An interview with Audrey Assad
I have been a long time fan of Audrey’s records and have always appreciated her honesty dealing with matters of faith in the midst of life’s questions. All of us at YS are excited about having her back with us for the NYWC Atlanta. To help you get to know Audrey a little more, I took an opportunity to interview her about her most recent EP “Death, Be Not Proud.”
(JACOB) First of all, congratulations on the newest addition to your family! I’m sure it’s an exciting time for lots of reasons and that your pregnancy has brought about some new perspectives. Did your desire to write and record these songs have a connection with becoming a parent?
(AUDREY) “Death, Be Not Proud” was written and recorded mostly in my last trimester of pregnancy…I'd say the themes stem both from the awesome nature of being a soul's vessel for nine months, and also from my experience walking through cancer with my husband. Pregnancy is such a slap in the face to death's bitterness…life begins again, anew, always. Mortality is something we think and speak of a lot in our house, and John Donne's poem (of the same title as the EP) has long been a solace for me in my interior conversations with God. I couldn't help but set it to music, I suppose.
(JACOB) I love the imagery of the EP cover photo with the beauty of a pregnancy next to the title phrase, “Death, Be Not Proud.” It makes me think of times in my life when even the darkest moments seem pregnant with hope. How has your faith brought you to a point where you can so boldly say, “Death, Be Not Proud”?
(AUDREY) Everything from my parents' divorce when I was 25, to my husband's cancer diagnosis in 2011 (he's cancer free now!) is part of this record…it is in those things and through those things that I have truly learned the beautiful truth that death is not just the end of a life, but a door to what lies ahead—and in the midst of the effects of Death in the world, it can be very hard to remember that. The truth I cling to can be best summed up in John Donne's own words; 'Death, be not proud, though some have called thee mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so— … one short sleep past, we wake eternally, and death shall be no more—death, thou shalt die.'
(JACOB) My favorite track is probably, “Love Is Moving.” How do you hope that message of God moving among us can encourage students and youth workers in the church?
(AUDREY) I've always loved the story of the woman with the issue of blood who touched Jesus' hem and received healing, by her simple faith. I wish for a faith like that…I've often said that I write the songs I need to sing the most, and this one is no exception. There is (I hope) a really hopeful tone to this record, because Death is not the end. Jesus moved among us physically in his life, and moves among us today by His spirit. (Also, being a Catholic, I attach a special significance to the song, because I wrote it thinking of the Eucharist, which we believe is Christ's Body and Blood present among us on the altar.) I hope that, among all the devastation of broken homes, sickness, and death, both youth workers and young people today can clutch the same truth close that I do–this is not the end, this is not the end. That truth may not change our circumstances, but it does change us.
(JACOB) The song “Receive” is a beautiful picture of the church and how we receive the message of Christ. Thinking back to your own faith experiences growing up, did you have moments when a youth worker helped you understand these things?
(AUDREY) For some reason I am hearkening back to a moment when I was 17 and sitting on the front porch with a relative of mine who worked with youth…I was heartbroken over a boy, and she counseled me to always hold my hands open around the things and people I loved for two reasons–firstly, that it would hurt less if I had to let go, and secondly, my hands would be in a receptive position for whatever God's plans were for me. I'll never forget that little (big) lesson.
(JACOB) We’re really excited to have you back at the National Youth Workers Convention this year in Atlanta. What do you think connects you the most with youth workers?
(AUDREY) I don't exactly know! Haha. I suppose maybe it's the simplicity of how I approach church music…youth workers are as diverse as any group in terms of temperament–and as I often lead alone, on piano, I wonder if maybe that's a respite for the introverted and/or contemplative types in the room!