10 Questions with ... Sara Groves
October 3, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- Fair Trade Services
- Invisible Empires (October 2011)
- Fireflies and Songs (2009)
- O Holy Night (2008)
- Tell Me What You Know (2007)
- Add To The Beauty (2005)
- The Other Side of Something (2004)
- All Right Here (2002)
- Conversations (2001)
1. What is the story behind the first single "Eyes On The Prize"?
We love the work of International Justice Mission (IJM) and are so moved by the momentum of their work this last year. There are so many breathtaking stories on their website IJM.ORG. I was talking to a friend about staying the course in every aspect of life, faith, relationships, advocacy, justice work, and I left the conversation wanting to write a song about perseverance. A good friend had given me a CD of songs from the Civil Rights Movement, and when I heard "Hold On," I was excited to reframe the song in light of the continued work of bringing an end to modern day slavery.
2. What is the message behind the new album "Invisible Empires"?
Much of this album was influenced by Chapter 9 of Eugene Peterson's "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction" (a book I read each year): "Structures become more important than the people who live in them. Machines become more important than the people who use them. We care more for our possessions with which we hope to make our way in the world than with our thoughts and dreams which tell us who we are in the world."
Peterson goes on to explain how vastly different man's work is from God's work. "Invisible Empires" is looking at two skylines: one that is frenetic and man-made, and one that is eternal and not built in vain (Psalm 127). "People are at the center of Christian work...We travel light. The character of our work is shaped not by accomplishments or possessions but in the birth of relationships."
3. Do you have a favorite song on the new album?
"Finite" hits close to home. My life feels frenetic, and I can't always seem to figure out what makes me feel that way. "Obsolete," everyone feels left out at some point, and this song finds a person wondering about his/her place in the world. It seems increasingly difficult to find time to invest in people in genuine ways. We take a lot of shortcuts in our relationships and sacrifice more meaningful interactions for virtual ones. In this song I am remembering that there are real people who take me in, and I want to invest in those people in ways that are real. And ultimately, God takes me in. If everyone else moves on, he sees me and loves me.
4. Who inspires you personally, spiritually and/or professionally?
I process a lot of my life with my husband Troy. He hears all of the songs at their earliest stages and helps me figure out what to keep. I read a lot too. I keep in touch with friends in Nashville and listen to new music that is recommended to me. This record was inspired a great deal by Eugene Peterson.
5. Do you have much free time?
It depends on how you describe "free time!" I don't have a lot of time to myself, but with my family, with my friends, I have a lot of stuff going on that is not work-related. We are really plugged in at church, and I am the craft teacher for the 4-year-olds (Ruby's class). I also co-lead a compassion ministry group for the women at our church.
6. What do you like to do in any spare time?
I am working with Troy to build in more contemplation time into my schedule because I want to sow more into my music. I'm feeling a new surge of creativity, and I'm excited to see where that takes me.
7. There is another big project on the horizon for the Groves' family: renovating a church in St. Paul, MN. Where are you in this process? Can you tell us more about the process and reason for such a big undertaking?
We have purchased a 100 year-old church in St. Paul and are in the process of creating an Art House North based on the model of the Art House in Nashville and Dallas. The tag line for the Art House is: "Creative community for the common good." We hope to provide a reason to gather for artists and creatives in the Twin Cities because good things happen when artists congregate! We will also host concerts and events for the community, but the church is small, so with any event, an intimate setting will be built in! We are just beginning renovations and are not announcing any start dates yet.
8. What song do you wish you had written?
Oh, that's a long list! You know I can't hear a classic like "I Can't Make You Love Me" by Bonnie Raitt and not wish that I had been in the room for a moment like that. Same goes for anything Patty Griffin has written or Bill Mallone of the Vigilantes of Love, Peter Gabriel "Washing of the Water" and "Come Talk To Me," clearly songs of the melancholy variety! Then there is Keith Green, "Oh Lord You're Beautiful." I love the live record where he talks about writing that song the night before and then sings it like the whole idea is just dawning on him.
There are so many great songs. I love songs that have a simple, obvious idea but in the right frame, the idea becomes profound. "Let it Be"...stuff like that. Then there are songs by songwriter friends: Sandra McCracken, Christa Wells, Jill Phillips, Alli Dahlgren, Lori Chaffer. I would gladly take credit for anything they have written. [smile]
9. Fill in the blank: I can't start the day without ________
Stretching, praying, decaf French press coffee, conversation with my kids, cereal.
10. Do you have much time to check out other artists' music? What are you listening to right now?
I am waiting eagerly for Jill Phillips' new record and am enjoying Josh Garrels in the meantime. I love The Leagues' new EP (fronted by Thad Cockrell) and just bought Fernando Ortega's new record - he is one of my all time favorites. Justin McRoberts is busy writing thoughtful, thought-provoking songs. Oh, again, the list is long.