[Editor’s Note: Hey divas! Spring Break is over! Today I’m sharing a Q&A I did with Staci Frenes, a musician and author! She just released her ninth album, Unpathed Waters, Undreamed Shores and is the author of the book Flourish. Thank you for sharing with us, Staci!]
MW: Wow! Congrats on nine albums! How does this one compare to the first?
SF: Thank you for inviting me to come and share on your fabulous blog! Well, my first album was right out of college. It was a hodge-podge of songs, style-wise, and all over the map. Pop, country, folk. You name it. Listening back now, there are a couple of gems I still like, but not THAT many. This new album feels more mature, coherent and intentionally written. Each song tells part of the story, and together they form the soundtrack to my heart during this season of my life.
MW: What are some of your favorite songs on Unpathed Waters, Undreamed Shores or ones you’d like to talk about?
SF: One song people seem to be responding to a lot is ‘Storms.’ I wrote it for my kids, and it talks about how everyone wishes you sunshine and happiness because they think that’s what’s best for you. And of course, any mom wants her kids to be happy and healthy. But we also want them to know how to love well, how to empathize, how to be patient and long-suffering. Those things get developed during difficult times, so the song says, ‘I wish you storms, beautiful storms. The kind that break you and make you more tender than before. I wish you storms.’ As hard as those words were to sing and write, I DO wish those things for my kids and for anyone I love. Storms are where our faith gets tested—like precious metals in the furnace—and hopefully comes out strong and beautiful.
MW: How did you get into music?
SF: When I was little I wrote poems and stories, but something musical awakened in me when I was around 12 and became a Christian. The words I was writing started forming into melodies. I asked my parents for guitar lessons and started to write songs before I knew anything about music. Songwriting in those awkward teenage years was my lifeline. It’s how I processed the confusing stuff. It’s how I expressed my gratitude to God and learned how to praise Him. And since I’m pretty much a textbook introvert, I found songwriting to be a safe way to share my thoughts and feelings with others.
MW: Did you feel led into this career?
SF: I did for sure! I taught high school English after college for a few years before quitting my ‘day job’ and going into music full-time. It was a leap of faith, but it also felt incredibly freeing. I believe when we’re developing and using our gifts there’s a deep joy in our lives, not because of any paycheck or affirmation from others, but because it’s what we’re wired for and find fulfilling. That’s how I found my ‘calling’ really, by listening to my own joy.
MW: Do you have a process for your writing, whether for a song or book?
SF: I’m definitely a morning person, so most of my productivity happens in the morning when my mind is fresh and sort of a blank slate. With a song, it’s harder to just sit down and write because something has to stir your heart first before you can follow it. Even if it’s just a single word or emotion. But once I have the core idea, I’m like a dog with a bone. I don’t give up until I get all the meat off that idea. I try different melodies, lyric combinations, chords, until it sounds right in my head and heart.
MW: Could you share about your Christian journey?
SF: I encountered Jesus at a winter Christian camp in the 7th grade. Our family had just moved from North Dakota to California and I was in culture shock. I was lonely and shy, so the fact that I agreed to go to a winter camp was a miracle in itself. The speaker gave an invitation and I walked up and prayed that Jesus would be the Lord of my life from that moment on. I’d never known how personal and intimate God could be until that night. I was forever changed. Since then, I’ve been on a journey to know Him more.
MW: What has happened in your life to test your faith the most?
SF: I’ve been through some rough waters in the past few years. I lost my dad to cancer and then my brother to a sudden heart attack soon after that. Not long before that, we had lost our home in the housing market crash, and our teenage daughter came out to us quite unexpectedly. Talk about storms. It was like wave after wave kept coming. Some days it felt suffocating and hard to breathe. I thought of the Psalms, how David cried out to God in despair and then praised Him in the next breath. That’s the thing about faith. You experience painful loss and then you have to choose every day to believe that God is still good. That He still loves you and hasn’t abandoned you.
MW: What do you feel is next for you?
SF: This year I’ll be playing music from my new album wherever I’m invited; churches, house shows, concerts, podcasts. I’m also doing a few Flourish events (based on my book), where I share insights and stories about my creative process and encourage people to develop and nurture their own creativity. I’m grateful for the chance to share about hope and change in this new season of music.