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.
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!
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.