Even at the age of five, Kerrie Roberts stunned crowds with her vocals, singing solos with her church choir. "I was so small, they had me stand on a milk crate so the congregation could see me," she laughs. Today when you hear Kerrie's huge voice, it is clear there's much more going on here than just enormous vocal talent. Dynamic yet intimate, uniquely emotive and soulful, the 10 songs on Kerrie's self-titled debut, Kerrie Roberts (Reunion Records/Provident Label Group), are defined by empathy and openness.
For this we can thank her devoted family, and the time she spent as a part of her father's ministry. "My father is a pastor, so my whole family has been shaped by the church," explains Kerrie. "Growing up, I saw my parents 'on call' 24/7 as a support in times of grief, despair and other unexpected turns. They consistently taught me to reach out to the broken and to those who need encouragement and hope. That's something that resonates in me and something I love being a part of."
Kerrie's mother also was instrumental in shaping her artistry. Indeed, thanks especially to her, music has always been a natural--and central--part of Kerrie's life. "My mother is extremely musical, and in church, is always directing the choir or leading worship" explains Kerrie. "At home, you could always find her, my sister, and me singing around the piano."
Kerrie began writing her first songs in high school, performing one during her own graduation. When the time came for college, Kerrie chose to get her degree in Studio Music and Jazz Vocal Performance at the University of Miami. "Little kids have dreams. For me, it was 'I'm going to be a singer.' And I never grew out of it," she says with smile.
As she finished college, Kerrie began the long, aching pursuit of doing music professionally. Always proactive, she continued writing, performing locally, and even toured for a year as a background singer with legendary icon Engelbert Humperdinck, all the while establishing new relationships in the music community.
While living in Florida, she financially enabled her music pursuits by teaching elementary school and working as an accountant. In 2008, she relocated to New York with two suitcases in hand, moving into a tiny apartment with almost no furniture. Working a desk job by day, she pursued her musical dream at night. But the dream frustratingly did not materialize into reality.
She wasn't desperate for a record deal... she was desperate for the right situation. She walked away from several offers until she was in the right place to make a commitment. But Kerrie is grateful for the professional journey that led her to the Kerrie Roberts debut release. "The thing I'm so thankful for from all those heartbreaking years is realizing how much those experiences have prepared me for where I am now," she says.
Given the compassionate family and ministry that molded who Kerrie is, it is no surprise that her debut album displays as much heart and intellect as breathtaking talent. Or that, thematically, it explores the raw nature of faith, hope and love. These are songs for the broken--and truthfully, that's each of us.
"No Matter What," the standout lead single, which opens the self-titled album, is a hypnotic delight that sets the lyrical tone for the entire record. "God has the power to save and protect you from all the pain that comes into your life, but there are times He chooses not to," says Kerrie, who has writing credits on every song. "No Matter What' is a declaration to serve God because He saved you from your sin, not because He's saving you from the pain of this life."
Kerrie's songs repeatedly speak to the reality of such heartache and heartbreak. "A lot of people eventually lose their faith when they expect Christianity to be all bright and shiny with a god who only answers their prayers with a 'yes.' I wanted this album to be an honest reflection of the Christian life--that we serve a God who allows suffering but is with you through that suffering," she says.
This passion for authentic faith permeates Kerrie's songwriting, informing every topic. Consider the emotively grand "Take You Away." With her dynamic vocal range and power on full display, Kerrie's unusual empathy not only beckons the wounded, it serves as a moving wake-up call to the church. She says, "If you're someone who's hurting, sometimes the local church is the last place you would want people to know the brokenness in your life, your weaknesses, or the mistakes you've made. Yet, despite the religious pretending that goes on sometimes, everyone has things they're struggling with. Your church should be your family, where you can go and be safe, vulnerable, and taken care of. A healthy church is a church for the broken."
If there's one song on the album that sums up Kerrie's life-long philosophy, it's the beautiful and intense "This Love Doesn't Run." She explains, "For me, this is the theme song for my life. Often, we pour so much of ourselves into other people and relationships, or chasing after personal goals. Yet so much of what you give away to those things you can lose. God's love is the one thing that will never run from you." Kerrie then quotes part of the song's second verse, "'You're the only one I can live for and I'll never have to be afraid of losing what I gave.' That says it all for my whole life."
The artist's versatile voice and tastes are further displayed with "Keep Breathing," a moody, soul-flavored dose of encouragement. Kerrie penned the song almost three years ago. She reveals, "I would wake up every morning with that feeling of 'Why is my life not what I know it should be? I know something so clear, and yet I'm going to go do accounting today. What am I doing wrong?' Every day in my journal, I told myself to 'keep breathing.' This has been the song from my past that family and friends have told me, 'I listen to it every day when I drive to work and it helps me get through.'"
"'Beautiful to Me' wraps up the whole theme of the record," explains Kerrie. "It's incredible to see the beauty in God's plan of salvation, that holy mystery of how He used destruction to bring life, and how that speaks to the pain in our lives. It's a cry out to God, 'Please make whatever this heartbreak is into something beautiful as only you can.'"
When asked what she wants her audience to walk away with, Kerrie says, "I want to share the unconditional love that I've had poured into my own life. I hope that when people listen to these songs, and identify with the emotion in them, that they will know they're not alone. And ultimately,I want listeners to be filled with a sense of purpose - a realization of truth and a promotion of hope and healing."