Recently, NRT had the chance to chat with three-time Dove Award winner, Ginny Owens
, about her new album, Get In I’m Driving
Among other things, we talked about why Owens, who lost her eyesight at the age of three, is suddenly singing about “driving,” what she’s been up to for the past five years, and what it's like to be with a label again, after doing a stint as an independent artist.
Hi Ginny, and welcome to NewReleaseTuesday.com. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today.
Well thank you for chatting with me.
You’ve got a new album dropping on September 13th, right?
I do. I can’t wait.
Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write the title song, “Get In I’m Driving”?
We were in the recording process, and a couple of friends of mine, who really knew what my heart was with the new songs and the direction I wanted to head in, had the idea for the title. I thought that was just awesome, not only because I love driving jokes, but also because this was my first time really to drive the music and to drive the project. On the other hand, this was still yet another example of just me feeling like God was driving really everything. You see, writing songs and all those other things that I get to do everyday are just, to me, part of that bigger adventure that He’s driving.
It was when they suggested that as a title, and as I kind of played around with that idea, that I wrote the song as an afterthought. The whole CD, though, is very much about me going through some changes. It’s about leaving something that was more comfortable and safe and peaceful feeling—something that was maybe more predictable and more of what people wanted me to be, and then sort of diving out in faith into being who I wanted to be, especially as an artist. So, there are a lot of songs about life, about transition, and about moving from one thing to the other. That’s kind of the story in a nutshell.
I noticed this album has a heavier R&B, jazz vibe, which I love. Are you more comfortable in that genre?
Oh, yeah. I grew up on a diet of gospel and R&B. That was pretty much it. I’ve had a few pop/country phases, but not many. And we’ve always included some jazz/R&B on my records, but it’s always been sort of buried somewhere. We would always bury those songs deep in because everybody just thinks this will scare radio or whatever.
Definitely, if I could do more soulful stuff and be believable and people actually liked it, then I probably would do a lot more of it. For me, it feels very natural. It feels like the next step. A lot of people will think I went and changed styles, but I didn’t. The R&B thing has always been there, but I understand that if you don’t live in my head and in my life, then you wouldn’t know that.
It’s been five years since your last major studio release, and the songs on this album seem more deeply personal. What life events drove your writing process on this album?
Well, when I finished my deal at Rocketown, I kind of thought maybe it would be my last record deal. I thought, This was fun. I did it for eight, nine years; time to do something else. So I recorded an independent Christmas project and then I took a break from music. I stepped away.
I was feeling a little bit suffocated in Nashville, so I moved to New York City and studied fiction writing at Columbia University during the summer. I was still doing concerts on the weekends, but I really just wanted that anonymity, and I wanted a change.
I loved it in New York. I made a lot of friends and it’s just a neat, neat place in so many respects. There are so many aspects of New York that I really love, including the fact that I could be very independent. I could go anywhere and do anything that I needed to do without help from anybody, which was fun.
So, I was looking at moving to New York for good, and then my mom was diagnosed with breast and lymph node cancer. So, I moved back home to take care of her and was there for about eight months. Then, at the end of that time, I moved back to Nashville and started working on the new record.
Five years have actually gone by pretty quickly. The new record has taken about two years to make, so it took a little longer than usual. But just the whole going through my mom’s cancer and going through living in another city—actually two different cities—New York to Jackson, Mississippi—was a bit of a culture shock. There was a lot that happened and a lot that inspired my songwriting.
Do you think you would ever write a fiction book, or did you study fiction writing just to stretch your creativity?
I did it because I thought it was one of my weakest skills. I’m not a fiction writer. I used to write stories when I was young and much more inhibited, but now it’s really hard to do. I don't know. I don’t think I’m good enough to ever write a fictional book. I might write a book, but it would probably be more autobiographical because my fiction writing just leaves a lot to be desired. But you never know. Maybe I’ll have an amazing idea one day, although it’s not likely.
Do you have a favorite song on the new album?
I love the title track, “Get In I’m Driving”. It’s probably one of my favorites, but there aren’t any songs that I don’t like. I think when you spend so much time pouring your heart and soul into the songs, you really love them all because you believe in them so much.
Of course. Well I think, so far, my favorite song on the album is “Daughter of Destiny.” I like it because it speaks about being confident and powerful in light of who we are in Christ. I think that this is a message that a lot of Christian women, including me, need to hear over and over again, because a lot of us struggle with under-confidence.
In a sense, the song is a reminder to all of us that God sees you and dreams for you much bigger than you dream for yourself. I do think that we forget, and I think the world just tears apart our confidence. Whether it’s self-image or body image, there are so many things in this world that tear at our hearts and make us doubt our abilities and our strengths. That’s definitely what the song is about.
I love that. I think that the song “Mystery of Grace” also ties into that same thought process. Do you agree?
Yes. When I think about grace, I think one of the things that’s so odd about it is the more that you are broken by it, the more that you’re aware of your brokenness and your darkness, the more you need grace. It’s almost like the more you embrace it, the more it reveals the darker parts of your heart.
To me, this song was about essentially what it is like to love somebody or to give them the grace that God gives us. Maybe it’s even God singing it to us. Maybe it’s us singing it to each other. It could be all of those things because not only do we receive grace, but we are also the physical givers of grace on this Earth. We’re here to love each other and give each other that grace and dream for each other.
A lot of times you write lyrics that describe looking at or seeing things, physically. For example, in "The Song," you write, Life's a never changing landscape / With hues of brown and gold and green / But every morning I awake / To the same dull desert scene. The imagery is such that I feel you’re describing actual sight. How do you write the vivid, descriptive lyrics you do when you don’t physically see?
I don't know. That’s a good question that I wish I had an answer to. I think it’s partly because I live in a sighted world. You just learn how to think or talk visually, even if you can’t see. Maybe that’s it, because when I wrote that lyric--and I labored over it for quite a while--there was an image that I wanted to communicate, and it was almost like I needed to use sighted people language, because that was the only way to communicate that image, that feeling. I knew it had to be a visual feeling. So I think I just sort of learn from listening and interacting with people--what they see, what moves them--and then I sort of write accordingly, I guess. It’s almost like if you spoke English and Spanish, or you were around people that spoke both languages, you’d probably learn to speak both languages as well.
So, do you have anything else that you’d like to tell us about the new project?
I feel like it took me two years to work on this project because I think that God was saying, “I’m going to teach you all about patience, and you’re going to learn.” I’m probably one of the few people who don’t pray for patience because I know I don’t want to learn. But one of the producers that I worked with on the project said, “You’ve got to get it right. You’ve got to get it absolutely right; the way that you feel like it needs to sound; don’t give up until you get to that absolute right point.” I think I really heard that and almost was given no choice but to follow through. So, the record has been carefully crafted and created and I just hope everybody likes it as much as I do.
I love it. I loved all of your past projects too, but I think that this is your best work to date.
You are my new best friend.
So are you glad to be out of the independent thing and to be back with a label again?
Well, ask me again in a few months. So far it’s just been as insane as I remember, and I’m starting to think, Why did I get into this again? But it’s fun. It’s just a different kind of thing. It’s a different kind of stress. When you’re independent, there’s the stress of having to do it all on your own, and when you’re not independent, there’s the stress of having to deal with a rat race, and I don’t really know which one’s worse. I haven’t decided yet. The fun part about being back with a label is to have a team around me again that helps with some things. I’m honored that there are people that like the record and that I have that support, but it is a rat race, and I was not ready for the stress again. I guess I thought that it would be easier this time, but now I’m thinking, Oh, no. I was not prepared for this. But it’s still a good thing. Sometimes it’s easier when you drive things and you do it all yourself, but it’s not always practical. It’s nice not to have to do it all on my own now. And it’s a lot less lonely to know I’ve got help fighting. I’m not doing it all by myself.
Thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk with us today, Ginny.
Thank you! Thank you so much for all of your kind words.