Ellie Holcomb is a Dove-award winning songwriter, an author, and a top ten charting artist whose work has been shedding light into the world since her solo debut album As Sure As the Sun in 2014. With the release of her latest album, Canyon, Ellie is taking listeners on a new journey into the heart of grief.
Unpacking themes that are intensely present and timely, in this episode Ellie Holcomb talks about her own grief journey as she walked back through wounds— accompanied by counseling and the steadying hand of Jesus. The result was a new kind of healing that has uniquely equipped Ellie to offer solidarity and solace to those experiencing the wide range of grief caused by the past two years of world events. This is a conversation for anyone else wondering if God might still be in the deepest canyons, confirmation that yes, He’s still right here.
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Trevor Tyson 0:01
Thank you for tuning in to Trevor talks podcast where we talk to real people about real topics and real stories. Today's guest is a multi award winning singer songwriter with a God given talent of storytelling. She is the author of multiple books and obviously gifted musician, wife, mother and a friend to many. Her new album Canyon is available everywhere, and I'm beyond excited to hear the story behind it. Here's my interview with Miss Ellie Holcomb. Ellie, thank you so much for being here today.
Ellie Holcomb 0:32
Absolutely. I'm thrilled to be with you.
Trevor Tyson 0:35
I'm like, dang, like, I just like binge through a ton of content that you've done. And I'm like, this girl really has a story to share. And God's doing some amazing things through her life. So let's go like this is
Ellie Holcomb 0:50
Trevor Tyson 0:53
So how was with you and your family lately? I know everyone's been kind of locked in and excetera. How's that going?
Ellie Holcomb 1:01
You know, they are the kids are back in school. And I think I had the first and then my little three year old is going to like a mom's day out for two days a week, which he's been begging to go to schools or little social butterfly who has been locked in the house. So he stands at our window and like knocks on it when people would walk by. And he would say hi friend.
Unknown Speaker 1:26
Poor guy. He came to from his first little day and mom's day out and he goes along, I played all day.
Ellie Holcomb 1:33
And that day happened two weeks ago when he first went and that was the first day that I had been alone at my house since COVID. Hit like a year and a half ago. So it was how
Trevor Tyson 1:49
old? How many kids are there? They're just
Ellie Holcomb 1:52
their kids? Yes. So it's been a lot. You have
Trevor Tyson 1:57
three kids. And somehow you find time to write close to 100 songs and tear them all down into a record right devotionals kids books, EPS, to go with the kids books, shoot music, videos, record kitchen covers, and record endless amounts of podcast, all while raising three kids and keeping the husband content. I just got tired going through that like column on top notch like, oh, how do you do that?
Ellie Holcomb 2:25
Well, I tell you what it is just not alone. Not alone. It's all very integrated. And it's all very not perfect. We drop their balls dropped all the time. But there is like a community we have an amazing village. And that's one of my favorite things about doing music. My husband's a musician too. And so we toured together, he tours with his band, and then I tour separately as well. So that was just kind of this like both and plus some extra rhythm that we have in our life. And we bring our kids on the road half the time we have a nanny. I feel like we've had three different nannies and all of them feel like ants. Now the ones that have moved on to other things are still involved. We still see them. We just had our first nanny, come stay with her a little baby at our house. So it is a really beautiful thing that I've learned early on, especially when my husband and I were performing together for eight years. We were in the same band, your Holcomb and the neighbors. And we just literally couldn't have a kid on the road without someone else to watch her whether that be a friend who was in town or a mom or a dad or an aunt. I mean literally we just had people surround us and so we have this really beautiful community of people who loves on us and loves on our kids with carpools to soccer events for all their stuff that's starting to get busier. So it is busy. My husband is a logistical ninja. And then we don't do it alone. Those are those
Trevor Tyson 3:57
mystical ninjas, the do good at math to
Ellie Holcomb 4:00
he is an incredible mathematician and he's actually getting his pilot's license, renewed right now. So he's got his capacity. I can't compare myself to him. Because his capacity in life, like I get into a pretty like, dark place. If I compare like what I get done in a day to what he can get done in a day, he's incredibly intentional, human, business minded guy, but also creative. Also really a present, like father and husband and friend. He's not perfect, but he's he is pretty amazing.
Trevor Tyson 4:41
Phenomenal. And with all of that. Yeah, go ahead.
Ellie Holcomb 4:45
I'm just here to say one more thing. Our work team like my work wives is what I call phantom fam. They like there are so many things we've started off you know, at first doing everything all ourselves and And we have this team now at work not just at home helping us run the family, we have a team at work, maybe like bringing the coffee fixing mics just earlier. So it is, it is very, there's very much a sense of you don't do it alone. And that honestly makes everything more fun to to have like a team of people that you're that you're rolling like crazy through life with.
Trevor Tyson 5:22
And it says a lot that you would take time out to recognize your team. So go team, I love that worthwhile, like, let's go. Now, just right off the bat based on everything that we've already discussed, like, the vulnerability aspect of everything that you're doing is super high. And the threshold got even higher when you released this new album Canyon. Where did this all come from, like, from the visuals to the lyrics that you've articulated into this is all very personal from you. And it's coming from a place of not only vulnerability, but trust that God's gonna use it to help someone else get through it. So like, I commend you for that vulnerability. But I'd really just like to dive into record came from and the stories that helped mold it.
Ellie Holcomb 6:06
Sure. I love that, Trevor. So I started a counseling journey over a decade ago, I was that girl that showed up at counseling, I promise you I went I'm literally getting ready to go to a fundraiser for porters call. It's an amazing. It's like a free counseling service for full time musicians and artists here in Nashville. And I'll walk through Porter's calls doors, I don't know, like probably 12 or 13 years ago, 13 years ago. And I was like that girl went to counseling. And I was like, so I have this friend. They were going through a really hard time. I'm fine, but I just didn't know how to help them. And it just sent me on a trajectory feeling of acknowledging ones that I didn't even know were there are new, I don't know if you're an Enneagram. Person, Trevor, are you at all? They'll talk Enneagram at all.
Trevor Tyson 6:58
So I believe I'm a seven and it's either a two or a three. So I'm not like super in depth on it. I was one of the rabbit.
Ellie Holcomb 7:06
Okay, well, I'm a seven. That's the enthusiast and personality like motivation for most everything you do is avoiding pain at all costs. So way to go like a healthy seven leaning into vulnerability with people on this podcast, Trevor, good job. I just, I think I just thought that visiting painful places will kill me, you know. And so I had addresses in counseling over the years I address rooms in my story and counseling, and talk through them and become a more honest person, it changed my marriage, it changed my relationship with God, it changed relationship with everybody. Because I had become I was raised in the church didn't know it was okay to not be okay. And thought I was just supposed to say I trust God, I'm just trusting him and unbelieving him, and I'm going to be okay. And ultimately, that's true. But I think actually missed the power of the gospel of him to lead us in our deepest places of pain. And so basically, when my little girl went to kindergarten, which was really, you know, three years ago, three or four years ago, now, all of these kind of childhood wounds from my story started being triggered. And what I realized was I dealt with a lot of that and talk through a lot of that and counseling, but what I never let myself do was grief. And so I started via a counseling journey, grieving some of the deepest wounds in my in my story, and I know kind of going to touch and breathe and cry in places that I thought if I hang out there, I might get stuck there forever. Does that make any sense? And, and for me, a lot of in and it's my dad's 70th birthday, actually, today this day that we're talking which is amazing. A dad out he's he is an amazing, man. And he would say this If he was here with us, but he growing up he's so he's pretty sir, has made tons of amazing records over the years, but was gone for a lot of my childhood, like working would say workaholic, like just Mia always knew that he loved me, but he just was not around a lot. And he had actually just, like, had this turnaround moment in his life when I was first married. And just like, basically came completely changed his work schedule, moved to studio home and just said kids who have five kids and the oldest of five he said, kids, I have gotten this wrong, like I have royally screwed up. I've missed so much of your childhood and all I have to offer you is repentance. And then the gospel to say like but God like this isn't the end, I want to write a different story. And so having a parent do that in your life is like unbelievable. So he has actually made most of my records with me. So this thing that took him away from our family. We want to say like God restored the years that the locusts have eaten, like, we got to make records together. And this thing that took took him away was really something that was a healing thing. So we're like, yes, come back. My mom was amazing. We're like, we're all having a great time here at home. Welcome, like, we love you. Thank you. It has given me so much permission as a parent to know I'm not going to get it. All right. And I get this opportunity to make mistakes and to repent and practice that in front of my kids, which I do often to say, like, Mom, I got that wrong. I need forgiveness. And thank goodness, there is always forgiveness because of Jesus. You know, it has just been a beautiful thing. But here's the deal, Trevor, I, all of that healing happened. Beautiful, like, redemption, reconciliation. And yet, I had never actually grieved some of the things that he had missed. So when my daughter went to kindergarten, I just was like, Oh, I'm so sad. All these memories came flooding back that he was not a part of, and so I feel guilty for grieving. I don't know, I'm like, everything's fine. We're fine. Why would I spend time going back to this, but what happened? As I allowed myself to grieve some of those ones. For me, it's the grief started coming out sideways with my kids. Like, I was just way overly sensitive about everything with them I like was like, you know, everybody cries when your kid goes to kindergarten, but I was like, not okay. Drew was like, What is how can we move you? And so I think, what happened, I ended up in counseling, and then I did this. I don't know if you've ever heard of like healing prayer, but basically just inviting Jesus into some of your, like, deepest wounds. And all I can say, is that kind of in a mysterious mystical way, I ended up on my face and a floor on the floor, saying Father, asking him to come heal some of these wounds. And it was like the Ghost of Christmas Past. That's the only way I know how to describe it came. And it was just
Ellie Holcomb 12:11
in this deep memory, some of them that I remembered, like some of them that I didn't have a wound from, from childhood, like early childhood to, to all the way through adulthood. And, and every single time I was asking, God, you know, where were you in this place, I've been in a room when somebody had done this in a co write, actually. And I was like, I then so this woman, Mia fields, she's amazing. She's from Australia, she's looking at you, and you can ask God to come and give you a picture. And he's gonna give you a picture of of like, a wound in your life and your story. And when you get to see that picture, and so this woman, I was in the room I was just having with another woman, and I'm like, Oh, my gosh, swarming it, especially that Okay, it's good. This one is like sobbing, this other girl in the room that she's doing this with. And she's like, Okay, now you're gonna ask God, where were you in this picture? Where were you in this wounded moment. And now he's gonna give you another picture. And, and, and he's gonna show you where he was. And so this other woman starts sobbing is this picture of where God was. And I was on the floor, like, I'm totally jumping on this train, like, I started counseling this stuff with my dad. And I was like, I don't even know what I'm doing this, but I'm like, just like something on this. And I mean, that's what happened when I took some space, after that call, right? To kind of do that by myself. God took me to all these wounded places in every single time, Trevor, every single time he gave me a picture of where he was in this moment. And all of these lies that I realized that I believed about God, that he wasn't really, that he was too busy, like, I could really need anything because my needs might not be met. Or I needed to be really good for him to notice me. Or he didn't really have time for me, because he's really busy doing other really important things. Like I just so many lies run down in that. And so I started writing this whole record about God meeting me and these wounded places and healing things in me. And then continued deeper level of healing with my mom and dad and in our family, and then healing with like, just like knowing how to lean in with my kids. I mean, just so much beautiful healing and that I think, the places that I thought would kill me, if I go to this wounded place, and let myself actually grieve and admit how hard it wasn't how sad it was. I just thought I might get stuck there. When I visited those places that felt like death and, and allow myself to breathe. I ended up encountering the nearness and the tenderness. And the presence and the empathy of God in a way that actually brought me has brought me to life. I feel more alive and more completely healed than I've ever felt in my whole life. And so it's Fast forward to march 3 of 2020. I'm in the process of, of pre production making this record about God meeting me and his personal journey of grieving. And the tornado. Where Trevor, are you in Nashville? Where are you in the world? I am
Trevor Tyson 15:17
in. I split time between an hour east of Atlanta and Mount Juliet, Tennessee. Theater it through. Yeah.
Ellie Holcomb 15:25
Yeah. So you know, like that. Mark started in 2020 was awful. And that tornado tour right through our neighborhood woke up to the house shaking like scariest night of my life. Drew, my husband was out of town, three kids terrified and running down in the basement just was so scary. When the wake of that storm, so much beauty. I mean, you can eat like a king or queen. In our neighborhood and people run around with food. There's people playing music in their front yard, people, strangers, helping strangers, neighbors, helping neighbors, it was so beautiful. And a week later, COVID-19 safer at home happens and it felt like Hope Community like rebuilding gut quarantined. And I began to I am so grateful that I learned to grieve on a personal scale because there was so much global national grief and loss and suffering. George Floyd ahmaud arbery All of this this like racial tension, really, that I had been aware of, but not not dialed into. In a way I started intentionally listening joined to be the bridge group started grieving and lamenting some of the racial tension and wounding in our country that I just have. It has not been my experience because I'm white. I just didn't know what it was like to be I started listening to small black and brown brothers and sisters start grieving on a more on a much broader scale than I ever have before. Because I had practiced this like personal grieving. And so it was just a heavy, heavy year political tension, tension and division within the church. And so I in the midst of all of this went to the Grand Canyon. And when the numbers were literally last summer, it was about a year ago, it was in August, Trevor and I highly don't recommend going to the Grand Canyon in August because it feels like I mean, unless you just want to know what like Hades might feel
Unknown Speaker 17:32
like degrees is so much
Ellie Holcomb 17:36
but we were supposed to be on this cruise with my brother and sister. And they they were hadn't gotten child care. They hardly ever get out. They have three kids they live in Knoxville, Tennessee. And when the cruise got canceled, thank god like we didn't none of us wanted to be stuck on a boat. But we had already had this trip lined up and Drew was like let's go see. Let's go do something my husband's like super planner, you know, like, just super ninja and it's like, we're gonna go do something that's like relatively safe. So we went and camp like did this camping trip and the Grand Canyon, camped on the northern rim went down into the canyon rafted the Colorado River camped on the riverbanks racked it out. So when we were down there, our guide who am I really sure is not a person of faith. Just start explaining to us what we're looking at. And he's like, basically the king of walls. Have you ever been Trevor to the green? Okay, this was my first time
Trevor Tyson 18:30
from the music video. But that's it.
Ellie Holcomb 18:34
That music video has actually a Big Bend National Park because of green King it was closed because of COVID. And the basically because of Indian, but the Native American lands that are in there were so many of the reservations were struggling so badly with COVID and so they shut down any media and a lot of the parks and that's another thing to grieve like that whole part of the story that was definite part of that trip there of like, I just haven't leaned into that story and a in a loss in the midst of treatment that's these Native American people here in this country. I've experienced at the hands of a government and so I just it was so weird National Park because we couldn't get into the Grand Canyon. But I was like I need a cane and river and my manager my my work wife found that she was like I got this. And so with the Big Bend National Park which is an amazing place it was Santa Elena Canyon and the Rio Grande the Rio Grande river running through that King and the our guide said to us when we were down there, you know the king of walls tell really tell a story. And it's a story of of disaster upon disaster upon disaster landslide, mudslide volcano, drought, earthquake, and you literally can read it like a book and then there's this huge divide in the middle Love it, that rumor. And I just thought I was just like this looks like all of our hearts, especially after the year and a half that we've all had so much just loss on loss trauma on trauma, think of the thinking of the racial story in our country, the story of race in our country loss or loss, trauma, on trauma wound upon where he wound. And I just thought, Man, I think I know more than ever, that to be human, is to be broken. Like, we all know what it's like, in one way or another to have our hearts split wide open like a king, but they're in the deepest pit of the king. And there was a river running through. And I just had this realization I've let down there, which was a little awkward on a raft with strangers. But I just thought this is such a picture of the gospel, because as it turns out, there is a current of living water, there is a current of God's love that runs deeper than our deepest ache in our deepest sorrow than our deepest loss. And that will carry us back to a place where we know that we belong to love, and that we belong to each other ultimately, and I am sorry, I'm tearing up there, we just had a really crazy loss in our community. This last week, my precious priest, at our church and his 22 year old daughter were taken and in a car accident, just like Gone tragic. And he was this prolific, amazing voice, this loving husband and father and and I think I am, I've just let myself like weep in the shower. I mean, we, we have those moments of loss. We're like, this is not how the story is supposed to go, like, you're not supposed to lose. Your pastor who's on just turned 50. There's on this, this first day of his sabbatical, and his 22 year old daughter, and all the days of it. That is not how the story is supposed to go. But I'm just thinking, you know, I feel like what I've learned to do is when as we grieve, even as we leave, there's this beautiful image. And
Ellie Holcomb 22:21
when Moses is at the burning bush, and he says, By what name, should I tell Pharaoh to let your people go like, what name and God says Yahweh. And the Hebrew version of you always sounds like a breath. And so sometimes I just think that even when we can just breathe, or maybe just weep, we can't even pray. But if we can just weep, and let ourselves give ourselves the empathy and the grace to grieve. God is there, we're praying, as we're weeping, and rattles what I've since even this week, like, I'm just reminded that this is true. There is a God who meets us in our deepest places of grief, and because of Jesus, because Jesus walked up out of the glyph, he has been to the grave, and then he's been through it, and are suffering even though it hurts like hell right now. It does not get the final word, until I think I learned this past year, how to grieve, but also how there is this new sense of, of deep and grounded hope that's grounded, like in an empty grave. And I learned that I could sing in the canyon, I learned that I could sing in a valley that there's reason to rejoice even there, even if it's a song of lament, because we're not alone in filament. We're not alone when we sorrow when we're in deep places of sorrow. And when we're in deep places of suffering. And Trevor, even as we got together Together this week at his memorial was so sad. But there was something so deeply comforting. As I'm singing with this congregation full of people and our voices are echoing off the walls in that place, are echoing off his broken story that we're in the midst of, and they're echoing off of a broken God, man, Jesus, who was broken for us so that we could know that we are not alone when we weep, and it is okay for us to wait to breathe to shake our fist at the sky. And when we sing in a canyon, or voices really echo off of every single broken piece of every part of our stories. And that is what we experienced together even this week, and did it at the Ryman show that I just did. I had this whole room full of people seeing a miss that so much and COVID and I'd actually been back to church since because of COVID and traveling and didn't have childcare and we have a crazy three year old. Oh yeah, we can now bring him up into like a mask like silent, somber no childcare situation itself. The jogger has been on and off with the numbers going up. And so that was the first time that I've been in our church building. Since, you know, COVID hit, and it was to grieve the loss of our pastor and I just thought, Man, I don't know, I just have this deep sense of, it's okay to grieve and, and confidence to be able to let myself go there. And to be okay to not be okay, because I know that that we are held and beloved, even these places of deep brokenness.
Trevor Tyson 25:36
That's so special. And thank you for opening up about that, that, obviously, recent, and it just ties along with the message of that album, like, when I hear you talk about the canyon and the river running through the beautiful thing about looking at canyons, you can see the lines and where it's been weathered over the past hundreds of hundreds of hundreds, 1000s of years. And it just keeps getting deeper, deeper and deeper. And it's kind of like, we as people can choose to do that as well. Are we you know, How deep are we going to let it get? And how deep does God want it to get? And are we going to allow people to walk in and see it. And one of the things for me personally is like, the more vulnerable I get, the more empowered I feel more strong feel, to share my testimony of overcoming anxiety and depression and just allowing God to use me even when it's uncomfortable, like, but I'm not gonna let that get in between me and my calling. And I can see a lot of that and you and just what you're articulating and what you're explaining, like the grief and the sorrow and it is okay to grieve. Yeah. And people don't allow themselves that time to grieve, and it's super healthy. Crying in the shower. isn't ideal, but it's healthy.
Ellie Holcomb 26:47
Yep. It's good and right. And it does, it is a marker. I was just thinking about what you just said Trevor, people go to the Grand Canyon to behold the brokenness. I mean, it's beautiful. That's what I mean. It's like the millions of visitors every year to go look at something that is beautiful, and and yet broken. And so I have had a walkthrough, had monkfish, anxiety, worry, panic dogs, and yes, they are awful. But there's almost something I don't know when we're able to lean into that. And ona and Brene. Brown, I love her so much. And she talks about how it is so hard to own the brokenness in our own story. But it is a hell of a lot harder to spend our lives running from it. And there is this whole there's a song on the record about this, really inspired by that, but the sense of, it's called brand new day, the song, but it's like we all fall down. But the power moment in our story is what happens after our face is literally in the dust. And if we can stand up in that and be like, yeah, that was awful. I totally screwed up, or that kick the out of me think that we can control things that we can't. But but getting up and inviting other people into that is, is I think what we were made for, when you look at a canyon, it is actually if it's upside down mountain. And so just like you said, driven like this thing, whatever the thing is this loss that you've had in your life, this struggle, this pain, this anxiety or depression, sense of loneliness, that God can, I just can attest to this, personally, I've seen him do it over and over again. It's the last place that we want to go. But he does and can and will need us in this places. And that is not what defines us, actually, the scars are the stories that we tell to say, let me tell you a story about healing. And it is not pretty. It's not easy. But this has been this is like the power like you're saying, Trevor, like this hard thing has become the thing that actually connects me to so many other people who are walking through hard things. And I think there's such there's such beauty in that. And I think that's the beautiful thing of being invited to be a part of that kind of current of living water to say, Well, I'm broken too. But let's go to the river together and let's drink together have some some hope, some nourishment that doesn't run dry and so it has been a joy. I don't know to hopefully that's my hope for the music is that it would say who to Let's lift our eyes to the stars
Unknown Speaker 29:50
like that still. Like let's
Ellie Holcomb 29:53
look at all these broken pieces to say we're all in this together and still at the very pit there. There is life and there is hope If
Trevor Tyson 30:01
we can cue the High School Musical all on this together right? away at everything you've shared today, and I can obviously go on for hours and hours, and we'll have to do it again. This, you've just got such a story to share. And it's only just the beginning like everybody, if you're listening this, go check out the music videos, go check out the record, go check out some of these podcasts interviews she's doing, like I said, we can go on for hours. But I know you've got another episode to jump on to. But just thank you so much for taking time out of your day to join us and have this discussion. I believe that people are going to find so much healing and power in what you're doing and God's obviously moving through you and just keep being vulnerable. I'm sorry to hear about your loss, but through that his legacy lives on and his daughter, so keep doing what you're doing is
Ellie Holcomb 30:51
does. Thank you so much for having me today. Trevor, bless you and what you're doing to and if you're listening today, and you're you're down and out and crying in your shower, I'm just going to end with a quote from nightbird who's one of my favorite followers right now she is in a serious cancer battle and she says, If you can't see God, look lower. He's right there on the bathroom floor. So you are not alone.
Trevor Tyson 31:20
So much for sharing that for everybody listening. Thank you so much for tuning in. Thank you to new release today for making this episode happen as usual. And Ellie, keep doing you, everybody listening. Take this as a call to action. Take care of yourself. Yourself some grace, be sure to subscribe and we'll talk to you guys next week.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
There’s a story etched into the walls of the Grand Canyon. It’s a story of one disaster after another. Layer upon layer of landslides, mudslides, volcanos, droughts and floods. Yet, at the bottom of that valley, the Colorado River snakes its way through the dry and dusty rocks flowing with a current of running water. Singer/songwriter Ellie Holcomb found herself camping on the banks of that river, captivated by her vast surroundings. In the wake of COVID-19, rising racial tension, and deep division across the country and around the world, Holcomb marveled at how this canyon felt like a picture of many people’s hearts in this crazy hard and chaotic season. Lying on her back at the base of that canyon a mile deep into the surface of the earth, it hit her: “We all know what it’s like to have our hearts break and split wide open like a canyon, but there in the middle of our deepest pit of sorrow, there’s a river running through, a current of God’s love ever-present, ever-flowing, ever-ready to carry us through our darkest nights and our deepest ache.” And all at once, her new album, C A N Y O N, was born.
C A N Y O N serves as Holcomb’s third full-length solo project—and her first in partnership with major label Capitol Christian Music Group—but the mother of three is already a seasoned artist. She recorded and toured full-time with her husband’s band, Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors, for eight years before stepping off the road when her first child was born. Her solo debut, As Sure As The Sun (2014), landed her a Top 10 hit at Christian radio with “The Broken Beautiful” and a GMA Dove Award for “New Artist of the Year.” Her critically-acclaimed sophomore LP, Red Sea Road, followed in 2017. In subsequent years, Holcomb has released two children’s books—each with a companion EP of original music written specifically for kids, the second of which earned her a Dove Award for “Children’s Album of the Year” in 2020. She’s consistently writing, touring and performing while raising three kids with Drew in her hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. (They’ve been dancing in the kitchen to the new songs on C A N Y O N, and she can’t wait to share them with the world.)
Her latest musical endeavor might have been birthed in a valley of natural beauty in Arizona, but the songs were forged in the depths of pain back home in Nashville. Over the course of the last few years, Holcomb took an intentional journey, marked by counseling and deep reflection. As she was willing to lean into the most painful places in her story, she encountered the empathy, kindness and tenderness of God in a palpable way. Experiencing the presence and the nearness of God in her most wounded places changed everything for her.
So when an EF-4 tornado tore through Holcomb’s Nashville neighborhood causing massive destruction, a global pandemic shut down the world, and the continued prejudice and racism in the country exposed our humanity on a new level, she grieved deeply. As she walked through the ancient ruins of her own story, and in the story of this country, her heart cracked wide open. But into that broken-open space, the love of God flooded in, like that life-giving water in the Colorado River.
Holcomb wanted to write a soundtrack to this healing journey and to the beautiful discovery that God’s love runs deeper than our greatest pain and division. “C A N Y O N is a record about an enduring love that holds us, even when we are falling apart,” she shares. “There’s a current of love that will carry us when we can’t carry on any longer.”
That transformative night camping on the banks of the Colorado, perhaps in the darkest place she’d ever been, void of any ambient light, she realized the stars appeared to be shining more brightly than ever before. It was an expansive picture of the hope she discovered in deep valleys of personal and global grief. She couldn’t shake it.
Building on this idea, Holcomb came home and wrote upwards of 60 songs for her new project, co-writing with like-minded songwriters like Natalie Hemby, Thad Cockrell, Bear Rinehart (NEEDTOBREATHE), Christa Wells, Jon Guerra and David Leonard, among others. Holcomb also penned several selections with the project’s producer, Cason Cooley (NEEDTOBREATHE, Ingrid Michelson, Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors).
“Constellations,” the first track released from the album, proved to be a fitting introduction to the poetic lyricism and imagery-rich themes woven throughout C A N Y O N’s dozen tracks. Meanwhile, Holcomb’s raw vocal on “Constellations”—recorded in one take—previewed a new facet of her voice she hadn’t unearthed prior to C A N Y O N. “I think in some ways, that song opened up a new place vocally for me,” she reflects. “I sang in a different way on this record than I’ve ever sung before, and I wrote differently. I think part of that came from experiencing a deeper level of healing personally. I accessed a deeper level of my voice that I didn’t even really know was there.”
Sonically, C A N Y O N feels different—wilder, lighter, freer. It’s also the most pop-centric record of Holcomb’s career—an intentional leap she took with Cooley to see if she could craft an album that mirrored the thoughtful pop she was currently listening to at the time—everything from Maggie Rogers to Adele and Tori Kelly. From the first stacked vocals of celebratory opening track, “I Don’t Want To Miss It,” to the affirmative echoes of the title-cut, C A N Y O N radiates Holcomb’s joy with every note. She says the songs on this album make her want to run—fast.
“This new sonic landscape feels reflective of my new global perspective,” Holcomb offers. “I feel like my eyes have been opened, and I’m beginning to lean into a broader spectrum of what Gospel living means.”
Nowhere is Holcomb’s newfound definition of Gospel living more apparent than on “Bridge,” a song about racial reconciliation born out of a community of diverse friends, who met on a regular basis this past year to study Latasha Morrison’s Be The Bridge, in an attempt to better understand one another. “We as God’s people are called to be bridge builders. There is an invitation to be a part of rebuilding ancient ruins, and I don’t want to miss out on how He has displayed Himself in the African-American story. We have been missing out, and it is our loss,” Holcomb asserts. “I want to invite others into this work, because as I’ve done this work, it’s helped me see that the Gospel is wider, higher, longer, more colorful, more beautiful, and more powerful than I ever anticipated.”
Other tracks on C A N Y O N are evidence of the heart work Holcomb put in prior to writing these songs. “Paradox” reaffirms the common thread running through the record, highlighting the upside-down way of the Kingdom of heaven here on earth. Elsewhere, Holcomb turns her heart toward home on offerings like “Mine,” a dreamy lullaby for her kids, which she sings with Drew; and “Gold,” a tender tribute to her father’s story, featuring harmonies from her four siblings. Holcomb also writes her mom’s experience of hearing about God’s love for the first time as a seventh grader into the bridge of “Color,” a song that paints everyday life in anything but black and white. “I hope it helps people open their eyes to the presence and beauty of God that surrounds us in both our most ordinary and mundane moments and in our most broken moments,” Holcomb says of the rainbow-hued selection.
Although many songs on C A N Y O N explore the presence of God in the valley, there are also songs that boast of the redemption found on the mountaintop. The spirited “Brand New Day”celebrates the hope found in the rising sun. “‘Brand New Day’ is a song about the beauty of new mercies every morning,” Holcomb shares. “We all fall down. We all make mistakes, but in those moments, we are met by the overwhelming grace of God, and I believe the true power and beauty in our stories come in the aftermath of completely wiping out.”
Holcomb addresses that moment when the walls feel like they’re caving in on “Sweet Ever After,” a duet with NEEDTOBREATHE’s Bear Rinehart, where she confronts her personal fears by writing about the scariest night of her life—the night the EF-4 tornado hit her neighborhood. Holcomb recalls the sounds of neighbors helping neighbors in the wake of tragedy the next day. That experience is written into C A N Y O N.
“I hope this record sounds like community flooding into a neighborhood to rebuild after a tornado and the excitement that maybe we can be a part of that rebuilding and restoring process by showing up both broken and beloved,” she offers. “In some ways, the deeper the pain, the more powerful the healing. The darker the night, the brighter the light shines. The wider the canyon of ache that splits our hearts in two, the more space for LOVE to move in and fill up what’s been emptied out, to bind up our broken hearts and remind us that suffering never gets the final word, even though it shapes us.”