In a world where feeling encouraged isn't always easy and hope often feels strangely out of reach, sometimes there's no better daydream than seeking shelter far, far away from all of life's sorrows, superficiality and disappointments.
Of course, as positively idyllic as running away from all that ails us sounds, that only provides a temporary cover. And that's precisely what makes new EMI/Sparrow duo City Harbor such a welcome addition to today's musical landscape. Instead of writing songs that center around momentary relief and temporary things, Molly Reed and Robby Earle, get to the heart of the human struggle by pointing to the One who loves and accepts everyone with open arms, just as they are.
With a shared vision for making music that's honest, authentic and an invitation to experience God's goodness, it's no surprise that City Harbor's self-titled debut is equally evocative, deeply personal and approaches faith in a fresh way.
Before City Harbor became City Harbor, however, Molly and Robby, who for the record aren't married to each other, were pursuing their musical craft in various capacities. Since music and ministry have always been intertwined in Robby's life (his mother served as a choir director), it's not surprising that his earliest contributions were for his local church.
But like any creative type, Robby experimented with a variety of genres and found a comfortable niche as a singer/songwriter. And thanks to Robby's rich voice and inherent pop sensibilities, Molly says Robby, who stepped in after original member Josh Varnadore felt God's call to lead worship in Texas, "brings so much life" to City Harbor's songs.
As for Molly, she's been a go-to songwriter for many of Nashville's most beloved artists including Wynonna, Point of Grace, Mikeschair, as well as NBC's "The Voice" winner Danielle Bradbery, and Molly's musical hero Amy Grant. On Grant's recent chart-topper How Mercy Looks From Here, Molly penned two tracks, "Here" and "Not Giving Up" and has also had her work featured in everything from TV's "One Tree Hill" to "Vampire Diaries."
With a big love of harmony, songs with more than one vocalist and genres as varied as those found on the average music lover's iPod, it quickly made sense that God wouid allow Molly and Robby's career paths to intertwine.
Eventually landing on the moniker "City Harbor" because those words individually represented what they hoped their music would be for their
listeners, a shelter from the storm, Molly says the group was also inspired by Jesus's comforting words in Matthew 11:28--"Come to Me all who are weary, and I will give you rest."
No doubt, that's a tall order for any artist, but that warmth and relatability is just one of the hallmarks of City Harbor's debut. By trusting their instincts and basically walking into the studio with a blank canvas, Molly and Robby have been genuinely happy about what's burst forth.
Produced by Ben Glover [Britt Nicole] and Matt Bronleewee [Jars of Clay, Chris Tomlin], the band's blend of organic pop is chock full of hooks and relatable reflections on living out our faith in an increasingly complex world.
"In the midst of so much darkness, it's so incredible to sing about what's good and true," Robby shares. "We all have this need, this insatiable longing for something more. Sometimes we're painfully aware of it. Sometimes we tell ourselves it's not there. But I think either way, we try desperately to fill it with whatever we can. That may look like filling up our schedule so we never have to slow down, watching hours of TV so we don't have to think, looking for comfort from food or friends or a spouse. In any case, these efforts are doomed to failure because none of those things are Jesus, who is the only solution, the only good and perfect solution. He offers us the peace and comfort we so desperately crave. He invites us to lay down whatever burdens we've picked up and to follow Him. We don't have to get ourselves together, and we don't have to be good enough or smart enough or clean enough to follow Him. He meets us right where we are and freely offers us the life we're all longing for."
With the album's new single "Come However You Are," City Harbor even seeks to redefine the current definitition of a "come to Jesus meeting."
"In our culture when someone says we need to have a 'come to Jesus meeting,' you expect to be reamed out. When you're embarrassed, humilated, and everything's at its worst, the impulse is to hide," Molly shares. "It's funny because a 'come to Jesus meeting' today is actually the opposite of what it really is. God wants us to come to Him, not hide, so you can have an authentic come-to-Jesus moment. Our single came out of that place. Rather than hide in shame, Jesus invites us to find our rest in Him, no matter where you are, no matter what you look like."
Another standout track, "I Still Believe" is another particularly confessional moment. Written during a season when she struggled with depression, the song was a moment of personal catharis that Molly hopes will resonate with anyone with the same questions she had.
"I remember getting out my guitar, and when I started playing, I told God 'I'm in pain right now. I don't understand why things are looking the way they are, where my life is headed'" Molly shares. "But what I did know is that He is faithful, He's still here, and that He was going to be with me through everything."
Further underscoring the message of God's faithfulness is "Lift It Up," a buoyant reminder about the beauty of surrender. "When we bring Him all we have, our worries, uncertainties and fears, He takes care of it," Molly says. "There's beauty in knowing you never have to fight the battle alone."
Offering hope to a world where sorrow, hurt, pain and suffering color so many people's stories, City Harbor can't help writing about their faith and sharing God's goodness because that's the lens they see the world through.
"This is an exciting season for City Harbor, and we're excited to share the core of who we are by encouraging people to go to Jesus in whatever shape they're in," Molly says. "Come to God and receive His peace, love, grace and rest. That's the heartbeat of our message, a resounding reminder that God is always there."