Thursday, May 17, 2012

Rain for Roots: Alice's Story (and a giveaway!)

Rain for Roots Album cover

Y'all who know me, know I'm all about relationships, so I'd like to introduce you to some friends of mine.  They are dreamers, they are makers of beautiful things, they are lovely women whose heart's desire is to teach young children the Good News.  They have come together to create a wonderful album full of music that does just that, called Rain for Roots.  

Rain for Roots familes lg 
photo credit: Wendy Twit

They are pictured above with their children and/or husbands and if you look closely, you just might see some familiar faces.  The group is composed of Sandra McCracken, pictured with her hubs Derek Webb and their kids (yes, that Derek Webb, for those of you who know me from my 'covering songs by Caedmon's Call' era, long, long ago.), Katy Bowser (of Coaltrain Railroad fame and other fabulous projects) pictured with her hubs Kenny Hutson and their daughter, Flo Paris, pictured with her hubs Josh Oaks an their girls, Ellie Holcomb and her hubs Drew, and Alice Smith and her hubs Matthew Smith with their boys.  Such a collection of wonderfully supported women making beautiful things and this is Alice's part of the story.


I recently got a chance to sit down with Alice Smith, who is the type A gal behind the scenes making it all happen, ie, project manager, publicity, and so much more, to hear about the growing of this garden of songs from her perspective.  Alice brings an amazing level of organization to things that makes my head spin!

First, tell us a little about the idea behind Rain for Roots, how it was born and how you became involved.
"The idea was God's idea. Truly, multiple women separately approached those involved and encouraged them to make scripture songs for children.  Katy began sharing the idea and found that the same idea was on the hearts of others.  Last spring and summer, every time we were together, the idea came up and then in mid-July (a few days after Flo very sweetly had a dinner gathering as a belated birthday celebration for Sandra and me) Sandra sent this email: 

"What should we name our girl-kids-music band? 
Should we do just hymns and psalms? 
Scripture readings in between songs (by the kiddos)? 
Let's brainstorm a list of songs we love... This could be super lo fi. And super fun. :)"

That sparked more brainstorming and kept the seed of the idea growing. Katy reached out to Sally during Hutchmoot and the 6 of us shared lunch at March√© to get Sally's thoughts on her own involvement.  At the time, we were thinking of writing out of her Jesus Storybook Bible but, the day before, Katy had seen and bought Sally's Baby's Hug-A-Bible. At that meal, Katy pulled it out of her bag and we started imagining what a 10 song album based on those 10 poems would be like.  This project, Rain for Roots' first release, is hopefully the first of many."

You and the other women who created the album -- Katy, Ellie, Flo, and Sandra  -- are neighbors in a very real sense. What role did the East Nashville community play in your collective hopes for the record and its audience?
"Relationally, a long history of knowing one another and being close both in proximity and in heart made collaboration an much more natural and easy process.  There is a lot of unity and trust among us and that foundation led to freedom in throwing out ideas, challenging one another with hard questions and working through various shifts in the make up of the project.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the strong support of all the husbands involved.  They did double duty as fathers and supporters and contributed their own expertise musically."

How did it feel to project manage who are also dear friends?
"I've loved them all as songwriters and though I don't know Ellie as well, it was a great joy to watch and help. Getting to know Sandra as a producer (her first time in this role) was amazing.  Her insight, wisdom, boldness, careful thought and musical sensibilities were easy to support.  Ellie dove in with both feet and her enthusiasm and encouragement along the way kept everyone engaged.  And, Flo too is a great part of this team of women, looking for ways to engage the neighborhood, adding to the resources we have to get the music out there and offering her heart at every turn along the way. I've worked with Katy, consulting on Coal Train Railroad, and within the Indelible Grace projects, so it was a natural mode for us to find. I still feel like we are at the very beginning of what I hope will be a long, multifaceted working relationship."

I have been thinking about your piece in Art House America and how you said, in part, that your art was creating relationships and connections and reveling in the beauty to be found around you (my own summation).  I know you to be a creative person in your own right and although you didn't sing on this album, I want to hear about the creative process for you in approaching this project.
"For me, this project has been a welcomed gift. It is a place, among friends, to contribute some of my own skills and passion while working to create something I deeply believe in. That, in itself, is something I've longed for for years. The process has been full of opportunities to trust God and to not let insecurity and fear get me down. 

In early October, only a few weeks after we got the go ahead from Sally to write to her poems, I was with Katy in Minnesota  when she wrote God Helps Baby Moses. It was a great joy to be part of the first hearings of that and the other demos and work tapes that were circulating via email. Each time Ellie, Sandra, Flo and Katy sent through a song, I was struck by how immediately memorable each was.  Their talent and heart for the gospel of Jesus shone through in such beautiful ways.

Later, in the studio with Sandra and Flo as they recorded Flo's God Rescues Noah From The Storm, they invited me to give input as they worked out the form of the song.  We experimented with a few ways of asking and answering the questions posed in the lyrics. We tried repeating a few of the sections to let the heavy truths sink in and linger; that God is the one who keeps his promises and does "just what he says he'll do". I loved the editing process; feeling the changes with each new form the song took, even with the same words and melody, so many options were there. This opened up to me a greater understanding of the work of songwriters.

Also, I observed Sally as she came in to listen to her words set to these melodies and, at some point, referred to her as a songwriter...which was a new title for her to add to author, speaker and poet. I LOVE seeing souls find their way into new roles.  

That same day, when we gave Sally the best seat in the studio to listen, I (somewhat shyly and concerned it may be out of turn) mentioned that I was missing the voice of the men on the project because, at that point, it was only women and kiddos singing.  Everyone agreed and a few days later Sandra sent out a sweet email to the husbands with the simple subject line "low notes?". 

I approached it as work I'm called to and am offering means of order and looking for relational connections that make sense to follow for sharing the work.  I'm incredibly proud of the songs and am enjoying the work so very much."

What has been the most meaningful experience to come out of this album for you?
"The most meaningful experiences have been the way God uses the songs themselves.  On Easter morning, after our church's sunrise service, our family came back home, groggy and bundled in sweaters from the cool morning.  Sitting in our living room, still trying to wake up, we sang Jesus Is Alive over and over again.  The boys lept and danced and I sat deeply encouraged that this batch of songs (and others to come in the future from Rain for Roots) are part of the soundtrack of our family.

Other times, I've woken up in the middle of the night with these songs on my mind.  God's spirit gently but strongly imparts that I am the little one being addressed and that I need to hear the promises for me and not just for my children and other little ones."

I personally love your ability to encourage and bring out the best in your artistic friends, me included, who may be a bit more disorganized that you are.  You have a way of not only perceiving a seed of an idea in others but then you help to awaken those ideas and teach others to discover hidden beauty in themselves.  I find that amazing.  What seeds did you see grow or help to grow in this project?  
"I helped oil what was already in motion and looked for ways to support the girls to help them accomplish the project.  That included everything from drafting a budget, to navigating complicated touring schedules to working out the license for the words.  The seeds for this project were given by God and we scattered them around but the growth has been His doing.  Right when we began tossing around the name Rain for Roots, our neighborhood group studied this passage from Mark:

Mark 4:26-28

26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 
I am reminded that prayer and waiting are part of helping to make good things grow."

So we've heard from Alice the neighbor, the friend, the artist and manager. This question is for Alice the mom. How have your children responded to Rain for Roots? Any favorite moments during or after production that you'd like to share with us?
"I mentioned Easter morning above. I laugh looking back at the favorite moments as a mom.  Evan sang some background vocals on Jesus Is Alive and, for some reason, being in the studio and on a mic caused him to act in a sillier manner than I'd ever seen.  Derek and Sandra commented that he was almost singing harmonies (trans: he's so off key, I'm not sure this will fit). We continue to realize that Asher would have been a much better studio contributor as he dances around the house signing Jesus Is Alive along with God Makes Everything (our current household favorites).

Jesus Stops A Storm was the last song to be written and, early on, I wondered if perhaps I could give it a whirl alongside Evan who loves to make up songs.  One night, I asked him to sing the lyrics with me.  Within a few minutes, Evan was writing his own song on the same topic, singing "Jesus, Jesus! Lord of all...Lord of the baby, Lord of the talls, Lord of the building, Lord of the mom, Lord of the eyeballs, Lord of the toys, Lord of the bulls, Lord of the animals!"  I recorded the very sweet, somewhat theological dialog that followed came out of this singing time.

Sharing treasured conversations like these and watching the boys come to believe the truth in these songs gives new meaning to Jesus' words of "Let the little children come to me..."  Sally, Ellie, Flo, Katy and Sandra are not just letting them come, they have created a way for them to run in and to savor being there, at Jesus' feet, cared for and lavished with love."
And finally, hat are your hopes for the continuation of this project?  What is the next step for Rain for Roots?
"I hope for these songs to reach the hearts of as many of God's little ones as possible.  

Rain for Roots plans to continue recording, perhaps an album of Psalm Songs for Little Ones or Genesis Songs for Little Ones.  We imagine future projects drawing more directly from the words of scripture so that as they are learned and sung, the word of God is being memorized."

So friends, now is your chance to win a free download of this entire wonderful new album!  Are you ready?  All you have to do is go and post the free sampler download link (saying that you downloaded it) on your blog, your facebook page, or where ever you are online, and link back here in the comments.  The sampler download is on the bottom right hand corner of RfR's webpage. (Just put a link to your FB page or blog and be sure to leave your email or twitter handle so I can get ahold of you.) On Sunday afternoon, I will post the winner, so check back here for updates!

When you decide you love this album and can't live without it, head on over to Rain for Roots to by it (for only $8!) and enter 'truelove' for a 10% discount on the album (that makes it $7.20!), available to all my readers!

P.S. Exclusive interviews with the rest of the gals from Rain for Roots are available on the blogs of my fellow East Nashville Mom bloggers!
Read Flo's Story at Nala's Photography
Read Ellie's Story at Designs by Stephie
Read Sandra's Story at Life: Edited
Read Katy's Story at If Stones Could Talk

Update - Sunday May 20th!!
 I just got back from a long weekend of camping with my children and some other families and am not ready to finish the drawing up.  I'm extending until Wed. the 23rd to allow myself some time to finish a heap of smoky laundry.   See you Wednesday!
P.S.  Leave a way to contact you in the comments!  You can't win if I can't reach you! :)
Update - Wed. May 23rd.  Comments Closed!

And the random number chosen winner is Happy Wife!  Congrats, Kim!  Look for an email from me soon with your download code.


Evelyn Louise said...

Downloaded the free sampler as soon as it was available and just bought the album! We own the Jesus Storybook Bible (I have a 3-year-old) and I've added the Baby's Hug-A-Bible to my wishlist for my baby boy due in August.
What wonderful ways to introduce our kids to Christ!

mcolflesh said...

We bought the album and burned a CD for the kiddos during car time. Rain For Roots - please make more of these albums! I love music that helps my kids remember that Jesus is their hero!

Happy Wife said...

Hey Nana! I was reading the Sandra McCracken interview and I saw your blog link, and thought "that can't be Ariana" and here it is you! What fun - I love those ladies and their other music - this one could be just as good! Thanks for sharing your interview - you are so gifted in so many ways! Hugs - Kim

Happy Wife said...

Thanks for the freebie! Love those ladies and their sweet sweet music! I can't wait to share this with my kids, and our friends (When they are over to play!) Hugs and smiles


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