Behind the Song: Honestly

With this post I begin my new blog series “Behind the Song.”  I thought it was only fitting to start with the title track on the album, “Honestly.” This song really encompasses the theme of the entire project, so I’m excited to dig in and share the heart behind it.

When I started doing music I was very young.  It all started in 1998 with three curly headed kids and a trip to Aachen, Germany. We went there to write and record our first “official” SoulJahz album. I was fourteen years old and in the eighth grade. We took our spring vacation and an extra week off from school to go chase a dream and see if it was something that would become a reality. We came home with a seventeen-song album and some major label record deals. If we’d ever doubted that this was our calling, those doubts ended right then. Thus began our journey…

We spent the next thirteen years writing, recording, touring, and following our dreams as “Souljahz” and then later as “Washington Projects.” Those years are so precious to me and I am so thankful to have been blessed with such amazing opportunities. After my husband and I had our daughter Selah in 2011, I took a break from music to learn to be a Mom, something I’m still learning and will continue to learn for the rest of my life! Last year I felt a tug on my heart to step back into my calling and ministry in music and was presented with the opportunity to release a solo album. To be completely honest, at first I didn’t want to. I’d never wanted to do a solo record before. I always loved the comfort of having my big brothers around me, and that was the way I liked it.

When my career began 1 Timothy 4:12 was my inspiration. “Do not let anyone despise your youth…” I knew that I was called to do what I was doing despite the fact that I was very young. Now that I was a wife and stay-at-home Mom, I knew in my heart that the most important things I’ll ever do will be within the walls of our home, so I wasn’t sure if I had a calling outside of that anymore.

The chorus says, “I’m too old for these games, but I’m way too young to feel this way, honestly. It’s time for yesterday to up and fly away. I’ve got so much left to say, honestly.”

Sometimes we forget that we live our lives in seasons. Change scares us and we can easily hold ourselves back by refusing to move forward. The world is in such a hurry to say your chances to be who you want to be are over, and we need to stop believing those lies. Thirty is not the new forty, forty is not the new sixty, each day is new, and it’s never too late to grow. A tree’s leaves change, even fall to the ground, but it just keeps growing, all the while never forgetting that it is a tree. It comes back to life each year even more beautiful than the last.

It’s taken me a year to make this album. Something that usually took weeks has taken an entire year. Here’s why I’m not sorry… I was living. You can’t write honest music without writing about what you know, and you don’t know anything until you know it! If you have ever met my Dad you’d say that was a total Ernie Washington quote! Sometimes you have to go through things before you can really write about them. This song is about that journey for me. I realized that for a period of time I hadn’t been growing. Instead I’d been trying to grow backwards, which in essence is really just shrinking.

When I was younger I always tried to keep my professional life and my personal life somewhat separate. When I came home I wanted to be a teenager, and do teenager things. I didn’t even like talking about my career with new friends because most of the time it would change the entire conversation. I learned quickly that I preferred to keep it to myself and to just get to be me when I was home. I thought that being a recording artist looked one way, and being myself looked another, and that was the way it had to be. So now that I was a wife and stay-at-home mom, I was afraid to pursue what I knew I was meant to. What would that even look like now? Silence is a lot to ask of a little one, although to her credit, there are a few lines on the album that were recorded with her sitting on my lap.  It took a few extra takes, but you gotta do what you gotta do, right?

I knew going into this that I wasn’t going to have the luxury of writing songs with an endless amount of time, surrounded by silence and inspiration for days. I was going to be lucky if my toddler took a nap that day, so I’d have an hour to write and eat and unpack our boxes and move into our new home…and stare…at the wall. Kidding! (Don’t judge me, I have a two year old. A two year old who stopped taking naps for eight months. Eight months, people!)

I just didn’t see how this was going to work and it wasn’t just the circumstances that had changed, I had changed. I wasn’t even sure who I was anymore! Music was a huge part of my life for such a long time that in a way, I’d allowed it to define me.  When I stopped doing it, it felt like I became someone completely different.

I asked God to show me what I should do… Did I still have something to say? Did He still want to use me this way? The next morning I had two messages in my inbox, two random emails from two completely unexpected sources, someone from the past and someone from the present. One was from a woman my age who attended a concert of ours over a decade ago and wrote to let me know that she has been following me via social media since and felt led to email me thanking me for being an inspiration. The second was from a young woman who is very dear to my heart, away at college, asking for recommendations for a daily devotional.

There is nothing in this world that could convince me that any of that was a coincidence. Sometimes tiny paragraphs can be HUGE confirmations, and although we all get emails all the time, I specifically asked the Lord to show me if I still had a voice, and I woke up to not one, but two answers. They probably have no idea how much of an impact those short emails had on my life!

God told me to make this album, and to make it by being honest. No gimmicks, no game plans, no trying to figure out who my ‘target audience’ is. He just told me to write. When the time presented itself, when the inspiration showed up, write about it. So that’s exactly what I did. I wrote from my experiences and I wrote from my heart. I pray that it reaches anyone who needs to hear it.

It took some time, but you can’t rush things that need time to grow. The process of making this album has grown me more than I can even put into words. While I thought I was making it, it was really making me.

Click below to hear a snippet of  the title track “Honestly” from my upcoming album & check back next week for another “Behind the Song” blog entry & snippet!

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