Sara Groves pretty much single handedly changed my opinion about Christian music. When I turn on Christian radio I rarely hear authenticity, vulnerability and a passion for God. It often feels more like the artist is simply using Jesus to sell me their product, which happened to be Christian music. But I have never felt that way about Groves' music. She sings about her own insecurities, the intimacy of close relationships, and about Jesus but when she mentions his name it sounds like she knows him - like she just talked to him. Her new album, Invisible Empires, is no exception – the first track, “Miracle”, has the penetrating line “let’s feel what we cannot feel / know what we cannot know / heal where we cannot heal / it’s a miracle”, which sets the tone for another album full of vulnerability and sincerity.
Not only does Groves bare her soul in her music but she uses her influence to fight for the less fortunate as well. The concert that attended was put on by a non-profit organization called the 1040 Connection, who are attempting to prevent human trafficking in Nepal - something Groves' is very passionate about. "Hold On", her current single, is a direct lift from the lyrics of an old spiritual that was re-appropriated by the civil rights movements in the ‘60s and is meant to inspire those fighting for justice.
After she speaks engagingly with the fans that waited after the show we sat down for our interview. I soon found, as you will, that the sincerity of her music is really much more than that – it is who she is.
I really like the new album, from start to finish. What moments are you the most proud of?
I’m kind of close to it right now but my favorite moments, the ones that are the most ‘me’ or the most honest or the songs that are the most inside-my-heart are “Mystery”, “Obsolete” and “Finite”. “Obsolete” is my favorite song, favorite to play, favorite melody and favorite theme. There’s a lot that when into it and I like a song like that. I could tell you five stories and I could say this song is inspired by all five stories. It’s about the elderly, it's about feeling left out of a friendship, it's about the story of a homeless man who hadn't been looked at in so long he actually though the was invisible, it's about the internet and about how the internet makes you feel like you're never enough - that drives me crazy. I was trying to process my own feelings about technology - which stresses me out. It makes me feel like I’m not doing enough. In a way you're aware of what everyone is doing on their best day. Everyone is putting themselves out there, everyone is advertising, everyone is Madison Avenue for themselves. I have a hard time with that. I have a hard time doing it for myself - Troy does it for me. I’m not on Facebook. When it came out I felt a divine message - I very clearly felt the Lord say, "You're not going to get to do that. Right off the bat I’ll set you free.” Part of me wants to do it but there's a bigger part that feels relieved.
You seem very comfortable being personal. Maybe ‘comfortable’ isn't the right word - experienced being personal?
For my mother in law, who is an incredible lady, to disclose at a 3 is a big deal but I live at about an 8 - I’m a highly disclosing person. But there are things that people don't know about me in the 9 and 10 range, that only my close friends know. I hope I don't go around barfing on everybody but I feel that transparency is important in Christianity. The role that I play, I feel, is to be transparent - that's part of what I’m doing. Not to compare myself with the prophets but I’ve identified with them, like [the Lord saying] “here Hosea I’m going to let you live this out, this embarrassing thing - your wife is going to go sleep with all these guys and then you're going to have to take her back.” In that way I feel like the artist is similarly living stuff out and then airing it to the public so that you can see "oh that's sin" and "oh that's where God's redemption is, that was him working, that's where we're falling short, that's where he's meeting and reconciling us"