Sara Groves Illuminates the Invisible Kingdom
Sara Groves is one of the most penetrating and vulnerable artists in Christian music today. Beliefnet contributor Collin Derrick recently caught up with her to talk about her life, spirituality, and new album.
BY: Collin Derrick
The song “Scientists in Japan” is about bioethics. You've also talked in other interviews about the anxiety that you've experienced in the past couple of years. How do you feel about medication? How does that factor into your thoughts on bioethics?
I’m for it. I’ve never thought of medication for depression as a bioethics issue. Some people would frame it in a theological issue or take issue with it as an affront to faith. My personal story is that one day I didn't have anxiety or panic attacks and one day I did. It came on so suddenly for me but it sneaks up on some people. They quit doing this, they quit doing that and before they know it they're afraid of everything. I 'm not one of those people who take issue with medication. When I had my first panic attack in the middle of a performance I felt like I was going to die - like my body was dumping bucket loads of adrenaline into my system. My mother has had this for years and I have given her no sympathy. I called my mother and said “I am very sorry.” This is very real, very physical. So I began to approach this on all fronts. For me to say this isn't spiritual would be ridiculous, for me to say this isn't physical would be ridiculous, for me to say this isn't emotional would be ridiculous. It’s a breakdown on all those levels. The first thing I did was to learn what was happening to me.
One of the things I learned that was encouraging is that it's the most treatable of all mental disorders. What a big word: mental disorders. It’s very physical - your brain is literally misfiring and telling you there's a bear in the room and there’s no bear in the room. It’s been a long road. I wanted to quit many times but I knew right away that I would not quit out of fear. I went and got medication; I take some if I need it before concerts. This year I’ve had a lot of victory but I’ve taken it a few times. I don't know if I’ll ever be out of it. It’s still my feather to fly I’m not sure if I’ll ever not have it in my purse. But this year I've taken it maybe five times where last year I was taking it every concert. It’s clear that my body is now moving in a different direction. I’ll feel a wave of something but the car won't turn over. I feel a wave and think "oh no" but it won't get momentum. Maybe I’m moving into a new season. There are also spiritual elements that were huge. Fear is spiritual. I learned a lot about the Lord.
After making ten albums would you say that there are any creative goals you have yet to achieve?
Yes, a big one right now is that I want to do soundtrack work. I’ve talked to Charlie Peacock about it and I have a friend that I’ve intersected with a couple of times as I’ve crossed the country who writes for TV and movies and he's helping me to create a reel or demo for it. I don't know exactly what it would look like but I’d like to partner with an independent filmmaker who is looking for more plaintive, piano-based music. I won't pretend to be something else, I’m not an orchestrator, but I have tons and tons of beautiful, emotive melodies. I would love the discipline of looking at a scene and figuring out what music would make you feel that. That’s kind of a goal or dream that I have for the future. I’ve been talking about it for a couple of years now but pieces keep getting added to it. I don't know if I’ll ever produce. I’ve always enjoyed the input of a producer but maybe I’ll produce my own record sometime. I’ve always felt that [each album] would probably be my last. I’ve had a fatalistic view of my longevity. “Really? I’m almost forty and people really want to hear a forty-year-old mom sing about whatever?” I’ve always wanted to be on my way before the big hook came - before people were embarrassed for me. Charlie Peacock has done a lot to convince me that I’m a life timer and that the crowd will come and go but this is who I am. Inside I hope that's the truth. I know that I’ll be writing music, whether or not people are listening is another story.