Laura Story: "God of Every Story"
Filled with emotionally rich lyrics and honest confessions, Grammy Award winning artist Laura Story is back with her first album of new material in two years called, God of Every Story.
Known as much for her songwriting as performing, Laura first gained notoriety in the praise and worship music world a decade ago after penning “Indescribable,” a song that became Chris Tomlin’s first hit song. More recently, her 2011 album Blessings topped the Christian music charts, spawning a number one hit song by the same name.
Yet for all her success, Laura remains humble, a faithful servant devoted to God, finding His redemptive power through her music.
I recently sat down with Laura to discuss her calling as a worship leader, how “Indescribable” came to be, and why she chose to show her vulnerable side on God of Every Story.
You've been writing, recording, and performing music for a while now. When did you realize that God was calling you into music, specifically to be a worship leader?
That's a good question. I had been in a band for about five years playing bass, called Siler's Bald. I finally left the band because I began to feel like I just didn't want to do music. I just didn't feel like God had music in my future. I think part of that was that I had not yet understood my role and my relationship with the church. Christian music was something that I would do. I had played in a lot of different churches, kind of whoever had a need. And then when I set music aside, I just became involved with a local church and dug my roots in there. I said that's God's plan A for ministry. Para church organizations are wonderful, but the church, it's just such an important entity needing to figure out my relationship with the church first. So I started serving on staff of a local church called Perimeter Church in Atlanta. I’ve been there about eight years and God kind of gave back the music side of me. I do music at the church. That's one of a few different responsibilities I have there. I get to do this other songwriting and traveling thing on the side. It's just great. I love it.
God has really used you in a big, big way. In the last 10 years, you have written a song that has become a worship standard in churches all over the world: “Indescribable”. Could you take me through how the song came into being?
I wrote the song when I was in college, and I didn't know much about worship music. I was just writing a song about what I was experiencing as I was driving down the road. Just seeing God’s beautiful creation and realizing that the point of creation is all just to point arrows to the fact that we have a creator. As I was considering all this, I was just overwhelmed with speechlessness at one point, which is pretty amazing for me to be speechless, Chris. I remember just not having even words to express it, and that's kind of where the idea for “Indescribable” came about.
Let's fast-forward to two or three years ago. Blessings was a seismic event for you and your musical life, a number-one hit song, a Grammy Award, Billboard Award, Dove Award, the list goes on and on.
(Jokingly) Anyone that knows me knows I'm all about the awards.
A lot of people can just ride off into the sunset right there and call it a career based on those awards.
It was hard to figure out what to do after that. Before I did anything else after that, I think it was important just to stop and kind of take in all of what God had done. I work at a church. I'm not really into all the awards stuff. All the people on the church staff just had a field day with the fact that I had won this Grammy. I'm so honored that God blessed me that way, but more than anything I saw every award ceremony, every accolade, as an opportunity to showcase this story in which—I am not the main character of the story. God is the main character, and as you look at our stories, it's not so much about my faithfulness as it is God's faithfulness. So whatever stage God chooses to showcase that story, I'll celebrate that. Not for the accolades, but just for the ministry opportunity.
Before we go any further, tell me the story of the song, “Blessings.” How did that come about?
The song “Blessings” is based on some trials my husband and I went through with his health. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor about seven years ago, and he has some disabilities as a result of complications from the surgery. The song is about, how you respond to God when he seems to have changed the plan that you have for your life, and trying to understand how a good and loving Father would allow his children to walk through something that's so painful, and also that just doesn't seem to have an end in sight. I always thought I was fine sharing whatever story God gave me for His glory. But I always thought it would have a nice tidy bow on it. This (her husband’s health) happened, and then God did this, and now everything is great. We still feel very unraveled, and it's been seven years. What we're finding is that God is giving me songs and stories about how to worship Him in the process, about how to worship Him when we don't have the answers. That has been a challenge; but I'm finding that it is real ministry, because that is where most people live. It's not necessarily on the other side of the trial, but right in the midst of it. And so the song “Blessings” was written about my experience there, and I think that's how it’s had such a ministry impact, because it's just about struggling. It's about asking God questions, and not always hearing the answers, but trusting that He's good in the process.
What can you tell me about your new album God of Every Story?
It is the most excited I’ve been about anything I’ve ever done. I don’t know whether it is because of having a baby or whether it’s just beginning to see God use some of these hard things in our life to minister to others. Whatever it was, I feel like I have begun to write from a deeper, more vulnerable place. With Blessings, I had these thoughts and feelings, and put them on a CD. With God of Every Story I was really nervous about how me being so vulnerable would translate. What I found is that there are literally millions of people out there that feel the exact same way, and that was so comforting. And so, this new CD is just continuing to tap into that place of vulnerability and honesty before God and before others, and just continuing to explore how God’s promises are true in the midst of our daily lives.
I often select the songs that I ask artists about but with you I want to turn the tables and let you pick. Is there a song or two on the new album that you feel great about?
Yes, I’d love to. One of the songs is called “I Can Just Be Me,” and it was written out of all the different roles that I’ve played. But there is a role I have been convicted about recently. There’s a role that I always try to play that is more challenging than any of my actual roles, and it’s me trying to play God. And I might not do that as far as trying to get people to pray to me or trying to part the Red Sea of Atlanta traffic. But trying to play this role of God, I realized my tendency is to try to control things, my tendency to try to manipulate situations and people, and I really hate that about me because it’s not just that it’s blasphemous when I try to be God, but it’s futile as well. I would make a terrible God. I’m not God, and I really would make a pretty lousy God, because I barely make a good me. But what I’m finding is that the more I acknowledge Him as God, the more I learn to be the best me that I can be, because it’s in the context of who He is, that’s where I fit in. “I Can Just Be Me” is about that, and just the beauty and the freedom of just letting go and letting God be who He is in my life. That’s what gives me identity; that’s what gives me purpose.
As an artist, what is your greatest hope for “God of Every Story”?
My hope for anything I do is always the same thing but it is anything that I would say or sing would bring hope to someone that’s struggling. That I would do a good enough job, not just singing about the truths of God and the promises of God, but crafting it together musically in a way that is catchy enough to stick with someone. I hope that they don’t just remember it when they’re listening to it in their car, but when they’re sitting in their hotel room by themselves just after receiving some tragic news, that one of my songs would pop into their mind, not because I really want them to listen to a Laura Story song, but because I think of the times in my own life where God has spoken to me and helped me hang in there by using a song. The fact that God has chosen to include me in that resource base for the Church is very humbling. But that’s always my greatest prayer, is that words that I sing or say would offer hope to people that are in the midst of hard times.