I’m impressed with the amount of inspiration that you take from people around you. Invisible Empires is based on chapter 9 of "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction" by Eugene Peterson and I was surprised the book title comes from a Nietzsche quote. What is your perspective on incorporating secular themes into your music?
That's a great question. I actually grew up in the Assemblies of God and they put a lot of emphasis on the anointing of the Holy Spirit and that language. I wouldn’t say that I’m not Assemblies of God, but I call myself a mere Christian because I’ve seen too much. I’ve seen the body of Christ alive and well behind bars in prison. The way that I identify myself has morphed and changed over the years. I have appreciation for my heritage but one piece of baggage I carry from it is a great deal of fear. A verse that terrifies me says, "the Holy Spirit departed from Solomon and he knew it not." That is my worst nightmare - that the Holy Spirit would depart and I would not know it. I’ve asked, "Lord how could he not know it? Would I not know it?" Early on in my ministry I was very careful in my language to never call it a concert I would call it a ‘ministry opportunity’. I’ve moved away from that language because you don't invite your neighbor to a ministry opportunity, you invite him to a concert. My dad sings beautifully and could communicate the songs and you would feel every word. People would say to me "your dad is so anointed", and when I started doing it they would say the same thing to me. When I started struggling, when I was literally running from the Lord people were still saying that to me. I felt like it was true and that God was still working, so I began looking in the scripture for the way that the anointing works and found that it's a station, like a king. Paul says it’s for all believers. I went to an Assemblies of God college and the mantra was “integration of faith and learning - all truth is God's truth.” Even though we believe that we talk out of the both sides of our mouths. I would be up front singing, people would feel something and they would hold up anointing score cards. I believe that as a believer we resonate with the Holy Spirit - we are a resonating chamber. If there's any truth in what I’m saying we will resonate with a sense of the Holy Spirit. I’m anointed in my position but there's an anointing in every believer that responds to beauty and the truth of God. I could stand in front a painting painted by a womanizing scoundrel and that if something of God’s truth was captured in their painting I was anointed to respond to that. I resonate deeply with true things everywhere.
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.