New artist Paige Armstrong woke up to something completely unexpected at age ten. A nagging pain she had been feeling below her right knee was diagnosed as bone cancer. Then came a touch and go journey through chemotherapy, surgeries, and months in the hospital that would shake any adult, let alone a little girl who just wanted to act and sing. But almost a decade later, this resilient nineteen-year-old is here to tell a survivor’s story with a happy ending—and how it fueled an eye-opening, don’t-waste-your-life mission that is really only beginning on her remarkable debut rock album, Wake Up.
“Everything turned upside down,” Paige says, remembering what it felt like to receive the alarming medical report. “It was a total shock. The hospital became my home; I lost my hair and was in a wheelchair for most of a year. Suddenly everything I’d known before seemed like a distant fantasy.”
Until then, Paige was best known for being a dynamic, outgoing kid. Born in Florida, she grew up in Pennsylvania with loving parents and four elder siblings. At four years old she was already active in local theater productions around Philadelphia and was soon visiting New York to appear in television commercials. Although the cancer threatened every aspiration, Armstrong looks back now with the faith of a child and wisdom of a woman.
“It’s very important to who I am; not something to push away,” she says. “It showed me my purpose and gave me a reason to live. I’ll always be thankful for that story.”
In many ways, Paige’s struggle can be seen as a touchstone on the path to Wake Up and the anti-apathy message it so convincingly aims at younger listeners. Even while ill, she took steps toward growing her creative abilities, embracing like never before the gift of each new day.
During her toughest stretch, Paige was invited to submit a request to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and excitedly asked to record a real album in Nashville. It wasn’t a common appeal, but by the time she was thirteen and well on the road to recovery, the organization was making her dream come true.
“It was amazing,” she recalls. “They hooked me up with top notch studio musicians and backup singers. I recorded two Twila Paris songs (“The Warrior Is a Child” and “Lamb of God”), and it started this domino effect of opportunities for me to perform at corporate events where Make-A-Wish was supported—to tell my story and share my faith. It was an unexpected ministry.”
Paige certainly didn’t expect what came next. In 2005, the Bath & Body Works retail chain partnered with Make-A-Wish on a fundraising holiday album featuring seasonal hits from top performers including Alicia Keys, Sarah McLachlan, and Stevie Wonder. To highlight the charity, they asked Armstrong to record several Christmas tunes that would be included as a bonus disc. In turn, she was also asked to promote the project on NBC’s Today show and the nationally syndicated Extra program, the latter declaring that Paige “has the star quality of Hilary Duff (and) is a bright star all her own.”
By that point, the desire to continue making music led the Armstrong family to move to Nashville when Paige was seventeen. Weeks after arriving, an invitation to speak on behalf of Make-A-Wish at a local Christian music conference brought her to the attention of industry veteran Robert Beeson (Jars of Clay, Third Day). He invited Paige to speak at the iShine concert events his company produces for tweens and host the iShine Knect program on Trinity Broadcasting Network.
“Working with iShine has really given me the chance to develop the message God is putting on my heart: to use the life He gives us,” she says. “Now it’s time to bring it to people my same age. I’ve heard so many teenagers who say they are bored—who go out partying because there’s nothing better to do. That overwhelms, even angers me. I’m not pointing fingers, but I’m here to say there’s so much more to life. You have an amazing purpose, and I want to see you live it out.”
In other words . . . Wake Up. Hearing Paige Armstrong’s album for the first time is sure to jolt anyone with preconceived notions about what teenage girl music should sound like. For, in fact, the record, co-produced by Chris Omartian, throbs with the same intensity of acts like Flyleaf, Paramore, and Skillet—a style that perfectly matches the urgency of her message and its dramatic origins.
“Wake Up is supposed to rev people,” she says with passion in her voice. “Every song is bold, in-your-face in a good way.”
The title track and first single (co-written with Plumb’s Tiffany Lee) brings metal back with a grunge-pop coolness as Paige laments someone who has been crazy-busy doing nothing with my life. Likewise, the radio-friendly “Apathy” rails against the idea of just getting by, wondering what might happen if we gave everything to changing lives. Further in, groove-spiraling cuts like “Episode” and “Airbrushed Magazines” attack the shallow end of modern culture where money and looks trump heart and soul.
Most powerfully, all emotions and actions come together on “The Story Song,” a rocking biographical eruption about how Paige fought the battle for life, and it inspired me to live. No one’s spared to just keep silent. No one’s saved to just keep still. So, what’s your story, and will you live it out?
“We all have a story,” she says. “It may be your parents’ divorce, self-image issues, or whatever. We all have something that is like what cancer was for me. In the hospital, I saw people fighting daily for their lives and some healthy people who were just blowing their days away, because they didn’t realize how precious life is. I always told myself that if I got better, I would not be apathetic about this life.”
she would not do that... i hope!| Posted May 17, 2010
gross. that can't be true. my mom says bad things about teen girls who date adults. what does sack chaser mean?
i like paige's songs. they sound the same as most popular christian songs. i think she lipsyncs at her concert though. it is great that make a wish lets kids make cds when they are sick and i am glad paige is feeling good now.
i hope what danmichaels said is wrong, cuz that would not be a good christian example to kids for how to become famous.
Give me a break| Posted May 14, 2010
Honestly, I think there are plenty of other christian bands that blow this kid away. I am thankful that God saved her from cancer, adn that the kid has a passion to share him with her friends. I think it's a far stretch to say that she's among the ranks with Paramore, etc. give me break! This kid is a TWEEN who is searchign for fame at any grasp. Additionlly, I read online that shes dating her prodcuer (16 years her senior) - which as a 19 yr old artist I find quite disguisting. Is she in this for fame, or ministry? Dating the prodcuer who created the entire song formula and sound of this album is a cry for success to me. I give this artist two thumbs down! I think you shoudl focus your review time on other talented artists like Barlowe Girl, and Superchick. Please, no bubble game tween that just wantts 5 seconds of fame.