Carley Arrowood Hopes to Stir Hearts with Deeper Meanings with "Colors"

Carley Arrowood

Carley Arrowood is no stranger to the bluegrass music scene. Touring for five years with Darin and Brooke Aldridge found her gracing notable stages all over the country, including 13 appearances on the Grand Ole Opry, as well as overseas performances in Prague and Ireland. Now a thriving solo artist, Carley continues to catch ears with a style that is truly all her own. Her second album, Colors, out now, is her best album to date.

Arrowood's distinctive approach is evident throughout the collection, contrasting the modern shape of songs like "Moondancer," the fiery instrumental, "Tsali's Run," and "This Mess We Made," written by Autumn Watson, with the more traditional flavors of numbers such as the tragic ballad, "Silas and Cora," which nods to bluegrass' classic cautionary tales, and the set's other fiddle tune, "Molasses Ridge." 

By the time Colors reaches its final track, "Always Back To You" - penned by award-winning songwriters Tim Stafford and Bobby Starnes - listeners will find themselves utterly convinced that the promise of her earlier work has been fulfilled with a bold new step forward.   

Q: Carley, thank you for doing this interview with us. With the success of your debut album, did you feel the pressure when you were making "Colors"?

Thank you for having me! It's always an honor. With "Colors", I don't really recall any pressure at all. I was just so very excited to record some new material, especially some originals that we were proud of and couldn't wait to see and hear come to life. 

Q: Were you deliberate in choosing songs that cover a range of topics, including love, faith, and even story songs?

Yes, I always love having a hopeful message in my music, and choosing our songs with that in mind meant shying away from the heartbreak tunes and similar themes that are so familiar to bluegrass. We always want our music to stand out, but I also just desire that folks feel moved after listening. Whether it's a fictional story or a gospel song, or even an instrumental, each topic has the power to stir hearts with deeper meanings, and I just think that's really special.

Q: What were some of the highlights in making this record?

Oh goodness there were so many fun moments! It was so fun hanging out with so many of my good friends from all over. They're all so talented and just amazing people! One big highlight was having a fiddle hero of mine, Jim VanCleve, come and be my producer. I've looked up to him since I was a teenager, and he actually produced my senior project which was just a little EP. So to have him back for a full album was really full circle for us both! But I'd say the sweetest part was being pregnant with my daughter during the whole process. When we started recording I think I was only about 11 weeks, but by the time we went back for round two I was 5 months, so I was feeling a lot of movement by then. It was sweet when we'd play something back and she started "dancing"! To this day she still recognizes the songs (she'll be 1 in June), and she does this thing where she looks like she's directing the music with her finger when they come on. She's so precious.

Q: I was particularly impressed by the title cut "Colors." It's a song filled with wisdom and faith. Tell us more about your thoughts about the song.

Thank you so much! I loved writing this one with my husband, Daniel. As we were talking earlier, there were a lot of different types of songs on the record and at that point in time, the only theme was all the "color" words in some of the lyrics (indigo, crimson, satin white, etc.) and I thought it'd be cool to just write something with that title.

Then the song just fell together when I started praying and thinking about how the Lord is the Master Craftsman, and He knows what He's doing when He ordains trials and hard times. He does it to draw us closer to Him and make us come out looking more like Him. I don't know if you've seen it, but there's a meme of Bob Ross painting a mountain scene and a little cartoon watching him. When Bob puts a black blob on his canvas, the cartoon goes, "Nooo! What are you doing?!" and then Bob finishes by adding the highlights and bringing the mountain to life. The cartoon says, "I don't know why I ever doubted you!" That's just a silly picture but it's so true! Why do we ever doubt what God is doing and using in our own lives? He loves us so much.

Q: The album's sole cover is "O The Blood," which you made it your own. Why did you choose this worship ballad?

I absolutely love this song. I first heard it in an Easter cantata at my old church, and years later I heard Selah's version and just got cold chills and of course the tears flowed. We added it to our set lists both for gospel concerts and festivals, and the first time we sang it live was in a church. It was all we could do to hold back tears. Eventually people started asking if it was recorded or if we were going to record it. The truth of the cross bleeds through the whole thing, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He died. He was beaten and pierced and His blood was spilled on our behalf, and He left the grave empty so we could have victory over sin and death because of Him and Him alone.

Q: Throughout the record, you have been open about faith-related issues. Tell us a little about your own faith journey.

I was blessed to be raised in a Christian home and there was never a day that I didn't hear the name of Jesus. But as it is with a lot of things, it became something I took for granted and just grew cold toward. I specifically remember a time that when Christian radio was playing, I didn't like when preaching was on; it was as if something in me was afraid to hear it, so I just preferred the music.

Eventually I had my own troubling battles with sin (I still do, don't get me wrong; just different ones), and those times made me realize that I really was hopeless without Jesus. I spent a lot of time acting "right" on the outside but inside I was a mess. Being involved with music from a young age, it started feeling like there was pressure to be perfect all the time on the outside, without any regard for my soul, and I was afraid of what people might think if they knew how sinful I was.

It wasn't until I met my husband that I really began digging and trying to figure out what I believed and why, and of course it's all still a work in progress. But He loves me regardless, because of Christ. I'm reminded of Colossians 2:13-15: "And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him." My sins have been paid for and triumphed over, and He alone is perfect.

Q: How do you hope these new songs will impact the lives of your listeners?

I hope these new songs will be relatable to everyone in some way, and leave folks feeling refreshed and loved no matter where they are in life. It's such a joy to be able to put out new music and I'm thankful for each and every listener, friend and fan! 

Colors is streaming in Dolby Atmos spatial audio on Apple Music, Amazon Music and TIDAL. Listen to it HERE

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