As young singer/songwriter Moriah Peters geared up for her Reunion Records debut album, I Choose Jesus, Jesusfreakhideout.com's Jen Rose got a chance to chat with Peters about her career, upbringing, and why she chooses Jesus!
This interview took place on: 3/26/12
JFH (Jen Rose): First, what is a random fact that you would like everyone to know about you?
I have a pet turtle named Sushi. It is the cutest pet. It's my first pet that I've ever owned on my own, and it's a baby box turtle and it's the size of a sushi right now, and it will grow to be about the size of a cheesburger.
JFH (Jen): Oh, that's so cute! So how did you decide on a turtle? Because that is a really cool and unusual pet.
Moriah: Yeah! You know what, I had a box turtle when I was little... like it was my mom's, but it hibernated and we had to move houses so I never saw it again, which was really sad. But I went away to college for a semester, and I really felt lonely for the first couple of weeks and really wanted a pet. And you can't have a dog in your dorms or anything like that, but if I had a turtle, I could just keep him in his little box and not worry about him. So... I asked for a turtle. *laugh* And I got one for Christmas, and he's so sweet!
JFH (Jen): That's awesome! Okay, so we'll start at the beginning... how did you get involved in music?
Moriah: I've always sung in church, and from the time I was about six years old, I'd take vocal lessons. I've always loved singing. I wasn't always good at it... like when I was younger, my nickname was Froggy because my voice was really low. It was really gross and I just sounded like this disgusting frog creature. And through training and through, I guess, just growing up, my voice changed and I was able to sing and people actually wanted to hear me. *laugh* But I never wanted to pursue music professionally until after high school.
JFH (Jen): And it's funny how that works out. You have it in your head, and then God puts other things in your path that show you the way to go.
I'd pretty much grown up my whole life believing I was going to be an entertainment lawyer, that I was gonna go to law school, that I was gonna be a psych major. And I worked really hard to be able to afford college and got scholarships and things like that. It just came to a crossroads where I had to choose between pursuing music and moving to Nashville and all of that, or the other option was to follow my dreams to become a lawyer. It's interesting because it was definitely a leap of faith for me, but I'm so glad I took that because God has been doing some incredible things, and this is the plan he's had for me. I feel so content, like I'm exactly where He wants me to be.
Moriah: I know... yes...
JFH (Jen): So what was one of the earliest signs that let you know he was nudging you in that direction?
Moriah: I think when I went to freshman orientation at my college -- well, at the college that I was gonna go to in California -- and I was part of the scholarship program, part of the honors program, and I was surrounded by some really bright kids. When we'd sit down and have conversations, they all wanted to be doctors and lawyers, and I just think God totally planted the seed in my mind, but I had this moment when I was like, "man, what if I become a lawyer, and I'm successful, and I'm living in my loft in L.A.," and I can just imagine myself... it's like I had a vision of myself sitting in my home and thinking, "What could've happened if I'd taken this step of faith and done music instead?" And I knew I never wanted to get to that point where I had done all that I wanted to do but completely abandoned the plans that God wanted me to do.
JFH (Jen): What kind of family did you grow up in -- big, small -- and what role did they play in bringing you to where you are today?
So that was probably the first initial thought, and I think it grew from there. The first decision that I made toward music was when I turned down my scholarship and my acceptance to the university and to the program and decided that I was going to continue with music. And I prayed very specifically. I asked God, "God, this is what I want to do, and I want to do school, and this is what I've worked for, but if you want me to do music, I pray that you answer me really specifically, because... I don't wanna do it. *laugh* I'm looking for a reason to say no, so please give me a reason to say yes." And He answered very specifically. I've asked him to open the door, and He opened the floodgates, and it was incredible. It was confirmation that this was what I needed to do.
Moriah: They're very instrumental, even now. My dad came from a really bad child situation. Grew up in a gang-infested part of Los Angeles and an abusive home, and he grew to then go to UCLA and law school and now is a judge. So he is my hero. He is an absolute perfect example of Christ working through a life despite the circumstances. He's just such a wise man... he's my best friend.
JFH (Jen): You guys have so much music in your family, you could probably all do a collaboration someday!
And then my mom came from poverty as well and grew up a lot of her life in Mexico. She didn't speak her first sentence of English until she came to California when she was 21. I wrote one of my songs about her. The first song on the record is called "Know Us By Our Love," and it's about her story when she first moved to California and the fact that she lived in a trailer home, but she still had a heart of gold and was so giving, and still is. And I have an older sister who is 22 and a little brother who is 17, and I'm in the middle. I'm 19.
Growing up musically... my dad is also a bass player, so I grew up with a lot of jazz influence and funk and soul, and that bleeds a lot into the music preferences I have now. My sister is a piano player, and she always sang in church, and I would always sing background for her. She still kind of sings, but not as much. And my little brother is a drummer. He's getting into videography. My mom plays accordion, but she would never admit that.
On my mom's side, there's a lot of professional education with music. A lot of her uncles were professors of music in colleges in Mexico and played a lot of instruments. So I definitely got the musical influence from her. But from the very beginning, my dad encouraged me with school, and I wanted to go to school and make him proud because of all he accomplished. And then my mom never had the opportunity to go to college, so she always wanted me to go to college because she couldn't herself. So I kind of had that from her.
But in the end, my parents are prayerful parents, and we were all on the same page when it came to making the decision to do music, and they've always supported me. Just yesterday I was on the phone with my dad, and he's working out getting players for me for some shows in California, so he's kind of my road manager over there. They're really supportive.
Moriah: Hahaha! With my mom on accordion! Haha.
JFH (Jen): Hey, the accordion is legit. It's pretty cool! At least, I think it is.
Moriah: Oh, you have no idea. That's the next instrument I'm learning how to play. I bought one in California, and I'm looking to buy a smaller one in Nashville. I love the accordion. I think it's a beautiful instrument.
JFH (Jen): How do you balance the full-time college life with your new music career? What are some of the challenges and rewards of doing that?
Moriah: It's probably the most challenging school experience I've ever had, because I'm doing it online right now. I was so blessed to be able to spend my first fall semester on campus in Pheonix at Grand Canyon University, and I loved it. It was so cool. I had the motivation to get up every day and go to class and, you know, go bowling, go watch movies on the lawn; it was just so much fun. I loved my experience there. But now with traveling so much, I'm doing classes online, and sometimes I just get a little bit hard to balance.
JFH (Jen): Yes, I totally understand that! It's a lot of hard work. Back to music... what's the story behind "I Choose Jesus"?
It's like I'm just learning how to compartmentalize my days as far as -- okay, this block of time is dedicated to interviews, this block of time is dedicated to working out, this block of time to doing e-mails, and this block of time to doing homework, this block of time to writing music. I'm just learning how to compartmentalize and to organize my days. I think it's just part of becoming an adult and growing up. You don't have somebody on your back. You don't have a teacher taking attendance to keep you accountable. Like, you're on your own.
Moriah: Yeah, that's the first single, and I'm so glad it is, 'cause it's such a bold statement right off the bat, especially as a new artist. You know, I want what I say to be bold and to be clear, and I want my stance and who I believe in to be crystal clear. I don't want there to be any question, and I believe that has a lot to do with where I grew up.
JFH (Jen): I remember going through a similar thing in college too, with the doubts and all, but don't you feel like your faith comes out stronger on the other side of that too? Like it's terrible at the time, but it's almost worth the turmoil?
This song was written out of my experience that I had my senior year of high school. I went to school with 5,000 other kids, a public school in southern California. Where I grew up and in the school that I went to, Christianity is not popular. Christianity is not part of the culture. It's more common to be agnostic or an atheist or a naturalist... anything other than Christianity or Catholicism. And so I was faced with a lot of adversity in my school, especially in one of my classrooms in particular. I had an atheist teacher who questioned me and had a lot of classmates ask me some difficult things, and it came to the point where I had so many questions in my head and not enough answers. So I just called out to God one night and was like, "Are You even real? It doesn't make any sense to me." And this song was birthed out of that doubt and out of God being faithful and revealing himself to me. It wasn't a supernatural, instant feeling where I felt like the Holy Spirit had come over me and the skies were opened up and I knew that there was a God. It was more of a practical decision at the moment where I just felt like, okay, faith will result in understanding, and I am going to trust and believe that You are real. And God, if You're not real, then nothing matters, but if You are real, then nothing else matters. And I wanna seek You, I wanna learn more about You.
So that's what I did. I studied and read books and learned how to defend my faith in the classroom. And I think that's so important. Especially for my peers, because I'm right in the middle of the overwhelming statistics [of] the amount of kids who walk away from their faith when they enter college. And I know why. I can see why, and it's challenging, and there's so much pressure involved, and in public school education, people are being questioned and Christianity is being pushed out, and I really feel like the devil has his foothold there. And that's just a place where I'm hoping and I'm praying that God really sparks something.
I'm hoping to be somewhat of an example to my peers and encouraging them to stand up and be strong. And yeah, people might not always agree with you, but they'll at least respect you for having a firm foundation in which you stand and not being a fence rider and not being wishy-washy, you know. So yeah, I hope this song encourages people to be bold in Christ and encourages them to choose Him if they've never chosen Him before.
Moriah: Oh, absolutely!
JFH (Jen): So what are you continuing to learn about making those choices in your everyday life, and what has God been continuing to teach you out of that experience?
Moriah: Hmm... I'm continuing to learn that choosing Jesus and choosing to live for Him and believe in Him is a daily thing. I think we all remember the first time we accept Him, when it kind of clicked for us and we take that step of faith... but I don't want it ever to become a once a week decision or a once in a lifetime decision. For me, I'm realizing that it's a daily thing, that to accept God's grace yesterday is a decision for today.
JFH (Jen): Right! *laugh* Well, I appreciate you and your heart and all your hard work! Is there anything else you want to add?
God's grace covers the things I needed to do yesterday, but today He's got a whole list of different trials and a different set of things for me to do, and I need His grace to help me through today and today's problems. I'm just learning it's a daily thing. A lot of times we can get so caught up in the philosophy of it all and we can get caught up in arguments, but it comes down to, first, making sure that this vertical relationship is right, then the horizontal, the way we treat others, will be good. And it's making sure that, daily, I'm choosing to read the Word, to pray... because rarely, it's a fuzzy feeling of "oh I can't wait to meet God in Scripture," you know? I want it to be; sometimes it's not. I don't want this faith to be built on something that's shaky or sketchy. I want it to be built on solid ground, on truth, on choice, and not on feelings and emotions, because those fluctuate all the time. I mean, we're girls, right? *laughs*
Moriah: Uhhhh.... the album comes out April 17th! Thanks so much for taking time to interview me!
Moriah Peters' new album I Choose Jesus is available now!