Christa Wells Talks About Songwriting & Her New Record "Velveteen"

Christa Wells

Singer and songwriter Christa Wells has released her brand new album Velveteen.  Produced by Ben Shive and Christa Wells, these 7 songs are her personal songs to date.

Wells is known for writing deep-reaching lyrics that seem to articulate the listener's heart. Christa's 2011 EP How Emptiness Sings received excellent reviews. Kevin Davis of New Release Tuesday called it "one of the most captivating albums I've ever heard." 

The path to her Christa's present success was non-traditional. Instead of spending her twenties networking and performing at showcases, Christa married early, started a family, and moved away from Nashville to Raleigh, North Carolina. Motherhood, performance anxiety, and advice from veteran songwriter Dwight Liles led Christa to focus on her writing. 

In 2006, Christa was named Songwriter of the Year by the Gospel Music Association for Natalie Grant's recording of "Held."  In 2009, Christa returned to the stage, overcoming her performance anxiety along the way. Christa has also written for and with recording artists Ellie Holcomb, Point of Grace, Plumb, Selah, Sara Groves, Nicol Sponberg, Jessica Campbell and more.

Q:  Christa, congratulations on the release of "Velveteen." This I believe is your first original album since 2013's "Feed your soul." What's happened in between these two projects?

So much! I released an EP of cover songs (simply called "Covers") in 2015. In 2016 our family moved from North Carolina to Nashville, Tennessee. Sadly, during this time I also lost my marriage, which has a lot to do with the songs on this new project.

Q:  Why did you entitle this new record as "Velveteen"?

"Velveteen" was the last song I wrote on this album, but I had been sitting with the concept for months before writing it. I knew I would write it, and I knew it needed to be the title of the album, because it encompassed the themes of all the songs--themes of loss and the growth that takes place in suffering--so well. 

Q: "Velveteen" is a very personal project for you.  How did this album first materialize for you?

I hadn't released an album of originals since 2013's Feed Your Soul, so I was itching to get back into the studio and eager to work with Ben Shive, who'd produced my Covers album. So I mapped out a plan to fund a project through Pledgemusic mid-2017 and get in the studio in August. At the time, I didn't foresee that I would be in the worst of my personal turmoil during that exact time period, but somehow art is enhanced by the rawness of life. So as fragile as I felt, the music was that much stronger and braver for it. I am always writing, so I had a number of songs that could have been recorded on this project, but as the time approached, some of those songs just didn't seem to be saying what I needed to say most during this season of my life. The ones that I wrote about my marriage and kids and my own process of becoming felt cohesive.

Q:  I love the way you write.  You have a way of going deep to unearth emotions within a song that few writers can do.  How did you learn to write?  Did you take formal song writing classes or how did you pick up on such details?

I didn't receive any formal instruction until midway through college, and I'd been writing since I was a kid. I think my best teachers have been practice and intake. I've written a lot of mediocre songs, most of which will never be heard by anyone else. But that's how you get to the good ones. I've paid attention to what worked for the listeners who really get what I'm about. And I try to listen to a variety of music that's just plain good. The music that makes me come back for did the writers make me feel that way? 

Q:  What or who inspires you as a songwriter?

Inspiration works in lots of directions. I'm inspired by all the great music out there to try new sounds and new approaches. I'm inspired by nature to pay attention and to connect with God. People and books give me plenty to write about, lyrical ideas.

Q:  You have covered many topics on this new record.  My favorite song is "Hold this House Up."  For those who have heard the song, what is the song about?  And how did the song come back? 

This one was written for my husband during our crisis, as I reached a point of running out of ideas, accepting my limited power in the relationship and also my complicity in the problem. Only now, a year later, do I see the beauty in the fact that it was written as a plea from one human to another, but in the end it was God himself who responded. 

Q: A second favorite is "Holy Ground."  Tell us more about this song. 

I read some words written by Jon Foreman in a foreword to Charlie Peacock's book New Way to Be Human, and the concept for the first verse started there. He was talking about the role of poets and artists in seeing and telling the truth. It evolved into a broader statement that points to one integral life where there is secular vs sacred, but all the moments and places and interactions carry a holiness. I believe that strongly. We just don't see properly much of the time. I believe in a God who made all of the stuff that we use to make our lives. It's all His, and ours to do something with.

Q:  Over the years, many artists have recorded your songs, including Natalie Grant who recorded your song "Held."  Are you currently writing for other artists now? 

I do, but it mainly just happens with friends or people I connect with via friends. I co-wrote a number of songs with Plumb for her upcoming album, and a couple of those have already been released (God Help Me, Fight For You). I co-wrote Ellie Holcomb's "Red Sea Road" and "You Are Loved." 

Q:  What words of encouragements do you have for songwriters who are struggling?

There is always struggle of one kind or another. Struggling in our work is much the same as in the rest of reach deeper, you reach out for help, and you keep doing the next thing you know to do. It makes you stronger in the end. And it's worth the effort when you come out on the other side with your hands blistered and your pockets full of beauty.




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