In the three years girl group 1GN
(initially known as 1 Girl Nation) was active, they created two lauded full length albums and a Christmas EP, earned a Dove nomination and brought their upbeat message of encouragement and God-centered confidence to stages across the country. All of these experiences honed singer Carmen Justice's skills and mission, and 2017 sees her stepping into a new season as a solo artist.
As Carmen Justice's debut single "Flaming Arrows" debuts today, we chatted with her about the things she's learned and the focus of her heart heading into this new season.
The new single is amazing. Do you want to start by talking about that a little bit, about the themes of that song?
"Flaming Arrows" is a song that's super special to me. It's about overcoming fear, and when I wrote the song, that was definitely the season that I was in. I was very fearful. I was dealing with a lot of anxiety about my music career, I had a lot of sickness in my family and just so many things to be anxious about. The song was birthed from the passage in Ephesians 6 which says "take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one." And that was super comforting to me.
It was a really easy song to write. That whole idea of feeling like I'm being thrown all these flaming arrows from the enemy--I think Satan is always trying to get in our heads, always trying to push fear into our minds, to get us not to do something. That idea of taking up the shield of faith, that's kind of all I had at the time when I wrote this song. I had faith that God was about to do something big through me. And I was just writing music that I think people need to hear.
So "Flaming Arrows" is a song that you can insert whatever fear is in your own life and apply it to that song. It's just an anthem about facing those ghosts, facing the fear that you have head on and overcoming it.
So as you're releasing that, are you doing that independently? What does the team look like for your solo venture?
I am releasing it independently. Right now I have a radio team, and my husband, who actually does marketing and video content, is obviously a huge team mate for me, just helping me get all the visual stuff together. Then I have a publicist who is doing all of my press. But yeah, I'm doing it independently. Which has been fun in a way. I'm kind of the label, if you will, now. Which has been really nice, just to have a vision and be able to build a team around me that believes in what I'm trying to do.
You've talked before about how you've experienced some of the imperfections in the label structure, or in the Christian music industry as a whole. Are there things that you've learned from that process of navigating its imperfections?
Oh absolutely. One thing I've learned is that everyone has imperfections. I think any industry has imperfections. And with the music industry, I think that it's really easy to get lost in the business side of things, get lost in stuff that really isn't the point, get lost in the financial side of things. One thing I think I've taken away from my experiences is to really ask the question "why am I doing this? What's the point?" And if I'm not doing it to point people towards Jesus, then this is not something that God's going to bless, ultimately.
And I think with the music industry, I think it's also about just embracing it. Embracing the fact that everyone's going to have flaws. People are going to fail you, and situations will fail you, and even if you think something's going to work out, it might not work out. When I have learned to embrace those things, it's taken a lot of pressure off of my expectations and helped me enjoy why I'm doing it in the first place.
What was it that made you decided to keep pushing on and keep making Christian music when it would have been easy when you ran into roadblocks to give it up? What motivated you to keep fighting for it?
You know, I actually just finished reading the entire New Testament. I don't know if this is embarrassing or not, but I've never done that before. I've never just read straight through. And I've just been really inspired recently on a spiritual level to really go for it. I think any time in the Bible that God used people like Paul and Noah and Abraham, and all of His disciples, they had to go through some pretty hard stuff before they reached the harvest. And I think that's kind of how I feel.
When I was deciding whether or not to release this music, it kind of wasn't a choice. I had no choice but to release it, because I think there are people that need to hear the concept of overcoming fear, and they need to hear the gospel. And I think that I really have a heart for writing music that will reach lost people. It's kind of like a tangible message for people to grasp, the idea that fear won't win. I think anyone can grasp onto that idea.
So obviously most people are going to be familiar with your sound from 1GN. Is the new music you're making going to be similar, or how will it be different?
I would say that my sound has definitely changed. I naturally write a little bit more edgy, a little bit more electronic style music. Still kind of keeping that pop vibe, but definitely more of an edgier pop sound that ultimately is just more me. I think with music to come, that's what people can expect. I'm not going to be rapping or anything! But it will definitely be slightly different, a little bit more mature than what people have heard from me in the past.
Do you have plans for a full length album? Is there any expectation of when people might hear that?
Right now I am set to release an EP later this year, hopefully early fall. But even sooner than that, I'm already working on new singles to come out earlier than that this year. So "Flaming Arrows" is just the first of what's to come, which is very exciting!
Have you found that people have been really supportive of the new direction you're going? What kind of feedback have you heard from people?
I've felt so much support, I've been really overwhelmed by it honestly. I didn't know what to expect. And I'm always my own worst critic, so I was like "no one's going to care," you know? "No one's going to even like this." And when we made the announcement that I was going on this new journey, I've just had so many fans, so many people in the industry even, personally contact me telling me how much they're supportive of this, and they are just really excited and they're praying for me and they want to see this vision come true. And it's just been very overwhelming. It's brought me to tears a couple times, because I didn't know what to expect.
Can you speak to the future of 1GN? Is that still being decided?
I definitely want to be honest about that process, for my fans and for people in the industry. We decided that it was just a time to go in different directions. We all are still best friends, and that's something that I want people to know, that I still talk to the girls all the time. We went through so much, so I think part of our story as a band as it came to a close is that we gained kind of a sisterhood. They're friends where I know that they'll be honest with me, and they're the first that I share my music with. So it's been really cool.
But yeah, we decided back in the fall that it was just time that that season was ending. There were new things to come about. And I'm the kind of person where if I'm in something, I'm in it 120%, and you know, I think I would probably have been in a girl group until I was 70 years old if someone wouldn't have ended it! So it's really nice knowing that things have ended really well, even with the label and management and the girls, we are all still on great terms.
That is awesome to hear! To wrap this up, how we can be praying for you as you face this new season of life?
I think just be praying for wisdom. That's been something walking into this, and something I've been reading in the Bible, is that I need to be really wise about going on this journey, going on the road and making music. It's not always easy, so just prayer for wisdom and clarity when making decisions, and ultimately that so many people would hear this message. I've been personally praying for the songs to speak to people who are just so fearful, who are bound by fear. With releasing "Flaming Arrows" on Friday, I think that it even speaks to myself. I pray that I will learn how to overcome fear in my own life.
Watch the music video for "Flaming Arrows" here.