an interview with the Music Channel's Mark Smeby

New Artist is a title that has followed Jaci Valasquez for four years now. But with the release of her fourth album, ==Crystal Clear==, it's finally time to put that to rest. She is also no longer a teenager, another term that has been attached to Jaci for her whole career. With a decidedly more mature sound and songs that reflect the depth of her love for Christ, it is clearly a time to look at Jaci in a whole new way.

This brand new project sports a more sophisticated sound than her last English-language project, ==Jaci Velasquez==, where she safely ventured into a more aggressive teen pop sound than her debut. The success of the radio hits from her Spanish pop ==Llegar A Ti== project positioned her as more of a pop ballad chanteuse, in spite of several upbeat Latin jams. This appears to be the direction that was taken with this new project, maintaining much of the Latin influence, but focusing on her emotive balladry skills.

Unfortunately, several well-intentioned Christians have fallen prey to the temptation to look at Jaci's crossover into the Latin pop world as her abandoning of the gospel message. To her credit, this has not been the case one bit, however challenging and tempting it must have been to do so. There's no greater evidence of this than the permeation of her love for Christ throughout this entire new project. Take that.

Yes, she's becoming a big star, recognized in several mainstream radio stations, magazines and TV shows because of her talent. What should be our response? Pray for her - that God will do whatever He needs to draw her closer to Him. Then let's cheer her on to huge heights of fame and popularity - where she can take the love of God into places few have been. To me, that much is perfectly clear.

Bring your earplugs: this fall Jaci will be hitting the road - visiting 60 cities with supporting act {{PLUS ONE}}.

Here's our interview

MARK: The new CD, Crystal Clear...when you sat down and decided what you wanted to say, what are some general themes that seemed to emerge?
JACI: About falling in love with Christ. No matter how many people question what you do, as long as you are true to who you are, all the rest will become Crystal Clear.

Click to hear a clip from "Eschuchame (Listen To Me)"

MARK: What kinds of things do you want people to know about you through this new project?
JACI: Who I am as a person and as a Christian, my struggles and beliefs.

Click to hear a clip from "Crystal Clear"

MARK: Do you think your fans really know who you are through your music, or do you think there are some things that haven't been able to be communicated yet that you'd like to?
JACI: I think since I started singing when I was so young, I feel like we are both figuring it out along the way - - kind of unraveling it together.

Click to hear a clip from "Everytime I Fall"

MARK: How has your concept changed over the years of what an artist's responsibility is to their audience? What about an artist's responsibility to God? Have you encountered things that have challenged you to compromise what you felt was your responsibility in either of these areas?
JACI: It used to frustrate me when people would question my beliefs or my faith or freak out if I wore a shirt that when I raised my arms you could see part of my tummy, then I realized that I do have a responsibility to people. Everyone has a responsibility to God foremost. It is important when you are out singing about His word and love everyday.

Click to hear a clip from "Adore"

MARK: You've been known for being a young artist for so long, but now you're nearly a veteran - here with your fourth album! I'm curious...with recent signings of so many new young artists, and several being thrown into the spotlight very quickly, what advice would you like to give to them? Perhaps some things that you wish someone would have told you early on?
JACI: Don't trust everybody - don't tell anybody anything that you don't want everybody to know. Cling to your family like never before.

Click to hear a clip from "Imagine Me Without You"

MARK: You've really developed quite a name for yourself in the Latin pop world - (congrats, again) - I'm wondering how the development of your career and finding an emergingly larger audience in that market has compared to how things have developed, or progressed, in the Christian community? For example, are people in the Latin world more interested in certain things about you, that might be different than what the Christian audiences have been interested in?
JACI: Not really, people are people. The way they approach it is sometimes different.

Click to hear a clip from "Center Of Your Love"

MARK: I'm sure you've heard a lot of people tell you that you're a role model to them. Unfortunately, in the process of becoming a role model to some, you may become offensive to others. You know, the whole Amy Grant crossover issue... I'm thinking about your movement into the Latin pop world...and how there were some, I'm sure, that didn't understand what you were doing, or what challenges you were faced with, and just assumed you had "sold out." What would you say to someone who might feel this way?
JACI: I would remind them what Christ said - he wants us to be a light to the world, and that means going out and meeting people where they are, not hiding.

Random questions:
What is something about your career that might surprise someone?
On my first record, the label painted out my freckles on my face because they thought they would disappear as I got older - but they never did!
Any plans to learn any other languages?
Franklin Graham wants me to learn Portuguese for a trip to Brazil
What do you miss about home when you're on the road?
Several things....little things like my dog, or being able to use my own shampoo in my own shower, or be able to do laundry when I feel like it.
What CDs are you into right now?
The Cardigans, No Doubt, Fernando Ortega
How about books?
Life on the Edge by James Dobson
Movies?
Bless the Child - it really spoke to me about the power of God
Real World, Road Rules, Survivor or Big Brother - which show would you most prefer to be on? Survivor - although I would probably be the first to be voted off.