Four years after her departure from Flyleaf, Lacey Sturm kick-starts her solo career with a riff-heavy collection of hard rock confessionals addressing family, faith and love and reveals new sides to her singing and songwriting on Life Screams, released on her own Followspot imprint.
Sturm’s break from the music industry found her life changed in many fundamental ways. She and her husband Josh (who also is her guitarist and artistic collaborator) embraced family life and now have two sons. She also published The Reason: How I Discovered a Life Worth Living in 2014, which earned rave reviews for her chronicle of her struggles with depression, suicidal thoughts and how she came to embrace her faith.
We caught up with Sturm to talk about the new album, motherhood, her budding career as an author, and more.
Rhapsody: How has the reception been to your emergence as a solo artist?
*Lacey Sturm:* Amazing. My biggest concern has been my family, and how they would be affected. My husband, Josh [and I] we’ve gotten closer in ways we wouldn’t have had we kept separate music careers. When you go onstage with your husband you really have to be cool with one another. And the kids being around only adds another layer.
Q: Do your sons travel with you, Josh and the band?
*LS:* We bring them along. We have a drum set downstairs, and when we rehearse our oldest son plays along. It’s really funny.
Q: Between the demands of your career and family life, how do you unwind?
*LS:* I need to ask myself that! If I had a choice of doing whatever I wanted, I would read and eat chicken soup all day long. I’m nerdy like that.
Q: What’s the inspiration behind the title *Life Screams?
*LS: The title song encapsulates the many themes on the album: To take life seriously as a messenger, the importance of growing our souls, to pay attention to what life is telling us, the need to learn from life experiences and the benefits of living life in the now. Sometimes, we are so busy focusing either on the future or the past that we forget to enjoy the present. Everywhere we look life is screaming messages at us, and if we really listen to them, we can change our perspective in ways that help our souls to grow.
Q: A theme that pops up is the idea that inner peace and happiness aren’t destinations but ongoing processes.
*LS:* After stepping away from Flyleaf, I focused on my relationships. I felt like I needed to learn how to love those around me, as well as receive their love, which is difficult because it requires vulnerability. When I had my first son I remember being so nervous about giving my heart to this little person and worrying about what would happen if I were to lose him. My entire world would collapse. I had never been loved the way I love my son. He changed my willingness to be vulnerable.
Q: Were you nervous about entering the studio on your own, without Flyleaf?
*LS:* The making of Life Screams was so different from how Flyleaf did things. In the beginning, Flyleaf were a bunch of friends in a garage, yet we also had this intense desire to get our music out there, to play shows and to deliver our message to the world. With this project, we do it because we love it, and if people also love it, then that’s great.
Q: This project is more of a personal endeavor then?
*LS:* This project just feels very natural. Josh and I are both musicians who write songs as a way of dealing with life. When we started to realize that the songs we were writing are relevant to a lot of things going on in our culture, and to this generation currently coming up, we felt willing to put the music out there. But we always have said we would do this as a family, not as a business.
Q: Did that sense of family work its way into the recording process?
*LS:* Our producer Evan Rodaniche basically is family. It didn’t feel like we were going into the studio the way it did with Flyleaf, who worked with Howard Benson, this established producer where we had to mind our p’s and q’s. With Evan it was just a lot of fun — our kids were even running around in the studio.
Everywhere we look life is screaming messages at us, and if we really listen… we can change our perspective
Q: Were you concerned about making an album that appealed to Flyleaf fans yet also reflected your newfound identity as a solo artist?
*LS:* At first, we were open to working in any genre. Music for me is about message, and I’m willing to try any genre to encapsulate that message. But because I feel passionate about rock, that turned out to be the best path. I’m just so proud of it.
Q: Is there a song whose evolution totally surprised you?
*LS:* “**Impossible.” It started out much differently. I wrote it with Korey Cooper of Skillet, who came up with the melody on her keyboard. It was very pop. But after we brought it into the rehearsal room and put our own message into the music, it turned into this heavy rock song. It’s a fun song. You can jump around and dance to it.
Q: You released *Life Screams on your own label, Followspot Records. Why start your own record label?
LS: *We had talks with several labels, including a major and an indie. The indie was so cool that we thought, “We can do this. We can run our own label and have it feel like an extension of our family.” We work with our manager, who is a family-oriented guy. We met him when I did talking events for my book, The Reason: How I Discovered a Life Worth Living, which is about how I almost committed suicide at 16, and I had this encounter with God that saved my life.
Q: It seems as though more bands are going that route.
*LS:* When you’re signed to a big label you don’t feel like partners. You feel like they’re your boss, and you have to do what they say. Ironically, I now kind of understand why the label asked Flyleaf to do certain things. Now that I’m doing it myself, I have a better understanding of the situation, instead of just resentment.
Q: What is the biggest difference between recording an album and writing a book?
*LS:* They’re fairly similar, actually. Sometimes, I can’t go to sleep until I’ve written something — not a song necessarily, but just some writing. Then there are times when I get this tension in my soul, and I have to pick up my guitar and vomit it out. But both are just outlets for stuff that bubbles up inside of me. I think of artistic expression as a form of stewardship. If I have an epiphany or a revelation, I must stop whatever it is I am doing and write down or sing what is inside me. Sometimes, the revelations are just for me or for somebody I love. Other times, they are released into the world.
If you’re someone who has had to deal with depression and suicidal thoughts, the first thing that can derail your life after getting through them is romance.
Q: Do you plan on writing another book?
*LS:* I got a publishing deal for three books. It was amazing to see the response to the first one, which I didn’t write in order to get a publishing deal. I wrote it because I had something I wanted to express and get out.
Q: Did you find a publisher right away?
*LS:* At first, I didn’t know how the book world worked, and I got nine rejections. Eventually, though, I got several offers, and my agent and I went with a smaller company because they’re more family-like. Now I have two more books to write!
Q: Do you have a concept for the next book?
*LS:* I turned it in two days ago. It’s titled The Mystery: Finding True Love in a World of Broken Lovers. If you’re someone who has had to deal with depression and suicidal thoughts, the first thing that can derail your life after getting through them is romance. It can send you down that same dark path, which is what happened to me, so I wrote about that and my miraculous deliverance from it. But it’s not about romance exclusively. It’s also about fatherlessness and discovering your identity so that you can receive and give love in ways that are healthy. Pop culture often teaches us that being trapped is romantic — like in Romeo and Juliet. But that’s so unhealthy.
Q: You have an intense and intimate relationship with your fans. Has a fan ever written a letter or said something to you that has stayed with you through the years?
*LS:* There are so many, but only a few have resulted in actual relationships. One of them is with the girl who ran Flyleaf’s fan site. I dedicated my book to her. She knows everything about the band and has a similar story to mine. There were many times when we were on the road and ready to give up, and she had this supernatural knack for showing up right then and showing us these binders filled with fan letters. I would read them and cry. They would give me the strength to keep on going.
Q: You’ve worked with everybody from *Third Day to Apocalyptica. Does one collaboration stand out from the others?
LS:* Apocalyptica was amazing. They are so funny, and they’re brilliant musicians. I would love to work with them again. Working with David Crowder also was great. He is a worship leader, but he isn’t typical in any way whatsoever. He is so unique and funny. He lives in Waco, Tex., where he bought the house originally owned by the inventor of Dr. Pepper. He turned the barn into an amazingly decorated studio filled with art and fabric on the walls. When we recorded the song “The Nearness” he took me into this small room and said, “I want you to scream on this song.” The line was “feel the earth shake.” It felt like the entire building was shaking when I started to sing. It felt otherworldly, like something took me over.
*Q: Do you have any female role models or musicians whom you admire?
*A: I love working with Korey Cooper. She is an amazing artist and a writing machine. I don’t even know when she sleeps. The way she balances being a mother, a wife and an artist is very inspirational.
*Q: Have you experienced any soccer mom moments that made you fear you were losing your rock ’n’ roll edge?
*A: That is a hilarious question! I feel like a soccer mom moment can also be the most rock ’n’ roll moment. Rock is about rebellion, but to be a mom and change diapers felt rebellious because people around me were like, “Why would you want to become a mom?” I’ve talked to so any women in the music industry who have struggled with whether or not they should be a mother. I’ve seen some get pregnant and worry about what’s going to happen to their careers. But motherhood is the greatest adventure ever, so embrace it for the gift that it is. It will definitely be challenging, but it makes you fuller. Seeing my sons at our shows and rocking out in their little Korn hoodies makes it way more meaningful. We just embrace it.