BETWEEN THE LINER NOTES
Francesca Battistelli: Free to Be Me
By Chris Carpenter
CBN.com Program Director
NASHVILLE -- You can’t seem to turn on Christian radio these days without hearing the soulful, playful, pop of 24 year old Francesca Battistielli.
The New York City based singer/songwriter has been going non-stop since her debut album “My Paper Heart” released last summer.
Perhaps you saw her on the 35-city Winter Jam tour performing with the likes of TobyMac and Brandon Heath. Maybe you saw her on this year’s Dove Awards where she was nominated for Best New Artist and Female Vocalist of the year. Or it could be the non-stop radio airplay Battistelli is receiving these days for her two chart topping hits, “I’m Letting Go” and “Free to be Me”.
CBN.com program director Chris Carpenter recently sat down with Battistelli to discuss how she is handling such notoriety, the concept of free falling before God, and the idea that we don’t need to be perfect for God to love us.
So, I get in my car yesterday to go to the airport. I turn on the radio and the very first thing I hear is you singing “Free to be Me”. I get to my hotel yesterday and what do I hear playing in the lobby as I am checking in? “Free to be Me”. I open a trade magazine today at lunch. Who do I see? You. You seem to be Christian music’s “It” girl right now. What gives?
Oh, man. It is exciting. I am having a great time. I am blessed.
Do you ever just want to take a moment and step back, take a deep breath, and just breathe? You seem to be going non-stop.
Yeah, a little bit. I am going to get to go on a cruise in a couple of weeks, so I am looking forward to that. It is one of those music cruises but I am not performing. I am just going. That will be a little bit of a vacation. I think you just have to be intentional with your time. I am learning that. It is definitely a new lifestyle, being on the road and everything. But it is a blessing. Just the fact that I have a job in this economy and it is a job I love doing. I can’t say anything negative about my life these days.
You current single, “Free to be Me” is doing wonderfully well on the charts. What was the inspiration for writing it?
I wrote the song about four years ago after backing into a lawyer’s car. True story. I was driving home and was thinking how much this stinks. I sort of started writing the song just to cheer myself up. It was one of those songs that came in about 30 minutes. It was totally God. It is cool to now see it come full circle, for that to be the song that is doing well and connecting with people. It is just a song about knowing that God loves you for who you are no matter what kind of mistakes you have made in the past.
I have read that you basically knew what you wanted to do with your life from a very young age. Most kids sort of change their plans as they grow older but you have never deviated from your childhood dream. Why do you think you have remained so steadfast in your pursuits?
I think it is a combination of just really having a passion for music and the arts and having parents who are super supportive and sort of saw that call in my life early on. They just continued to speak those things over me and not ever doubt me. They have just been so supportive and so gracious and helpful along the way. It has always been this, ‘Well, this is how it is going to happen.’ They are not surprised to see these dreams coming true for me. They are probably less surprised than I am. I think sometimes that this is all crazy. But for them they saw it all along. That is invaluable. I know a lot of people and a lot of artists don’t have that support. I am so grateful. My family is incredible.
How would you describe your album, “My Paper Heart”, to a person who has never heard your music before?
It is encouraging and uplifting. It is hopefully one of those albums you put in first thing in the morning to start your day. It gives you a kick start because that is the type of music I like to listen to, music that makes me feel good. It has a good message. It has an encouraging, motivating type of message. My hope is that this is what my record does for people.
Is there any significance in calling it “My Paper Heart”?
The song of the same name is just the idea of that metaphor for our hearts being like paper – like a Valentine heart. It can be easily be ripped up, stepped on, torn apart, or crumpled. But God writes His name on our hearts and it is like He erases all of that and makes them brand new again. It is just the idea that our hearts are vulnerable. We are supposed to guard them and yet still love from the very center of who we are. That is where the song comes from but titling the record that for me was also just saying, ‘Hey, this record is my heart.’ I am being vulnerable by letting you read the words of my journal or hear them set to music. Especially for a first album, I just felt it was a very fitting title.
Your first single, “I’m Letting Go”, is a song that has also done very well on the charts. If I understand your lyrics correctly, you write that freefalling is what it is like to believe in God. Why do you think that?
I think there comes a point when it comes to faith where you just sort of jump off a cliff metaphorically speaking. You need to just say, ‘I can’t really see the bottom. I think it is there. I think there is a net that is going to catch me but I can’t see it.’ That is sort of what belief in Jesus Christ is. We can’t see it with our own two eyes but blessed are those who believe and don’t see. That is kind of the idea behind the song but I think also just in life God calls us to things, whether it is moving somewhere or taking a new job or quitting a job or just starting something new. God called Abraham to a place he didn’t know. Faith is like that sometimes. It is freefalling. It is saying, ‘Ok God, I don’t know what is going on but I trust you and I am going to take this step of faith.’
For those who are Christians, why do you think taking that step is so hard to do? In theory, if we truly believe what we believe it shouldn’t be a problem.
We want to be in control. We want to be able to see our life ten years down the road. We want to have the reins in our hands. I don’t think that is necessarily what God always wants. I think most of the time He wants us to be kind of in that place of ‘I can’t do this alone’. If you don’t help me I am going to fail. Too many of us stay comfortable for too long. I am trying to walk that out in my faith all the time.
After people listen to your music or attend one of your shows, what do you want people to take away with them?
If nothing else, hopefully that God loves them and has a big plan for their lives. If He can use me this way then He can use anybody. I want to encourage people to celebrate who they are made to be uniquely by the Lord. Their life is not going to look like anybody elses. It is going to be great if they stay true to Him. But mostly, I just want people to know that God thinks they are awesome. For me, I have always struggled with the idea of I have to be perfect in order for God to love me. That was the idea for “Free to be Me” where I say, ‘perfection is my enemy’. That is not what God has called us to. Obviously, He wants us to strive to be like Him but He is so delighted in us. That is something for me that has always been hard to believe. But I am starting to. So, if I can relate that to people, hopefully they will get that sooner than I did.
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* Some material used courtesy of Vining Media Relations
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