May 17, 2022

Crystal Lewis

Few voices command as much immediate respect as that of Crystal Lewis. This singer, songwriter, actress and author has garnered multiple Dove Award wins and Grammy nominations while inspiring a generation of strong vocalists.


Part of Crystal Lewis’s enduring strength lies in her ability to reinvent herself, which is exactly what she’s done with her new jazz album Together We Can. Featuring duets from powerhouse vocalists like Tori Kelly, Kate Flannery and Crystal’s own kids (Izzi Ray and Solomon Ray), Together We Can is a project of unity in a time of global discord.


We talk about the album on this episode of Trevor Talks, and we also delve into all of the life experiences that made it: over 30 years of breaking music industry norms, a painful divorce, depression and the process of reimagining her personal faith. This is an episode full of insight, encouragement and humor from an industry icon.


You can get Crystal Lewis’s Together We Can at


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Crystal Lewis  0:00  
Let yourself be yourself. And know that your opinion is so valid and your the way that you think and the way that you create is valid. It doesn't have to be the way that anybody else does it.

Trevor Tyson  0:16  
Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of Trevor talks. I'm so glad that each and every single one of you have decided to tune in yet again, for another episode of the show, it never gets old seeing that people actually enjoy hearing these conversations. And you know, when we started this little over 90 episodes ago, I had no clue if anybody was gonna tune in. So thank you for making this such a beautiful journey. It never gets old. I love doing it. And I'm so glad that you're here. Today's guest is a three time Grammy and Soul Train nominated artists. For time dove winner and a legacy act in music in general. Please help me welcome Miss crystal Lewis crystal, thank you so much for being here.

Crystal Lewis  0:59  
Hi, you're so welcome. Thank you for having me.

Trevor Tyson  1:02  
You know, it's wild to think that you've had a career for over 30 years. And you there's no way like looking at you now. I'm like, There's no way like, did you start recording when you were two years old? Or like, what's the deal here? I just can't see it.

Crystal Lewis  1:25  
Thank you. Thank you very much. Um, I will say I feel like I'm only just now I'm 52. And I do feel like I'm just now starting to experience some of the effects of aging. And it definitely feels very foreign. You know, I think I mean, why this can't be happening. Um, but yes, I started when I was, I mean, I started singing when I was probably around four. But I started recording professionally when I was 15.

Trevor Tyson  2:00  
Wow, how wild is that? And to know now from your chair, just the people who have been influenced by your music, you've had Grammy winner, Tori Kelly, heavily influenced by you, Katy Perry, and so many more. How wild is that? Think of from your perspective, like all of these young world changers out there, were inspired by your voice, the God given talent that he gave you specifically to encourage these other artists to go out and do their own careers as well, that has to be amazing.

Crystal Lewis  2:31  
It's it, it's a beautiful realization that I did not come to until only a few years ago, to be honest. I just was very preoccupied. I mean, I had I got married super young, I had kids super young, I jumped into my career super young. So and because we didn't have social media and all the the easy ways to connect that we do now. I didn't know of any of those things happening, you know, until much later. So it? Yeah, it's been a beautiful part of my growth, to be honest. Lots of exponential evolutionary type growth in the last decade, or even just under the little bit less than a decade. And a lot of the growth has been in inspired by motivated, not motivated by, but I guess, encouraged by perhaps, those kinds of realizations, that that there was some kind of influence there. And so yeah, it's been, it's a gift. It's totally, again,

Trevor Tyson  3:48  
visually, like just looking at your Instagram page I have here you've had quite the shift, like not only visually, but going into this jazz record that you're releasing, which we're obviously going to talk about, that's like the key thing for this interview, like, I have a lot of questions. So let's just put it that way. But in the past few years, it looks like you've just had this dramatic shift of I don't even know how to put it like you just have this vibrant vibe about you. And I love it. Pink hair short, like that wasn't the original look that crystal Lewis had in the 90s, early 2000s. All of the success like it seems like you've grown a lot as a person and knowing who you are and who God's created you to be. So tell us a little bit about that.

Crystal Lewis  4:33  
Ah, thank you for let forgiving me space to say it and for seeing it Trevor, it means so much. Thank you. Okay, I will say that I often as I'm sure many, many of us do, go back in my mind and have conversations with my younger self or at least kind of take inventory and like try and remember where I lost to, like, who was I early on? Where did things maybe feel like they got smaller? Or what kinds of things happened in my life to make me feel like I needed to become smaller? And then at what point did I realize that I lived in this tiny little box that I could just push with one finger the walls down. And I think when I look back like I was, this is who I was as a as a young person. Always some fear, always a little bit of timidity, but also a lot of courage. And a lot of just vibrance, like I was, I was told often to be quiet, because there was a lot of volume. Just that kind of came naturally. And it wasn't like a disrespectful, kind of like, attention seeking volume. It was literally just exuberance, and excitement and joy that I loved, you know, being excited. I think later, as you grow up, for me, being primarily involved in the Christian music world, there's a lot of unspoken rules. And there's a lot of spoken rules about what you should and shouldn't be. And I broke a lot of them, because I got married very young, that wasn't necessarily breaking the rule. But my now ex husband, spoiler alert, but I'll get That'll come later. He and I started a record label in the early 90s. And incidentally, I started dramatically changing my hair color and cut very regularly. And there were very few album covers that were the same from one to the next. And I got a lot of flack from label executives, when I was with various labels during that time for doing that. They were like, how are people going to know? How can they stay tracking with you, if you're drastically changing what you look like, there

Trevor Tyson  7:19  
wasn't Instagram back then they didn't have a beautiful layout of all the dramatic changes when the record comes out there like crystal Lewis crystal, oh, that's, that's very blue.

Crystal Lewis  7:31  
Yeah, so funny. But it was something that just I don't know, it came naturally, as started in in high school, I was shopping vintage in high school, I was doing all the same things that I'm doing now I was doing then on a slightly different scale. Um, so when we started our label, we stayed in Southern California, and the label was in Nashville. And so I walked this fine line between trying to be a label artist. Because we were partnered with another label out of Nashville, and trying to kind of fit their mold, but also trying to stay true to my thing, whatever that was, which was a very kind of SoCal la thing versus a very Nashville CCM kind of thing. And I feel like we did a good job of staying separate and creating something different than what than what was out there. And I think that's what people saw and were drawn to and appreciate it. And I just have always kind of followed that trajectory. I think, even though I also and I think you learn this from parents, I certainly learned this from my mother I think and I was a pastor's kid growing up so you learn to try and make everybody happy. You are I was very much inadvertently taught to again, be quiet and do what you were kind of supposed to do. So I tried to walk a line of like, How can I still kind of be a little bit over here and do the things that I feel like I want to do but also make everybody else happy? And so I've kind of spent my life deferring and trying to find that balance Am I did do a jazz Christmas record in 2000 I think it was something like that. I grew up listening to jazz that was sort of our call it my first language jazz and gospel kind of were inseparable for me growing up, so I'd always dreamed of doing a record a legit kind of, you know, jazz record not that the Christmas record was beyond legit. It was with the Peter Erskine trio and it was Very exciting, dreamy thing to do. But fast forward to, I moved to Montana in 2006, with my two kids who were 10 and 12. And my then husband and really kind of it was a very introspective, self exploratory decade of what felt like creative, void. For me. It was beautiful. My son met his now wife, my daughter met her now husband, a lot of beautiful new things bloomed out of that time. My, my marriage fell apart there. There were a lot of other things that happened that were very difficult and relate other kinds of relationships and just various things that happened, financial things that happened and just big, big obstacles. And I came out of that time. Well, now I can look back and say, I came out of that time very changed. I experienced anxiety and depression for the first time there did not know that's what it was until later. can now look back and tell you all about the days I didn't get out of bed and the days that I would go in the barn and just like sit with the horses and just like, just felt numb and lost and couldn't quite figure out like what why am I feeling this what is going on and didn't have the resources or the friendships or relationships at that time that were helpful for me. So

Crystal Lewis  12:03  
it wasn't until I came back to California to make a record in 2014 and 15. That I really something kind of broke through for me. And it was primarily conversations with two or three people who I'd known for a long, long time, one of them being my little sister. And we just, I felt safe and able to share and say, These are the weird things I've been feeling and I don't understand them. And I have these questions. A lot of it revolved around faith, a lot of it revolved around my marriage that was still I was still married at the time. But there were a lot of just felt like missing pieces. And I was just not not sure what was happening. So very, very slowly found my way to what I consider to be freedom. And a lot of times that I think maybe all the time, I could be wrong. But I think maybe all the time, you have to go through those kinds of harrowing, difficult, scary experiences, lots of uphills, lots of false summits, lots of disappointments, lots of devastating decisions that have to be made in order to find a space where you feel safe or where you feel free. So

Trevor Tyson  13:32  
that is like, like, I have a few notes that I want to touch on from this. Sorry. No, no, like, this is all about like, we want to capture your story, right? I want to hear the uniqueness that God's given you in your life. Right. So the whole point of this show is really to help people hear from people that aren't too different from them. We've got such a diverse group of people that have come together, just to share their stories and really tap into the topics that people need to hear. And like when I hear your story, and when you moved to Montana and you had that dark season, but there were some fruits that came out of that your kids find in their spouses in Montana, but of course you said your marriage fell apart within that when you were going through those seasons of seeing like okay, some good is happening here. But I've also got this crap going on in my life that I would rather not be going through. How were you able to gravitate towards hope? How were you able to find bits and pieces of yourself along the way that helped transform you into the beautiful flower that you've bought them to today?

Crystal Lewis  14:39  
That's so nice. Um, I think in the Gosh, that's a really good question. Um, I think I'm still figuring it out to a certain degree because I think when when you're in those, those darker spaces, I mean, it's just so hard to see It's funny, my, everybody processes these things differently. I, there's a lot of people who say, when you're in the middle of that thing, talk about it. I've also heard people say, when you're in the middle of those dark moments, wait, and process through it, and then talk about it, you know, after the fact, I chose to wait. I've spoken very little about my divorce. I've spoken very little about that time in my life, very few, even of my friend, just my closest friends really know a lot about that season. Nobody knew when I was in it, or when I was there. My son, who is now 28, and has two kids. So I have two adorable grandbabies. They're so amazing. They're in Montana, so I don't get to see them as often as I would like. But when we first moved to Montana, a couple years after my son was, I think, 1415 ish. And he auditioned for this in the film that was being made in the area. And incidentally, this is how he met his wife, because his wife is the sister of the producer and director. They were a married couple. And this her sister was the married to the director. So that's how we met them. So funny. But it was a retelling of Pilgrims Progress. And it's The Sweetest film, and I actually have a cameo in it. But it was so much fun. There is this, there is there are two scenes that speak volumes to me still today. One is the you know, Christian is the name of the character in Pilgrims Progress. And this, my son plays Chris, we call him Chris is not Christian in the photos of Chris. And it's just hold this whole interesting, different kind of take on it. But it's still generally speaking the same story. There's this one scene where Chris is in the woods, and there are these, I guess they're like trees, or shrub type things that have crazy branches and roots. And they basically completely imprison him. And, and the, the girl, I can't remember her name, but they get completely taken over by these little branches and leaves and all that and it's and they just can't do anything. And then I somehow they get free and they move forward. And I just thought, Oh, I feel like that. i That's how I feel. And I knew that in the moment that way back then. And whatever that was 2000

Trevor Tyson  17:58  
something nine,

Crystal Lewis  17:59  
I don't know, it was a long time ago. And then there's a second scene where Chris is lost. And he can't find his way. And he has a map. And he turns it upside down. And then and he can't make sense of it. And he just is lost in the woods and eventually finds his way by just picking a direction and just making the conscious decision to move. And not really knowing which path is the right path. But taking it any just taking one. And so for me, I think I those, those scenes resonated because I felt like I could just stand here, I could just not get out of bed, I could just not get dressed today. Homeschooling didn't help because we love to do school in pajamas. So I was very used to spending the day in my pajamas in the winter in Montana, like what else you going to do. But I think at some point I made maybe not even a conscious decision. Maybe it was just this innate resilience that I just kept moving forward. I just kept getting out of bed. I kept doing one thing that I could do in the day and the realization that my kids were worth me trying to find a way for you know, so that was an a lot of things fell apart as soon as my kids grew up and moved out of the house. And I think any mom can attest to that, that you're so desperately needed. until a certain point when you're not like a dramatic, jarring drop off a cliff. When you've spent your life and granted. You spent my life on the road and working and traveling and writing and doing all that so I have it's not like my only job was was mothering but regardless, it's still All this various, something you're not really prepared for. And the fact that I had all these other things going on that I hadn't quite processed through or didn't really understand yet, as far as my marriage and these other things going on, that my kids served as buffers. And all of a sudden, they were gone. And it was like, oh, shoot, I gotta figure this out on my own, you know. So it's,

Trevor Tyson  20:30  
and when it comes to like, divorce, you know, especially in Christian culture is a very taboo thing to talk about, like, nobody wants to talk about divorce. So with that being said, from your personal experience, what would you want? Like those naysayers? Are the Christians on the corner that are just judging for every little move? What would you want them to understand about divorce?

Crystal Lewis  20:56  
Um, that it's not the end of the world. That I said, I've said this before, my, my counselor basically said this to me when I was going through it, that I think I truly believe God cares more about us as individuals, and he does about the institution of marriage. So I think the church tends to lean more toward, well, you just got to stay married, because that's just what you do, regardless of what's happening to the people in the marriage. Like, it's more important if you're, if you're dying a slow death, internally, you know, it's, it's better to assess that situation, and maybe make the hard choice to move on. And I think that it's possible to do that in a loving way, we tried very hard to model that for our kids. I'm very grateful that my kids were in their 20s When this happened. You know, I don't love that I was in my late 40s, when it happened. But that's, you know, that's where we are. And it's how it happened. And we are friends and I see him when I go to Montana, and we have grandkids together for heaven's sakes, like, you just, there's a lot of humility that has to be there in order for that to work. That's not necessarily for everyone. Divorce isn't for everyone. Staying friends with your former spouse isn't necessarily for everyone. Everyone's situation is so different. And I think that's something I would want people to know, too, is that, unless you've been here, in my house, in my shoes, you there's no way for you to know, I'm not going to know about your situation, even if you write a book about it, and you tell me everything there is to tell. I still wasn't there. And so I still just can listen and say okay, okay, I don't totally get it. But I trust you. And I get it, you know,

Trevor Tyson  23:01  
and I love that you said if someone were to write a book, because a lot of times when people write a book, or even do an interview, they're leaving something out, like you're not getting the whole 100% thing. So I guess like, the reason I ask is like, for me, it's like To each their own like to, for people that get married, like super young, or maybe super late, they were great friends, and they're like, You know what, I feel like I spend the rest of my life with this person. And then you realize you are better friends. I mean, life happens. And I'm not here to like debate, theology or anything like that. Or even give a hot take. It's like, nobody can really judge what you're going through. You were experiencing that. And Christian culture is so quick to jump on the high horse and, you know, So praise God for that. I love that. You were able to talk to a counselor that's so healthy, like I go to therapy, I've got a therapist appointment tomorrow, we're being real honest, holla. Like, there's just so many things that you can do to collaboratively. I guess that would be the word that you can collaborate with people on to get through these hard times. And I want to use that as a segue into the new record that you've so profoundly titled together we can. Yeah, and I love the title from my chair as like, Okay, first of all, you've got one of my all time favorite vocalist, musicians, whatever you wanna call her on the record, which is Tori Kelly. That's like my bucket list interview, by the way. And she I've been a longtime fan, but also one of my favorite TV shows of all time is the office and you have Kate on the on the record and it's like there's just an you've got ally Brooke from Fifth Harmony. You've got so many collaborations, but that's pretty new for you like you haven't had like, I'm going to have a collaboration on every song on every record, and even have four covers on a record like that's super unique. So I want to open the floor to you to talk about together we can maybe share some of the stories of how some of the collaborations happened? And really, what does this record mean to you? And why is it so different from the rest?

Crystal Lewis  25:08  
Um, yes, you're right. I have not done an album like this before, I have done lots of duets in my career, like, there have actually been quite a number of songs that either I've put out, or I have sung on other people's record. Over the years, but I've never done anything like this where all of it was my choice, my choice of song, my choice of person, you know, all of that. So I think it was during the pandemic. So like, mid 2020, when all a globally, we're like experiencing something together, which, as far as I know, hasn't hasn't happened in my, the lifetime or not, for sure, not my adult, you know, lifetime. And I just thought, wow, how it's just so kind of beautiful, kind of terrifying, but also kind of beautiful that globally, not like our country is going through this thing. No, our entire world was experiencing something that we could all relate to. And then to have all of the chaos surrounding all of the racial issues that happen, all of the equality issues that were happening simultaneously with this ridiculous global pandemic, you had, you know, George Floyd, and breonna, Taylor, and all these things happening here in this country, and all of the reactions and division that was so painfully apparent, everywhere, all of a sudden, there were all these big lines drawn, and you you had to pick aside, you know, I was like, was so intense. And I found myself, not totally knowing how to respond, there were ways I wanted to respond. And I felt like if I say this, then these fans and these Christian fans and these mainstream fans and whatever, like I couldn't find a way to please everyone, which as I said, Before, it was my MO, growing up like that, how do I make everybody happy. And all of a sudden, I was very blatantly faced with the fact that I have to, I have to have an opinion from myself. This isn't about making anybody else happy. It has, you know, I have to begin at some point to be true to myself, which of obviously, I started several years ago, figuring that part of it out. But in that moment, I came up with this song and I kind of just started writing, kind of as a response to what was happening in the world. And there are three people in my life that they're not like super close inner circle friends, but they're people I've known for a while and they're just like beautiful supporters. They're friends with their fans. And one of them I've known for years since she was a kid Eden, Espinosa, who's believe she was the third Elphaba on Broadway and wicked. And I've known. I know, her parents, I've known her. She grew up here in Orange County, since she was probably 11 or 12 years old. Because of her, there were these other two friends of hers that supported my Kickstarter years ago in like 2013. And we kind of became acquainted, and then we became friends. And both of them Broadway veterans, like just incredible people. And we have just randomly had these very deep, beautiful, inspiring conversations. And for some reason, they were the first three people that came to my mind, I thought, Oh, I shouldn't sing the song, they need to sing the song with me. I texted them before the song was even finished. And said, I think I'm gonna do a duets record. I don't know when I don't know if I don't know anything about it. I just know that I wrote the song and you guys need to sing on it. Would you be willing to do something like that? And they all texted me back immediately and said yes. So it was well over a year later that year and a half later so that we were able to get into the studio together and record it and that's the title song together we can. So all the other duet partners it kind of all came out of that idea. I just wanted to sing with the people that I really love that I love listening to that I love being around. Kate has become a friend because of Tony, my producer and musical director of my band. He works with her a bunch. So we've just ended up being in the same place at the same time a whole bunch over the last probably four years or so. And same with Tori Tori and I met through a mutual friend and her mom and I have become real close and it's we're both from Norco

Crystal Lewis  29:57  
are cutting Oh wait. Yeah, maybe it is Norco, like Corona, which is this? Yeah, town close to here, where I was born and corona and group and spent the first two years of my life in Norco. So it's just, it just wound up kind of snowballed into this beautiful thing. And it was so hard to to make the songs. Some of them came easily some of them didn't hard to get scheduled to coincide and did a Kickstarter for it, you know, to pay for it, because I'm an independent artist, and don't have a label to do all that stuff for me. So it really was a labor of love and friendship. And yeah, it's been a beautiful journey. I'm very proud of it.

Trevor Tyson  30:47  
I love that you said that everything kind of snowballed together, it's almost as if every step in your career has snowballed into this record, and to this season for your life. And one of the things I really want to point out is you did start your career more so in the CCM genre, which is a huge market, which obviously you've talked about, there are the written and unwritten roles of CCM in general. With you, like growing in your career, through those moments, seeing the Grammy nominations, and all of the things that came with it, stardom, the beautiful career, there were a lot of benefits. But there were also those things that you had to hide with being an independent artists now and branching completely out almost CCM into a more jazz focused record. How has that been like in your mindset? And how would you challenge other creatives to not allow themselves to get boxed in by a certain industry for goal and to pave their own way for their success?

Crystal Lewis  31:47  
I would say so starting with my last record, Rhapsody, which was the first first thing I did completely on my own is it is not easy to change lanes, as it's a strange like dichotomy, almost being like a veteran artists been around there, yes, 30 plus years. And then I'm a new artist in this genre, in a sense. And so it's, in some ways, it's a tough sell, both to new fans and old fans. It's like I'm not, you know, it's just weird. It can be weird. But I've also been pleasantly surprised at people's support and interest and encouragement with doing something new. And I would say to people that there are still remnants, there's, there are still bits and pieces of old, thick skin that are tough to shed, you know, in terms of allowing yourself to be vulnerable, allowing, allowing myself to be truthful, and not feel like oh, yeah, I'm not supposed to say that. Or, oh, I don't want to, again, with the people pleasing, I don't want to like offend anyone or whatever. And at some point, it's like, you just have to ask yourself, why? Why that matters so much. Because if I'm putting so much stock into your opinion, that means I'm I'm not putting any stock in the mind, well, why does your opinion matter more than my opinion, it doesn't they're equal, they matter the same. And that that's been a hard learned lesson for me that I'm honestly still learning with my writing. Today. I probably overthink a lot of what I write about because I, I'm, I'm still learning how to just be like, open and vulnerable, you know, in my writing. So that would be my big piece of advice, I guess to people is just to like, let yourself be yourself. And know that your opinion is so valid and your the way that you think and the way that you create is valid. It doesn't have to be the way that anybody else, does it.

Trevor Tyson  34:15  
Yeah. And you got to help forefront that as you were talking about earlier you were fighting for you want your covers will look a certain way. They're not going to be on brand with the last. And now that's encouraged. So the tables have turned like, No, I can't think of very many artists out there that have very similar cover styles, like their branding might go into it a certain way. But everyone's like, alright, this has to be unique. This is going to be a new season of some sort where you use new colors, I need new hair, this, that and the other and you were at the forefront of that when they were telling people not to do it. You did it. And you're seeing the ripple effect of that now. And I think it's so encouraging like with hearing what you've shared about your story and then getting ready for the interview listening to others that you have done here. about the journey with Alzheimer's with your mom and hearing about going through the divorce and seeing your children go on to get married. And now continuing your career as an independent artists, you've grown in so many different aspects. And it shows a lot of perseverance. So I'm curious to know, where would you contribute that perseverance factor? And how would you challenge others to keep pursuing their colleagues?

Crystal Lewis  35:25  
I think I think everyone finds it differently. I know I spoke a little bit briefly earlier about a lot of the shift and evolution that was taking place for me all at once. Some of it revolved around my faith as well. And that's, I see things very differently than the way that I was raised. And I'm slow to use the word deconstruction, because it's kind of become this big, like, you know, he kind of thought were, but at the same time, I think it's a very interesting way to sort of like it's a pulling apart of something I remember, I had this moment where I didn't ever go to science museum as a kid. And they had these, they have these little plastic balls that were like this, but they were actually expandable plastic pieces, and they kind of expanded all the way out. So it was like this framework. That I mean, it was a not a ball that you would like, hit around, but it was just this big sphere that had open space in the middle. And it would collapse down to a small thing. So I have this weird vision of one of those kind of floating up. And every piece of what I was dealing with in my life was inside their relationships, faith, career, family, parents, everything was just in there. And I found myself walking all the way around this sphere. And I could reach in and pull each thing out and look at it from all these different angles. And I'd never done that before. Because I was not encouraged to ask questions about what I thought or what I believed, honestly, it was I was always just sort of given passive aggressive rhetorical questions, you know, from like, mostly my pastor, father, and other pastoral figures, like, there wasn't this beautiful, like exchange of information, like let's dig in and pull this thing apart and see why. Why you believe it what how it makes you feel? So to attempt to answer your question, I would say there is definitely a deep seated faith in my being. But it looks very different than what I would have said it looked like, you know, 20 years ago. So there's definitely a renewed sense of self, where, again, we were taught like, Oh, totally deny yourself entirely. And I think that's so damaging, because I think we're pretty beautifully made and created to be wise, and we have intuition and good perspective on things. And I don't think that our hearts are deceit fully evil at their core, I think they're good. And so I've asked a lot of questions. And I don't I can't give you any answers. You know, I don't have a lot of answers

Trevor Tyson  38:45  
yet, but I could, that's healthy too. And when I hear deconstruction, like it's in especially Christian media a lot where people like deconstruction, as a devil This on the other end, I don't personally, like have a view on it. I have, like, I like to consider like asking questions and really diving in like, Okay, I've heard this about scripture, but let me do that research for myself. And let me go into it. And I think there's a certain piece of reconstruction that we have on like, Okay, what if my faith was just out of touch, right, like, maybe it needed to be recalibrated. And God wanted to show me something in this season. And that's okay. Like, so many of us get trapped in our own minds. And it's like, I'm so anxious. I don't know why I don't understand this. I don't know about heaven. And hell, I don't know about who I am as a person. I don't know who God created me to be. And at some point or another, you have to sit down and really go through it. You can't really throw that away. And that's where therapy has been like a key component in my life like, okay, if I'm struggling with panic disorder, and I'm struggling with these panic attacks on a daily basis, how can I fight through it and how am I going to get through this? And it took three years of letting it destroy Roy my life to really go like, Okay, I need to get through this because God's called me to do something and I don't know what that is. And that's about as close as I've come to like the term deconstruction, it was like more of I'm going to reconstruct my thoughts and abilities, and really dive into who I feel like I'm called to be and explore that. And I love to hear your story. And I, I, we could talk for hours, but like, I know, it's like, oh, my gosh, but

Crystal Lewis  40:29  
can I just say that I feel just on that subject of deconstruction really quickly. Um, how often have we like, I just cleaned out my garage. Last week, like, you have to pull everything down and out and make a mess. If you're gonna reorganize a kitchen, I'm sitting in my kitchen, that's why I'm pointing to my kitchen. If you are going to reorganize a closet, or a cupboard or whatever, you have to take everything out before you can put it back in, in a different way. And you may decide the way that it was in there is the way you want to put it back. And you may decide that you want to move everything around and switch it like I think it's a really valuable exercise in life in general. And I think we need to be given the permission, we need to give ourselves the permission and give each other the permission to look for the answers in places maybe that you weren't expecting to find the answers. So that's where I think often the people that I've spoken to who have a negative view of the idea of deconstruction are like, oh, you can't do that. Because that means you're looking outside of this. And I think we have to look outside and there's so much more to spirituality and faith than this little thing. And if we can adopt that view of God is more he is bigger than I think, yeah, it's a it's a valid good starting point.

Trevor Tyson  42:04  
I'm curious to go through your lyrics over the years and see how, how things have shifted up to this record. And there's one song in particular, which is actually the single out now, she was here, what you did with Tori, Kelly, like, like I said, goals, like, she's amazing, you're amazing as well. And like, there's, there's a certain piece that comes with the song, and it's more upbeat. But it's almost like, you can get lost in it. And I'm not a jazz freak, like myself, like so this was very new to me, but I actually enjoyed it. And I love it.

Crystal Lewis  42:40  
So it's really on the edge of jazz. This one is more soul leaning and more. Yeah,

Trevor Tyson  42:45  
it's more progressive jazz, I guess we could call it right. Make a new term for it. But tell us about she was here. How did this come together? And how did you decide that Tori was the perfect person to sing it with you?

Crystal Lewis  42:58  
Well, I largely wrote it with her in mind to be honest. Because for one reason, because she's been so open and vocal about me being an inspiration to her, which I'm so grateful for, and sort of in awe of. And so I feel like we I understand that because I looked up to people when I was her age when I was first singing I Aretha Franklin is probably my number one muse, if you will, my number one sort of mentor type person because she started in the church. And then she did soul and she did jazz. She did Big Band records, like she did pop in the 80s. Like she did, she did disco in the 70s. Like she did everything. And her life was hard. And she paved the way and I'm not a black woman. So there's a lot of that paving that didn't apply to me like she paved the way for other black women to do things that had never been done. Same with Ella Fitzgerald, who was another like huge influence for me, vocally. Um, but as far as just musically speaking, someone like Aretha showed me what was possible. And here I am having changed lanes and switched genres and done things that many people told me I shouldn't do. I couldn't do wouldn't work, you know. So I wanted to I'm, I came to a point where I realized as I think I mentioned that like, oh my gosh, I've been an influence to these younger women like Tori, like Katie, like, Kelly Clarkson, like Ali like, how did that happen? It's just so crazy. And I came up with this idea for this song where it was it's about my influences in the beginning. It's about me being an influence in the middle. And it's about the girls behind me being influences after me, including my daughter and that kind of thing, because she's an artist too. And an amazing writer, and it's all a hustle. It's all hard. We all need to be like, looking back and grabbing each other's hands and pulling each other forward. Because it's, it's not an easy. This is not an easy job. And so yeah, that's that's what the song was about I, having developed a relationship with Tori, she was one of the first people that I texted, and she was, there was a red tape, we had to kind of finagle through because she's, you know, a signed artist, and she has management, she's a big deal. And I'm like, Yeah, I don't have any money. And I don't have you know, any radio, like, I'm just gonna put this thing out. So yeah, she was very gracious. And honestly, one of the best singers around I mean, truly like, and I'm, I admit, I'm a relatively harsh critic, but I'm in the studio. Like, they're very different kinds of singers, and you sing differently on stage in a live performance than you do in the studio. It's just, it's just a different thing.

Trevor Tyson  46:20  
Yeah, and a lot of people do not realize how expensive the music industry can be. If you want your song to be on radio or chart. A lot of money goes into that. And record labels pay that money. So when you hear a song, that is just freaking phenomenal. And you're like, why isn't this bigger? Well, they don't have $100,000 to put into a radio campaign, and that's on the low end. Correct if you want to see it, and like the top 50, right. So going from being a sign artists into an independent artists, I think is a beautiful thing. Like, especially for your journey. It just seems like it fits so well for like the woman that you've grown to be and you are an independent woman, like not even saying that, in a music sense. You just seem like, Okay, if I needed a strong person in my corner, I'd want to call crystal Lewis. And I'm sure you're that person from people as well. And I'm excited for people to finally hear this record. So as we close, I always really like to ask a unique question that we don't necessarily ask every single person that changes per episode. And for this one, I'd really just like for you to be able to encourage people, whether it's a woman that's going through a divorce, or a kid that really wants to be a musician, whatever it may be, whatever circumstances poverty, whatever, what would a message be from Crystal Lewis for that one person out there.

Crystal Lewis  47:48  
The first thing that comes to mind is something that I love, I'm gonna cry that I said to myself over and over again, when I was in, I had already separated, hadn't divorced yet, but I was finding my way I had never, I was married at 19. So had never been alone. And had to figure out all the things that you have to figure out if you're a single person, from paying rent, to setting up utilities to taking care of your car, I mean, those kinds of things. And then, in addition to trying to figure out my work life and all of that. And I went to I've been to Paris twice by myself, since I've been single. Had a couple friends there I didn't like it wasn't only always the whole trip was by myself, I was with some people, but largely by myself. And so I just I don't know why I gravitated toward the idea of Parisian living or whatever, I don't speak French. But I wrote this phrase down in my notebook. This was the I think we had separated and like maybe three weeks later, I was in Paris. So was everything was so fresh and really scary. And I wrote this breaks down that said, loser layout clay beyond. And it means I'm pretty sure you'll be okay. And I said you instead of I, because I would say it to myself when I looked in the mirror. And I just it was a constant reminder. And there were days I did not agree with myself. I could say it 10 times and feel like I think I'll be okay. I hope I'll be okay. I didn't know how to say that in French. So I could only say I will be okay. Was the layout clean. And I came to a point maybe two years later, I was on a walk and I was having money issues and I was just so everything seemed like terrible. And I was trying to say that to myself, you're going to be okay. And instead what came to mind was everything is already okay. And it was so like, did I just say that? Because it was a new way of thinking for me that instead of that encouraging, like, come on, you can do it, you're gonna be okay, you're gonna get through this. It was like, you're good. It was a different I like stepped onto a more firm platform or something. So, whichever of those things you need today, like if you are in the place where it's looser lately beyond, you will be okay. Or everything is already Okay. Your Money has already figured out. Your relationship is already figured out. You're like, not to be cliche or simplify things to the nth degree but like I don't know if there's some there's peace in the idea that things will work out. They really will maybe not always to our specific specifications. But they will and will be okay.

Trevor Tyson  51:16  
Crystal freakin Lewis What a treat that was dude is still hard for me to believe that she's had a career spanning for over three decades. While she's still. No, like She's beautiful. She's like Tinkerbell. I mean, dead serious. I love her.

Brian Layne  51:35  
I always wonder if when I say doesn't look that old. I wonder if that's offensive. Like she didn't know if that old because Oh, like she's,

Trevor Tyson  51:44  
you know, she's not like, she's such a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful and visual. I'm fine. Yes. Her personality dude. Like, that was one of the Yeah, like that was one of the more easygoing conversations like where I was like, Dang, this thing went on for 50 minutes. Jazzy what it was. That's a very excellent segue to it was. Love what you did there dude. Smooth like jazz? Yeah. But like her new record. Honestly, it'll be out by the time this episode comes out, right? It's called together we can. And it's such a beautiful piece of her story to the sunset. Like, when we come together, we're not only allowed her together, but we could find healing together. And during the pandemic, when we came together, we were able to find, you know, we're still working our way out of it. But together we can. And I think that's phenomenal. Especially with this being such a collaborative effort. She's got Tori Kelly, she's got ally, Brooke from Fifth Harmony. She's got so many amazing artists joining her for this collaborative effort. And it is jazzy. I'm not a jazz fan as much as I

Brian Layne  52:56  
would like, the sphere. If you're in the right atmosphere, and you're chillin, and all of a sudden, some men just play right now I can just hear it. You're just chilling. You just it's It's alive. It's a lifestyle. It's beautiful. So I'm almost certain that this record is going to bang, and it's going to be awesome.

Trevor Tyson  53:16  
And it's a banger and the fact that like one thing somebody asked me the other day, they were like, Why do musicians call them records? And the answer is not vinyl. Vinyl was never what a record was they call them record stores and stuff. Word. It's a recording. Yeah, it's a record. Like that's just something that more than artsy people use, but that is like the terminology for it to get nerdy on everybody. It's a great record. It is yes,

Brian Layne  53:44  
I guarantee it's gonna be awesome. And I can't wait to listen to it. You're sending me and you a autographed copy. Brom. You know, we're going to be spending you know, I guess we don't even have a CD player. But you know,

Trevor Tyson  53:57  
I in the car, maybe I think on Apple. Yeah, like everybody has to pre save it. We're gonna have the link in the description below. But dang, dude, like, just imagine this. You've got some of the biggest musicians in the world, Kelly Clarkson, Tory Philly Katy Perry. And so many more. We haven't even listed bond OCE crystal Lewis has performed with Bondo Stevie Wonder, yeah, such a legacy act, man. And she's still growing strong as an independent artist. Phenomenal. And I'm excited for everybody to hear this. This is our first jazz interview, I believe. I mean, we may have had some jazz fans, but not like a legit like I got a jazz record coming out. So this is exciting. But, yeah,

Brian Layne  54:47  
you know, just looking back at what you guys were talking about. I mean, there's a lot, a lot of good stuff in there. But you know, I heard her talking about deconstructing and and I think that's Have an important conversation to be had. And I think so many people are just like, well, that's just wrong. You can't deconstruct and blah, blah, blah. But I think you can find new levels of faith, I think you can find deeper meaning and grow your roots even deeper into what you believe by having those. The spaces are those times in your life where you really have to shed some of the old in order to find out what's real. And what's right. Yeah. And so just hearing her story about that, sorry, didn't mean No, you're good. You're good hearing her story about that, and just how how she came full circle and had a stronger faith was beautiful.

Trevor Tyson  55:40  
Yeah, it was a reconstruction story. Yeah, it sounds like, and I find it so fascinating that deconstruction is a huge topic. And not a lot of people want to talk about it unless they're dogging it. And I like even in the interview on like, you know, I don't have a opinion left or right on it. It's just like, a lot of people go through the seasons of brokenness, like we talked about divorce in this like that divorce, left her somewhat broken, but like, a lot of the things that she's been able to do, like, she moved to Montana, and that's where her marriage fell apart. But she, her kids both found their spouses in Montana, so some good came out of it. And one other thing I talked about is like divorce is so frowned upon in the church. I'm not advocating like everybody get a divorce or anything, but it's to each their own. Number one. Number two, some people get married, Dad says, yeah, like, some people are excellent friends and terrible spouses. Right? Forgive me for saying that. I'm sorry. No, but like, it's literally like some people get married to their best friend and realize that they were much better friends and that's to each their own. And Krystal has such a legacy act, bro,

Brian Layne  56:49  
you're, you're you're, you're skimming the surface of the sun right there, bro, when you're talking about like, all of those things when it comes to divorce and, and, you know, to each their own and, and all of that good, from bad and all of that stuff. And it all does work together. But I think these are meaningful conversations. And I think it's important that we're open to these conversations and that we have if you're a jazz I bet you this jazz album would even wouldn't even be a reality right now. Had you not gone through that season?

Trevor Tyson  57:21  
Yeah. And here's the thing, bro. If people want to listen to Caleb, they can go listen to Caleb, but that's not me.

Brian Layne  57:27  
Everything's gonna be alright. And not even. I'm not

Trevor Tyson  57:31  
dissing Caleb, but no, but like, we pay your bills. No, but like, I'm just sitting here. Like, we're allowed to have these conversations. And we shouldn't shy away from them just because you disagree with something somebody says. So this was another one of those therapeutic episodes for me, and I'm great.

Brian Layne  57:51  
And it was for me just sitting back and watching it. And you know, I don't care what you say. Trev you're never going to convince me that Santa Claus is not real. Bottom line. Santa Santa Israel. Busy. I knew.

Trevor Tyson  58:08  
I think that Brian head Welch might be saying, Oh,

Brian Layne  58:12  
he's Santa Claus.

Trevor Tyson  58:13  
He's Santa Cruz.

Brian Layne  58:14  
I think you're right. I'm onto it. I'm on to it. I noticed one night when I was trying to get a look at Santa Claus. I peeked out and I saw like what I thought was a dread poking out from underneath.

Trevor Tyson  58:28  
You hear the hooves on the roof? And then you hear a freak on a leash. Oh my god. Oh man, Lord forgive them forgive them. Yes bless them but we love you guys so much. Thank you so much for tuning in to this week's episode. Be sure to go stream Yeah, thank you for putting up with us. Be sure to go stream the new record for Miss crystal Lewis was amazing half to go listen to it as soon as it comes out. Which is out by the time this episode airs together. We can as streaming on all platforms. Go check out the music videos. Go check out our merch store. She's an independent artists always put an emphasis on that fully funded. We love crystal Lewis and we love you guys. So thank you so much for tuning in. And as usual, we will talk to you guys next week.

Transcribed by

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Crystal Lewis

Crystal Lewis dominated the CCM charts for an entire decade, reaching a commercial peak in the genre with her Billboard Top 5 albums “Let Love In” (1990) and “Beauty for Ashes,” (1996), in addition to “Gold” (1998) and the Grammy® nominated “Fearless” (2000), which collectively sold hundreds of thousands of units and inspired young future superstars like Katy Perry and Tori Kelly. In 1999, Kirk Franklin – who later produced the background vocals on “Fearless” - invited Crystal to sing on his Grammy nominated original “Lean on Me” with R. Kelly, Mary J. Blige and Bono – and she joined the others in a performance of the song at the Grammy Awards. Two of the Dove Awards she won in 1998-99 were for her Spanish language albums “Oro” and “La Bellessa de la Cruz.” She planted the seeds of her current jazz-oriented recordings with the release of her Christmas album “Holiday!” (2000) performed with the Peter Erskine Trio.