Talent, passion and youthful exuberance are always a potent recipe for great music, but when you add message-driven lyrics, a finely tuned sense of purpose and five fun-loving girls, therein lays the foundation for an explosive new entry on the cultural landscape. 1 Girl Nation delivers an ear-grabbing, effervescent sound that uplifts audiences by merging engaging melodies with substantive yet catchy lyrics, packing a one-two punch with considerable impact.
1 Girl Nation is made up of five talented young women, each possessing a strong, distinctive voice and tons of personality. The group includes Kayli, who grew up on military bases all over the world due to her father's career in the Air Force, settling in Orlando, Florida; Lauryn Taylor, a 21-year-old from Birmingham, Alabama who heard about the opportunity from a friend who works inside the music industry; Kelsey, a Chicago, Illinois native with a degree in music education; Carmen, a singer/dancer who grew up in the Nashville area and attended famed Belmont University and the youngest member of the group, Lindsey, a pastorís kid who hails from Jacksonville, Florida.
John: You ladies are new to the scene. Five of you - put together. Was this kind of a competition thing that you guys were part of, or did you all grow up going to kindergarten together?
Lauryn: No, we actually didn't know each other. This was an audition process. They kind of found us, I guess.
Carmen: We were all working on solo careers before. About a year ago there was an audition call for a girl group through Patton House Entertainment, and we all sent in audition videos, and the top 15 girls came to Nashville and did an audition week where there were solo auditions, dance auditions and group auditions. There was a recording day and they narrowed it down to eight and then five, and here we are!
John: Did you know that it was going to be five?
Carmen: We had no idea who or what. It kept it interesting for sure. They made us work hard.
John: You were scared during that experience?
Carmen: Yes, it was very nerve racking. We got there and none of us are really used to being close with a lot of girls. You came to the process of you're staying with all these girls in this apartment and everyone's beautiful and talented and loves the Lord. It was very intimidating, but everyone was rooting for each other, I’d say. It was a really good experience.
Kelsey: It was a positive environment, for sure.
Kayli: I was surprised because I was expecting, you know, it was a competition, so girls are going to seclude themselves or be mean, but everyone was so nice. It was such a great experience.
John: Oh, yeah.
Lauryn: I'm Lauryn Taylor, and I'm from Birmingham, Alabama. I'm 21. My biggest influence just in life is my mom because we are like the same head on two bodies. I've learned so much from her, and she's my best friend.
Carmen: I'm Carmen. I'm from Nashville, Tennessee. Musical influences growing up… I listened to a lot of Point of Grace. That was kind of what I was raised on. Vocally, Kelly Clarkson is my girl.
John: A little soul.
Carmen: Yes, I kind of learned a lot from her.
Kayli: I'm Kayli, and I'm from Orlando. My influence in my life would be my sister. Musical influence would be Mariah and Whitney and all the powerhouse vocals.
Kelsey: My name is Kelsey. I'm from Chicago, Illinois. I'm 23. Probably my biggest life coach would also be my mom and my grandma. Wonderful influences in my life. Probably musically I would have to say Rachel Lampa. I've always been such a super fan of her, growing up listening to her and trying to sing her stuff. I can't do it, but I still try.
John: Have you guys ever met any of the artists? Have you met Jump Five or Amy?
Lindsey: I met Amy and about passed out. I wasn't expecting it. I was going in for a write and she was, there was the guy I was writing with in the building and she was writing with someone else in the building, and she was leaving as I was coming in. I wanted to say so much that nothing got out. It just ended up being uh, uh, you're, you're, and I just started getting giggly and weird. She was just like, "I'm Amy Grant." Then she just hugged me. It was just awful. There was so much that I wanted to say, but I was so star struck that I couldn't say it.
John: That's awesome. How about you guys? Have you ever met Kelly Clarkson?
Carmen: I would pass out if I met Kelly Clarkson. I would be like Lindsey.
Lauryn: This girl is her number one fan right here.
Carmen: Seriously, I'm the number one fan. We got to actually meet Point of Grace though through the audition process. They came in one day and did a morning session devotional with us, which was really cool. I teared up. I was crying.
Lauryn: They gave us a lot of advice on how to just live together, be together and how to make it work.
Kelsey: We grew up listening to them. We were really honored to meet them.
John: That's cool. Have you ever met Rachel?
Kelsey: No, but one of her really good friends did our makeup for a couple different shoots. She's always posting pictures of she and Rachel, and I'm always like if I could just squeeze in there for one picture. I'm hoping to meet her though.
John: What would you say to someone who is 13 or 15 that kind of has that star struck look that either looks at somebody that has either been in our industry for a long time like Amy or the POG girls or looks at you guys and says, "That's what I want to do?"
Kelsey: I would say you can never dream too big. I think for me, being an artist and being a singer and being on the road was always something that was so not attainable. It was such a far-fetched goal for me. Always something I wanted, but never something within reach I always felt like. God is a God that makes dreams come true. If they're aligned with His will, then I think that there is never a dream that's too far to reach. That would be my encouragement to that 13-year-old aspiring artist: that you never know what God can do if you're just willing. If you're willing and ready to take a step of faith.
Lauryn: Mine would be to always seek God's will first, because no matter what, He knows what's best. Like Kelsey, I was always shy growing up. I never thought that I would actually be able to get up on stage, but God just continued to open doors and I would walk through in faith. It led me here.
John: With the record coming out later this summer, what other big things are you guys looking forward to for 2013?
Lindsey: We're looking forward to a tour called Secret Keeper Girls, which will be all over the country. We're really, really excited to be a part of that and partner with them.
John: That's with?
Lindsey: Bob and Dannah Gresh, yes. We're doing that and ...
Carmen: That's actually a big part. We'll be on the road nonstop with them.
Kelsey: We're also looking forward to our single being out. It just released and we're super excited.
Lindsey: I'm really excited just about—back to the tour—I'm really excited about the hands-on ministry we get to do in the tour. We get to really work face-to-face with a lot of little girls. We're privileged to be able to do the altar calls and one-on-one time with girls, and then to do a little bit of worship and, of course, some of our songs. We're really excited to be all hands in and really just do this whole ministry thing. That's a big part of all our hearts. We grew up leading worship in different churches. I think it's going to be really cool to get to do everything that we feel like God has given us a heart for in this tour.
Kayli: We're excited to share our stories. We all have very different stories and love to hear everyone's stories. That's where it opens up for us.
Lauryn: Through that, we're all so different that I feel like the girls in the audience can at least relate to one of us and one of our stories.
John: I'm sure that will take place.
Carmen: This is a unique tour, I think, touching on what Lindsey said. We do get to be all hands on deck. We get to be part of the set up, the tear down, and learning how to serve is going to be a cool thing for us. We've all grown up in the church serving and doing ministry, but I think that what we do as 1 Girl Nation, such a small part of it is performing and the rest of it is sharing our hearts and being able to connect with girls on a deeper level than that, so that what they see on the stage is the same as what they see off the stage. The conversations that we have and the difference we get to make in their lives through conversation through just relating our stories to theirs is going to be the biggest thing that we take away from that. That's super exciting for me, and I know for all of us.
Lauryn: I think they're going to teach us a lot more than what we think. I'm really excited to figure out what we learn from them.
Kayli: We think we're ready.
Carmen: I would say Toby Mac meets One Direction. It's that group feel, but girls. It's very current sounding, but with a great message.
Kayli: Top 40 sound with a very bold Christian message.
Lauryn: I really feel like it's kind of funny… the sound is kind of like that, but we're kind of our own thing. I don't think we could really even be compared to anything secular. We've kind of just gone with what each one of our hearts is. Our voices are all completely different. They're completely distinct, and it's really cool to see how God can take five different voices and make it work into one project. We're really hoping that will be a big part of our message too, that, look what five completely different people can do together.
John: That does stand as a testimony. Who produced the record?
Lauryn: We had actually a group of teams. We had Jason Ingram, Casey Brown and John Smith. That was one group. Another one was John White from Capital Kings. Then we had Josh Silverberg and Kip Williams.
Lauryn: Great minds.
John: Each of them have their own kind of unique talents as well in various styles of music.
Lindsey: It's a good amount of different kind of flavors and spices all throughout the album.
John: Yeah, I would assume. Did those guys stretch you, or did you walk in and it was very comfortable?
Carmen: We started out with a worship song. I think the best way to unite a room of people or a group of people is to just worship together. I really think that's something that's always helped connect hearts. We were just singing and worshipping, and I think that was a really good start for us. We'd always start in prayer so there was kind of a peace. Whenever we're in the studio and we're singing and they're like, “No, go again. You can do better.” I felt like it was a sport.
Kelsey: We learned so much from them. We recorded the album in nine days start-to-finish. The days in the studio were long and exhausting, but I think what we learned and experienced in that short time was a lifetime's worth.
Lauryn: I wanted it to last longer.
Kayli: We made it fun. We brought strobe lights and candy. Every time a song was finished, we'd turn on the strobe lights and eat candy and just dance to it.
Carmen: We wanted to make it a party every time.
John: That's cool. One last question here. Well, maybe a few more. We'll see. What has God been teaching you guys either collectively or individually as of late?
Lauryn: I can talk about this. I think for me God's been teaching me that it doesn't matter what your past looks like. It doesn't matter the things that you've been through. It doesn't matter the mistakes that you've made. God sees who He has created you to be. The things of the past, the mistakes that you've made, the sometimes dark paths that you've walked down do not define who you are. Your identity is found in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone. For me that's been such a, it's a hard pill to swallow sometimes when you think about how did I get here? Why did God choose me for this incredible ministry. I'm not worthy. I'm not adequate. I'm not equipped for this ministry.
The beauty of that is that God uses broken people and God uses imperfect people and that's kind of overwhelming to me. I think that what I've been learning the most and taking away the most lately is that I am valuable. I'm loved. I'm treasured by Christ. That's pretty overwhelming day-to-day for me. That's something that I have to tell myself every day, remind myself every single day that“God loves you. Here's who you are in him. Here's who he has created you to be.” I think that probably everybody at some point of time in their life needs to get back to that place. It's not about me. It's not about what I've done. It's not about who I was in the past. It's about who I am now and the direction that I'm heading now and the person that God is creating me to be now.
John: What an important message. Timely for so many people today, especially young girls. Anybody else?
Carmen: I've just been humbled. I tell the girls a lot that I thought I had this great plan for my life and great goals for myself, and then God walks in and completely goes, "I have something even better." I'm like, what? Not selling myself short in just being humbled completely. Every day I thought I was so great, and it turns out I'm not at all. That's what I'm learning.
Lindsey: I think God has been teaching me, I grew up as a pastor's kid and was really hands-on in the church, and I think in my life there's been a lot of good that has come out of that because it's been such good accountability. God has taught me what it's like to work and to do things for him and stuff like that. I have such a heart for worship. That's just a big part of what my family has taught me.
Another side of that is that when you're under the spotlight and you're always a leader--at 12 I was leading worship and running the kids' ministry--there's so many things I had to do because whenever your dad is planting a church or starting one, your family is, we are the staff, you know? I found myself kind of losing who I am and losing that I can't struggle anymore and I can't look like I have something wrong. When I hit the doors into the church I've got to look like I've got it all together because people are depending on me, and you know that pressure. Through that I feel like I was the most miserable person and I felt like I was lost.
I found myself writing songs. Looking back now, I found myself writing songs to people that are struggles I was going through to other people. It was things that I was dealing with and things that I couldn't come face to face with anymore. Through this whole girl group thing and stepping out of that and meeting these girls for the first time, I felt like I have accountability of my own. God has really taught me just to be real with Him, and that whenever I'm real with who I really am and what I'm really struggling with, that's when I can be free. That's when He can show me new things and show me who He is and what His love really looks like to the fullest. That's been a really cool thing for me. It's been recent and it's not easy.
Sometimes it's easy, especially in this industry, to walk in and put that face on and go back to who I was and what I need to look like. Every time I do that, I don't see God work near as much as whenever I'm vulnerable and whenever I'm open with what I'm struggling with too. It's been a really good lesson and it's really changed who I am.
Lauryn: We've just been challenged lately on so many levels.
Carmen: I keep calling it a crash course. God is putting us through the fire so he keeps refining us, refining us, refining us.
John: Alright, I said that was the last question, but I have one more. Black coffee or fru-fru coffee?
Kayli: If it doesn't taste like cake, I don't like it.
Lauryn: I'm not that bad. I'm a happy medium.
Kayli: If I want it to work, I'll drink black. When I go to Starbucks, I ask for extra caramel on the caramel macchiato. I'm like just pound it in there. That can be half the cup. I don't care.
1 Girl Nation wants to encourage and inspire its audience, but ultimately they want to lead them to the source of all power. "The whole point of everything that we do is to bring more people into the Kingdom of Christ," says Kayli. "We were given these talents, abilities, tools, opportunities and platforms to get people to know the name of Jesus and that's the only reason why we do what we do. It's a fun life and we get to play out our dreams because of the talent God has given us, but it all goes back to Him."