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Interview with Staci Frenes
Staci Frenes is an author, speaker, and singer-songwriter who has been engaging with audiences for years. Her songs have been featured on Nashville, The Biggest Loser, America's Next Top Model, and other TV shows and movies. Her latest release Unpathed Waters, Undreamed Shores is her career-to-date best work (available now on iTunes). Kevin Davis of New Release Today said this about the new album: "Staci has a profound way of bringing me closer to God with her poignant words, tender singing and inspirational truths." We recently had the chance to talk one-on-one with Staci.
UTR: Growing up, did music play an important role in your life?
Staci: I’ve always loved words! When I was little I wrote poems and stories. But something musical awakened in me when I was around 12, when I became a Christian. The words I was writing started forming into melodies. I didn’t know what to do with them. I asked my parents for guitar lessons and started to write songs before I knew anything about music. Songwriting in those awkward teenage years was my lifeline. It’s how I processed the confusing stuff. It’s how I expressed my gratitude to God, and learned how to praise Him. And since I’m pretty much a textbook introvert, I found songwriting to be a safe way to share my thoughts and feelings with others.
UTR: Where have you been on life's journey when writing for and preparing to make Unpathed Waters, Undreamed Shores?
Staci: Our family’s been through some rough waters in the past few years. I lost my dad to cancer and then my brother to a sudden heart attack soon after. Before that, there’d been other BIG changes—we lost our home in the housing market crash, and our teenage daughter came out to us quite unexpectedly. It was like wave after wave kept coming... Some days it felt suffocating and hard to breathe. Other times I just felt numb. I thought of the Psalms, how David cried out to God in despair, and then praised Him in the next breath. That’s the thing about faith. You experience painful loss, and then you have to choose every day to believe that God is still good, that He still loves you and hasn’t abandoned you. Last year when I started writing for a new record I knew some of the songs would be about the painful things I’d been through. But I also knew that hope and God’s faithfulness would be at the core of the record.
UTR: Given the current climate of how argumentative people have become, especially on social media, it seems like your song "Disarm" is right on time. What is the story behind that song?
Staci: I wrote ‘Disarm’ kind of on two levels—one very personal and one more universal. Personally, I wanted to express what it felt like to communicate with my daughter after she came out. Ours was a pretty conservative Christian home, and like most moms I envisioned what I thought was a ‘normal’ future for her: falling in love with a man, getting married and having kids. It’s been painful letting go of my pre-conceived ideas for her life. And it’s been a learning process setting aside my biases to better hear and understand her heart. It struck me while writing this song that it’s not just about my daughter and me, it’s about any two people (or groups) doing the work of reconciliation. We can’t go in, weapons blazing, to ‘win’ the argument. We have to disarm, listen with our hearts and let love have the last word.
UTR: What do you hope listeners of Unpathed Waters, Undreamed Shores walk away with?
Staci: I wrestled with a lot of my own doubts in writing for this record, and I wanted the songs to be as honest and raw as I felt inside. When you speak the truth about your deepest fears and doubts, like any truth, it sets you free. I began this album from a place of sadness, but over time, the process of pouring out my heart and creating something authentic and beautiful filled me with hope again. Change is hard, but exhilarating and hopeful, too. We discover new ways of looking at things, of being. And we lean into aspects of God’s character—comfort, peace, mercy—in the midst of our worst storms. I pray listeners can feel that hope in their own ‘unpathed waters’. Whether life feels tumultuous or calm, God is present with us and working His good in us.
UTR: You are a multi-talented person. So what are some of the ways you plan on investing your time in 2017?
Staci: Why thank you, sir! This year I’ll be playing out the new music wherever I’m invited: churches, house shows, concerts, podcasts. I’m also doing a few Flourish events (based on my book) where I share insights and stories about my creative process, and encourage people to develop and nurture their own creativity. I’m grateful for the chance to share about hope and change with this new season of music, and excited to see what unfolds!
You can get more information at Staci Frene's website. And this video gives you a taste of the new project, which is a worthy addition to any music collection.