Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Sarah Masen interview

  • 2000 1 Jan
Sarah Masen interview
by Mark Smeby

{{Sarah Masen}} was a bit leery doing this interview. She wanted to make sure that she wasnt going to be the main feature. I tried to assure her in my best, Oh, no problem interviewers voice, although I really couldnt guarantee anything. She said something about how making an artist a "main feature" is a little bit too much attention, at least more than she knows she wants. She doesnt like to read articles that tell you everything about the person down to their favorite color of jelly bean.

I could promise her that Id try to stay away from trite, cliche-ridden questions, although, once again, I couldnt guarantee I wouldnt suddenly slip in a So, who are your musical influences? Tough job, this interviewing stuff.

Nevertheless, we began. It was an upbeat, Italian meal in downtown Nashville. Kind of an L.A. casual- kind of Italian. Just enough attitude from the waiters to make you feel a little special. Some waiters make you feel intruded upon. But not here.

Which was somewhat similar to my time with Sarah. She sits entirely unassuming in her casual white t-shirt, with gold-rimmed reading glasses propped on top of her head. As if she just came from the library. Her thoughtful take on each question, combined with her insightful, intriguing answers leads a person to think that there is definitely more brewing inside, than her exterior may be showing. Some artists have a way of making you feel like theyre doing you a favor by letting you interview them. Not Sarah. Theres a definite sense of journey going on here. A journey that shes willing to let you in on.

MS: Being a new artist, theres a certain amount of responsibility that you accept doing a record. What does that mean to you?

{{Sarah Masen}}: Naturally, its very frightening. I take it very seriously. I think you shouldeven if its not right. Idealistically, its not right that just because I have talent, does not neccesarily mean that I have something to say cognitively. We mix up talent with substance. That frightens me, because I dont want people to bank something on my statements, or on who I am as a person. Yet, theres no way of getting around that. This isnt necessarily good, but the verse about he who has been responsible with little, will be responsible with much. That used to freak me out. And the parable about burying the talentsthat used to just scare me into doing things. If I was not true at home, then Ive failed. Gods given me this little responsibility to be a sister, to be a daughter...when I read it, I said, Ok, Im going to do my best to do this, and I did. So it doesnt feel so bad now. At least I can live with myself. I dont feel like Im two different people because I recognize the responsibility of the spotlight too. People are watching you and youre representing the name of Christ. People have been representing the name of Christ and doing the service of a moloch [a god that humans were sacrificed to] for years and its been a shame to the name of Christ and I dont want to be a part of that. Im afraid of being a part of that.

MS: People want to have that quest and struggle for God for themselves, but they seem to need someone to kind of show them how. Maybe thats why as artists, thats what youre called to do.

{{Sarah Masen}}: I think people do struggle with that. I just dont think they realize it. I think its a lot more glamorized in the spotlight, like Wow...that struggle looks really cool up there. But really they are asking themselves the same questions we all ask ourselves, Why are we here, what am I supposed to do with my life, what makes me unique...theres got to be more to me than just being a cog in a machine.

MS: What does make you unique?

{{Sarah Masen}}: I hope this isnt trite. Psalm 139 makes me unique. God knit me together in my mothers womb. Theres a specific knitting pattern that God has with me. Thats sort of the foundation, that God knows my name...that he knows when I rise and when I sit down, before I even do it. That is the best summary I can think of.

MS: Does that mean you get your identity completely from who God says you are?

{{Sarah Masen}}: Good question. I think that definitely has a lot to do with it. Were all unique in that God knows exactly who we are, each person. Our uniqueness is not something to bank your life on. At the same time that were all unique, were all the same. I guess the positive points of being unique and why we should focus on that is so we understand our significancethat we were created for a reason...that God knows who we are and that he loves us. And because he loves us, we can know what love is. Thats something that will keep me going. At the same time, we need to keep that in balance with the fact that were all the same. Theres no favoritism. We can share communion together because we all share common attributes...physically, mentally, and spiritually.

MS: What part of that do you want to connect with through your music...the uniqueness, or the commonality?

{{Sarah Masen}}: Thats a good question. I think the uniqueness comes out on its own. I dont think its something that I should work on. Once you start working on that, you become like everybody else. I think Id really like to be able to relate the human experience. I think I would definitely aim towards wanting to communicating to the community because I dont want to be pointing at myself, but I can use myself and who Gods created me to be, to point out who Gods created us all to be...and who we are in the body of Christ, in general.

MS: Do you try to keep an element of mystery to your music?

{{Sarah Masen}}: Yeah...mystery allows the imagination to be active. I think that is important to be a part of any art. There is mystery in Christianity. We cant explain everything. Although thats what wed like to do. Wed like to reason away everything. In fact, we try. People do reason it away, and they are satisfied with the bottom line that were biological accidents or were matter affecting matter. I cant settle for that...not because I can think well, its obvious that its because of the grace of God. I dont understand it...theres lots of mystery to me.

MS: So many Christians attempt to remove mystery from their religion...

{{Sarah Masen}}: I agree. I think thats where the artist has a really significant role in the body of Christ. Thats not recognized very talk about mystery. Lets talk about beauty...lets talk about truth thats hard to swallow. Were humorous creatures at the same time as were serious, complex, intelligent creatures.

MS: Lets talk about the mystery...what can we talk about that may make some people think? What are some of the mysteries that you think about?

{{Sarah Masen}}: Grace is a big mystery. Gods love to undeserving creatures. Relationship with God even though we are so can we do that? How is it when I bow my head and close my eyes, or look up to heaven, when I get ready to pray, why is it that I think that Im really talking to God? Thats mysterious.

MS: The Bible is allegedly supposed to clear all this mystery, but doesnt it really just add to the whole mystery of it...the whole dichotomy of everything?

{{Sarah Masen}}: I dont think the Bible is there to solve the mystery. I read the Bible and I still dont understand things. I dont think its there to explain things...but I do think its sufficient in that it provides what we need to live. Its all we need for life and godliness. We should be happy with that. But it doesnt mean we cant wonder and we cant struggle with knowing that things are the way they are. I think thats good. I think thats at least exercising our imagination--which is something God created, too.

MS: Is that the role of an artistto stir up peoples imagination? What about a specific song from your album?

{{Sarah Masen}}: I hope All Fall Down makes people think about heaven. I have a really hard time keeping the perspective that heaven is the thing that Im supposed to be living for. Not even living for that perfection when things are going to be alright, but just living to be reunited with the Creator, to truly know God. I know its what Im supposed to hope for, but I dont why. I cant picture God as being used as our ticket to heaven...its more than that. Thats why I think its good to think about it...because thats the place I usually stop. Of course I have to live this way, of course I have to accept Christ as my Savior, because otherwise I wont go to heaven. I dont want to be scared into heaven. I want to understand what it is about heaven that is going to make me more complete. What am I missing now, that I should be hoping for. I hope that when people listen to All Fall Down that theyll think about that. What did she mean by, The fool stands only to fall...whos going to fall...what does that entail. What does that mean for those who do understand? The wise trip on grace...why are we already on the ground? Whats the significance of bowing before God. I still struggle with understanding that.

MS: Do you have people who have been mentors in your life?

{{Sarah Masen}}: Directly, my mother. I say this with the most respect. Domestically, she has been a mentor to me. I know how to interact with children, I know how to be a mother. Obviously, just short of experience. But my mother made sure that we knew how to be women. Its actually something that my mom taught me to really rejoice in who Gods created you to be...and thats a woman. So, be womanly-- youre good at it! Shes also spiritually been someone whos shown me alot about what the family means in relationship to God. What the significance of spiritual disciplines aregoing to church, reading your bible, praying.

Now as far as actual mentors with writing or communication--Id say a lot of authors have been influences on me--particularly Russian writers. I really admire the way that they deal with a lot of psychology. I think they have a different understanding. Im referring to writers like Dostoevsky, or Tolstoy. While their styles are different, I come away feeling like they understand the human condition...the human experience. And theyre writing about it successfully and theyre communicating it accurately in a way that touches me over this huge cultural barrier. Thats been a big influence on me.

MS: How does that connection work? What does it do to you?

{{Sarah Masen}}: It creates community. It creates a bond...a familiarity.
MS: An encouragement that youre not alone?

{{Sarah Masen}}: In Shadowlands, theres a line that says, You read to know that youre not alone. I think that says it really accurately. I dont know how you create that. I think that maybe an understanding of that will come the more that I become educated in different styles of writing. Right now, I dont think I understand that completely. Im shooting from my hip...or, from my heart. I think innocence sells right now.

Id really like to make it my intent to eventually educate myself in different writing styles. Thats what Im pursuing now...Im pursuing my degree in literature. Thats important to me because itll make me a better writer. Its kind of the responsibility that I have to myself, if anybody. You cant just shoot from your hip all the time. I think thats something thats really popular right now, is that sort of modern writing stream of consciousness. We dissect it psychologically and nobodys responsible for what they say because it all has meaning and it all inter-relates. We forget that there is a moral structure that we are working inside of. We need to have a good grasp of that and we need to be aware of it and work around it and inside of it. That takes a conscious study of find what that structure is and how it relates to us. You cant just stop with... this is what it looks like. You have to say, well, whats inside of it. What does it do.

MS: What kind of person do you want to grow want to be educated, you want to be a better writer...a better communicator, a better friend, a better relationship person...

{{Sarah Masen}}: I dont know. I need goals. I think everybody needs goals. I think everyone needs heroes and goals. Thats something thats not really popular these days. Ive just begun to try to figure out what those things are. I just know I want to grow in my knowledge of Christ. A year from now, Id like to be a little smarter than I am now. I dont know how thats going to turn out specifically. Although, I dont think its something that you should just not think about. I want to be a better guitar player...

MS: Sarah doesnt strike me like any other Christian music artist Ive ever met. I feel like she could stop doing music tomorrow, and shed be alright. I dont feel like that about a lot of people.

{{Sarah Masen}}: I would never stop doing music. It just might not look the same, because its not in this spotlight. I dont think thats something that will ever change. Ill always be creating music in my head. Its just the way that I was created. If I wasnt doing this, specifically tomorrow, itd be hard, but I would be ok. Ive got a lot of other things I could do. I really like a lot of other things. Theres too much for me to do.

MS: Like what? It doesnt take long for her to launch into her dream gig.

{{Sarah Masen}}: I might work in a library. Id really love to work in the reference section. I really would. Thats really fun to me. You just get paid to learn. To look up stuff. I have an ok memory, so once you look it up...thatd be cool. Thats what Ive decided. I think Ill get my masters in Library Science.

MS: Sarahs journey makes me want to get on board on figure out what kind of quest Im on. She has a way of revealing herself and inspiring others without appearing to want the focus on herself. Thats what makes me think shes got a bright future.

While Ive managed to get some good answers from Sarah, hopefully without her feeling like shes revealed too much about herself, there still remains one question...

Whats your favorite color of jelly bean?

{{Sarah Masen}}: No comment.

article previously appeared in Christian Single magazine