Music has the power to entertain and encourage, to both uplift and to challenge us. For 15 years, Point Of Grace has built a successful career delivering songs of substance. While their lovely voices and soaring harmonies entertained, their songs illuminated the complexities of the human spirit and spurred us toward closer relationships with each other and our God.
On their new collection How You Live, Shelley Breen, Leigh Cappillino, Denise Jones and Heather Payne serve up a compelling collection of songs that invite the listener to examine their priorities and take stock of their lives. It's a constant reminder to celebrate life in both the good and the bad.
After so many years and so many miles, what keeps the women in Point Of Grace going? After all, they each have husbands and children and life would be so much easier out of the spotlight. Denise recently sat down to speak in-depth with NRT's very own Angel about this subject, as well as a few others.
Hi, Denise. Welcome to New Release Tuesday. I'd like to start off this interview by letting you know that your latest project is amazing!
Thank you. I think it's the most personal record we've ever recorded. We were at a place in our lives where we were looking for songs that really spoke to where all of us were at on a day-to-day basis. I feel like it did that, and I love every song on the record!
I love every song as well! The lyrics really spoke to my heart, and I'm sure many more people are going to relate to the messages you've presented on this album. Can you tell us about the title track off the new album, How You Live, and its underlying theme?
When we heard the demo to the song, it just really struck a chord with the four of us. Our friend, Cindy Morgan, who is about our age, wrote this song and she also has young children. I don't know if we related to the song because of our similarities, but all of us were like, "We'd love to do this song!"
It's really a timeless message where so often we get caught up in this stuff that has to get done, and there never seems to be enough hours in the day to do everything you're expected to do. Some of that we put on ourselves—and sometimes we don't—but I feel like we're living in a society that's running on empty all the time! The song, "How You Live," is a call to rest in the arms of the Lord and to realize that the moments in our life we rush through, are the moments we'll never get back.
Since all of us have small children, we've realized that we need to take hold of some of those moments and say, "No, I don't have to finish that little project I wanted to check off my list today; I need to spend time with my child!" Or, "I need to spend time with my husband because we haven't really talked in a week,”—and that's how life goes! So it is our prayer that we will take the time and celebrate life for what it is. Not everyday is going to be one of the best days in the whole world—we all have our struggles. We must remember that it isn't who we know and it's not how much we get done, but it's how we live, it's how we build relationships and how we invest in the lives of others.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending my grandmother's funeral. She was 90 years old when she passed away, but she's definitely with the Lord now! When I look back at her life, I notice that she didn't have much money or a lot of things at the end of her life, but some of the people who showed up at her funeral were the people she mentored when she was younger. When she was in her twenties she mentored teenage girls, and when she was in her thirties she also mentored married young couples. Throughout her life her family and her grandchildren loved her so much because she invested in their lives—and that made her a very rich woman! To me, that is how I want to live. I want to live my life where someday, when I look back, I don't regret the past, but I look at it and say, "Wow, God did so many things in the lives of these people around me!"
Can you explain the meaning behind the song "Heal The Wound"?
We didn't write the songs on this album, but we sat down with a group of writers and shared our personal testimony of what God had been teaching us. So Leigh shared her testimony and explained that when she was in college she had an abortion at age 19. Now this is a Christian girl who was raised in a Christian home, and for the longest time she dealt with that on her own—and didn't tell anybody! Obviously, when Leigh got married she shared this with her husband which was very difficult! You know Shelly, Heather and I talk so much about purity, and when Leigh became a member of Point of Grace she wanted us to understand her story—and we shared a real sweet time together. And when Leigh finally told her parents what had happened, she found freedom in that. God's word says, "The truth will set you free"—and that is so real!
The Lord healed her heart and restored her. Yet for so long she continued to "ride the guilt" over what she had done, even though Christ died on the cross for our sins and by His wounds we are healed! But it does take a lot to really believe the truth and to walk in faith. So this song is based upon Leigh's testimony and what she had experienced.
The song says "Heal the wound but leave the scar," and that reminds us of what God has done for us—He has healed our past—but to see the scar on his hands reminds us of what He did for us on the cross. For Leigh, it's the scars she carries from being in that particular situation but realizing where God has brought her, how He has redeemed her and how He has not condemned her, but loved her with an everlasting, steadfast love.
Leigh even shared this testimony at our Girls of Grace conferences. We have to realize just how many women live under that particular guilt, so we're getting the word out that God is a redeeming God who loves them and has healed them because of His willingness to die for our sins. They can walk in redemption and joy, and they don't have to live under the umbrella of guilt anymore. This is a very powerful message for anybody who feels as if they will always remember their past—but now you will remember it in the way of redemption—because God has brought us so much farther than that!
Thank you for sharing such a beautiful message that all of us need to hear! Is there any other song on How You Live that you would like to discuss?
I'd like to talk about "He Believes In You." I think all of us have had one of those days where we go, "OK, nothing I'm praying for seems to be happening." Before this interview we talked about the drought that we're having where we live, but we all have gone through that spiritually—that drought of just not feeling like we're hearing from God. We open up our bible but it doesn't seem like it's speaking into our hearts. Or perhaps, we're going through a very difficult time in our life. Even some of the girls who've attended our Girls of Grace conferences have situations at home where they're not supported by their family, and they feel like nobody believes in them. This song is a reminder to let you know that God believes in you! No matter what you think, no matter what you're feeling at the moment—because we live so much on feelings—we have to know the truth, and the truth is He believes in you!
All of us knew this would be a great song to listen to on the radio sometime. And how many times have you been driving down the road and you needed to be encouraged or reminded that someone is there for you, that someone believes in you and you are not lost? "He Believes in You" is a happy and joyful song, and it reminds people that God is always there for us!
I understand you've taken a change in direction from your last project I Choose You. Can you tell us what prompted this change?
On our last studio record, I Choose You, we did a little more solo singing with background vocals, and we loved the record! But when we performed onstage, we really missed the opportunity for all of us to sing together, and that's what we're known for. When we sing—we all sing together—and that's what makes us Point of Grace! That's what makes us different than any other group or vocalist out there. I think we really wanted to go back to those roots and sing songs that all of us can do together. Before, we would go into the studio separately and sing our parts. We really lost the "fun side" of the recording process where all of us would go into the studio and sing together. So we've decided to bring that back with full-blown group vocals throughout the whole record. Of course, we still have our individual solos and that's great. But when it comes to the chorus, most of the time you're going to hear all of us singing, and that's who we are! We are much more powerful together than we are as individuals and have always felt that way with our group.
Instrumentation-wise, we wanted to go with an Americana kind of feel, and Brown Bannister, our producer, really had a vision for that. Our latest project is not a country record, but don't be surprised if you hear a little banjo or fiddle every now and then. We're definitely still a pop-oriented group, but our album does have a little flavor of country in it—and I love that! From a personal standpoint, that's the kind of music I love to listen to. Honestly, after we've recorded an album, I usually don't listen to our record very much since I've spent so much time in the studio. But I love listening to this record, because I love this style of music and the words to the songs. We're really proud of it!
Well, you should be proud of it! Can you tell us more about the Girls of Grace conferences and how you established it?
From the beginning, we've always had a heart and a passion to help teenage girls; we've even supported an organization called Mercy Ministries for many years. A lot of girls come to our shows, and most of the letters we receive are written by teenage girls. So this has always been the heartbeat of our ministry. About five years ago, we felt like God was showing us that now is the time to start Girls of Grace. Since then, we've been holding Girls of Grace conferences for 7th through 12th grade girls all over the country. It's been a two-day event that has allowed us to speak about many different things that have happened in our lives. It's been a stretch for us as well. We are four singers—we don't feel like we're speakers, but God has brought us so much farther in that.
Many of the topics we talk about are subjects their parents are trying to talk to them about. But you know how it is when you're a teenager—you don't want to hear what your parents have to say. We can encourage them by saying, "This really does matter," and "This is how God shows up in a Godly relationship with boys, your parents, friends and siblings." We talk about all kinds of things from our faith, self-esteem, sex, dating and what it means to have a "real" relationship with Christ. Girls care about clothes, so we put on a fashion show and discuss topics such as modesty and how they can wear "cool" clothing without dressing [provocatively]. We call it our "classy, not trashy" fashion show!
We're so excited because on Saturday, February 23, 2008, we're going to host Girls of Grace Nation, and we hope it will be the largest-ever gathering of teenage girls in the country! We're holding the conference live in Southlake, Texas, and it's also available via satellite to any church that wants to participate in this event. It's really easy to do if their church has the capability, and if they don't it's not hard to get the capability. We work with a wonderful company called The Church Communication Network (CCN), and this one-day conference will allow girls from all around the country to view Girls of Grace Nation via satellite. Guest artists include Stellar Kart, BarlowGirl, Group 1 Crew, Jaime Jamgochian and obviously, we'll be speaking and performing. This way smaller churches that could never host a big Girls of Grace event can have their own, and if anybody wants more information they can go to www.girlsofgrace.com or http://www.ccn.tv/girlsofgracenation and find out how to get Girls of Grace Nation simulcast at their church.
Denise, you're married with two boys, ages 7 and 9. How do you balance your career, your life as a mother and wife, and serve God in the process? Do you find it difficult at times?
I think everybody struggles with balance. I've learned to say "No" occasionally, which is really hard because you want to make people happy. You want to do everything you can, but God is beginning to show me that He didn't always call me to do a particular thing. Sometimes you have to say "No" and that's OK.
I'm also learning on a day-to-day basis that none of it balances out unless our relationship with God is right. If we don't spend time with Him—and we rush through it on our own strength and power—we will end up drained. I think we've all learned that without the Lord being the source of our strength we're not going to make it through the day. He's got to be at the center of it all or everything will be off balance. When we walk with Him, we make better choices and we hear His voice say, "No, you don't need to do that," or "Yes, you need to do that." That doesn't mean we're not going to be tired at the end of the day from working hard—even Jesus was tired—but He was doing God's work, and He was doing it the way God intended Him to do it.
I heard you're starting your tour shortly. Can you tell us what a typical day on tour looks like for Point of Grace?
Heather is pregnant with her fourth child. She's due to deliver November 12, so there are a few days toward the end of the tour when we'll bring in somebody else. A typical day? It just depends. If it's Christmas, our kids will come out on the road with us and that makes our day a little different. We're usually trying to scope out the nearest Chuck E. Cheese's in town or the mall to see if they have a play place. Most of the time, we will travel on a tour bus and sleep through the night. We'll arrive in town sometime in the morning and check into a hotel. Sometimes we have to rehearse or take care of business. Other times we have to do interviews. Whenever we get the chance, we'll take the time to exercise or do our bible study. In the afternoon, we'll head up to the church to do our sound check. After that, we'll have a meet-and-greet and go to dinner. Then it's time to do our show, and afterwards, we'll sign autographs. Usually, all of us will go to bed around twelve o'clock at night and start over the next day!
Do you bring your children on tour?
My two are in first and fourth grade, so they can't go as much because of school, but during the Christmas tour they'll come out with us. The other girls are going to bring all their children along, because they're not old enough to attend school yet. When Heather gives birth, we'll have eight children out on the road!
Do you bring a nanny on tour with you?
We're getting to the point where we can share a little bit. Now Heather—she's on her own! She has her own nanny [laughter]. We're going to bring a couple of girls along, since there will be times when we'll have eight children with us. Obviously, if we didn't have the girls and our husbands, things would not work out! When the kids come on tour, our schedules look a little different. We'll get up early with the kids, and run around the hotel to look for a pool. The churches are always great to sing at, because they have a nursery where the kids can go and play with toys. It's fun and it's more tiring when they're out there, but I don't feel the guilt of leaving them at home.
The kids love to come out with us, and they have a blast with each other. For now, I'll take it because I'm sure when my boys are twelve and thirteen they'll be like, "Bye-bye mom. See you later." [laughter] I'm enjoying the time I have with them.
Point of Grace has a long list of accomplishments that most groups only dream about: You've sold over five million albums, won 8 Dove Awards, received two Grammy nominations, garnered two platinum and five gold certifications, scored a record breaking 24 consecutive No. 1 radio hits and established the Girls of Grace conferences. Your most notable media appearances include Time Magazine, CNN, VH-1, Billboard, and ABC World News Tonight. The list of your achievements goes on and on!
When you first started out back in college, did you ever dream that you would go on to achieve all that you've accomplished with Point of Grace? What has God shown you throughout this incredible 17-year journey?
To answer your first question: NO! There's no way I ever thought I'd get to do this for all these years. Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of becoming a singer and traveling the world. I just never realized it was God's dream too! I feel so blessed! I have a career that I love and a husband that supports what I'm doing. I've seen marriages struggle when a spouse has to travel, yet we continue to support each other—and I'm so thankful for that! My husband is my best friend, my children are healthy, but that doesn't mean we haven't had any struggles!
There's a song on our new record that represents where we're at right now, and it's called "You Are Good." If God has shown me anything about Himself over the past 17 years, it's that He really is good. For a long time, if you were to ask me, "Do I really trust God?" I don't know if I could always respond positively. There was always a fear of something else happening. The thing He's teaching me through the ups and downs of life is that He is so good.
He's also shown me that He knows our needs better than we do. It's not what we want—but He knows what we need! Sometimes what we need is a spanking! [laughter] Other times what we need is compassion and loving arms around us. The four of us are at place in life where we can say, "Lord we trust you, and we are going to sing your praises. We truly believe you're a God who is faithful and a God that knows what's best. You work all things to your glory, and we want to be a part of that!" As I reflect back on life, I've learned that I can trust Him and that He's trustworthy! Along the way, I hope I can encourage others to trust in Him as well.
When you have a dream, give it over to the Lord and see if that's what He wants, because if He does He will let it happen.
Angel, a concert photographer and writer, frequently conducts artist interviews for NRT. She loves Christian music and currently lives in FL with her husband.