10 Questions with ... Karyn Williams
July 18, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- 2011 Wake Up
- 2012 Only You
- 2016 Letting Go Of Perfect
I was born in Moorsetown, New Jersey. My dad has been in professional sports my whole life, and when I born, he was the President & General Manager of the Philadelphia 76ers. In 1986, he had the crazy idea of bringing the NBA to Florida, and he moved our family to Orlando and began working on that "crazy" goal. The dream became a reality in 1989 when the Orlando Magic played their first season.
I had two older brothers waiting for me when I was born, and then when I was three years old my parents came to us and said they were thinking about adopting a child. A year later, I stood at the Philadelphia airport with my family and watched as two little Korean girls were carried off of an airplane and placed in my parents arms. It was the first of 7 different adoption experiences in which 14 children came to join our family. I have siblings adopted from Korea, Brazil, Romania and the Philippines. There are 19 kids total in my family, and I grew up as the big sister, which no doubt shaped me into who I am today! So between being surrounded by professional sports and my international family, it's safe to say I had a very unique upbringing!
I graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in Broadcast Journalism, and I wanted to be the next Katie Couric...but the Lord had other plans. I consider Orlando my "hometown" since I grew up there and went back there after college, but I moved to Nashville to pursue the calling the Lord had on my life to full time music ministry and I have never looked back. I signed a record deal with Inpop Records in 2011, and have been touring ever since. Last year I released my 2nd full length record, "Letting Go of Perfect", and I've been on the road with Third Day, Mandisa, Mark Schultz and the past year I've been tour mates with Christian comedian Chonda Pierce.
2. What does a normal day at home look like for you?
Well, I have been touring pretty steadily for the last several years, so no 2 days are the same! And I love that! Right now, I'm touring with Chonda Pierce (who is the funniest woman on the planet by the way). I love to exercise and I feel better when I am working out consistently, so I do my absolute best to work out every day on the road. It's not always easy, but I stream workouts through Beachbody On Demand (highly recommend it!) so I either run in to a hotel and use their workout facility, or just do the workout on the bus. One afternoon, I was doing jumping jacks in the front lounge, and I didn't realize Chonda had laid down to take a nap in the back bedroom. She texted and said, "Why is the bus shaking?!" Needless to say, I don't workout on the bus while she's trying to sleep anymore. HA! We still laugh about that to this day.
The rest of my afternoon consists of sound checking for our show, getting the stage set, and then I normally have radio interview to help promote upcoming shows. I am also an avid reader, so once I am finished with my work, I try to find some quiet time to read or listen to a podcast and get myself ready for the show that night!
When I'm off the road and at home, I spend as much time with my husband, who is a producer and a songwriter himself so much of our worlds overlap and we are fortunate to work together. But we also try to do a lot of non business related things like ride bikes, golf, work in our yard, serve dinner at our local rescue mission, and taking care of the one pet we can keep alive...our fish Charlie. HA!!! I am an avid DIY-er, and I love creating / crafting / re-doing things around my house! I also realize the importance of social media and the part it plays in allowing me to connect with new friends and fans, so I try to stay as current as I can on that!
3. What's the song that you just can't get out of your head right now?
I absolutely love "If We're Honest" by my friend Francesca Battistelli. I love the honesty in the lyric, I love the honesty in the performance, I love the honesty in the title. :-) I don't know how to be any other way than absolutely real, so I'm sure that's why I love it so much!
4. How much do you travel, what are the challenges? How do you juggle life on the road with wanting to be home?
For the last several years, I have been traveling a LOT. I don't have any kids, so fortunately the travel thing works for me. I also have the most supportive husband on the planet. He toured for years as an artist himself with his Christian rock band 'Brian White & Justice', so I am very lucky because there's no one who understands my touring world better than he does. Being on the road is a lot of fun, but it can also be very draining. Sleeping habits can get out of whack, and sometimes vocal rest is an absolute MUST in order to be able to sing that night...so I'm thankful I have a husband who understands it all.
I get emotional sometimes when I'm away from home for long periods of time, so there are times when I will call my husband and just have a good cry. Haha! (Girls, you know what I mean!) I'm so thankful that he understands all the ups & downs of being on the road. We have an incredible marriage, and he is my greatest encourager, and being able to relax in that makes all of this a lot more fun!
I make a conscious effort to un-plug from the music business when I'm home so that my husband and I have a "home life". Being that both of us work in the music industry, it can be all consuming, so we have to be careful to balance work & home. We have an incredible church we go to on Tuesday nights, and that helps us both stay grounded and remember why we are doing what we're doing.
My husband always says, "We can get so busy running the race that we forget why we're running the race." Ultimately, it's my desire to do my best each day fulfilling the calling the Lord has given me. And that is not just to be a Christian music singer...it is to be a Christ follower.
5. What Artist or Pastor has had the greatest impact on you?
Wow. That's a big question. I have had a LOT of people in my life who have impacted me greatly. From my dad, to my pastor growing up in Orlando, to so many Fellowship of Christian Athletes friends during my high school years who invested in me. On a musical / artistry side, friends like Mac Powell, Mandisa & Matthew West have all had a big impact on me.
The artist who has made the greatest impact on me is no doubt Chonda Pierce. From the minute we met, there was an instant connection and I consider her friendship one of my greatest treasures. In Chonda, and all of these artists, I see honesty and openness, and the ultimate desire to share Christ above selling records. They are more interested in impacting people than anything else and I love that because that is how I have always approached my music ministry.
From a pastoral standpoint, David Uth, the pastor at my home church, First Baptist Orlando has always been incredibly supportive of me as a person and an artist and he has poured into my ministry. When I moved to Nashville, I got to sit under the teaching of Dr. David Foster. I have never been more challenged and encouraged to run hard after the Lord. I left every Sunday feeling like he had peeked into my life that week, and he was speaking just to me. Sadly, Dr. Foster passed away too soon, and it made me realize how fortunate I was to know him during the time I did. The Lord led my husband and I to a great church in Nashville, "The Belonging" with pastors Alex & Henry Seeley...2 amazing people who the Lord continues to use to move me forward in my relationship with Him.
So...that's a very long answer to this question. HA! I feel so fortunate to have had so many amazing people pour into me and it reminds me to reach out and invest into the lives of people the Lord puts in my path!
6. What's the last book you read?
I am a HUGE reader. I get that from my dad. He reads more than any person I know. And he always encouraged me that the best way to keep my mind sharp is to read. He says it's like a nautilus machine for your brain. :-) The book I just finished is "Love Your Life Not Theirs" by Rachel Cruze, Dave Ramsey's daughter. The book releases this Fall, and I can't recommend it enough. The whole premise is: quit comparing, start living!
About a year and a half ago, I was introduced to the financial teachings of Dave Ramsey, and it changed a lot for us. I highly recommend Rachel's new book. It made me realize how easy it is to make financial decisions based on comparison, instead of doing what is best for me and my family. And the coolest thing about her book is that she approaches every day practical matters from a biblical, scriptural perspective.
7. Funniest or most embarrassing moment on the road?
A few years ago at Momentum (Christian Music Broadcasters Convention) in Orlando, I was getting ready to introduce my dad to a packed house before he closed out the convention as the keynote speaker. My husband and I had just finished breakfast, and we had poured 2 large cups of coffee to take with us backstage.
For some reason, right before I was to go on stage, my husband decided to rip his wristband from the previous evening's "Night of Joy" off his wrist, and when he did, the wristband popped off suddenly and his hand hit both cups of piping hot coffee (with no tops on them!) and they went all over me!!!!! And to make matters worse, I had on a white shirt! HA! I literally had coffee dripping from my hair all the way down to my feet!
Once I got over how HOT it was (fortunately I wasn't burned), we both panicked because I only had a few minutes before I had to be on stage. We took off running back to our room, and I threw on different clothes and quickly ran a hair dryer through my hair to dry out the coffee! We ran back to the stage JUST in time for me to go on and give my dad a rousing introduction.
I was quite literally out of breath, and I smelled like a walking espresso machine! Lol!! To this day, it is the craziest thing that has ever happened to me...and it's the reason I ALWAYS bring an extra change of stage clothes. ;-)
8. Tell us about your latest project, LETTING GO OF PERFECT.
Every record we make as artists feels like giving birth to a new baby. We spend so much time, effort, prayer, blood, sweat & tears on our projects, and releasing them to the world is such an exciting adventure. My latest project, "Letting Go of Perfect" will always be one of my favorite things I've ever worked on. The journey to get it to completion took me on many ups & downs, and I'm so thankful for all the people who pulled together to make it happen.
The title of the record came to me while I was walking on the beach on my family vacation in Destin, FL. The record was basically finished, but I still didn't know what to call it. I know I could have picked any song, but I wanted it to feel special and personal and....well.....perfect. :-) I had written a song called "Lately" a few months before with my friend Bay Brooks and in a 'lightning bolt moment', the Lord said, "Karyn, I want you to record that song, change a line in it to say 'I'm letting go of perfect...' and make that the title of the record." It was THAT clear. (I love it when the Lord does that by the way...there's no arguing when you KNOW you heard His voice!) So that's what we did.
At the 11th hour, we went back into the studio and recorded that song and the title of the record became something the Lord has been trying to teach me my whole life. Haha!! As women, we think we have to be perfect. We want to portray to the world that we have the perfect life, the perfectly clean house, the perfect marriage and the picture perfect family. The truth is, life isn't perfect and it can get downright messy at times. I'm working hard on letting go of the idea that I have to be "perfect" at everything I do.
My pastor David Foster used to say "All you have to do is get up, suit up, show up, do the NEXT right thing, and then trust God with the results." That to me is what it's all about. Getting up and working hard...but just staying focused on the next right thing I need to do, and then let the rest go! Not comparing myself or putting an unrealistic expectation on the situation. Whether we will admit it or not, perfection is something we as women struggle with and seeing how this song is impacting people every night is such a rewarding experience.
There are a few other songs on this record that mean so much to me. "Who Says" is a ukulele driven song that simply says "Who says you can't see love...who says you can't see God?" I think if we will open our eyes to the beauty all around us, then we can't help but see God's fingerprints everywhere we look!
And then the other song on this project that stands out to me is the single currently playing on Christian radio, "You Are My Rest". I went through a lot in making this record, and the enemy attacked me in a way I've never experienced. There was a period of time when I wondered if it was 'worth it' to finish it. Would anybody really even care? Did any of it matter? I was starting to believe the lies the enemy was telling me, and I had to fight HARD to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
We wrote this song on a day when I felt like I had nothing left, so we decided to get really honest with the lyrics and say exactly that. I sang my heart out on the vocal and prayed the whole time that this song would encourage someone feeling the same way. Maybe a single mom who is at her whits end trying to make ends meet. Or maybe a woman who's husband has just walked out, and she has no idea how to find rest. The Lord never promised us "easy", but He did promise us "worth it", and I'd rather have that anyway.
I'll never forget the day my friend Danny Gokey came in and added his voice to this song. As soon as he started singing on the chorus, I immediately dissolved into tears. Mainly because his voice is so incredible (ha!) but also because I knew the journey it took to get this song and this record finished, and I was exhausted...yet proud of myself for hanging in there and allowing the Lord to create something He wanted for me all along.
9. What organization/service group are you affiliated with?
As a big sister in a family like mine, it's no surprise that adoption & foster care is something I'm extremely passionate about. I grew up watching lives change right in front of me because of my parents' willingness to open their arms & hearts, and I am spending my life trying to encourage others to do the same. I am currently affiliated with Food for the Hungry (FH), and have been able to travel internationally to see the incredible work they are doing all over the world to empower people. One of the cool things about FH is that they take a 'community based' approach, and they do everything they can to keep the family unit together, so when you sponsor a child through FH, you are helping the entire family and/or community. I have learned that it doesn't take much to help and child sponsorship is such an easy way to make a difference, so I can't encourage people enough to get involved!
10. Person you'd most like to have a discussion with, living or dead.....Deities are excused from this question
Ruth Graham. I never had the chance to meet her, but everything I know and have read about her tells me that she was an amazing woman who stood behind and supported one of the most iconic men in our nation's history. Something tells me she and I would have a very interesting conversation. ;-)
1. Favorite Bible Verse....life verse?
I always grew up hearing people talk about their "life verse", but I loved so many verses in the Bible that I found it hard to pick just one. That was until I moved to Nashville years ago and the Lord gave me another 'lightning bolt moment' that changed me forever. When I first got to Nashville, I got a sweet package in the mail from one of my pastors at my home church encouraging me and sending me a hug from home. In that package was a note that I still have to this day. My pastor challenged me to memorize Galatians 1:10 and "keep it in front of me every day when the enemy came sneaking around." I didn't know that verse off the top of my head, so I went straight to my Bible and looked it up. It says, "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ." All of a sudden in that moment, everything else fell away and I realized: That's all that matters. That's what life is about. Who am I doing this for? Who am I trying to please? With that perspective in place, decision making becomes easier. It's too easy to get distracted with what you think the world wants from you. But if we will stop, be still and get alone with the Lord...the right answer always becomes clear. I'm so glad my pastor took the time to write and send me that note all those years ago, because it became a defining moment in my life and Galatians 1:10 became my life verse!
2. How & When did you become a believer?
I was fortunate to have been born to 2 parents who love the Lord. So being in church and learning about the Lord is all I have ever known. I asked Jesus into my heart after Sunday School one day when I was 5 years old. My mom knelt by the bed with me and helped me pray. I knew deep down I was saved, but as a child, I was always a little scared that maybe He didn't hear me. HA! So I got saved about 472 more times during my childhood. Every chapel service during school, or summer camp...I would silently pray the prayer again "just in case". :-) In high school and early college, I had some really special people invest time into helping me understand what it meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus, but it wasn't until my mid-20's that MY relationship with Him became real. And intimate. And consistent. I have always been very independent and a tad stubborn (HA!) and as a young adult I thought I had all the answers for my life. I was raised to work hard and go after what I wanted. And while there's nothing wrong with working hard, there has also been a major learning curve for me in regards to doing my best, but ultimately leaving the results in the Lord's hands. His plans are ALWAYS better than mine, and when I finally yielded my life to Him completely is when I began to understand true freedom and true rest. I pray that for everyone reading this.
3. What's the biggest "God moment" you've ever experienced? Personally or professionally, when has God shown up in a powerful way?
Wow. I have had a lot of really awesome "God moments" throughout my life. It seems like once I started 'looking', I began experience God moments on a daily basis. From getting a phone call or an email giving me a word of encouragement I specifically need to hear, to standing on stage and seeing someone accept Christ at a concert or surrendered in worship, to stepping on my back porch and seeing a hummingbird drinking out of my feeder....to me, those are all 'God moments'.
Years ago, when I was trying to decide how to pursue a full time ministry in music, the Lord showed up for me in an incredibly powerful way. I was living and working in Orlando, but deep down feeling called to Nashville. I knew everyone would think I was crazy if I just 'up & went', so I said "Lord You're going to have to make it REALLY clear, because I don't know how to do this...and also, leaving my family would be incredibly tough!" One day when I walked in to work, the owner of the company announced out of nowhere that the company was shutting its doors which meant I no longer had a job. That same afternoon, I got a call out of the blue from a friend who said "IF you ever went to Nashville, what would you do for work? Because a friend in Nashville just called and said his wife is looking for a full time assistant." I was dumbfounded. While I was sitting in my condo that same week trying to figure out what to do, I got a call from another friend who said "IF you ever went to Nashville, what would you do with your condo? Because our church is looking for a furnished rental for a year for our interim pastor and his wife." So - in a nutshell - within 1 week, I lost my job in Orlando, had a job in Nashville and had my condo rented...all without doing anything! Talk about a 'God moment"! I literally felt like the Lord was extending His arms towards me with a silver platter in His hands, and the city of Nashville was sitting on the platter...and He was saying, "Karyn, how much clearer do you want Me to make it?!" Lol!!! I called my dad and told him we needed to have dinner, and for the first time out loud I said, "I'm moving to Nashville." It was the biggest risk I've ever taken in my life, yet because the Lord made it so clear, it didn't feel like a risk at all. Leaving home was emotional and SO hard, but it was the time in my life when the "peace that passes all understanding" came to life for me. Because even though my heart was broken leaving home, I also felt an overwhelming peace knowing I was headed EXACTLY where the Lord wanted me! To this day, that experience still makes me laugh & cry all at the same time! God definitely blew my mind with that one!! :-)