Lizzie Stanley has been part of the worship team at ChristChurch London for a few years, and has led us in worship on many Sundays. But she has also recently released her first album, following a successful kickstarter campaign. We caught up with her to find out a bit more about the project, and how it came about:
Tell us a little about yourself: who are you, how long have you been in London and what do you do here?
I’m Lizzie. I grew up in Croydon and spent a number of years living in London before moving back to the place I grew up. I work in a creative agency based in Waterloo.
How did you get a passion for music and how did you develop your skills?
Good question – one I actually haven’t thought about before! Singing has always been something I enjoyed from a young age, and music has been a constant in my life since I can remember. Growing up, the songs I listened to had a big influence on my experiences and in shaping me. I’d never really played an instrument beyond primary school piano lessons but at university somebody taught me a few guitar chords and the song writing started from there. I think I realised quite early on how powerful music could be.
You’ve just released your first album, The Singer’s Refrain. How did this project come about?
Well, I’d been playing music off and on, doing the occasional performance at open mic nights through my early 20s. The last few years there was a more concerted effort to gig, and I’d been writing new material with my brother. Whenever we played somewhere people would ask where they could buy the music, and my answer was always that I’d never recorded any of it, or that there were some really rough versions on a MySpace site somewhere!
The tipping point came when after working on and winning a really big pitch at work, I was offered a big promotion. That same week, quite out of the blue, I came in contact with an old family friend, a producer who’d been in the music industry for years and wanted to record an album for me. So that weekend I prayed, and I felt that, despite the offer of the promotion, I should pursue the music option.
That Monday, I sat in the office of the CEO of the company and told him what I’d decided, and to my total surprise, he offered me an open-ended sabbatical with the promotion and even the flights to Canada in exchange for staying an extra 6 months! I felt God’s hand on it quite clearly and as I prayed I felt that it was God’s provision and confirmation for me to follow this path and music.
Did you write all the music yourself, or did you collaborate with others
The majority of tracks I’ve written myself, but a few are co-written with my brother. It works well: he puts together interesting chords and I write the melodies and lyrics
What did you hope to achieve through this album?
On a simple level, I wanted to create and record music that people would really enjoy listening to. But beyond that, my hope is that these songs would resonate with those who hear them, and also reveal something of the hope and life I’ve experienced through my faith in God.
What is the music like and who are your main influences?
This is a difficult question because it’s always what I get asked – it’s very hard to define your own sound! I think the most accurate description would be that it’s storytelling music. In terms of genre, I’ve had one person describe it as Joni Mitchell meeting Arcade Fire and Radiohead.
Which is your favourite song on the album, and why?
I would say it’s Isaiah 54. The song is based on a scripture from the Bible that someone spoke over me a number of years ago and for me it’s an incredibly powerful picture of God’s desire to bring beauty out of brokenness. It’s actually the most overtly Christian song out of any on the album, but it’s the one which most of my non-Christian friends have been most moved by. I love that it’s simple, unadulterated scripture put to a melody, but it communicates something powerful to those that don’t even know Jesus.
What were the main challenges you had to overcome in this project?
There were many challenges with this project; in fact it was one of the most challenging experiences I’ve faced yet. The difficulties were largely caused by communicating across different time zones, differing expectations, and pulling off a very ambitious project on a shoestring budget.
I remember one point where, after a particularly difficult series of conversations and months and months of waiting, it looked like the album wouldn’t be finished, and all the money and time sown into it would be lost. It was a very bitter sweet time, but I felt God challenge me with a question: if the album never got finished, would I still believe His plans and purposes are perfect? It was a time of stripping away my agenda and ambition and learning to trust on a deeper level than I’ve ever had to before.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
That God would continue to inspire me with melodies and songs that speak truth and hope to those who hear them
What advice would you give to others who have creative dreams and aspirations?
Creativity and the creative arts are such an incredible gift. And the world needs that gift.
My biggest piece of advice is to be aware of the battle of the mind. As a creative person, I find that my emotions – which are born from my thoughts – can pull me around quite a lot. Someone wise (well, Andy Tilsley!) once said to me that your greatest gift will often be your biggest vulnerability/ weakness. I believe God has given me a gift to bring freedom and hope through music and when I sing, but it’s in these areas I can sometimes find myself struggling the most. The biggest battles for me have been with the battle in my mind believing what God says rather than how I feel.
I would encourage you to recognise the battle when you embark on any kind of creative venture like this and get godly friends around you that will pray and support you in stepping out.
Will you be playing live any time soon? And if so, where can people see you?
I will indeed! I’m doing a series of home gigs over the next few months for those that supported me through my crowd funding site, but I will be doing a launch gig in the next few months. Watch this space…
Where can people find out more and buy the album?