Listen to the new single from 7 Hills Worship!
Listen to the new single from 7 Hills Worship!

Sarah Kelly

With the struggles with an abusive past now behind her, Sarah Kelly celebrates the dawning of a new day with her third album, Born To Worship. On the first big day of GMA Music Week 2008, we caught up with Sarah the morning after JFH hosted its first ever showcase, which Sarah had also been a part of. In our talk with Sarah, she reflected on the show the night before, her new album, overcoming dark times, and even proceeded to give away a little musical secret exclusively to us... and you!
This interview took place on: 4/21/08.

  • Jesus freak Hideout (John DiBiase): So how did it feel to play the very first showcase?
    Sarah Kelly: That was AWESOME! Talk about an awesome party! Like, what a weird, eclectic group you draw.

  • JFH (John): It was cool. It was surreal.
    Sarah: Did you notice like every European-anybody was there? The guy who runs Flevo Festival, the girl who runs Free Zone was there - all of the big oversea festivals. They were all represented there. But it was an eclectic bunch - music listeners, which is so rare in Christian music. I think it's getting better because of people like you out there who are stirring it up...

  • JFH (John): I hope so.
    Sarah: No, you really are! You really are. A couple years ago, I mean, I don't know if I would have been able to do that - to have a showcase out of GMA, because of the melancholy girl-rock thing not being too permissible in Christian music, y'know? To not be happy about every single little tiny thing in life. And Jesus come in the bridge of every song and save you - like a superhero. It's just not like that in real life sometimes. And I really like to keep it very real in my music and that hasn't exactly made me a Christian music poster child by any stretch. But it was music listeners. I felt like I was playing in a club in L.A. or a club anywhere, you know what I mean? You had to win them. Thank you for letting me strip it down to a piano!

  • JFH (John): Oh gosh, those are fantastic songs, so I was really happy about that.
    Sarah: I was a little scared that you guys were going to be like, "OK..... what are you doing?!" But, for me, those were the best moments of that set - just stripping it down to the heart of the music and I think that's what "live" is about.

  • JFH (John): ...And that made it okay for you to play the newer stuff.
    Sarah: Yeah! OK, good. Good. And I think, those two albums (Where The Past Meets Today and the new one, Born To Worship) make a really complete story. They're completely different sonically. And for some - like the last interview I had - they love the new one. They can't figure out what the heck I was doing on the last one. And then some of these interviews are like "What are you doing on this one? We love the last one! What are you doing?" It's so funny how people have different tastes in music. But the story is complete. You can really see a girl in the middle of "Why God?" moment, a true "WHAT are you doing?! If there is God, He must be cruel" moment, bringing [me] through to Joel 2. Y'know, "He will restore unto you the years the locusts have eaten." And that's like where I'm at right now. To see the whole picture, one album without the other wouldn't be a complete view of what God's done in my life.

  • JFH (John): It's a nice touch that Born To Worship ends with "Amazing Grace."
    Sarah: Yeah... you like that one, eh?

  • JFH (John): Yeah, it's one of the best versions, I thought.
    Sarah: Thank you very much!

  • JFH (John): Who did you work with production-wise on Born To Worship?
    Sarah Kelly Sarah: We were on a very tight... TIGHT budget on this album. I think the whole record industry is facing some hardships. So my dear friends Jars Of Clay let me use their producer Mitch Dane and make an A-level project. He did all of it. He's definitely more of an earthy, grass roots kind of producer, which if you put me with a boxed Christian sound - which this album isn't. As poppy as it is, it's still an original worship album. I mean, it doesn't sound like U2. It's definitely original. It doesn't fit into the worship box and it doesn't fit into the Christian music box, so I'm proud of that. I'm proud that we made it unique. And that's something that's kind of hard to accomplish. And to make it simple enough to play in churches, but yet intriguing enough that someone could listen to it in their car and not get bored.

  • JFH (John): Do you have a song on the album that means more to you than others?
    Sarah: My favorites are - and I'm sure this will come as not much of a surprise to you - "Not Quite Home" is, I think, as true to Sarah Kelly as I can be. That would fit on the album any time and place. It just has a uniqueness. I had to fight - FIGHT - to keep that song the way it is. I mean, it has three choruses, right? And to explain this to a pop culture or a pop-motivated producer... They're going, "well you can't have three choruses" "No no no, it's a choir part! Yes, I can. I will! This is a choir piece. That's why I'm doing this album. It's for the church. For the churches who are bored with worship..." Cuz it's boring out there in worship right now! There are these under-rumblings of boredom and it's just wrong. And when the worship leader's bored, the whole room is bored, y'know what I mean? And that's half the battle to keep us intrigued as worship leaders. And I'm like, "No no no! These are the songs I've sung in my church and I've seen them work! And I've seen them work across the country leading worship for college groups that are passionately and dangerously in love with God! None of this boxed Christianity for them. These are the ones that are working. No! We are doing this, OK?" And then, to get to the end where it's everybody's favorite? And they're so glad that they saw the vision through?

  • JFH (John): And you're like, "You should listen to me more often!"
    Sarah: Yeah! Uh-huh!! "I know it works! OK, you guys?! Like, I sing 260 dates a year, y'know? Gimme a little credit here!" *laughter* But it meant a lot when Steve Mason (Jars Of Clay) said "Y'know, Sarah, this song is great. This is a great song. And I never thought it would work with the three choir parts but it makes a complete chorus. It's one chorus but it has three lines." It's just what I imagine Heaven would sound like. It's a dream of Heaven, that song. It's like saying, "No wonder I don't feel at home here, I'm not home yet" and then almost like a person is going "What is Home going to be like?" and then you go into that chorus and you hear "Behold and adore." And you hear the different, maybe, personalities of angels singing - one is singing this and one is singing that - and it all makes a complete song. So it's more like a dream. It's an artistic dream of worship. Cuz I don't think worship is going to be boring in Heaven. So that one means a lot to me, cuz I get to stretch the limits of what we know as worship so far. And I love "Sit With You Awhile." It's just a song that I sang through the hardest moments in my life for years and years and it's the one that was like, "I can't put that out because it's too close. It's mine." Y'know? And it's a song of a young girl that's wildly in love with Jesus and I wrote it after a Sunday School lesson about Mary and Martha. And Martha's busy working and Mary's so intrigued with Jesus and so in love with Him that she can't move. I just tried to capture what she would say in that moment. And "I don't love You for who they say You are, I love You for who You are to me, so I'm going to sit with You awhile." And that's been one of those songs that sustained my relationship with God through the rougher times I've been in - through the fourteen-year desert I walked through. So that's been one of those songs that constantly reminded me who He is.

  • JFH (John): What advice would you give someone who's having trouble getting past hurts of the past or depression to find peace and joy in life?
    Sarah: Well, I know what's worked for me and it's part of the journey that I'm bringing people on through my music. I mean, you felt the pain on the last album (Where The Past Meets Today). You can feel that on any song. Any one. Go to any of them. For me, I had a block in my life where I could love God but I couldn't accept His love for me. I could not accept it. I could love Him - it was a one-way relationship and I needed to get to a place where I could feel His love for me again. And then that brought me to a place of worship. So, I'm not going to be like "Just put worship music in," cuz some of it is sterile. But I would say, as a teacher, as a songwriter, to maybe open up your journal, put what you're really thinking about life down, and maybe write a song yourself. And write a worship song that is trusting God through the circumstance and recognizing His faithfulness and recognizing that He will restore unto you what the cancor worm has eaten, like it says in Joel 2. He will restore it. I'm in that season right now and it's brought me to a place of worship. So, I don't know, I think the first thing would be to let yourself feel his love again, not just give it. Not just put in the hours and believe in something bigger than yourself but actually just feel His love. Accept it, and then let that motivate you to be grateful for it. And that will inevitably bring you to a place of TRUE worship! Not boxed or sterile worship. But true gratitude, like "All I can do right now is thank You, Jesus, that I don't have to live in yesterday any more." It's drawing the line and I'm moving on. That's yesterday. I have it in my back pocket to draw from when I need to, but it's yesterday.

  • JFH (John): It must be hard for you to go through those songs live again. I can tell.
    Sarah: Every day. I mean, it brings a depth and a connection to a crowd. Cuz all of a sudden they know, "oh she's been through it, I can trust her," so it's necessary. But when that was all I had to sing? It wasn't a complete story. My shows now will be full of a mixture of all three of those albums because it makes a good story, because that will, again, allow it to be more artistic. And will allow the band to shine and do what they do to it and it won't sound like the album at all, to be honest, that you will be like "Are these the same songs that are on the album?" When you hear us play live the way that we do on those songs, all of a sudden, they're rock songs. *laughs* OK? So it might bring a new love for the songs to you. I want to present them in a way [on CD] where worship teams would hear them and really grab on to them.

  • JFH (John): Have you thought about doing another acoustic EP for those songs at all?
    Sarah: I have. Right now I'm toying around with an idea. And this is just total fun. I don't know if it will ever work. I'm toying around with doing like a side project. This is like top secret, which you can totally publish.

  • JFH (John): Which.... makes it not top secret.
    Sarah: Well, you're the first to know! Let's put it that way. I'm toying around with doing like a side project fronting a band.

  • JFH (John): Cool! So it'd be like... a band name?
    Sarah: A band name.

  • JFH (John): Interesting. So it probably won't be "Sarah Kelly and the..."
    Sarah: No. You'll just hear the voice and go "OK, that's Sarah?!" And more in the rock vein. Letting my creativity have a place to fester! And letting "Sarah Kelly" be a worship leader and lead worship and do what I do out there and having that total fulfillment of watching people's heads go from here to here. There's nothing more fulfilling that that. To see people's eyes get off their own problems and onto God. That's the only thing I have to offer, but I do have this artistry that needs an outlet. Y'know what I mean? So, inevitably, it's going to be what you love. *laughter* Y'know what I mean? So I'm toying around. We'll see. And I've got the guys to do it now. Over the years, I've met them. You wouldn't want to just start a band with just anybody. Not just good players. You have to find the right people with a band mentality that would invest and have the creativity to add so that I'm not just writing all the songs. [Members] that are going to make it into a living, breathing new sound. So I've kind of got the guys in mind for that.

  • JFH (John): And then you guys can play our showcase next year.
    Sarah: Oh HECK YES! Heck yes! But [as far as my solo stuff goes], there's some people who want me to play only the new album. And that's just NOT how it's gonna be. The new album isn't complete. It's a happier Jesus album...

  • JFH (John): Which is fine.
    Sarah: It's fine! And it's where I'm at. It's true. One thing I've always promised my people and will continue to promise them is that I will never lie to you in my music. You will be exactly where I'm at. You will know exactly where I'm at by the music you are hearing. I am in a happy, beautiful place right now. And this album sounds happy and more beautiful than people are used to hearing ME sound - flawed me. Y'know? But it is a mirror to where God has taken me. And I think most people who are hearing it are just happy for me, cuz they can hear that it's peaceful and rested in a place of happiness. But these songs need each other. "Take Me Away" to "Out of Reach?" That's a testimony right there. Here I'm in the middle of something screaming "take me away!" [and] here, I'm out of reach of it. I'm done. And then going to "You Overwhelm Me?" Omigosh, this whole thing makes sense now. And I can finish the songs that God started in my heart when I was seven years old. It took all of this to break an addiction to self hate. It took ALL of this to break an addiction to self hate that started when I was thirteen years old. And I'm finally at the end of that. It's finally done. It's finally in the past and this album shows that. And it wouldn't have been true to myself to put out another melancholy rock album right now. So that's one promise that you have. You'll never get anything but what's really going on in me. But who knows what the next one will sound like!


    For video footage from Sarah's interview, check out the video below!

    *Interview footage taken by Amy DiBiase*

    You can also download this 13-minute video clip montage from the interview for FREE on our iTunes podcast!



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