take it for granted because I know how talented he is.
JFH (Jen): Do you have a favorite song on the new album?
Meredith: I do! I have to say that it's actually the title track, "As Long as it Takes." That's probably one of the first songs Jason and I wrote for the record, and when I came to him talking about writing for this thing it was a very daunting task, you know. I just felt like I don't know how I'm ever gonna write enough songs to fill this record and how in the world they're gonna be actually good songs that matter. And I just was kinda pouring my heart out to him one day and just felt like, man, I just feel all this pressure, and I think it's just needless pressure that I'm putting on myself, and I just feel like I had nothing to say and just come scraping the bottom of the barrel.
JFH (Jen): What's the story behind the song "What it Means to Love"?
And I'm just saying all this, and I'm just really emotional about it because, you know, I don't know where to start, and he just sits down and starts typing these lyrics on the screen. And I look at them, I read them through -- it's like the first verse of the song -- and I just start crying because it was so true to where I was and he's basically just typing what I'm saying. But it started out, "I'm tired. Do I have to keep proving myself? I'm weary, drawing from an empty well. I need You more than I ever have. So Jesus, come and shatter my darkness, right now, somehow."
It's like in the chorus, it's just saying to the Lord, "I'm not gonna speak until You speak." And that's just how I felt. I'm like, "Lord, I'm tired of trying to figure this out on my own. I'm just gonna sit here and wait on You until You speak, until You move me, until You sing over me and You show me what it is You want me to say." And so I think that song is the most personal to me, and it also encompasses the record as a whole.
Meredith: Well that's like my favorite story behind the song. *laughs* About a year and a half ago, I went to Haiti on a mission trip and met a little boy named Mackenzie. And he's six years old and he lives in this orphanage of about 30 kids, and he's just the sweetest little boy you'll ever meet! Like he just captured my heart right away, you know? And during our time there I found out he's actually HIV positive. And yeah, it just broke my heart and I was going, "God, that's not fair!" Like he didn't deserve this, but yet you'll never hear him complain. He just gives of himself, and he lives his life to the fullest, and you can just see the joy of the Lord all over him, and he showed me the love of Jesus like I'd never seen before.
JFH (Jen): That's very cool. I think for a lot of us, the first song we ever heard by you was "You're Not Alone."
So when I got back to the States, I'd been so impacted by his little life that I had to write this song as a reminder to myself. Like, I don't wanna go back to life the way it was before. You know, now that I have seen this, now that I have met this little boy and he's changed my life, I can't go back, I can't pretend like I haven't seen this, and now I'm responsible. I have to do something.
And too... you know it's like when the Gospel gets a hold of us and takes root in our hearts, you can't go back to life as usual, and you're forever changed. And so that's where "What it Means to Love" came from.
Meredith: Yeah! *laughs*
JFH (Jen): I know that's from the last album, but would you mind sharing the story about how that song came?
Meredith: No, not at all! Well, it was during a time when I moved up to Chicago to take this position as a worship leader at Harvest Bible Chapel, and you know, I'm a Southern girl *laughs* so like, moving to the Midwest by myself was a really scary thing. I remember [that] not only I left my friends and family behind and I'm starting over, but I felt like my prayers were kinda bouncing off the ceiling and God was really far away. So I just poured out my heart to Him one day and sat down at the piano just going "God where are you?" And He just met me in such a real way and gave me this song as a constant reminder of His promise. I mean, it came in like less than an hour, so it was just like the Lord said, "There you go. This is my promise for you, and now you won't forget that you're not alone." Like, "I'm with you, even when you don't feel like it."
JFH (Jen): And I think that's why it connects with so many people, because we've all been there.
I believe that to be true in whatever circumstance we're going through, and I've seen so many people, heard so many stories, you know? People coming up to me and saying, "Your song got me through the death of both of my parents this year." "Your song got me through my bout with cancer this year." "Your song got me through my divorce." And it's so humbling to me because, you know, here I am crying about moving to a new city, but it's the concept. It's the promise of God that it covers all those things. Like, no matter what we walk through, no matter how dark that night may be, that God is with us, and that we just have to rely not on what we feel, but on what we know to be true and that's what's in His Word.
Meredith: Yeah, exactly. In some way.
JFH (Jen): I heard that you went to Liberty University and led worship there. How did your time at Liberty influence who you are today?
Meredith: Oh yeah. I wouldn't be who I am without my time at Liberty, without the relationships with the people that were formed, and the teachers that poured into my life, and the classes that I sat through that helped me get my feet under me as far as theology goes. And the services that I sat through and the congregations that I led worship for... all of that just kinda played into God growing me and bringing me to this point and preparing me. I have nothing but good things to say about Liberty, and I'm just so thankful that I had that time there, because I know that the Lord was doing such a work in my heart. It was just like this preparation time, and He used all facets of Liberty, from the education to the relationships to just church services and things like that. And mission trips I got to go on while I was there. He just used all of those things to draw me closer to Him and teach me to be faithful in little things as well as big things. It just laid a great foundation for now.
JFH (Jen): A lot of that does happen while you're in college!
Meredith: Yeah, it's so true! It's such a growing time.
JFH (Jen): Tell us about your non-profit ministry to India... how did that come about?
Meredith: Yeah, okay... so when I graduated from college, I had gone to this orphanage in India twice, and fell in love with these kids there. And it just like, wrecked me because these kids... I've never heard anybody pray -- much less a kid -- pray like these kids prayed. You know, like, they have prayer time every day, and they would just seek the Lord so fervently from their hearts. And they knew that God was hearing them. They knew that God was answering them because they'd seen Him provide so many times before. Even though they were orphans and they didn't have any family, they knew God to be their father, and even though they shared a bed with other kids -- it was like sometimes four little ones to a bunk bed, and they had everything in like this little box, like a shoe box -- and man, the joy of the Lord was all over them.
JFH (Jen): Weren't you in Haiti before the earthquake?
Anyway, so I was really captivated by these kids and by India itself, and wanted to do something to help. So I started this non-profit ministry called Meredith Andrews Ministries and -- I know it's not a very original name, *laughs* but we're working on changing it actually -- with the idea of raising support and then a percentage of the support going to these kids. Right now it's kinda morphed into just an overall orphan care type ministry, and that's something that's really close to my heart. I went to school for Family and Child Development, thought I was gonna live in Guatemala and work in an orphanage after I graduated. So orphan care has always been really close to my heart, and now with everything in Haiti and us starting this ministry there -- it's a very grassroots ministry -- I think I'm gonna try and focus all my efforts there in Haiti and kinda resurrect the non-profit so that people can give and just kinda streamline through that. It's about these kids, and I really believe that the father heart of God is for the fatherless. Like He loves the least of these, He loves the orphan, He loves the rejects. I wanna love them like He does.
Meredith: Yeah, just the week before. So we were there, like, Monday through Friday, and then the earthquake happened on Tuesday. So when I heard about it, you know, obviously my first thought was "Are our kids okay?" Fortunately, because we are far enough from Port-au-Prince, they felt the earthquake, but they didn't sustain any damage and all the kids are okay.
JFH (Jen): That's wonderful
Meredith: Yeah, for sure. Our orphanage director lost most of his family, because a lot of the families in the smaller communities in Haiti will send a family member to Port-au-Prince to work because you can earn more money in the city. So a lot of families in Haiti lost one or two family members because they were living in Port-au-Prince.
JFH (Jen): So it doesn't just affect that area... it's the whole country.
Meredith: Yeah, exactly. It affects the whole country. Everybody knows somebody in Port-au-Prince.
JFH (Jen): I know just watching... because one of my friends was there the day it happened, and when she came back, she was totally changed.
Meredith: Yeah, it wrecks you! You can't not be changed.
JFH (Jen): It's almost like, things happen in the world, but that I knew somebody who was there when it happened, I don't know why, it made it feel more real. I couldn't get it off my heart.
Meredith: Yeah, that makes sense... totally. And this is just the beginning for Haiti. For two weeks, it was the top news story, and now you don't really see it on the news. But these people still need our help. They needed our help before the earthquake. It was in a very desperate state beforehand.
JFH (Jen): Yeah, this kind of wakes us up. But with so many of us watching and wanting to help, what would you suggest to people who just want to help but don't really know how?
Meredith: Well, I really love what Samaritan's Purse is doing in Port-au-Prince on the ground, so I would support them. And the orphanage that we have, obviously, our kids need all the help they can get too. We're trying to establish a food program for them because right now they're not really eating on a regular basis. It depends on if we can raise enough money in a month to feed them for that month. So they don't have food on a regular basis, they don't have beds, they don't have clean water... so those are the top three things we're working on for them right now. And we are working hard to get this non-profit up so people can donate directly through this non-profit. But right now it's going through a Methodist church in Chicago, and people can find out information at restorehaiti.blogspot.com.
JFH (Jen): What music have you been listening to lately?
Meredith: Oh goodness... sometimes I feel like I don't have time to listen to music, and I miss it! Like, the times that I listen to music the most are when I'm in the car driving, but I have been listening to the new Imogen Heap record. (Jen: I love that record!) I just think it's genius! She's so brilliant. There's one song on there -- I don't know what the name of it is -- but she does it all with her voice. Like there's no instrumentation, and it's the coolest. So that's a great record.
JFH (Jen): Do you have any favorite songwriters?
I've always loved David Gray, so his new record is one of my favorites. The new Phil Wickham. Man, that record like... (Jen: I heard it was really good.) Oh, he knocked it out of the park. And like, not only is the production so current and fresh, but he's such a great songwriter and a lot of his songs are about heaven, and I love that. Because I just feel like, you know, in the times that we live in right now, it is so imperative that we keep our focus on the Lord and we realize this is not our home and we have so much to look forward to. It's a future hope that we have. So I love Phil Wickham's new record. The new Sara Groves record... I love Sara Groves, singer songwriter. So yeah, I think those are some of the top ones.
Meredith: Nichole Nordeman is my all-time favorite. Like the way that she crafts her lyrics and paints these word pictures and says it like nobody else can say it. I just admire her and look up to her in so many ways for that. She's a role model for me for sure. Christy Nockels -- she's a great worship songwriter. Darlene Zschech -- I mean, she wrote "Shout to the Lord," you know? She's always been a role model for me. Rita Springer. And these are all like, kinda singer songwriter, more piano heavy, especially Rita and Nichole. All of these women have really influenced my writing.
JFH (Jen): What do you guys like to do when you're not on the road and have some downtime?
Meredith: Um... I don't remember. *laughs* Honestly though, we live in Chicago, which is a great city, but we usually don't even get downtown until, like, Summer. Because whenever I'm home, we just wanna be home. Like we sit on our couch, we make Hamburger Helper, and we watch, like 24 or House or something, and that's like the best ever! *laughs* We just wanna be home. So right now that's kind of where we are.
JFH (Jen): *laughs* Enjoy the time when you have it!
Meredith: Exactly! It's the little things in life, you know.
JFH (Jen): And Hamburger Helper is awesome!
Meredith: It is! People don't even know! I mean, I know it's really easy and they're probably like, "Wow Meredith, can't you get a little more creative?" But that stuff is off the chain! And it's quick and... *Jen laughs* Anyway. Now I'm like having a plug for Hamburger Helper.
JFH (Jen): Well, what's your favorite flavor? *laughs*
Meredith: Ohhh, I don't know. I really like the lasagna one. They have like a chicken enchilada too that's really good too. Yeah, they have like tons. Anyway... *laughs*
JFH (Jen): *laughs* Now back to serious stuff.
Meredith: Yeah. *laughs*
JFH (Jen): What has God been teaching you lately?
Meredith: Oh goodness... um, one of the things that has stuck with me the most -- and it's definitely been a process -- but it kind of all came to a head around Thanksgiving, and the Lord is still teaching me. But I had this revelation, I've been praying, "Lord, remove the things in me that don't please You. I just don't want anything to get in the way, I don't wanna be stubborn, I don't wanna live independent of You... I need to be clinging to the cross at all times and just completely dependent on You and I don't want anything to get in the way of that." And the Lord just began to bring things to the surface, you know. And I believe that's where we need to be, always just examining ourselves and saying "Lord, search me and know me. What are the things I need to get rid of?"
JFH (Jen): Any last comments?
And so the Lord started bringing things to my mind, and I just started to confess them and was in a really broken place... but in a good way. Like, God was just really speaking to my heart, and the season before that I just felt really numb. So to feel anything at all was way better than feeling numb. I'd rather be broken any day, because I know that God is at work in me. He's always at work in me, but sometimes I can't feel it, you know?
But one day, we were home for Thanksgiving, and the Lord was doing this deep work in my heart, and so I was really sensitive you know, to spiritual things, to His voice and to His Word. And I came across this article that this newspaper in Virginia had done while I was at Liberty, and they quoted me as saying, "My songs are my way that I express myself to the Lord, and they are the story of my pursuit of God." So I guess I said that, and I read it that day, and I was like, "Hm, that's interesting." You know, like I kinda remember saying it, but I was like, I'm not sure if that's completely true.
But that night, we went to bed, and all of a sudden -- it was just kinda mulling around in my brain -- and I sat straight up in bed, and I was like "Jacob (that's my husband) I was totally wrong in that." Because my songs aren't the story of my pursuit of God. They're the story of God's pursuit of me." And it so revolutionized my life. Like, it's not just my songs. It's my life. My very life is the story of God pursuing me, because I have not always been faithful in pursuing God. But he's always been faithful, he's always been constant and relentless in his pursuit, and it just revolutionized my life.
I think it takes the pressure off of us when we realize, like, "I'm gonna fail. I'm human. And I know that in my stubborn pride I'm running from the Lord a lot of times, but when I get a grasp of his grace and the fact that He is lovingly pursuing me at all times, that makes me wanna turn and run after Him."
So that's what God has just been working over my heart in the last few months, and you know, it's just sinking deeper and I'm just trying to get a grasp on it to the point where it continues to change my life and where I am continually running after the Lord, putting aside the busyness and distractions and just focusing my eyes on Jesus.
Meredith: Ummmmm.... this has been fun! Thanks Jen.
JFH (Jen): Yeah, it was!
Meredith: And it was fun eating [at] Bubbalou's with you! *laughs*
JFH (Jen): Yeah, this was fun! And I've lived here all my life, but I've never eaten here.
Meredith: Are you serious? Now you're gonna come back aren't you?
JFH (Jen): I think so!
Meredith: Okay, awesome. *laughter*
Meredith Andrews' new album As Long As It Takes is available now!