British-American sister duo, The Sonflowerz
, began in 1999 when Elissa Leander began writing original worship songs at the age of 14. Encouraged by her youth pastor to form a band with her sister, Becca, they began performing at various venues across Colorado. The act’s first album, You Remain
, was released in 2002. Their sophomore effort, Alive in You
, was released a few years later.
While attending the 33rd GMA Music in the Rockies, Elissa and Becca won first place in two categories of the competition in Estes Park, Colorado. Soon after, they began writing songs for their 3rd album, produced by Don Koch, titled All Over The World
The Sonflowerz have shared the stage with artists such as Third Day, Needtobreathe, Sanctus Real, Sara Groves and their good friends, the sisters of BarlowGirl. Now, they are ready to continue to push their ministry forward with the release of their fourth album, By Faith
NewReleaseTuesday.com’s Cate Morris recently caught up with The Sonflowerz to find out about their latest album
, released September 13, 2011. Prepare to be encouraged by the music and message of this “sister team” of Elissa Tipps and Rebecca (Becca) Nicholson.
We are excited about your new album that just came out called By Faith. Tell us some of the inspirations behind the songs and the theme of the album itself.
Elissa: I remember coming to Becca and saying “I really feel a new album is stirring in my heart.” I had been writing since our previous album All Over the World, and so we pulled together all the new songs and the theme of “being an overcomer” just rose up from them all. So, when I listen to the CD now that it is complete, it’s really doing something in my heart. Even now, listening back to the songs I have written, I hear the truth that God gave me to speak through these songs. It gives me the courage to say “Yes” to God even in the things that He asks me to do daily as I live for Him.
Becca: Several songs on By Faith really express our hearts for young women. We have a song on album called “Made to Shine.” We wrote it about a girl who came to one of our concerts and had been through a lot of bullying and rejection at school. Even though we didn’t get to meet her, we heard about her story and we wanted to write a song for her, and really for anyone who needs to know they were made to shine for God’s glory and to know their value in Christ.
A few of the songs just talk to girls specifically, and when we have opportunities to play for girls’ events we really love to share our heart and encourage them. So when people hear the record, they will hear a couple songs that really speak to some issues that girls face.
Elissa: There’s a line in the chorus of the song “You Were Made to Shine” that says: More than the stars in the night sky, you were made to shine. I think about what must have gone on with this girl at school. She was encountering darkness when people were calling her names and treating her so badly, and she kind of let that darkness overtake her to a point where she even started hating herself. When I heard this it broke my heart. I was thinking, “This girl is made in the image of God. If she is a believer she has the Light of the World inside of her, and she can take over the darkness." But instead, she was letting the darkness take over her. So we are really encouraging girls to be bold and not let their light go out. Change the environment you are in; don’t let it change you.
We also put a song on our album that was really cool to write called “The Face of Jesus.” We wrote this one about our trip to El Salvador with Compassion International. It really stands out to me on the record because it is a very deep song about the incredible experience we had there. The song took a couple of years to write, and when I hear it, it almost brings back the whole trip for me and the impact it had on my heart. It is actually the last track of the album.
Between your Christmas album Beautiful Miracle and this latest album, By Faith, you both experienced a major life event. Tell us about that.
Becca: About a year and a half ago, both of us got engaged about two weeks apart. I to Bryan, and Elissa to Chad. God has really answered our prayers and brought us two awesome godly guys in our lives at around the same time. Before that, we had really been single all of our lives and had not really done the whole “dating scene”--mainly because we were just waiting for what God had for us. He really answered that prayer through two great guys.
Bryan is also in ministry, and so he knows what it’s like to be in ministry and can support that. That was another answer to my prayer. Bryan joins us and plays percussion for some of our venues.
Elissa: And Chad travels with us some too. He actually played all the electric guitar on our new album.
Becca: It was very obvious us to us, being engaged at the same time, that we should really just combine the wedding and have one double wedding. It was a lot of fun to plan and we enjoyed the whole process. That was one year ago on September 25, 2010.
Elissa: A lot of people ask us, “How did you do it? Was it one ceremony?”
Yes, it was one ceremony.
“Did you guys walk down the aisle together?”
No, we tried to keep it as elegant as possible without being cheesy.
My dad did have to go down the aisle two times, we had two flower girls—one before each one of us. Chad and I did our vows and then we stepped to the side and Becca and Bryan did their vows. We essentially shared bridesmaids because we have a lot of mutual friends who knew both of us and were there supporting both of us.
There was one mishap in the wedding. Because Becca did her vows second, the unity candle which was a quick burn candle had burned down to about an inch by the time they went to light theirs. Those made for some really funny pictures. It was a really good day!
Becca: Yes, it was a good day!
Does the song “By Faith” speak to you on a personal level about struggles you have come through or are still going through?
Elissa: Definitely. The song “By Faith” has become very real to me. Chad and I got married one year ago and that has been the biggest faith walk for me. Just about when the CD was completed with the recording process, we came into a time where we had some bills to pay, and there weren’t a whole lot of gigs scheduled that one month, and I remember just hearing the words of that song and thinking: “Right now is the time that I have to live what I’m singing about, and trust in God to supply our daily bread.” As newlyweds, it was a whole new journey [for me] and it’s been awesome to see God provide and come through even if it is at the last minute.
Becca: When we were almost done writing all the songs [for the album] we compiled a list we really felt that we wanted to be there and it felt like there was one song missing…the one that would sum up the whole record. That ended up being “By Faith” and we hadn’t written it yet. So Elissa sat down and the lyrics just kept coming to her. It was a natural song for the time we were in. We wanted to say something relevant, and we were also setting out to record and had to trust God not knowing how all the pieces would come together. So the song really came out of that and really glued all the other songs together. Once we had written that song it felt like the completion of the record. It is really the theme for our ministry right now as well as individually.
Becca: I was thinking about that song. It really is relevant to a lot of believers right now. Anyone who takes a step out of what they are used to, and trusts in God for that, is walking by faith. I love how it is so true of God that when we are walking by faith He always has grace for us. Even if we don’t’ make every step perfect or every decision perfect. His grace is there because He just loves when we show faith. God’s grace is there to walk with us and hold our hands along the way. We still need that because we are still children in God’s eyes and we still need Him to walk with us.
How do you refresh yourselves on the road when you are getting weary?
Becca: I personally try to find time for Bible reading. That seems basic, but there is something about where reading even familiar scriptures reminds me why I do what I do. There are days that are harder than others, or surprise things happen where we try to sort out what to do. Going a couple of days without spending time with God is just never a good thing on the road.
We usually figure out some time to do something outside like take a walk or go to a park. There is something very peaceful about being outside in God’s creation, and maybe that’s because we are from Colorado that we naturally love that, but we love to be outside as much as we can.
Elissa: Something that keeps us sane on the road is we will always stop and pray. Our mom usually comes with us on the road and prays with us and for us. We pray for each other, over our day and about things we are encountering. That invites the presence of the Lord, and invites Him to take over and be Lord over the day.
Becca: We have a really awesome supportive prayer team that we can even call up when we are on the road and they will pray for us. It means a lot to know that we have that. This reminds us too that this is ministry, not just a job. We really want to do something that makes an eternal impact. We have to recognize that sometimes there are things that come up that we need to pray about or respond to in a spiritual way.
For more information about the Sonflowerz, visit their website www.sonflowerz.com. Read their blogs, and stay updated on their tour dates and music, and buy their CD’s.