CCM legend Crystal Lewis is back with a brand new self-titled record, and after all these years she is blazing toward new trails of her musical journey. The veteran singer spoke with BREATHEcast and shared about her writer's block, passion for new ideas, and learning new things almost 30 years into her career.
The story of the new album begins in June of 2013 when Lewis launched a kickstarter campaign to fund a new project. At the time she had spent six months trying to come up with a vision and a plan for a new idea for a project.
"I needed to do one, I wanted to do one, but for whatever reason there were just so many pieces missing from the puzzle," said Lewis.
The singer started coming up with ideas while she was sitting with her son Solomon, "who is a great musician in his own right." The only problem was, "Nothing I wrote really made me excited," she admitted, although there were little sparks here and there but nothing really stood out to her.
By the end of the month, Lewis' fans backed the entire project. At the same time she was living a bit chaotically because the family had just sold their house and moved. She was traveling and working, so music got put on the backburner for a while.
Then, roughly one year ago Lewis decided to acknowledge the 25 theme of her career - 25 years, 25 singles. The 25 album took a look back at her history and prepared listeners for her future to come with the new album.
Her "greatest hits" album was a place holder for the new music she had coming. She said most of the songs had been written last year but some weren't finished and the official production was not lined up until October 2014. That is when "everything fell into place." The record was made between December 2014 and April 2015 with the whole thing being finished by May 1st.
The record is three years in the making but in reality it took only six months. "It feels like a complete miracle."
The self-titled album is coming out on her birthday, September 11, which also lines up perfectly with getting all the artwork, music, and promotional work ready. The date also works because the music industry shifted release days from Tuesday to Friday.
Lewis' new album is funky, soulful, and a bit times R&B like. She has always done music in this style, but there is something that makes this next batch of songs stick out specifically.
"I think it's always been there to a certain degree," Lewis shared. "My influences are all soul, hip-hop, and R&B, from my youngest years....Getting older you start to just not care so much about other people's expectations."
She continued with a laugh, "I own my own label so I can do whatever I want." She knows people enjoy this music just as much as she does, and currently has the freedom and opportunity to do what she wants.
"I want to make music that I want to listen to; that I enjoy. And this is what I'm loving, this style of music," shared Lewis. "I listen to a lot of the Roots, D'Angelo, Eryka Badu, Jill Scott, and Emily King. Those are my big influences for the last couple of years."
The upbeat vocalist says there is not an "intentional theme or thread" running through the album, but it didn't originally start that way.
Lewis explained that she has never gone the route of writing 40 songs and then narrowing it down to the album. She focuses on a certain set of songs and maybe does two extra. "Typically I wind up with exactly the songs I want on the record."
At the time of the interview, she was sitting in her office and there was a white board with all of her songs for the album on it. Only three of them weren't used, and she couldn't bring herself to erase the board.
Interestingly enough, one of the unused songs was to be the title track of the album. "I sent it around to a handful of people to collaborate with me, but it just didn't pan out. I actually did have this theme and a common thread that I was working toward and there was just a dramatic shift in the whole thing including the deletion of this song," she revealed.
"Projects wind up having a life of their own. I've learned to kind of just let it take shift. I fight with it and I tend to wrestle with the project so much," Lewis said."
To get out of this she said you just have to be quiet and listen; let the process happen and let the song write itself. "I'm still learning that almost 30 years into it."
And while the record does not have a central theme, there are certain things that are still evident, like joy and happiness.
"I hope people take away a sense of joy out of the songs..." said Lewis. "There are a couple of songs about new beginnings too"
She stated that with two now grown and living outside of the house kids, and at her age, "I have what feels like a new career, or a new phase, and for any person that feels later in life like 'Oh, it's too late for me'. I hope they walk away listening to maybe my struggle through it and realize that it's never too late to dream a new dream or fulfill something that was a calling on your life."
"Age is just a number and God can do anything in any of us, even things that we think are impossible."
Read part two with Crystal Lewis where she speaks about touring, life in Montana, and her crowd funding campaign. Read part three where she talks about her daughter's career and friendship with Tori Kelly.
Last year we interviewed Crystal, and she spoke about 25, "People Get Ready," and working with rappers. Read part two where she discusses the evolution of Christian music and escaping that Christian label. Part three she speaks on leaving a legacy.