Musician Jenn Bostic: 'If I didn't have God in my life I don't think I'd be in this industry'
Nashville-based Christian singer-songwriter Jenn Bostic had considerable success in the UK with her last album, particularly with the song 'Jealous of the angels' about the death of her father. Much to her surprise the song resonated with many others who had lost someone they loved, and when she was invited to play on BBC Breakfast, it went straight to the top of the charts. That year (2012) she won five Independent Country Music Association Awards and has since played at Nashville's famous country music venue the Grand Ole Opry.
Bostic's new album Faithful, due for release in June, plays out her newfound confidence and healing wounds. It combines Bostic's rich, soulful voice and her country music roots with a more poppy sound to create a varied collection of songs. Ahead of the release, she talked to Christian Today about dealing with the highs and lows of a career in the music industry and how her faith helps her to keep going.
Can you tell me a little bit about your faith background?
I grew up in church, always going with family. I think I made the personal decision, and had my first real experience [of God] at 13. There was a conference called Acquire the Fire, there was this moment when the Lord totally took over my heart, there was a completely different way of life from that point. I remember bringing in a Bible to school and just trying to soak it up.
I've always sung in church. When I went to college I was attending a Baptist church, and now in Nashville, I lead worship for a non-denominational church which has basically been a lifesaver for me. The music industry, and following your dream, and being artsy... in any stream of life it's important to trust and just know God's got it, but it's been a really great community of people that have helped me grow.
What role did your faith play in your decision to pursue music?
It was a big part of it. I lost my dad at 10 years old. The first time I sat at a piano to get those feelings out I felt my dad's presence and it was a very spiritual thing. I felt like the Lord was reminding me that he's got me and that my dad's in a better place. Song writing was the outlet that I had for that, and I feel like it was made very clear; my heart was just really happy whenever I was creating.
It was definitely a leap of faith to come from a very small town in Minnesota to go out to Boston to focus on music and live out this dream, but I feel like God's definitely been guiding my path. And my mum has been such an encourager, and is constantly sending me scripture for encouragement.
You've spoken of the influence of the loss of your father on your earlier music, what would you say is the main theme of your new album?
Strength is the common thread that goes through the album. I think there was a lot of healing that I still needed to do with the Jealous album, and having to get up and share my testimony every night at a show, and share about my dad and see how the Lord was working through others as well – seeing that they were being comforted – it was such an amazing thing.
Through that I learned so much and I was able to write a new concept, there was this 'moving on' that happened – not that I don't miss my dad and I wish that he was still here with me, but there was this sense of peace that I hadn't felt before.
Of course it was something so much bigger than me, when a fan sent it to a radio station, and all of a sudden it just took off in Europe. So it was a reminder that you can try so hard in one area – I felt like I was trying so hard in the States to gain that kind of momentum in the music, to keep resources coming in – but God had such a bigger plan, and I can't even begin to say that I had anything to do with that.
How do you feel about writing songs that are so personal and then presenting them to the world, and performing them repeatedly?
It's a healing process. You... put yourself in those moments, those different moments of life when you once felt that feeling, and I think they translate into new feelings as well. My song 'Not Yet' is about not giving up. So if there's ever a season where I feel like throwing the towel in that song is an encouragement to me as well if I'm playing it live sometimes it will strike more of an emotional chord than others – even with me.
Did you have any idea 'Jealous of the Angels' would be as successful as it was?
Oh my goodness, absolutely not. I thought the song was too personal. I thought it was something just for me and my family. But I learned such a good lesson about beauty and simplicity, and just being honest about what happened in the situation, and what those feelings were and people resonate with that. There have been people that have said: "You were able to put into a song everything I wanted to say but couldn't find the words to." That was the biggest compliment.
What are some of the new concepts that you explore in Faithful?
In the album title track single 'Faithful', it's that question of who are you when no one else is looking? Are you going are you going to have integrity and stick to your values and beliefs?
'Counterfeit' can be looked at in a few different ways, but for me it's the negative voices – the enemy voice saying you're not good enough. It's easy to let insecurity jump in the way but it's all a counterfeit – those voices are all lies. We all have such a special purpose and meaning to this life. It's important to focus on the positive things, while being realistic of course. But I think it's so important to silence that negativity.
You've spoken about how difficult the music industry can be. How do you manage to deal with both success and failure?
Oh boy. Constant struggle. If I didn't have God in my life, I don't know that I would be doing this, I don't know that I would be able to deal with the heartbreak. But I just trust Him. He's got a plan for each of us, and He's shown me over and over again that there is a purpose behind this. I feel like just at the moment when I'm ready to say 'I can't do this anymore,' He puts something in my path to keep me going. It's a lot of prayer and not letting negative circumstances affect me. Knowing that if a door closes, that He's got something better planned, and I just need to trust in that.
So what's been the best experience of your career so far?
It's a tie. The day that I was on BBC Breakfast and the song went number one, that was such a surreal moment. You come from pushing so hard, trying to get maybe 20 people in a coffee shop, to being overseas, playing on the biggest station, sharing your heart with the world, and the world loving it. That was such a neat moment for me, and so unexpected. I think sometimes those are the most beautiful moments, when you couldn't even dream it up.
Also of course the Grand Ole Opry, the times I've got to perform there have been surreal. That circle in the middle of the floor that you know so many greats have stood on before you. I remember [going to] the Grand Ole Opry when I was in college, I was watching Carrie Underwood sing and I had tears streaming down my face with the longing to perform on that stage. So the first time I got to was just unbelievable, and then to have a standing ovation was just crazy – again something I couldn't dream up.
Where do look for inspiration?
Everywhere! I have a quiet time in the morning, in prayer, that I get inspiration from and different readings that I do. But life in general, anything that my heart beats faster for – whether positively or negatively – I feel like it can be turned into a song.
I love movies as well. There's a movie called The Song, it's a Christian film based on the Songs of Solomon... I went to a screening and it was just before going to London last year. It was about that reaching and never quite being able to touch the thing you're reaching for, even when you do there's something beyond it – so that idea of chasing rainbows. So when I was in London, I had my first writing session and I wrote 'Chasing Rainbows'.
Each season of writing is different. With all the experiences of travelling and touring, a lot of those experiences make it into the songs. If I've got a long drive and I'm watching the sunset. A lot of times I sit in silence in the car, not listening to music, and that is such a great space for me to get creative ideas flowing. A lot of times things are moving too quickly for you to think and process, so some of those long drives give me great inspiration.
What are you currently listening to?
I love listening to older stuff – Bonnie Raitt is still one of my absolute favourite artists. Just yesterday I was listening to 'Can't make you love me', which I love, and Susan Tedeschi is great, really bluesy and fun. And the new Taylor Swift record has some great tracks on it. I've been a fan of 'Shake It Off', so that's quite fun to listen to. But you know, Hillsong and Bethel – a lot of worship stuff too.
Do you feel different leading worship and leading a set performance?
There is a bit of a difference. When I lead worship it has nothing to do with me. The perfection of everything being technically perfect, that part doesn't matter to me as much. Of course I practise hard to make it as good as it can be, but when it comes to the moment I really feel the Lord is just going to step in and use the worship in the way that he wants to. Also I don't write the songs. I've written a few worship songs but I've never performed them, so I'm this vehicle to get the song out there.
Whereas with my stuff the songs are a lot more personal, but I still feel that if someone's going to be touched or impacted, it's going to be the Lord that does that in their heart. But there is a different way I present the song; if I'm riding a big note I know how long it's taken me to hit that note, so of course I want them to be more technically perfect. It's easier to let myself get in it and get a little more insecure about those things.
What are your hopes for the new album?
I really hope people will connect with the songs. It's been really great to have the chance to write and record with a lot of great people in the industry who've had a lot of success, and I think I've had a chance to grow in that experience. I'm excited about the production, it's definitely different. I really hope I get to continue touring overseas – that's been such a blessing for me, being able to meet people from completely different backgrounds. It's been amazing. I love travelling, and didn't know that I would get to do that in this capacity as an independent artist.
Jenn Bostic's album 'Faithful' is out on June 1. jennbostic.com