Audrey Assad’s music has an angelic and ethereal quality that will inspire and touch your soul, to say the least. Lauded by The New York Times, Assad is a multiple Dove Award nominee, an iTunes Christian Breakthrough Album of the Year recipient (2010); and her newest album Inheritance (2016) has already achieved five-star status and hit No. 1 on iTunes. As the daughter of a Syrian refugee, she holds a great passion for people who have been unfairly displaced. Assad shares her passion for the refugee mission, and talks about achieving freedom through Christ in her own life.
PM: We read that you started playing piano at age two! How is that even possible? Is that when your love for music began?
AA: Even earlier, honestly. The church I grew up in always sang vigorously. We had a big hymnal tradition and we used no instruments and sang acappella. I grew up in a church where everyone was singing for sometimes 30 to 45 minutes at a time, several days a week. I really just grew up in it, in a culture of singing and of praying with music.
Then my mom bought a piano when I was two and I took to it immediately. She said I hopped up there in my diaper and started playing songs that she recognized, and she said, “Well, I guess we have a piano player in this house!” I’ve always been around it and I’ve always loved it.
PM: Who are your musical influences?
AA: My mom picked out most of the music I listened to growing up. We listened to a mix of 70s music like James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel and John Denver. There was a lot of country music in my house growing up. I’m influenced by the folk songwriting tradition, so that’s probably the biggest influence I have. Even if I’m not making that kind of music, it’s certainly influenced my chord structures and the way I like to phrase things.
PM: We also read that rather than write lyrics about God, you write lyrics directed to God. Can you tell us a little bit about your songwriting process?
AA: I typically am inspired by little phrases I come across in literature or in spiritual writing. I’ll usually elaborate on an idea that I’ve found in a book by whatever author I’m reading, and it’ll spawn an emotion in me and then an idea based around the words I’ve read.
On the Fortunate Fall record there’s a song called “Lead, Kindly Light,” and it’s one of my favorites that I’ve ever written. It’s basically a paraphrase of a little poem by a priest that I read. It’s an old piece of art that I found and thought, “This is so the cry of my heart right now, I’m going to put this in my music.” I tend to be pretty inspired by spiritual writing and literature.
PM: That’s beautiful. Your story behind your song “Even Unto Death” was incredibly inspiring— speaking to Philippians 2:5-8 and Christian martyrdom. What do you hope your music inspires other to do?
AA: First and foremost, I hope that my music facilitates a place for someone where they can encounter not only a Jesus who atones for them in some way, in some kind of transactional legal sense, but a Jesus who heals their wounds and who brings them to life again.
I really hope that it inspires a parallel to my journey, which is a journey out of a fundamentalist rule-based approach to religion and Jesus and faith, and into a dynamic and healing and electric relationship with the God of the universe. That’s what I hope. That’s been my journey 100% and honestly, even in recent years, have I just begun to really understand how much my first half of life has been about the law. I want people to experience freedom in encountering Jesus through my music.
Captain Pamela Maynor, Editor, Young Salvationist