I’m not sure you can become a singer-songwriter. I think you’re born that way. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love singing; but, when I was nine, I was taken to see Sister Act 2 at the cinema, and knew that singing was for me. I wrote my first song as a teenager, and haven’t looked back since.
I taught myself. Lots of people are shocked by that. They ask me if I would be willing to teach singing, but I can’t, because I wasn’t taught to make a noise; so I can’t explain it to someone else.
I trained as a Sign Language communicator, helping deaf students with their studies all over London. Before I started work each day, I’d discover I was doing a beauty class, and must wear open-toed shoes so the student could learn how to paint toenails; or I had to wear steel-tipped boots because I was helping a student with bricklaying. This really prepared me for life on tour, adapting to my surroundings. But, then, God always knows what he’s doing, doesn’t he?
So I’ve gone from a life of silence to one of making a lot of noise. I was good at the signing, but I didn’t believe it was what God wanted me to do. Only when I gave up my job signing, and turned to singing, did I begin to feel at peace — even though it isn’t so financially safe.
To raise money for this tour and my new album, I set up a page on a website, Rocket Fuel, for not only sponsoring me, but pre-ordering the album; or, for £40, they could join me in the recording studio and be part of my choir for the day. Twenty people did that, and that was exactly the right amount of money to pay for recording one track. The first album I made, Broken Beautiful, was released in September last year, and I’ve just released a new one, I am Brave.
Writing is incredibly hard work. You generally write twice as many songs as make the final cut, and I have to get them to a standard that I’m happy to record. It can be incredibly frustrating when my fingers aren’t as fast as my brain, but I get there in the end, with patient practice.
There’s nothing as freeing as sitting at the back of church on a Sunday night, singing at the top of my lungs to the one who gave me the voice to praise him with.
My own tours are just me and my piano in a van. The next one is in February and March, and I’m currently booking dates for it now. I’ll be performing songs from the new album, and sharing the stories behind them. I draw from real-life experience and real challenges that will be relevant to my audience. The only way to do this is to be real, to use the experiences that God has given me.
I wrote “Broken Beautiful” after a difficult time. I didn’t want to write a miserable song; I wanted to encourage people and give them hope, and this was the song that came. The single was released last year with a video. People stood in front of the camera holding up big pieces of card: on one side with a story of brokenness from their lives, and on the other side the story of how God had turned it into something good. It touched many people’s hearts, and, by the end of the month, the song reached No.1 in the UK Christian Chart.
At the moment, I’m touring with Lulu as her support act; so it’s a great opportunity to sing my own songs to a brand-new audience. She’s got an incredibly powerful voice, and she’s captivating on stage. I learn a lot from her. We have 40 dates across the UK — 43 concerts together. That’s a lot of people who will hear of God’s love before Lulu takes to the stage.
It’s easy to cope with being away from home once you get into a routine. The tour becomes home from home, and it’s an incredible privilege to meet new people who are so welcoming. You don’t learn that when you live comfortably in your own space. It’s difficult to be away from home when I’m not singing, but when I’m doing what I love, it doesn’t matter. I’m elated.
After the Lulu tour, I’m doing a two-week tour with Compassion, a child-sponsorship charity very close to my heart. The day I became old enough, I sponsored a child, Yveda, in Haiti. She’s 19 now, but I’ve been writing to her since she was very little. She had no self-confidence, but I discovered our mutual love of singing, and she now organises youth events in her local area, to perform songs she’s written herself, to encourage teenagers in their lives.
It’s amazing that I get to make a difference to someone — but she makes a difference to me as well. I learn from her letters how much we can be thankful to God, and it’s incredibly humbling to learn from a child. For £25 a month you get to change a child’s life, and, for me, that’s a no-brainer.
I’m looking forward to February and March next year for the I Am Brave album launch tour. After that, who knows? I’ll see where God wants to take me, but hopefully a day or two off first.
Jesus Christ is the greatest influence on my life, and the amazing work God is doing in me is the thing that influences my music the most. He’s so good to me, supporting me every step of the way, challenging me to be a better person, and showing me how I can help other people. These are the things that come out through my music. But, also, I’m inspired by people’s stories. I spend a lot of time dog-walking through the fields with a good friend. We talk, we share, and, from that, ideas often spark.
My first experience of God was a life-changing one. I didn’t know it at the time, but I needed to know I was loved, and that’s exactly where God met me. He provided me with a church full of people who loved me and accepted me as I was, and, because of them, I knew that God loved me, too. Since then, I grow closer to God. I’m learning to call daily on Jesus to take the burden and to trust him with my everything. The more I trust in him, the more freedom I experience. And freedom is a very powerful thing.
I love the sound of the cello, maybe because it’s the musical instrument that is closest to the human voice.
I love being outside. Fresh air, walks with friends — friends with dogs even better. I really enjoy live music and being inspired by other artists. Good food is always a yes for me, too. I think it’s really special when friends get together for a meal, and laugh together.
Prayer shouldn’t just be a shopping list of requests. I see it more as an open conversation with the one who loves me more than I can ever understand. He doesn’t just want the “God, please will you heal my friend?”, “Please will you protect the vulnerable?” and so on prayers. He also wants the “Oh, wow, that’s a beautiful rainbow! Thank you, God” prayers. He just wants to spend time with us. And sometimes that means I don’t say anything at all. I just listen.
What makes me most angry is indifference. Come on, people — we have to care.
I love receiving handwritten letters. They make me feel really special. Seeing friends achieve their dreams also makes me really happy. Spending time with kids, too.
My hope’s in Jesus Christ. He wants only the best for me, and so, if I trust in him, then hope for the future is guaranteed.
My instant thought, if I could choose anyone to be locked in a church with, was Jesus. But, actually, I spend all the time I want with him, anyway. So I’d choose a friend who works so hard to look after her disabled son. If someone else looked after him for a few hours, and we were locked in the church, she’d have no choice but to relax and look after herself for a change. Even if she just fell asleep, it would be lovely to be able to give her that time.
Chloe Reynolds was talking to Terence Handley MacMath.