I first was introduced to the music of Jessica Crawford about a year ago – thanks to Ian Zumback, who did a duet with her on the song “Murderer A Messenger.” She teamed up with our friends at Old Bear Studios in upstate New York to record her EP Honestly (available now on iTunes), which came out in September 2018. It was a treat to catch up with Jessica and learn more about her heart for music and ministry.
UTR: How did you get started pursuing music and who have been your major influences?
Jessica:Music runs in my family. My paternal grandmother and great grandmother were classically trained pianists and vocalists. My maternal grandfather can play just about anything by ear, and the way he and his siblings sing hymns in parts is something I won’t ever forget. My mom has a masters degree in music education and is a wonderful pianist. She and my dad encouraged me in music very early on, from my first solo in kindergarten to duets with my mom at church. They always believed I was meant for music even when I didn’t. It wasn’t until my life took a hard and unexpected turn that I felt a call from God to music that I just couldn’t shake and at twenty eight I finally surrendered to it and have been trying to figure it out ever since.
UTR: What is your process for writing songs and how did the music for Honestly come about?
Jessica: I love to write when inspiration strikes, but have learned that if you really want to be productive as a songwriter you also have to make time and space to write intentionally. “Let Go Let God” was an inspiration song. I felt inspired after watching a movie and it happened very quickly. The other three were the result of a writing retreat with Chris & Anthony Hoisington of the band Brothers McClurg at Old Bear Studio in upstate New York. They did a great job of helping me dig into ideas and life experiences that I hadn’t put into song yet but knew that I needed to.
UTR: We found “Kill & Bury” to be an especially powerful song. Is there a backstory regarding this song?
Jessica: Ending up divorced at 28 was the hard and unexpected turn that thrust me into music. I had been married five years and tried so hard to save it because I believe God loves covenant, but there were some painful fractures that caused it to crumble. At the time I was working in youth ministry for a church, which made it an extra difficult situation. Going through a divorce was bad enough but going through it in ministry made it even harder. I had never felt more shame in my life. I decided that I needed to break my silence and talk about overcoming it since it’s something we all deal with in some way. “Kill & Bury” addresses those feelings of shame, but also speaks of an internal stance against it. Jesus paid for our shame on the cross so we have the authority to deal with it and not let it have victory over us – we can kill and bury it.
UTR: What would you like the listener to take away from Honestly?
Jessica: I have come to believe that there is profound power in honesty. When we’re real with ourselves and with God that’s when healing can begin – and we are all in need of that in some way! I pray that these songs give a voice to hurting hearts and lead them toward a place of honesty which then leads to wholeness.
UTR: What was the recording process like for Honestly and how was it working at Old Bear Studio?
Jessica: I loved recording at Old Bear. The studio is in an old warehouse that is all kinds of vibey. The guys have acquired quite the collection of instruments and you can feel creativity in the atmosphere when you walk in. The Brothers are great to work with in every way – Kingdom minded, talented, supportive, truly they’re just the best! Chris is a brilliant creative and music lover, which makes him a unique producer. He finds interesting ways to use everyday objects like a sliding window in the vocal booth that created a percussive layer in “Let God Let God.” He has a great sense of vision and chased down some great ideas with great musicians to make them come to life. Anthony Hoisington played keys/synth, Jeremy Thompson played guitars, bass, and synth, Steve Padin played drums, and Chris Stephens played violin on “Kill & Bury.” They added all the right touches on every song and I’m so thankful.
UTR: Is music a full time pursuit for you at this point?
Jessica: Much to my surprise YES! I can honestly say (no pun intended) that this was not my plan. But this path taught me that God’s plan is always best for us. In addition to my singer/songwriter side I am the full Worship Arts Director at Fountain of Life in Burlington, NJ and have the privilege of leading worship almost every Sunday.
UTR: What are your current and future plans for you and your music? Any more songs on the horizon?
Jessica: For now I’m just doing my best to be faithful with the Honestly project by touring whenever and wherever I can, while continuing to serve my church. Recently I’ve felt songs bubbling up again so I’m trying my best to carve out time for songwriting because I never want to stop giving voice to what the Lord puts inside me to share. I don’t know when I’ll get to record next but I want to be ready when the opportunity comes around!