The first song I ever heard from Vaughn Owens was her hit single "You'll Do It Again," and I knew that she was sure to be one of the next big things in Christian music. She's a talented independent artist, and her songs are meaningful and inspirational.
In January she released her latest single "In The Middle," and I got to catch up with her to talk about that song, and what it's like being an independent artist.
You're pretty new to the Christian music scene! How did you get started?
I grew up in a military family, and we moved around a ton. Then we decided to settle in Gadsden, Alabama. I always knew that I wanted to pursue music, and I feel like I started as a songwriter before I was ever a vocalist. For the longest time, I was a terrible vocalist. I don't know what switch flipped it, but it was Jesus.
I was a songwriter for a long time, and then when I got into college, I put it in my head that I wanted to do music. As soon as I was done with college, I moved back to my hometown in Gadsden, and my husband and I became youth pastors at Legacy Church here. I'm also the worship leader, and I've been doing all of my music from there.
You're an independent artist, which isn't always easy. What are some of the pros and cons you've found of being an indie artist?
I found some pros when I was working on my first EP. When I released my first EP, there were no rules. There are no rules for what your music should be like, or what someone might think about it. You just lay it all out there.
Some of the struggles I found are talked about a ton in the first few songs that I released. Whether that's about insecurity and not feeling like I'm enough, or not knowing if I'm on the right path that God wants me on. It's about all of those struggles and the ways that God has seen me through all of that. I felt like I was free to let that out. Of course, it's scary at the same time, because I didn't have a lot of eyes on my music at the time. I didn't have a lot of people checking on my stuff, and I wasn't working with a ton of people. When I put my music out for people to hear, it's almost like releasing your diary that no one has read. It's like, "Should I let the public read this?" So that's kind of scary, but it's been great at the same time.
You just released a brand new song called "In The Middle." What's the story behind that song?
That song, in my opinion, is one of the most fun songs that I've released. It's upbeat and makes you want to dance. The song started when my friend and I were writing some verses that were like stories. They were examples of people being in the middle of their struggles. Everyone has their struggles and their brokenness. But God finds us right in the middle of those things. I feel like if I waited until my life was absolutely perfect and put together, I would never be able to turn to Jesus. Because we have to turn to Jesus right where we are.
There's no time to waste trying to clean everything up. He says that we don't have to have everything put together. Our mess is the point of Jesus. He came to the earth to take all that stuff away, and to make us new again. It's about Him finding us right in the middle. If you're down a path that you don't want to be, and if you're feeling a way that you don't want to feel, let Him meet you right where you are. Let Him show you grace.
The music video for "In The Middle" is so fun! What was it like filming that?
Filming that entire thing was so interesting. I wanted to do a music video with me in a grocery store because the cover was me with a handful of groceries at the grocery store. I feel like the grocery store is as "in the middle" as it can get, especially for moms. I get stressed out as it is being in the grocery store when I'm just trying to find lime juice, and I don't even have kids to take care of!
When we were taking the picture for the cover art, I asked permission to be in that grocery store. It's called Johnson's Grocery in East Gadsden. My dad knows the store manager, so I asked him if he could make sure it's okay if I took a picture there. I didn't even realize that I told him the wrong location. There are two Johnson's Grocery stores, and I went to the wrong one. So I was doing this photo shoot in the grocery store, and I'm telling you, the cashiers and everyone are giving me looks like, "What are you doing? Who do you think you are?" So that was funny because I wasn't in the right place at all for that.
But since I did the cover there, I knew I wanted to film the music video there, with me dancing in a grocery store. It was so fun and hilarious. Then we had the idea of having the whole video be a montage of people dancing. We wanted to do that to express the joy of the song, and the freedom that comes from Jesus finding us right in the middle. I asked a ton of friends, family members, and listeners to send me their videos of them dancing to "In The Middle." Their videos were fabulous, and I used all of them. It was so cool to see that come together, especially since my community was involved in it. I think a lot of the people in my city recognized the people that were in it, which is fun.
What encouragement would you give to other new artists wanting to do what you're doing?
When you start out, your audience is going to be super small. And that's just what it is. But like in the song "Audience of One" by Big Daddy Weave, if you can do what you're doing for God, it's enough. Just to do it for the Lord. When you're faithful with a little help, He'll allow you to be faithful with a lot. With my first EP, it was harder than people would think to get one song to hit 1,000 streams on Spotify, especially being an independent artist.
But what I think of is, whether the song is at like at ten or 100 streams, that's not small when I think of ten people in a room. If ten people are in the room, that's a blessing. If 100 people are in the room, that's insane. Know that the impact matters, even if it's just for one person. I know that from experience from being in music, and being a youth pastor. Our youth group started with three students, and I felt just as used by God with three as I do with twelve or more. If you can be faithful and don't let any numbers affect you, you can push forward to do the things that will help you grow. The numbers are the hardest thing, but big or small they matter just the same. When we get that, we can become healthy in our mental space.
The things that will help you grow are hard. Like being consistent with social media is hard. It probably shouldn't be this way, but artists overthink social media a lot. I know I overthink it a lot. But being intentional in those areas will come when you're satisfied with where you are currently. When you can be joyful in your present, then you can be expectant and driven for your future.
What's next for you?
Right now I'm on a fresh slate. The last four songs that I've released as singles are songs that I had written, produced, and had in the pocket ready to go. So now it's back to writing, which I'm super stoked about. I'm working on some new content, and I'm going to be doing some cover songs, and all that fun stuff. I'm working on all the little things that you do as you're getting ready to release new music. The songs that are coming out next are completely unwritten, so we have to get back in the writing room.
Finally, how can we be praying for you and your ministry?
Pray that I can keep my focus on the reason for the songs. Pray for the people that I'm going to reach, and that I wouldn't ever become so focused on myself that the music isn't for everyone. I just want it to be used by God in great ways, big or small.
Grace Chaves has been a fan of all things Christian music since 2016. She is one of NRT's youngest writers. Homeschooled, Grace is an author, loves Jesus, concerts, and road-trips.
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