Christian singer/songwriter and author Cindy Morgan is having a busy couple of months with her book "How Could I Ask for More" being released on August 4, and upcoming album Bows & Arrows coming out on September 4. Morgan took some time out of her schedule to answer a few questions for BREATHEcast on both projects.
BREATHEcast: In your book, "How Could I Ask for More" how did you select which stories you wanted to include, and how personal did you want to get?
Cindy Morgan: I think for the most part, the stories selected me. There were stories from life that I felt compelled to tell. I tried not to withhold much of how things really were, but certainly, there were some roads I didn't go down.
BC: At one point you describe the church your mother was in as borderline cult like. Where do you feel the line is crossed with fundamental churches, and can you give any examples that weren't in the book?
CM: I think where fundamentalism eeks over the line into cult-dom is really when a church tries to isolate their members, keeping them from associating with other Christians who don't follow their exact doctrine. Also, secrecy is big. When the outside world isn't welcome to take a look at your regular church services, that should be cause for alarm.
I remember the church I was in would not allow you to associate with people who didn't belong to our exact denomination. They also told me that my parents were lost since they didn't attend our church. (I attended that church alone, as a teenager.) That was my big tip-off that something wasn't right and my first real reason I decided to leave that church.
BC: Because of your experiences with Hollis, do you have a special place in your heart or conviction toward transgender people or someone struggling with sexual identity? How should Christians approach this?
CM: My experience with Hollis definitely gave me a compassionate eye for those who struggle with an issue as sensitive as this one. I do believe God's mercy for the broken is farther reaching than we can understand. As far as how Christians should approach this, I think Billy Graham said it best, "It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict, God's job to judge, and my job to love."
BC: Does your book have any tie ins with Bows & Arrows?
CM: Yes, several. There is a chapter in the book called "Bows & Arrows" about watching your children grow into their own-- the beauty and difficulty that is wrapped up in that. Also, the chapter "Rice Pudding" is about my father's battle with depression, and that is connected to the song "Breaking Heart." The chapter "Deep Breaths" is connected to the song "Sound of a Train."
BC: Is there any way you can finish the book your father started, and how far along is it?
CM: What an amazing question. I have thought of this many times. I have been working on a novel for nine years and counting. Working on that has made me think that one day maybe I could finish my dad's novel. It would be an honor to do that. I think it is only a few short chapters from being completed.
BC: Bows & Arrows will mark the first time you were at the head of all production on the album. What was that experience like, and how did it differ from other projects?
CM: I think it has been something building in me for quite some time. I have been so fortunate to learn under many remarkable producers. I think the last few years of producing my own demos has been great preparation. I guess to answer what is was like… It was kind of like walking in a river where you can’t see the bottom. I wasn't exactly sure what I would find once I waded in, but I had a sense of what was down there and what should happen. I have my own method. I wade in very slowly, starting with the fundamental instrument and the vocal. The arrangement is the biggest battle; after that, you just try to not clutter it up very much. I was also very grateful to have an engineer/musician/sounding board and co-producer like Kyle Buchanan who has such an open mind in terms of production and music. He is an old soul who, like me, flies by instinct largely. I enjoyed every minute of the process. It most certainly did not feel like work.
BC: The album is a mixture of sounds ranging from bluegrass to Americana. Was this done deliberately or did they organically all come out a little different?
CM: I think I wanted to make sure the album had a cohesive feeling, kind of like a journey, but I also wanted to be true to each song. There were some songs where piano was obvious but others where a piano didn't seem right at all. I tried not to overthink. Some songs were just bluegrass in their DNA; that is the music of my childhood. I have never been able to outrun the influence the music of the mountains made on me. This record was an attempt to integrate piano driven, folk/pop that I have always been drawn to, along with the music I grew up with...with a hefty side of strings.
BC: How does your approach for writing music differ from writing a book? Is one process more laboring or time consuming?
CM: I can tell you that writing a book is definitely more of a challenge! Even though some songs take years to write, a song is over in about four minutes. With a book, there is a structure, a story arc for each chapter, tying each chapter together with the other content. Then it goes to the editor and you start all over again. But I LOVED it. Songwriting is most definitely my first love, but writing stories (beyond song form), is my new favorite thing. There are so many things you can say in a short story that you cannot express in a song. The thing that IS the same about both is the hook--both a song and a story have to have a hook to drive toward. I love that.
BC: What are your thoughts on music used as evangelism? Do you think it is an effective tool, and why do you think music is so powerful?
CM: It makes me think about how when King David sent his soldiers into battle that the singers and musicians went ahead first. It seems there is a power that is very spiritual about music. It helps our defenses to drop, it finds its way into the corners of our hearts, places we thought were no longer accessible. It reaches us in our brokenness and our need. It is very mysterious, but undeniable the impact music has on a person's soul.