#295 - "Free" by Dara Maclean
What does Dara have to say with her second single? NRT's Kevin Davis finds out.

Musical depth and Christian joy have rarely come together as compellingly as they do in the music of Dara Maclean. Hers is a joyful mix of pop idioms and eternal truths, danceable beats and the good news.

"I love making music you can move and groove to," she says, "but at the same time, as Christian artists we have a responsibility to speak the truth in love." A singer of incredible grace, power and control as well as a gifted songwriter, she has put together with Dove Award-winning producer Ian Eskelin a debut album that is as fresh and vibrant as any in recent years. Entitled You Got My Attention, the project combines the soul and urban pop influences that infuse her musical approach with elevating vocals in service to intelligently uplifting lyrics.

“Free” is the follow-up single to her Top 20 hit debut single “Suitcases.” I had the great opportunity to interview Dara at WinterJam when it came to Reading, Penn. There she shared about “Free”—a song that continues Dara’s transparent and sincerely grateful songwriting, as it celebrates the freedom we have in Christ.

Please share the personal message behind writing the song “Free.”

“Free” in its original form was actually a ballad. It’s interesting, because I was in a place in my life where I was really disappointed. I’ve felt like I knew what I was called to do from a very young age, and that’s been ministry. That’s what I’ve been running towards. Anything apart from that felt like a failure.

So many times, I’d be in my living room and I’d just be crying. My dad would tell me that God has a plan for me in my life. Accompanying all of that, I had just gotten out of a bad relationship when I wrote this song. I think everyone can attest to the pain we have in areas of the heart. I was praying to God, saying I’m not where You want me to be, and I’m not with who You want me to be with. I was sitting in my room, playing guitar and singing to the Lord.

I looked in the Word and I see an abundant life. I knew I wasn’t walking in that abundant life in every area. The song is my asking God to show me how to access that abundant life and to show me how to be free. This line came out, “Hurting heart and broken wings, cannot stop Your love from always finding me,” and I don’t even know how the rest of the song happened. It was one of those Jesus moments. At the end of the song, it was a revelation that I needed desperately and it set me free.

On a daily basis, I’ve been discovering that instead of being this perfect little church girl who has this perfect career and everything in order and applying to everyday life now--about record sales and writing hit songs--I’ve been set free from the pressure of those things. I already am free, and I need to awaken to the freedom I have in Christ daily.

Please tell me about the Bible verses you used in writing the song. Any life verse?

My life verse is Ephesians 3:20-21: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

What's the take-away message for listeners, in particular the lyrics, “You whisper words that free my soul, You’re the reason I have hope?”

It’s interesting that you point out that line in the song. My dad always told me you can learn by being led or learn by experience. God our Father is always there ready to take our hand and telling us we can choose life or death, but to please choose life. God’s telling us He has a plan for our lives and we need to trust Him. He’s already gone ahead of us. We need to take time to allow Him to cultivate our heart, and that’s the daily process I’m in currently.

I’m walking with God and asking Him to cultivate my heart to a new degree. “We love Him because He first loved us.” When we understand that His Love is limitless and available and we draw on that daily, that’s where the fullness of satisfaction comes from. I’ve lived life on empty and I’ve lived life overflowing, and God does not lack in that area. I’m not talking about feelings. Your feelings can be out to lunch but you can have peace that passes understanding. I’m discovering how to live a life that’s overflowing. I need to trust Him and know that He has a plan for my life and He’s gone before me. My life verse is the connection to this song just like with “Suitcases.” This is the good life; if God is for us, nothing can stand against us. Trusting that sustains us through our highs and lows.

Hurting heart and broken wings
Cannot stop Your love from always finding me
No more days wasting away
I finally realize the gift inside of me

My strength alone will never be enough
But Your arms keep lifting me up

You tell me I've been made free
You give me everything I need to walk in my dreams
You whisper words that free my soul
You're the reason I have hope
You're everything I need and more
You made me
You made me free

I was caged in, then You opened
Every door that held me bound and You gave me the key
No more pressure I can just breathe
The girl I tried so hard to be, has always been me

My strength alone will never be enough
But Your arms keep lifting me up

You tell me I've been made free
You give me everything I need to walk in my dreams
You whisper words that free my soul
You're the reason I have hope
You're everything I need and more

Now I'm free to love, free to live,
Free to take my life and give it all to You

You tell me I've been made free
You give me everything I need to walk in my dreams
You whisper words that free my soul
You're the reason I have hope
You're everything I need and more
You made me
You made me free
You made me
You made me free

Asbury’s Bible commentary on Ephesians 3:20-21: “What does Paul ask of God for these believers? There are two requests. First, he asks God to strengthen them with the power of the Spirit. Paul hopes that as the reality of spiritual power grips them, their resolve to maintain faith in Christ will grow, for they will realize that Christ is all they need for salvation. Second, he prays that they will be empowered to grasp the extent of that love by which they have been saved and made secure. If they can personally approve or acknowledge the love that they cannot comprehend, if they can experience the fullness of Christ's love for them, they will be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Divine power is at work in God's people to bring them to divine fullness. Thus God is glorified in the community of redeemed persons in whom the Spirit is at work.”

I absolutely love this song and this album, which is flawless in my opinion and is one of my top 3 albums of 2011. God can do immeasurably more than anything and everything one can ask or even imagine and this song is a true celebration of the great biblical truth of “Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20). Dara clearly is a grateful believer who is unashamed of her salvation. Many of her songs are invitations into Dara's prayer life. If you don't know how to word your prayers of thankfulness for what Jesus has done for you, just sing along with her incredible songs of faith.

In addition to the awesome dance-floor tempo and hooky production of “Free”--which reminds me of “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield both in music and message--pay close attention to the profound lyrics in this song. God is speaking to us in His still, small voice as Dara proclaims in the song, and as believers we need to take time to “be still and know that He is God.” Are you allowing The Holy Spirit to work in your life? Are you spending time listening to Him? He’ll make you free, and God wants to hear from you.

Dara displays the strongest vocals I've heard in years, and her Brit-pop sounding vocals are similar to Grammy Award winning artist Adele wrapped around Motown-style soulful music. Dara Maclean is the best new artist I've heard in CCM since Francesca Battistelli. For sure you’ll be hearing her name and her songs. Dara is my surefire choice for best new artist, female vocalist and pop/contemporary album of the year. Don't hesitate to buy her debut album or catch her set on WinterJam 2012. (Read my full review of WinterJam here.) 

NRT Lead Contributor Kevin Davis is a longtime fan of Christian music, an avid music collector and credits the message of Christian music for leading him to Christ. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters.

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