"You're never too old / You're never too young / There's a song to sing / Don't let it go unsung."
Chandler Roberts makes this statement in her uplifting song, "Fight Your Fear" and it doesn't take long for the pop singer-songwriter to reveal that she wrote the song as much for herself as she did for anyone else.
Roberts is immersed in music every day working for a record label as a radio promoter, and being so close to some of the top artists in Christian music on a daily basis can prove daunting for an independent up-and-comer trying to make her own art. But as illustrated with "Fight Your Fear" and the other tracks on her recently released (and crowdfunded) The Color EP, Roberts is driven by a calling that's bigger than comparisons, expectations, cliches and cynicism.
The result of her resolve is a musically diverse yet thematically cohesive musical experience that gives listeners a peek into Roberts' own struggles and triumphs--feelings that certainly have universal impact.
I asked Roberts a few questions about her origin story, her secret identity behind the scenes at a record label, and the big dreams God has put on her heart.
Music is a huge part of your life. When did that take hold for you?
I have been involved in music ever since I can remember! My mom is very musical, and creating music was a big part of my childhood. I remember writing my first song around the age of 7. Singing and writing music always came naturally to me. I then began performing on stages in musical theater and taking voice lessons around the age of 10 and leading worship around the age of 13. I loved it so much that I studied vocal performance and songwriting in college! I spent more time in rehearsals and on stages than almost anywhere else in my childhood and teenage years. In college, I was in an a cappella girls group and a jazz vocal group, and I performed in showcases and cafe shows while still leading worship at my church. In all the genres I have tried, I always come back to wanting to sing and write about my relationship with God.
Your 9 to 5 is working in the office for a Christian music label. How has that experience helped you and hindered you as you pursued your own music?
Yes it is! I am a radio promoter for a record label. I never pictured myself doing that, but God opened some pretty incredible doors, and I have worked there for nearly five years! It has played a big role in my understanding of the music industry. Working in the business definitely has its pluses and minuses as a creative person. I am constantly surrounded by people who are making great music, and I get to play a role in sharing their music and messages with listeners. I work for an amazing company and have a great boss and coworkers.
On the other hand, I have to work hard not to get caught in the trap of comparison. I have to stay faithful to my own calling to write music, lead worship, and be creative without letting the "business" world discourage me in my creativity. It's so easy to let comparison (in any field or aspect of life) begin to influence the way that you use your talents and passions, and that is simply not a healthy way to live! I can simultaneously work hard and find enjoyment in my 9-to-5 job while also using my free time to continue writing songs, leading worship, and creating new music.
How do you stay passionate about music when the business end of it certainly can get tiresome? How do you not get sick of it or burnt out?
This is a very telling question because, if I'm honest, I have gotten burnt out in the past. I spent four years in an intensive university music program and then jumped straight into the music business, and pretty soon after that, I found myself discouraged. I felt creativity as more of a burden than a privilege and passion. The world can be a very cynical and tiring place, and with the wrong attitude and perspective, that can really affect creativity.
The reason there are four years between my EPs is that I went through a season of a lot of fear and doubt, but eventually God totally changed my attitude and reminded me of the JOY of making music. I think you just have to continue to create and do what God has called you to do because you love it and stop worrying about other people's opinions or the end result! When you let the world define your success, you are bound to get discouraged, but when God is your measuring stick, there is joy to be found in being creative simply for HIS glory.
In the end, I think God answers this question pretty clearly in Galatians 6:9: "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." When we trust Him, He gives us the strength to do just that!
You lead worship for your church regularly. How does that involvement at the local church level inspire what you've done with your own music?
There is nothing like being part of a local church and leading people as they connect with God in worship! The moments when I feel the most fulfilled are often standing on a church stage and singing God's truth while I hear the roar of the congregation singing along. I try to get out of the way, and I'm so blessed to be used by God in some small way to bring people closer to Him.
On The Color EP, each of your five songs is different from the last, but they all seem to work together. Did you set out to make the songs so diverse musically? Do you have a particular style/genre you're more comfortable in?
Thank you! It's been encouraging to hear people say that the EP feels diverse and cohesive at the same time. I am always drawn to albums which do just that. I get bored when each song sounds the same. I definitely lean toward a pop sound, and I think that is reflected in every song, but I also simply picked my five favorite songs that I have written recently, and each has a different feel, so I tried to stay true to each song in production and instrumentation. "Lionheart," for example, is probably the most "pop" of all the tunes, and then each one subsequently combines that pop sound with other elements.
"Rising Setting" has a hint of folk, "Fight Your Fear" has a more melancholy, indie vibe. "Victory Song" is unique to itself, and "Color" was originally an electronic dance track that we toned down and melded with an ethereal, pop sound. Lyrically, they share a lot of common themes because I wrote these songs during a season of anxiety and self-doubt, so there is a common thread of triumph over fear.
Was The Color EP your first fan-funded project? What did you learn in that process?
Yes, it was! I funded this project through a website called Kickstarter. It was my second EP, but my first fan-funded experience. I'm not sure I would do it a second time, but it was a great experience! I was so overwhelmed by the support, and I was able to raise over $7,000 in 30 days with 99 backers. It was a fun way to get the word out about the project before it released! I learned that people want to help! It's hard to promote yourself. Even though I promote other artists for a living, promoting myself as an indie artist is a totally different and more intimidating experience. It was really good for me to spend a month talking about an upcoming record and realize that people actually wanted to hear the music, to help me fund it, and to be a part of the process. I'm so grateful!
What's your calling as best you can see it?
I am not certain what the future holds exactly or what God is calling me to do long term, but I know that for today, I am called to love Him first and to love others as an extension of that love. I feel that he has given me creative and musical talent, and that he didn't give me those passions and talents to keep them to myself. I feel called to leading the local church in worship and to finding ways to write songs that share the truth of God's word in an interesting and excellent way. There are a lot of specifics about my calling and career that are unclear, but I can hold tight to the universal truths that God has a plan for my life, and it is my privilege and responsibility to love Him, use the passions He has given me for His glory, and trust Him daily for direction and guidance.
What's next for you and your music? What dreams has God given you for your music?
Now that this EP is released, I hope to begin writing fresh material soon. It's time to get back in the zone and create more music!
You've released a couple of cover songs on YouTube--one from mainstream pop artist Ingrid Michaelson, and the most recent one from Hillsong UNITED. Is this something we can expect more from you in the future?
I hope so! I love singing cover songs. There are so many amazing artists out there, and as a vocalist, it's fun to try different styles and genres.
How can people be praying for you?
Just pray that I continue to find joy in writing, singing and creating music for His glory.
Marcus Hathcock is the Executive Editor of NewReleaseToday.com, a husband to Savannah, father of three and a worship leader living in Boise. He just released his first EP, Songs For Tomorrow, and occasionally blogs at mheternal.com.
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