Indie artists Chris and Jenna Badeker, also known as Wild Harbors, wrote songs on their own in high school and college. And, after the two got married, they started writing together. Now, the duo is on a roll. They recently released their new album, Monument, and are now filling up their calendar with shows.
Chris and Jenna want to share valuable messages to their listeners. The duo want to write honest songs that encourage people. Summoning the courage to press into hard things, whether that's a relationship, a life change, or other kinds of risks. "We think everyone has God-given talents and gifts, and we're all meant to use them in different capacities in the adventure of life. That's what we hope to inspire people to do." We had the opportunity to speak with Chris and Jenna about their background, their music, and their new album.
What are some of your favorite artists and music that you listen to and why?
Jenna: In the Christian market, I grew up listening to artists like Jars of Clay, Jennifer Knapp, and Bethany Dillon. I gained a big appreciation for jazz and blues in college. I also love the energy and chord structures of a lot of musical theatre songs. These days, I really respect the way Sara Bareilles writes, bluegrass-inspired artists like Sara Watkins, and the sweeping string arrangements that Sleeping At Last does. I'm awed by the way the sisters in the band Joseph harmonize with each other. And I love the emotion and poetic gifts of songwriters like Taylor Leonhardt, Jess Ray, and Andrew Osenga.
Chris: Growing up, I listened to a lot of pop-punk and ska bands: Less than Jake, The Living End, and Green Day. Recently, I've been much more into pop music. I like the structure of pop a lot; it doesn't usually dawdle or waste the listener's time. It's succinct and to the point. So, that has led me to an appreciation of artists like Chrvches, The Beach Boys, and Jukebox the Ghost to name a few. I'm also a huge Regina Spektor fan; she's so unabashedly herself and I love it.
There are a lot of husband and wife duos out right now. It's a great time to be making music with your soulmate. What are some of the things you love about your setup?
Jenna: We're happy to be counted among them. I'm so glad to be able to do this with Chris. He gently pushes me to be better. If it weren't for him, I think I'd still be singing at occasional coffeehouses, stumbling over piano parts, and rarely picking up my pen to write. I'm glad that we can share the many roles independent artists have to fill. And I'm always excited to talk really openly and honestly about marriage in our show and through our songs.
Chris: On a practical level, it's lovely to not be leaving my family behind when I go play shows. If I weren't doing this with Jenna, I don't think I'd be able to pursue it with any sort of consistency. Since we can work together in this band as a team, it really helps our ability to communicate and understand one another.
You recently left full-time positions to pursue music full time. What lessons have you learned while making that massive leap of faith?
Jenna: How much time do you have? For me, I'm learning not to be so hard on myself. This new career has such a steep learning curve. And if I fall prey to comparison, I feel like I'm failing all the time. But the critical voice in my head is not God's. God speaks to us with conviction, not guilt. He invites us to go a new way. I've also learned a lot about mental health. Not long after Chris and I took that leap, a whole lot of other things happened in our personal lives. And it took me a while to realize that I was struggling with depression and anxiety. I had encouraged many friends to seek counseling in the past. But it didn't occur to me that such a big life transition might mean that it was time for me to go. I'm so grateful for the chance to grow and heal and learn more about God and myself through counseling and pressing into this calling.
Tell us about a few songs on your new record, Monument.
Jenna: "Water" is a song inspired by a Eugene Peterson quote. I was moved by the idea that suffering is a non-negotiable in this life, but we get to choose how we respond to it. We don't have to let it inside and drown us; we can learn to float, instead. "Tomorrow Morning" is the last track on the record. And it was written a bit prophetically for our life. We worked on the music before we had the lyrics, and what we wound up writing was basically a letter of courage to ourselves before we were ready to admit that we were being pulled in a new direction. A few months later, I was putting that idea to the test when we faced the choice to leave home and old jobs behind and make the album.
Chris: "Come Clean" is the only song of ours that started as a drum beat. I was playing around on a drum pad when Jenna started spontaneously singing over it. Over many months, it morphed into the song it is now, which is kind of this fun little anthem about getting rid of "good" things to make room for the best things.
Why Christian music? What pulls you to this genre?
Jenna: We're really drawn to how Jesus told parables; He didn't use the religious language of the Pharisees. But, instead, used common metaphors and pictures that anyone could understand. When people asked questions and dug deeper, they found Him and the truth of the gospel. That's how we feel called to approach our songwriting. We are Christians, and we are storytellers. Our life stories and perspectives are deeply transformed by Christ. So, we are committed to being honest and telling our story anywhere that will have us, whether that's a church or a non-religious venue. We count it a privilege to encourage both the church and those outside of it. Our messages remain the same wherever we go, whether we're being advertised as a "Christian band" or just a band.
What are you working on right now? What's next?
Chris: Right now, we're busy getting as many shows on the 2019 calendar as we can. Now that the record is out, we're eager to get out there and share the songs with people. And funnily enough, I wrote very little during the period between recording and releasing the record. But, now, it feels like lots of new ideas are starting to crop up for potential songs. Who knows, maybe it's the nice weather.
How can we be praying for you?
Jenna: Thank you for that. We would love prayers for doors to open to bring our show and our songs to new places this year. We've seen the impact that music can have on people, and we're honored to get to be part of that. We want to be faithful and go where we are sent. Chris: I'm not sure how else to put this, but pray that our time spent as musicians is growing us into kinder, gentler, friendlier people. There are so many footholds in the music industry for things like fear, envy, greed, among others, to work their way in people's hearts. My hope is that we're able to pursue this career in a way that would sow seeds of communion rather than division.
Paul Phillips is a Canadian journalist with over 10 years of experience writing and editing digital and print content. He specializes in health, fitness, nutrition, and travel. He loves music, movies, and, of course, living for Jesus.
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