This is, absolutely, the best interview I’ve conducted! The last time I got to sit down with Lacey was in February of 2006 during the band’s Winter Fresh Sno-core tour. Flyleaf were touring in support of their debut full length release, and I was enamored by the band’s message on their debut album. I was also very young and very nervous.
So much has changed in the past decade. Sturm opens up about her time with and departing from Flyleaf, her writing process, and what Life Screams means to her.
Sometimes life gets in the way. I had sent these interview questions off to Lacey Sturm back in December of 2015, the week before Christmas. Wires got crossed between myself, her management, and publicist, which isn’t unusual during the busy Holiday season, and the completed interview got lost in the shuffle. Especially when an artist is prepping for the release of an album. It’s no one’s fault.
I’m thankful that Sturm took the time to answer in such great detail. I hope that her words inspire you as much as they’ve inspired me.
Let me start off by saying it is wonderful to have your voice back with us. (Adam)
Hey Adam!!! So good to hear from you!! (Lacey)
After departing Flyleaf in 2012, was there any doubt as to whether or not you’d continue as a solo artist?
Thank you for being so kind. Actually, when I left Flyleaf, I had no thoughts of ever doing music as a solo artist. But I always knew that writing music would always be a part of how I responded to life. Since my husband Josh plays guitar as well, we ended up starting a little community of artists in Pittsburgh where we live. We would play together with friends, and ended up writing lots of songs and realized that we should put out a record. But the difference in it being a solo project instead of a band is that I can go at my own pace with everything and make my family a priority wherever I need to.
Your departure from Flyleaf came just weeks before the release of New Horizons. Had you considered remaining with the band through the album’s touring cycle before departing?
That’s a good question with a long answer, but in short, no. I knew I would step down before we starting writing New Horizons. When we talked about the progression of my departure we all decided that we should write one last album together as a sort of Swan song to give the fans.
Your faith and conviction in Christ are inspirational to so many of your fans, even those such as myself who don’t identify ourselves as Christian. Having the moniker of Christian Rock Band for Flyleaf, the message in the music was often subtle on the band’s releases but you were more open to spreading the message in the band’s live shows. How did you find the balance on Life Screams between acknowledging your faith and still leaving the music open for individual interpretation?
Well, honestly the music is written from the heart. My main message within the music is that all people have immense value and that there is beauty in each of us that was put there to make the world more beautiful. And this message is so fixed and rooted so deeply within me because of my relationship with God. I see the beauty in humanity because of the message of the gospel of Christ. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him won’t perish but have everlasting life.” So many people feel like they can’t forgive themselves for the bad they have done, and live with self-loathing and a reckless death wish. This is the way I felt before I encountered God for myself. But the message of God, is that he created humanity to be his children, made in his image and likeness, to be creatures of purity and love. When we feel like dying for the wrong we’ve done, the message of Jesus is that he died in our place. So we are forgiven by God if we put our faith in what he did for us. (If we don’t believe it we can’t receive it. Just like anyone’s love we are suspicious of. If we don’t have faith in it, we will always find fault with it even when there may be not fault in it at all. But if we choose to believe in His love and forgiveness then we receive it!) And the kindness of His love and forgiveness makes us want to live out the purity we are created to live out. When we believe in and feel the love of God, we want to love others like he loves us. It makes us humble and fearless and want freedom and the fullness of life for all humanity. I think wanting people to know they are created beautiful and are eternally valuable and should be honored and respected is the only legitimate response of a genuine encounter with God like I had on the day I planned to commit suicide at sixteen. It made me love people. Not just Christians, or even particularly Christians. It made me love everyone. Especially if they had no faith in God or hated people or hated themselves as I did. The message I sing in my songs is very honest and hasn’t always sat well with the previous church culture. But it has always been a message that resonated with people who don’t know their own worth. And that is who I’m writing to in a sense. I am writing to myself, many times, reminding Myself of the truth when my heart lies to me and I feel like I might get crushed with hopelessness. The spirit in me rises up and sings truth. That message is for everyone. I never intended anything to be subtle or overt concerning my faith, just honest. And I do pay attention to the audience to some degree and use poetic parables and metaphors so it can be heard however people want to hear it, but the main thing is that it’s honest. You can go as deep or as surface as you want. God is always speaking to us. Whether it’s through Flyleaf or Lacey music who is coming from a heart transformed by the love of Christ, or through Nine Inch Nails when Johnny Cash heard the gospel in Hurt and Brian Head Welch felt God followed him to his car when he heard “bow down before the one you serve, you’re going to get what you deserve.” In Head Like A Hole, that blasting on his speakers as he was contemplating giving his life to God in order to get free of his meth addiction. So it’s poetry. And it’s stories. And it’s inspired by real people and stories of my life and things I’ve heard of and watched people go through… And that will connect with anyone no matter their faith, but if anyone wants to hear what God is saying through our music, I have prayed that they would, and I believe that they will.
You released the first single off of Life Screams, Impossible, on November 1st of this year (2015), but have been playing the track live since 2014. Will we find other tracks like Vanity and Rot, I’m Not Laughing, Live Forever, and Feels Like Forever, that you’ve been playing live, on your debut solo release?
Adam!! Thank you for keeping up with me and caring. It’s so beautiful to hear you name our unreleased songs! And yes all the songs you mentioned will be on my Life Screams album!
How did your writing and recording process for Life Screams differ from that of your time with Flyleaf? I mean no disrespect to Sameer, Pat, Jared and James, but were you able to find a more in depth connection writing with your husband than with your former band mates?
Wow, you know it was different. My husband respects me so much as a writer and as a person who carries the heart behind the message that I sing. That is the most freeing thing in the world when it comes to making art. With Flyleaf we were all trying to respect each other and be sensitive to the different vision that each one brought to the table, which was a great thing. But it’s different with this solo project. It’s a very different to have everyone around you focusing on pulling the message out of your heart. It was all about realizing my vision. My husband’s only vision was to make my vision come to life, so it is very different than doing corporate art. Also there is no record label to have to compromise with either, worrying about whether or not people will like it enough to buy it. We started a record label with our manager JW Clarke so we could give other people the opportunity to hear what’s been going on in our basement with our friends My goal wasn’t to make something for people to like on Life Screams, it was just to be honest and free and to have fun and enjoy making music. And if people like it enough to buy it then that is so awesome and beautiful. If they support us that way, then we will buy a tour bus someday and play for them live! I originally called my band “For fun.” So we could remember that we were just doing what we loved and it was fun. And that’s what it still feels like. I’m having a lot of fun!
You’ve always been honest about having inspiration for your fans and their life stories to write music. For myself, the most heart wrenching Flyleaf track is Tina, especially when played live as OKay/Tina. Share with us some of the inspirations for music off of your debut solo release?
I would like to do that so much! Some of the stories are so powerful. Like I’m Not Laughing, and Vanity and Rot, and Run To You and Faith… But I don’t think it’s time to share those stories. Some of them are still going and healing and unfolding… So maybe someday it will be time, but not yet! Maybe they will come out during our live show. You’ll have to come and see cause I never know what I’m gonna say or not say. Ha.
You’ve been playing Flyleaf tracks during your live sets, giving us, the fans, the chance to bridge the gap between Flyleaf’s music and your solo career. Is there any chance of adding Broken Pieces, your duet with Apocalyptica, or Heavy Prey from the Underworld: Awakening soundtrack on your upcoming tours’ setlists?
That’s a good idea! Maybe we will work that in. I’ll tell the guys and we will try it on in the practice room.
During Flyleaf’s early live shows you would write messages and Bible passages on your left arm in black sharpie marker. That evolved into your beautiful tattoos. Tell us the meaning behind your body art.
I’m writing a book called “The Mystery; True Love in a World of Broken Lovers” and I talk about some of them in there. The Swan on my leg actually reminds me of the lyrics from Impossible. The Raven on my shoulder is about bringing hope and nourishment to souls in the wilderness. The Daughter/Laughter tattoo is also talked about in The Mystery and it just reminds me that I have a Heavenly Father that is powerful and good and that I can laugh at the things I would otherwise worry about or be afraid of.
How has working with the talented member of The Whosoevers impacted your personal and professional lives? Will we see you collaborating with them on Life Screams?
I wish we could have done this but the only guest appearance I have on the album is a spoken word and hip hop artist named Propaganda who played a protagonist and said things he would never say to a woman in the “scene” of a fighting couple in Vanity. I would love to play with the guys in The Whosoevers one day and maybe that will happen! We have talked about making a whosoever album for years. I guess it just isn’t time yet. But those Guys are so inspiring to me. They make feel like God is changing the world for the better and it’s about to come into a great time of healing and freedom and love and fullness of life and miracles. No matter what the media says about everything going to hell.
You’ve just been confirmed to play Northern Invasion 2016. This performance will be one of the largest crowds you’ve ever played live in front of. Other than the length of time, how will your live set differ from a rock/metal festival atmosphere to a Christian festival?
Well, we haven’t played many rock shows actually. They have mostly been speaking engagements where I share my story that I wrote about in The Reason and talk about my faith. But the few rock shows we have gotten to play when in front of Christians feels ever so slightly out of place. It felt like that with Flyleaf whenever we played Christian shows as well. The music is written for a broader audience and when we play mainstream events it feels much more like the music is meant to be there. I love that a lot of Christians can relate to some of the music. But I didn’t write it with a Christian audience in mind. And when I think of my 16-year-old Atheist self who needs to know she is worth more than she understands, that all her pain can be turned into beauty and healing, and that she is created to shine with the beautiful fingerprints of God on her soul. I think she is so beautiful and doesn’t know it. I sing the songs to her.
Finally, what feeling do you hope Life Screams will incite in your fans after finally hearing the full album?
Hope. Worth. Faith. Love. Strength. Purpose. Freedom. Healing. Life.
You can order Life Screams directly through Lacey’s website; http://laceysturm.com/.
Sturm has also announced an upcoming tour with indie metal activist Otep. Sturm will be touring this spring in support of Life Screams debut, and Otep in support of her 7th studio album, Genertaion Doom.