"The more you walk in relationship with the Lord, the more you learn to trust him. I'm learning not to focus so much on the issues I think are so big right now—our bus has broken down, or someone said something that frustrated me. I'm learning to slowly let things roll off my back, to say, 'Hey, God knew about this before it happened and He's got a way out or a plan better than mine.' I've learned to stop freaking out and just trust that God knows what he's doing. He's not going to leave me in a bad place because He never has before."
Such it is with Francesca Battistelli. Honest. Simple. Beautiful. Intentional.
We have all been exposed to her music. Starting with "I'm Letting Go," or "Free to Be Me." "This is the Stuff" or "Strangely Dim." It doesn't matter. For every time that "Franny" opens her mouth to sing, she is opening her heart.
There is a vulnerable side to this young lady. And if you didn't know it already, you will be able to hear it by reading the interview below. Franny came to our corporate Christmas party to bring encouragement and holiday greetings. After I sat down with her, I was reminded again about her passion.
Dan: Is there anything you can tell us about the new album?
Francesca: Yes. It will be out April 22nd hopefully, and it's called If We're Honest. It's going to be amazing. I'm so excited about it. It's my favorite one yet. I think that's probably normal, but I really feel like these songs are just right and the timing is right for them. There's just a lot of energy on this record which I feel like the last one lacked even though I love it. I think it's going to be really good and a whole new season.
Dan: If we're honest. What does that mean? At least on this particular record.
Francesca: Well, it's the title of my favorite song on the record which is just a very honest song about really just that. If we were truly authentic with each other and honest with each other all the time and kind of not tried to hide behind the facade of everything's fine and I'm perfect and life is great. I feel like that is sort of what the enemy wants us to do to isolate ourselves and keep us from true community and truly being the body of Christ.
It just came from some experiences where I felt like the song is personal because I really feel like that's just all too prevalent not just in this industry but in Christianity especially in America of just everything's fine, and I'm not really going to be myself with you. I'm not going to let you know really any of my junk, but you can't get healed of anything unless you confess and kind of are out there. It's sort of a heavy song on a very lighter record, but it's needed I think in it's truths.
Dan: Absolutely. I've found that it can be a very scary thing to reveal those things, but what evil wants us to believe is that we're alone and that nobody is going to relate to those things if we're honest so a very relevant topic.
Francesca: Totally, because I think when you are honest that's when you are sort of just real with whatever is going on in your life. That's when grace comes in. We naturally want to give grace and support and encouragement to someone who says, "This is the truth. This is what I'm going through." But, yeah, you're right. The enemy tries to tell us the opposite. "They're going to hate you." Which is not true.
Dan: You said something that I didn't think any artist was allowed to say which was, "My favorite song on this record is ..." I thought people weren't allowed to say their favorite songs, but you actually have favorites.
Francesca: I do. I always have favorites. Yeah. I love every song on this record. I'm so excited about it, but this one from the moment we started writing it, I just knew this was going to be the one that was my favorite and it is.
Dan: Was the recording process different for you at all this time around?
Francesca: Yeah, it actually was. The last two records if you do count Christmas, we lived in Atlanta instead of Nashville and I was pregnant for both of those recording processes. It was just a lot more stressful and I felt a lot more pressure to sort of get it right and get it done quickly especially with Hundred More Years. That was a follow-up to a record that sort of exceeded everyone's expectations so I thought I got to do it again. I think you can sort of sabotage yourself by getting too inside your head.
This time I just didn't feel any of that. We had just moved back to Nashville. It was the summertime. I had plenty of time and I just wrote three or four days a week which again has just not been the truth for the past couple of records. It's been really just fun and relaxing and for me it's always been my favorite part of the process, of the creative process because I'm sort of an introvert and artsy type. This was the first time since I think the first record that I really felt like this is fun again. Like this isn't just busyness and work. This is actually really awesome. I'm excited to share.
Dan: Have you noticed your audience transition at all? From my perspective, those first couple records your audience was younger girls and now you're transitioning into a new stage in your life with the role of being a mom. What I've heard from your music, it relates at different levels now and different areas. Are you experiencing that transition of a wider audience because I think that your music still does speak to a younger demographic, but now you're capturing the hearts of moms and more.
Francesca: For sure.
Dan: Are you noticing that now?
Francesca: Yeah. It really is. It's interesting and every tour is a little bit different. I feel like that's where I see that the most. There's definitely still so many young girls, and I love that. There is something cool whenever I'm at the table and a girl comes up to me and she goes, "I love your music," and I sign her thing and her mom says, "I really love it too." It's like their little secret. I think that that's awesome. I love to be something that a mom and a daughter can listen to together and older sister can too. Hopefully, that audience is growing. I think this record will do that for them.
Dan: Is there a time that you can come to where you have seen your faith in action? Or a time where you've felt a call that you needed to respond to?
Francesca: Is this the stories that you ... Yeah. Okay. Yeah. I have a great story to answer that question. Funny you should ask. Back this past summer we got an email from a little girl who, she is 13 now, but when she was 11 she started an organization called Project Jesus that ministers to girls and women in Uganda. She wrote this email and said basically, "Everyone's telling me that I'm crazy for writing you that you're too busy and you'll never write back, but I have this organization," kind of laid it all out and said, "And I'm hosting a benefit concert, or I'd like it to be a concert. It's a benefit luncheon on Orphan Sunday and I would love Francesca to be there. I totally understand if she can't. You'll probably not write me back, but maybe she could just send a signed CD or something."
I remember just reading these words or I think my husband was reading them to me, and I was just so struck by her faith because she said, "Even though everyone's telling me that I'm crazy, the one thing I've learned over these past two years," I mean she's 13 years old, "Is that when we step out in faith, God does fix things." I was just so blown away by that because how many of us say that, but to actually believe it and act on it and sort of live that crazy faith life that she was living at 13 years old just blew me away. I kind of wanted to tell those naysayers that they were crazy and they were wrong. We just really felt like we needed to ... I felt like I needed to say yes.
Actually I had a couple of other things that week that I just said, "We need to put these off. I want to be there for this girl." What ended up happening is a couple of days after I got that email, I was in the studio writing with a couple of friends and I was telling them that story and then they said, "What do you want to write about today?" I said, "I want to write about that. I want to write about Mallory." We wrote this song called Giant's Fall which is a song about Mallory. It's really just a song about don't be afraid of giants in your way. That whatever obstacles are facing you, God is with you and it doesn't matter if what you have seems like a little, he can turn it into a lot.
I wrote this song for her, but didn't tell her. We've since recorded it and it's going to be on the record and back a couple months ago when we went to sing at the benefit we were nearing the end of the afternoon and I started explaining that I wrote this song, I just saw her mom crying, and she's crying and I'm crying. I got to play the song for this roomful of people the first time I ever played it. It was just a really powerful moment and just reminded me that when we're obedient, God does amazing things. That goes for Mallory. That goes for me writing the song. Being there, I think that if nothing else, I think she'll be able to look back and say, "That was one thing that I asked God for that He did." He's done many things like that for her, but how cool to be just like a tangible answer to prayer for someone even though it was little and I just showed up and sang a couple songs. It was cool.
Dan: The last time we talked, your label was circling in on trying to figure out which one of nine songs may be the first one to release to radio. Do you know which one has been selected for that?
Francesca: We do. Yes.
Dan: Can you share it?
Francesca: Yes. It is called Write Your Story. They have already ... It doesn't go officially out for us until January where it's already been picked up by a couple of networks. It's amazing to see just the response to it. I think somebody up at The Fish heard it over the phone and said, "Okay, we're going to add it." That's just amazing to me and just sort of that affirmation that, "Okay, I think you picked the right song, and you're going in the right direction." I'm just so excited and people are already hearing it, but I haven't really announced it so I don't know what to say on Twitter except, "Thanks. I'm glad you like it," when people hear it. I can't wait for January and it's official.
Dan: Can you give us an idea what the song is about or what was behind it?
Francesca: Yeah, absolutely. It's funny because I didn't even realize it until somebody said something in passing after we had written the song that it was sort of like a follow-up to My Paper Heart which is "I've never been the same since you wrote your name on my paper heart." This song is just about basically saying, "God, I am an open book. I am just here, willing, available to do whatever it is that you call me to do. I want you to write your story on my heart." I think it will speak to so many different people I think to the girl who is waiting for her husband and saying, "God, write your love story for me." To the people who are just saying, "Okay, God, I know that you have something for my life and I don't know what it is, but I want to be open to whatever."
Even for me, doing what I'm doing, it looks like you've got this path laid in front of you, but if God says, "No, I want you to stop all that and go do something else," I want to be able to hear His voice. I want His story at the end of my life to look back and say, "God, you wrote it. I just was there for the ride." It's a really fun song, but that's sort of the message or the story.
Dan: You're on your fourth record. You've established a career. I was talking to a co-worker of mine of what does it feel like as you transition from a place where you're an artist and you're trying to make it and you go from wanting people to hear your music and doing everything you can to get people to hear your music, to the place where now you're requested to come play music for them? But they're now asking you instead of you asking them. What is that journey like?
Francesca: Yeah. It has been so interesting for me because at the beginning there it was like, "Okay, I don't know what this is going to look like." Like you said, just playing for everybody, and then for even me it just all sort of took off really fast and I didn't know what to do and was just sort of saying yes to everything and then sort of slowed down again and I'm sort of I feel like just now finding my feet and like, "Okay, those past five, six years have been a little bit of a blur. Now what do we really want to do?" God has made it so that my husband is able to play drums for me and manage me and just be very focused and very intentional.
I feel like for the first time this year it's like we're finding our legs. But, yeah, it is amazing. Anytime someone asks it's still like, "Oh, really? We didn't have to call them to play a concert like they want us to come?" It's always scary still. It's just an honor and crazy when I think about it because there were so many years that were goodness gracious it was a very a awkward time.
Dan: Can you say who you're touring with yet?
Francesca: I think so. Yeah. We're doing the Hands of God tour with Sanctus Real in early spring and Hands of God is a song that I wrote with Matt Hammitt from Sanctus. We're excited to take them out and do that tour. I love those guys. Then like five days after that ends, we go out on "The Bible: Son of God" tour, which we're really excited about and that is basically The Bible Miniseries was seen by millions of people. It was mind-blowing.
So Mark Burnett and his company have sort of said, "We want to take this experience into churches and venues around the country and sort of turn it into this interactive experience with the film, and with the artists, and with sets and all sorts of things that I'm not really even sure what the scale is like yet because it's the first year, but I'm really excited about that. That will run up until, I guess, right before Easter, right before the record comes out. We're really excited and it's going to be a busy year, but I'm ready for it.
Dan: Did you write that song?
Francesca: I didn't write it. No. I just sang on it and it's very beautiful. So they've talked about things I know they're doing like an inspired by project, but beyond that, who knows? Maybe it will make it to the live show.
Dan: Thank you so much for your time.
Francesca: Yeah. Thank you. It was fun.
So, about her new album? Well, as stated above, Francesca returns with her brand new release, If We’re Honest. Featuring the radio hit “Write Your Story,” this new CD perfects the soulful pop sound that began with her gold-certified debut, My Paper Heart, and its best-selling follow-up, Hundred More Years. If We’re Honest is full of bright, upbeat songs and personal, thought-provoking ballads that will inspire, encourage and challenge you in your daily walk with God, and ultimately point you toward the hope that’s only found in Him.