Ellie Holcomb has the kind of sincere voice that makes you feel like you are talking to an old friend. Her music comes from honest, meaningful explorations of her Christian faith. Encouraging others is a commitment near to her heart, and it comes through in her music.
With an incredible outpouring of confidence from her fans, she managed to raise over $108,000 with her Kickstarter project for Sure as the Sun. Since its release, supporters and fans have not been disappointed. The album is gorgeous from start to finish, by turns tender and powerful. It is questioning, praising, and engaging, and assumes nothing about the listener.
NYMM: You have one of the most incredible success stories in Kickstarter history. How did that happen?
EH: All I know is that I really didn’t want to do a Kickstarter campaign in the first place. I was really worried that we wouldn’t hit any goal at all. I kept telling my manager and my husband that the amount needed to be lower than $40,000, that we should do half that or less. Our band, Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, had done one before, and I was convinced that people wouldn’t want to help again. I don’t know what happened, but I cried tears of joy for about 50 days straight. The process of creating music can be a bit lonely and solitary at times, so when thousands of people came forward to help, it was very encouraging. It reminded me that music can be a community effort. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being amazed that it happened.
NYMM: Tell us a little about the new album.
EH: It started about a year and a half ago, writing songs that were tied in one way or another to my faith. It was my way of working out what I believe, asking if what I believe in the Bible is true. I felt like there was a fire in me, and I couldn’t stop. At the time, I was pregnant with my little girl, touring full-time, and by the end of the nine months, I had a new baby to hold and about 45 new songs to sing. Songs are a place where I can ask questions. It’s a working out of my faith and my doubts, which are all tied together. I don’t think we’re supposed to have everything figured out, and I’m okay with that. Working through it all has been a beautiful journey, and it has brought a lot of life and, oddly enough, a lot of peace in the midst of questions.
NYMM: How did that questioning turn into these songs?
EH: I had started trying to memorize some scripture with a friend of mine who was struggling with depression. There are a lot of lies that people believe when they’re struggling with depression, and there are a lot of lies that I believe, too. We started trying to hang onto something that might be true, and that might help us push back at some of those shadows. As we started doing that, we found that it worked. It started shifting around some things in our souls, and brought a lot of light into places that were dark before. I started thinking about putting some of these promises into songs, writing songs that carried the truth.
NYMM: What are some of the specific songs that came from this approach?
EH: The title track, “Sure as the Sun,” was written while we were hoping to start a family. I sat down at the piano to write about what I would like this child to know more than anything else. It turns out that the words were something I needed to hear as well. I worry about a lot of things, but one thing that I never worry about is whether or not the sun is going to come up. I love the idea that God’s love and mercy are as sure as the sun. “Only Hope I’ve Got” is one that was difficult to write. I kept trying to take the word “arrogant” out of the song, because I didn’t want to be quite that confessional. The line is, “I don’t want to tell some arrogant story or let myself believe I’m You.” I think I do that a lot. I want to be in control. I kept trying to shy away from telling the truth in that song, but what I’ve found is that when there’s truth, there’s freedom. The song is more truthful now, and I’m glad that it’s in there. I’d rather be real, instead of pretending to be okay when I’m not, or pretending to have answers when I don’t.
NYMM: The album never tries to hit you over the head. There is no prerequisite that the listener agrees with your beliefs in order to enjoy it.
EH: I would rather live my life as an invitation to tell people that there is something that has been very life-giving for me. I spend a lot of time with high school kids, and I tell them that I may get to the end of my life and realize that none of this is true, but I don’t think I would want to live my life any differently. It’s been a very full, wonderful experience working through these questions and figuring out what it might mean to know who God is. A lot of these songs are reminders to me of what I believe to be true, even though I may doubt them a lot of days. I wrote them for myself and for friends who are struggling as reminders that light is stronger than darkness. If these songs bring any light or encouragement to people who are in a dark place, that gets me excited. That makes my heart beat fast.
You can find more Ellie Holcomb here:
Photos by Jon Karr
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