Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Interview with Christa Wells plus win a copy of the Image of God EP!

Recommending music to someone is a perilous task. There is so much preference when it comes to what we like, that we can be utterly baffled when someone does not love what we love. That said, time seems to sift out those songs that are objectively good. They stick around for more than a few years. I think time will prove the songs of Image of God by Christa Wells and Nicole Witt to be in this camp. 

Some of you will know Christa Wells from her remarkable Frame theClouds EP. Who can forget the lyrics and melody of a song like, “Weightless?”

Well, I’ve carried this a long time
In a well-hidden bundle on my back
But I’ve realized forgiveness is weightless
So I’ll leave my burden on the tracks

How happy I was when Christa and Nicolle released their new EP Image of God at the start of the year. The album is full of rich lyrical content so perfectly carried along by creative and layered melodies and I think Christa has taken the depth of meaning in her songs to a new level in this work. It has been getting so much airplay in my world that I asked Christa if I could interview her about the album she co-wrote with her good friend, Nicole Witt.  So, here are 7 questions for Christa.


The Interview:

Christa, thanks so much for joining us on the blog today and taking the time to answer our questions. I wanted to start by asking where the idea for the song Image of God came from?
Nicole Witt and I were co-hosting a retreat with Canadian writer Ann Voskamp focusing on what it means to live creatively, “In the Image of the Maker.”  We decided to write a song for those women and that weekend.  So the song “Image of God” was born in Nicole’s living room, with ideas emailed between us and Ann; we sent the song to the guests before the retreat, so they could learn it and sing it all together that weekend.  It was a beautiful thing, hearing those voices sing that song together for the first time.

Your thoughtful description and exposure of idolatry seems to indicate this is something you have lived through. What has the Lord used to show you your idols and how has He “left ashes in place of gold?”
That’s a huge question!    Nicole and I wrote the song together, but a portion of the lyrics had come to me years ago when God began showing me patterns of pride in my life. 
It didn’t look like pride to me at first glance – extreme performance anxiety (aka people-pleasing) is one example.  God used Andrew Murray’s book “Humility” to begin opening my eyes.  Another day, a fresh reading of Moses coming down the mountain to find God’s people worshiping a golden calf impacted me, because I saw that maybe what we most often erect in God’s place is simply Self, our own images, wants, agendas.  My insecurity and fear was rooted in pride, self-preservation and ego.  In essence, I was self-focused and didn’t want anyone to ever see my flaws – or even, see me as flawed.  This affected my ability to share music, my ability to be free and other-centered in relationships, and ultimately my experience of joy in Christ. 
He gave me eyes to see through reading, conversations, sermons, counseling.  The tearing down of those idols, repentance and renovation have been a long, slow process, and he’s used many situations, people, and circumstances.  He has allowed me to “fail” and then used those very moments to bless others more than the moments when I thought I was doing it all right. His beauty really shines through weakness.
Really, it will always be a temptation to resurrect the idols we are most drawn to.  But there is a great, big beautiful freedom and joy that has gradually come into my life because of His work in this area.

When was the “dawn of grace” in your life? How did the Lord save you?
When we talk about (as in the lyric) the “sweetest day my heart has known,” I don’t have a specific day to refer back to, because I don’t recall not understanding that I was loved and saved by God through Jesus Christ.  It seems like He was always there.  I remember asking to be baptized when I was seven, so I suppose that’s when I felt a fresh awareness of that relationship. 
But having said that, this song (which Nicole Witt and I wrote with Tony Wood) also points to the daily saving that He does – rescuing me from my persistent drive to try to earn His love, rather than receiving a Love I can’t possibly deserve. It goes back to the pride/idol conversation.  We want to think we’re worth it because we’re good enough. But we can’t keep the Law, and grace dawns on me every time my eyes return to the face of the One who did it for us.

What comes first for you, melody or lyric? Or are they born together? Or does one drive the other?
I typically write lyrics and music in tandem, although I need at least a solid scrap of lyric to kick off the whole process.  After the start, each line of lyric and melody affect the shaping of the next.

Where does songwriting fit into the life of a busy wife and mother?
I really want to be fully present when I’m with my family, and it’s a challenge once wheels start turning on a new song.  Or when opportunities to share or record come along.  Just making time to get to the piano is difficult, and comes and goes in seasons.  During some seasons, I carve out specific chunks of time into my routine, and my husband is awesome about that.  During other seasons, I fit it in in random pieces, slipping into the piano room on breaks from other activities.  God has been so very gracious to allow impactful music to come from a relatively small amount of writing.

If pressed, what is your favorite song out of all the ones you have written and released? Why?
Oh, that’s so hard!  I might have a special one from each project: “Garden Gate” from my first project (A Rogers/Wells Project: so much to tell you), “A Thousand Things” from Frame the Clouds, and “How Emptiness Sings” from the recent EP.
I’m a sucker for ballads and really find pleasure in singing them, but more than that I enjoy the phrasing, word choices, and melody lines in these certain songs.  I’ve never really tired of them.

How did you and Nicole Witt end up working together on the Image of God EP? Where did the idea for the album come from?
Well, Nicole and I work together on so much, it was natural after writing “Image of God” for us to write a few more and record them.  We do a lot of our performing together and are often asked to lead at least a few songs of worship.
Neither of us has really written for corporate worship before.  I really hadn’t felt the desire to do so before now.  We felt it was something we could do together with integrity.  It was very meaningful to both of us to pour simple music over these profound spiritual concepts and create something that we hoped would lead others to deeper reflection and prayer.

Well, sister, thank you for taking the time to let us into your world a little. It has been a joy!


The Contest:

Conclusion and CONTEST! (Win a copy of Image of God!)
And for those of you reading at home, you can download Image of God from iTunes or Christa’s online store. Or, you can try and win yourself a free copy of the CD!  Here is how it will work. Leave a comment here on my blog and on Friday I will pick the two I like best and, courtesy of Christa, send you a copy of Image of God. Tell me why you think I should send you a copy, or what you have loved about Christa’s music, or something original. I will announce the winners in another post.

You can also download two songs from Christa's album, How Emptiness Sings, from Noisetrade.


  1. I don't think I had ever heard of Christa Wells before you started talking about her, paul. But I listened and I really like it. THanks.

  2. I was at the retreat Christa mentioned in your post, and the song "Image of God" was truly powerful that weekend. I had never heard Christa or Nicole before the retreat, and I came away from that experience with a deep respect for their faith, their character, and their music. The song has continued to be meaningful as it inspires me and encourages me. I can't wait to hear the rest of the CD!

  3. I have not heard much of Christa Wells, but loved "Weightless" ... what a beautiful picture she painted of forgiveness. Would really enjoy a chance to hear her new EP. Thanks to both of you!

  4. As a church planter, I can't really afford to buy new music, or Thai food, or breakfast at Wally's. My family is reduced to hearing the sound of me singing, and really, they want it to stop. I know they would appreciate hearing Christa Wells instead of me.

  5. One of the things that I love sharing in my marriage is music. My wife plays piano and sings (her voice has many similarities to Christa's), I play guitar and add some harmony. We stumbled across Christa's music a little over two years ago and we have been hooked ever since. It feels as if she has captured our own experience of life, love and faith. Christa - when are you coming to Cape Town?

  6. Wow....I hadn't heard Christa before, but loved the few songs I was able to sample. Don't know if I can beat Darryl's sob story though to win this. Maybe if I quote some Calvin & Hobbes? That ought to put me in the top couple comments.

  7. My daughter Linda introduced me to the music of Christa Wells, and I listened and wept, because the words resonated in my soul. We come in pieces, we come in fragments, we come discoloured to the foot of the cross. Our Saviour sees us and shapes us for His perfect use. I love how Christa captures the grace and mercy of God. I listen to her music via a playlist on her website, but an actual cd that I could take with me would be much appreciated.

    Another one that sticks in my mind is "Set Free!" The let-my-people-go kind of set free! We are free to worship, free to serve, free to love our Beautiful God and to serve His people!

  8. Mainly I am submitting this comment for my wife because I feel like she would really appreciate some new music and it would be a great gift for her as she is having our second son on February 7th! Being a worship leader and musician myself I come across a LOT of music in my day to day. It is rare to find such raw emotion with solid theology and beautiful melody attached to beautiful music. I had heard about Christa from my friends Mike Passaro and Shelly Moore (Shelly Moore Band...one of the few aforementioned artists) and am excited to see what Christa and Nicole continue to produce.

  9. The opening track to Christa's "Frame the Clouds EP" – "You've Got A Home" – brings tears to my eyes time after time: "Here’s a key to my front door; I got a pillow if you lost yours; you got a seat at my table; you’ve got a home. Here’s somebody who believes you. Let truth remind you, you’ve always got a place to go to; you’ve got a home."

    What a lovely expression of Christian love to the destitute, which, at some point, at least spiritually, is each one of us. "Rain comes to all of us … there’s rhythm and rhyme inside the dissonance; we’ll listen for it side by side."

  10. Paul,
    I really like Christa Wells’ music. Don’t call it love, it’s more like profound appreciation. Her lyrics and tunes are the Best Thing outside of Christian hip-hop (remember, there is a Flame and a LaCrae).

    My friends have been telling me about Christa’s new EP Image of God. They’ve been like, it’s “Amazing” and it’s “All that you need!” And when I read your interview with Christa, it made me want it all the more.

    But alas, I can’t afford it. Life costs so much. I can think of a thousand things that are more pressing: food, clothes, shelter, and the daily economic struggles in our family that threaten to lay us low.

    So Paul, I Pray, won’t you Set Free that EP and make it Fly over to me?

    Btw, congratulations on your Challies-induced web traffic. You’ve got a name now and people are going to be saying “I want to know that man!” I am pleased to say that I already do!

    Dave Theobald

    1. Congratulations! You win CD #1, Dave!!!

    2. Whoo Hoo! Thanks Paul and Christa!

    3. Dave, WOW. :) This is awesome. Thanks for the smile!

  11. I'm afraid I don't have anything very original to say, but I did so enjoy reading this interview. I found Christa's humble responses to be refreshingly honest. Her struggle with idolatry is a universal problem and yet she wrote as if it was hers alone. I so appreciate how she doesn't lessen her own struggles by pointing out that they are struggles shared by so, so many. I find that to be a mark of rare maturity in a believer.

    I have not listened to much of Christa's music, though I have been blessed by what I have heard. The Image of God, however, intrigues me and makes me smile. See, I have named this year the Year of Creativity. My family and I have created a blog, called Imagination Nexus, to be a vehicle in which to share and nurture creativity amongst family and friends in 2012. We are doing this because we are creative as He is creative, as we are made in His image!

    So, I smile at this sacred echo. :)

  12. Daniella (dkpeterka7@yahoo.com)Wed Feb 01, 02:07:00 pm GMT-5

    I LOVE Christa's music, I'd never heard anything so HONEST and REAL before hearing her songs a few months ago. It's amazing her lyrics cut to the heart of self, and ring true for us all in one way or another, always pointing us to Christ. My favorite song (one of them anyways), is "best Thing"...."I am no best thing, but I don't have to be, 'cause your love is enough, it's enough, 'cause your love is the best thing"... it cuts me through every time and I am constantly in need of a reminder that I don't have to do it all, I don't have to get it all right, and that's the whole POINT because Jesus DID and Jesus DOES and Jesus IS. I'd so love a copy, any copy, any CD, of Christa's music so I can sing loud over dishes and dance in praise while I vacuum and "from choir lofts and KITCHENS where voices ring loud...." I might join in the PRAISE around the world to our Heavenly Father! (the praise of Psalm 148!!!)

    1. Congratulations! You win CD #2, Daniella!!

    2. Daniella (dkpeterka7@yahoo.com)Fri Feb 03, 04:26:00 pm GMT-5

      THANK YOU, thank you!!! I am so honored and blessed to receive a CD, I will have it in the CD player the moment it comes in the mail. God bless you all and thank you so much for your generosity!!!!

  13. I so enjoyed this... I had never heard Christa's music before, but have heard many good things about it. I watched a few of her music videos on YouTube and was so moved. There are so many ways in which God reveals himself to us, and music is so powerfully connecting. I am so excited to hear the "Image of God". Music is truly a blessing! And when filled with the raw emotion found in a life lived clinging to him it is transcendent. Living in this world we need things that remind us to find that quiet soul-space to soak in Grace.

  14. I love..love...love Christa...the Lord has been transforming me through Ann's writings...the combination of all that Ann holds and Christa together would be such wonderful food for my soul...would love to be able to worship this way...
    Blessings to you

  15. I would love to win some music. I too am often confused when others don't love the same songs I do. Because they mean so much to me, why don't they to others? I always try to put forth my best effort into liking each Christian song.

  16. I recently heard of Christa Wells from Ann Voskamp's blog. I love her voice and her raw, vulnerable lyrics. I liked the interview because I could relate to what she was saying with idolatry. It's something God is working on in me. Realizing my idols don't always come in the forms of a golden calf, but as quietly as my own self and pride. I have her "How Emptiness Sings" CD and love it. ("How Emptiness Sings" is my favorite song!)

  17. stopping by from A Holy Experience :). Beautiful.

  18. Also stopping by from A Holy Experience. I have never heard of Christa Wells either but I would love to win her CD. I am trying to make a habit to listen to more music as a way of worshipping and keeping my mind focused on Christ! Thanks for the chance to enter!

  19. I know a special someone I think would be set free listening to this CD. I would love the opportunity to give it to them...

  20. My husband graciously gave me his ipod for my birthday and I am trying to put music on there that I feel is safe for me turn my ipod over to my children and know it will be good for them to listen to. My husband had it loaded with country music, yet never really used it. So I am taking off the majority of those songs and trying to load it with music that my children know and then some new artists for them to listen to and get familiar with. Since what we listen to affects us in so many ways and the example we set it is important that I choose music that will inspire them and uplift them helping them grow in their relationship with their heavenly creator and heavenly father. It is what they listen to when they get up, when they are studying, when they are relaxing, when they are playing, when they lie down at night. Thank you for this opportunity to introduce them to another artist. Thank you.

  21. I have never heard of either these artist but the lyrics from Christa's first album caught my attention. I minister to nursing home residents and unfortunately I can't carry a tune or read music so I rely on godly artist to supply the worship music.
    I would love a copy to share with my nursing home residents they would be so bless by new music as we usually get music from clearance racks and they are not new releases.
    So please pick me.

  22. It is an unspeakable, humble moment when I realize God, the Spirit, was in this space with me this morning as I journalled of his unfailing love, provision for my needs, his intimacy with this one who wanders away daily, seduced by greed, apathy, idolatry, egotism, selfishness, deceit...away from godliness, away from the flock, away from the Shepherd. I MUST STOP! FOCUS! BE STILL AND KNOW. I receive affirmation, grace to read anothers' struggle with idolatry, priorities, humility, deceit, and pretense, thinking we can be perfect or deserving of THIS/HIS grace. PIECES, SHARDS, RUBBLE, litter my past. Today is already mostly my past. Again, another grace. He reveals his divine work in me, leading from this mountain top to an interview in Canada, connecting all his redeemed, to build each other up in HIM. A small CD player in my room, I worship and confess and groan and give thanks and celebrate, then intercede for those whose needs only God can provide. Ann, Nicole, Christa, A Holy Experience and I are united through a Holy, Triune God, to share this common thread of forgiveness and grace. Truth here...I do not have an iPod or know how to download music. I also don't know how to post this. I'll just have to check back if something is coming my way. Shout out to Bethlehem in MD, USA.

    1. Just before me, again I'm not ALONE. Another Anonymous! Bethlehem in MD, USA

  23. I just listened to the song,"A thousand things" and it moved my heart. YES, God is at work in a million layers-and layers upon layers in each beautiful moment of life as only He can work and weave!! We just celebrated a gift of 4 years since my husband had a serious car accident where he broke his neck. I had stood at the window as he left that morning and prayed over him. Hours later when we were in the emergency room I asked God "Why didn't You listen to my prayer this morning for safety?" He spoke swiftly and clearly to my heart, "Becky, the enemy intended to kill Allan this morning. But, I drew the line and set my angel at that corner of the highway and preserved his life." And His peace flooded my soul. He loves us and He is Faithful and True and His Word is truth. He is indeed working everything- absolutely everything-together for our good...to those called according to His purpose. Hallelujah! Blessings one and all! Becky J abcjones@comcast.net

  24. Her lyrics always just zap my heart.