We're so blessed. So many new artists have emerged in the past few years, praising the word of Jesus through music. With us being the beneficiaries of their talents. Rachael Winters is one artist to watch for. She recently dropped her new album, Say So. Her powerhouse vocals and style of music gives her a spot in the up and coming artists category. I recently spoke with Rachael about her music, her family life, and her new album.
You've been involved in worship leading for a number of years. Tell us about how worship is influencing your music.
My love for worship music actually began as a child. My dad was the worship leader at my childhood church for about 20 years. So, I grew up listening to worship music. I've always loved the genre. There's something so emotional and passionate about music that was specifically written, so that others could use it as a means to praise God. That has always been very alluring to me as a songwriter.
I didn't always write worship music. I actually began writing music as a teenager; songs that were mostly about the drama I was going through. Naturally, upon entering adulthood, I wanted to shift gears and write about what was meaningful to me, namely Jesus Christ. And, seeing others brought closer to Him through music.
With that being said, there are challenges involved in the process of writing a worship song. The vein of topics to write about that a congregation of people can easily understand and sing along to is a narrow one.
And, writing a decent song that is also catchy, conveys a clear message, is singable, and worshipful, is no easy feat. It creates a lot of boxes to check. This has been a major cause of writer's block for me in the past. Not to mention the fact that staying within those walls creates a substantial risk of writing songs that are cliche and have already been written.
I took it upon myself to write music that checked three boxes; I want my music to be worshipful, good, and real. By real, I mean I wanted my music to come from a personal experience I had with Jesus, and not a simple reproduction of what's already out there. That's one of the difficulties in writing worship music: to not just dispense platitudes, however, theologically accurate they may be. But, instead, to write something that actually comes from one's own experience: from the heart, as it were. I've always written songs based on my own experiences, and that stayed constant when I started writing worship music. Once I tore down the other walls, the music just flowed out.
The worship music genre has absolutely shaped my writing style. But, I have resolved to bend the rules of worship songwriting to fit my writing process and my vocal genre. I want to write music that is meaningful to me, regardless of how catchy and singable it may be.
You have two boys at home. How are you currently balancing family life and music ministry?
This has probably been my greatest challenge. Not only do I have two boys, I was newly pregnant with one of them when I took the first step in the process of becoming a recording artist. All of the struggles of a newborn baby were combined with trying to achieve a dream, and be more than just mom. That was incredibly difficult. My youngest is 20 months now. And, we've got a good routine going.
I'm a stay-at-home mom, so I spend time with my kids all day, every day. And, I spend time with my husband at night after they go to bed, as well as on weekends. I take time out of every day to practice and write music (some days are harder than others with small kids interrupting, but I make it a point to keep music a daily habit).
It's good for my children to know that Mom is her own person, with her own dreams and desires. And, that a good work ethic is integral to success. Having kids doesn't mean you can't have dreams.
I also have an amazing network of close family who love to spend time with my kiddos, so I can spend time in the music studio. I logged several studio hours for the new album after my kids went to sleep as well. Another asset in balancing family and music has been working with a producer who has been incredibly flexible with my needs and abilities. I have had a crazy window of availability over the past year. And, he has been so gracious to work with my schedule.
Sundays are generally my worship-leading day. So, my husband classic watches the kids while I sing (I usually try to give him a nap Sunday afternoon). We have to be very intentional with our family time because of the nature of my music ministry (and the fact that tiny children go to bed really early).
And, I'm sure it's obvious, but if I didn't have the full support of my husband, none of this would've happened. He has been so supportive from day one of this journey. It has given me confidence and peace of mind when I'm doing my thing.
You generally don't see moms of young kids chasing their dreams, because of how difficult it is. I often ask God why he chose for me to do this right now. And, I think the answer is simple. God's timing was perfect, because I have a family who depends on me to be present. This makes losing my identity in Christ to an identity as a musician much harder.
My family has kept me grounded. That, and there is no way I could've accomplished an album by myself, given the nature of my home life at the time. God gave me energy, inspiration, and motivation, when I had absolutely no reason to have any of those things. Balance is hard, but God is sovereign and his will is being done, whether we're capable of doing it or not.
The new album is a culmination of 10 worship songs that I've written and arranged over the past four years. It's a sort of blending of contemporary worship and gospel music. I love the musical depth and soulful richness of the gospel genre. It's definitely where my voice lives. But, my upbringing is contemporary worship, so I wrote the album to marry the two genres.
I'm so happy with how the album came together. It's a spot-on representation of me, my experiences, and my music. Each song has a story behind it. And, each story came from an experience. My hope is that those listening can relate to my experiences and be led to worship through whatever stage of life they maybe in.
What are some of your favorite tracks from the new album?
I have so many favorites for so many different reasons. I really love "Anchor." It was the first song I wrote in the gospel genre. It came together so perfectly, not to mention the collaboration with the UNT Gospel Choir, Voices of Praise. That song was such a dream come true for me. My favorite chord progression is in that song. My favorite vocal run, my highest note, it's such a jam. Everyone who has heard the album ranks this song high.
"Unbelief" is high on my list. The song is so smooth and well rounded between the lyrics, the melody, and the musical tone. It might have my favorite vocals, start to finish. I just love it so much.
"I'll Sing" holds a place in my heart, as it's the first worship song I ever wrote. I wrote it after my first child was born, when I felt like I had nothing to offer God. The song has stood the test of time, since we all have felt empty before and worshipped anyway.
I just absolutely love the bridge in "I'll Sing." I wrote it to be a musical representation of God's attributes. The quiet half of the bridge praises God for His peace, grace, love, and mercy. And, the full, loud, belty half praises God for His strength, glory, and power. I love that God is all of those things. The music strives to express this sense of balance and complementarity.
I've got to put "Steadfast" high on the list, too. It was written so unconventionally for me anyway. I stretched myself vocally and lyrically. The vibe of the song was definitely a new one for me. I'm absolutely thrilled with the way it turned out; all the things that made me uncomfortable at first are now my favorite parts of the song. Go, give "Steadfast" a listen. For sure, it's such a jam with several unexpected turns throughout. It was so much fun to record, too.
Well, since the album just came out, we'll be spending much of this year promoting it, introducing it to churches, and shooting music videos for many of the tracks. I will be planning on performing at different churches and conferences throughout the year in support of it. I'll also be recording some Christmas tunes in the fall. These songs are set to release for the holiday season. I have another full-length album on my contract. And, believe it or not, I've already begun writing music for it. This album is set to release in 2022. We may release a few singles before then, as well.
How can we be praying for you?
I'm praying for my heart and mind through this process. That I would be continuously in pursuit of Jesus. And, that the focus of this ministry would be for Him and His glory, and not my own. For wisdom, as I navigate the process of growing as an artist. I can always use prayer in those areas. You can also be praying for growth, for my music, for my label, and for myself as a musician and as a follower of Christ.
Kevin McNeese started NRT in 2002 and has worked in the industry since 1999 in one form or another. He has been a fan of Christian music since 1991.
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