Beautifully Made…. Leah Smith Interview

Leah Smith

You may remember that we featured Leah Smith on ‘Centre Stage‘ at the very beginning of 2010. She proved to be a big hit (no suprise there then) because she’s GREAT! Following on from ‘Centre Stage’, we thought we’d get you up close and personal with the woman behind the music and the person behind the ministry, Leah Smith.

How are you doing what’s your week been like so far?

I’m doing alright.  This week has had its ups and downs already.Today is actually my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary.  So that’s definitely something to be joyful about.  I’m battling a pretty wretched case of acne.  I’ve been wearing lots of hats lately.  It’s hiding the issue but not helping it.  That could preach!

That sure could preach. We can hide our situations and problems but doing that won’t help them.

There’s going to be lots of people reading this interview that have never heard of you or your music. Let us and them know a little about you, your music, who/what influenced/influences you and how you got where you are today.

My name is Leah Smith.  I was raised in Philadelphia, PA! I’m 21 years old.  I’m biracial.  I have an older sister and a younger brother.  We all live together with mom, dad, and one-and-a-half year old niece. J

I was introduced to music at school.  I went to a really small school called St. Barnabas Episcopal, where my mom taught pre-k and kindergarten.  By God’s providence, this school had an exemplary music program.  The program was run, single-handedly, by a great teacher, Mrs. Wright, who later became my first piano teacher.  She had a serious knack for getting kids involved in music.

It seems like we need to thank Mrs. Wright because we love your music and we’re sure that aside from God’s gifting in you, she has played a major role in who you’ve become musically.

So; if you never met Mrs. Wright and you didn’t have the gift of music what would you be doing with yourself?

I’d probably be a writer or a missionary to Germany.

Why Germany? What’s the connection there? Have you been there before?

I took German in my freshman year of high school and fell in love with the sound of the language.  Something about Germany really intrigues me.  I’ve never been there sadly :(

That’s awesome. We’re sure you’ll gain a lot of Germans fan’s now lol – Hopefully you’ll get to go out there and do some concert’s for them one day not too long from now.

There’s lots of words we could use to describe your sound but we really want to know how you would describe your sound? In the UK right now, there’s a few artist’s doing similar styles of music to yourself (in the mainstream world) and it’s proving to be GREAT for them. Do you listen to any UK artist’s?

I describe my sound as a fusion of genres.  There are definitely elements of soul and Gospel. Then there’s that quirky element characterized by the singer-songwriter genre.  There’s a slight element of folk.  There’s some pop sitting somewhere back up in there too!

I love Corinne Bailey Rae.   She definitely has a few genres in her.  She’s a smart songwriter with her own off-beat approach to melodies and lyrics.  I also really like Natasha Beddingfield.

Those are some great artist’s. Speaking of great artist’s; you toured with Israel Houghton for a while. We’re sure you get asked questions about this a lot but we want to come at it from a different angle. Firstly how did you get the opportunity?

Here’s how the story goes J My family made friends with another family way back in the day here in Philly.  We got to know them because my dad went to seminary with the dad of the other family, and we also went to church together.  Eventually the other family moved to Baltimore, Maryland.  They became a part of an urban church plant ( I believe) and the dad became a part of a children’s choir ministry there.  Soon enough, the children’s choir (Sandtown) decided to release a project independently.  The dad remembered me from Philly and invited me to be a part by singing a solo on the project.  I recorded the song in Baltimore, and there met the songwriter.  Now, this songwriter later became the director of the children’s choir and remembered me for the choir’s next project which had label backing.  The record ended up having a handful of Christian/Gospel music heavy hitters on it, including Israel Houghton.   The songwriter, who became the director, who became the record’s producer, introduced my music to Israel through the interaction they’d had on the project. Israel, who liked what he heard, encouraged me to “get in the mix” down in Houston, Texas.  I moved down to Houston and before I knew it I was singing with New Breed. CRAZY!

WOW! That’s an awesome example of how God use’s relationships to open doors. The project originally started off small which would have caused some people to “shun” the project” but because of your desire and passion you did it and God Blessed you. To all aspiring artist’s, remember that when you’re faithful in the small things, God will trust you with the big things. Even just serving in your local church and being a Blessing there can open up door’s for you. It’s always important to have a church home and be grounded there and use your gift’s to bless that ministry.

So Leah; what is your involvement like in your church?

I serve in the Worship and Creative Arts Ministry at my church, Epiphany Fellowship.  I’ve been on the praise team for about a year and half now and I’m there most Sundays.  Wednesdays my church does small group bible studies in the houses of congregants.  My parents’ house (the house I live in) serves as a “Cypha Group House”.  So, every Wednesday afternoon equals a mad dash to prep the house for visitors by cooking, cleaning, and having complete melt downs.

That’s awesome. We know about the home Bible studies too and all of the “mad dashing” and “melt downs” lol – It’s good though. The smaller group meetings are intimate and are a great resource to anyone in any sized church and is even a good way to introduce people to Jesus in an atmosphere where they can receive Him.

How did it feel being on tour with one of the biggest names in Christian music and then coming home and just being  “sister” Leah? Now you’re a solo artist establishing yourself, how do you find the contrast between the two?

Oh man…that was a dynamic I struggled with when I was on New Breed – the whole, being all over the world one week, and at home the next.  I had a really hard time adjusting..EVERY TIME! I went from adventure, excitement, and a measure of structure, to just bopping around the house. It was very strange and I’d get VERY low at times. Now that I’m a solo artist I’m a LOT more local in terms of where I perform. Of course, I’d love to have opportunities to travel…but for right now, It’s an easier way of life…being so local.  I don’t feel the “high” of going-going-going all over the world and the “low” of settling back into “regular life”….Life just all feels “regular” now…if that makes any sense. I know I need to learn and grow in dealing with the dynamics of life on the road and back home. God wants His time to be maximized!

That’s real and it’s easy to see how those feelings could come upon any one of us.

As an artist, what were the main things you learned about ministry, music, performance and how have they helped you to grow, spiritually and as an artist? (with Israel and New Breed)

I learned that doing ministry is very hard. J Especially a ministry as large New Breed.  It’s not as glamorous as it appears.  It’s a lot of hurry up and wait.  I learned a lot of little technical stuff by just simply being there….a part of sound checks, at rehearsals, etc.  I learned a bit about blending with other singers to create one cohesive sound.  I learned that It’s always a bad idea to neglect your relationship with the Lord because you’re on the road or “busy”.  Israel was always faithful in his leadership to bring the group together to meditate corporately on the Lord.   I try to emulate his leadership in that way with my own team.

A lot of people don’t see the unglamorous side of the music ministry. The early mornings, late nights, never ending travelling are not easy. A lot of people would never think that anyone that is a part of a music ministry would neglect their relationship with God but it’s easy to see how one could “not have time” to pray, read their Bible and fast etc. It’s great that you learned that before anything else, your relationship with God must come first. It’s also great that you are now incorporating what you have learned from Israel with your own team now. That shows the impact of his leadership.

You mentioned before about travelling around the world. Through all of your travelling, which country/city did you enjoy the most and why?

……..Goooood question!  It’s a three way tie.  London, South Africa, and New Zealand.  London, because it feels like a proper, mysterious, kindred yet foreign version of home. J   South Africa, because it was aesthetically gorgeous and the weather was so comfortable, unlike any weather I’ve ever felt.   It was spiritual. J New Zealand, because it’s the friendliest place in the world, and beautiful.

We’re from Birmingham in England so we know you really meant to say Birmingham! lol

Did I say London?  Forgive me…you KNOW I meant Birmingham!

Being an artist (with a band or solo) is never easy and to encourage aspiring artist’s coming through (who are finding it hard and challenging), we love to ask every artist we interview what their biggest challenge has been in ministry. So; what has yours been?

My biggest personal challenge has been discouragement. I’m easily discouraged.  I look around and see people whose music has such incredible impact (for better or for worse) and become discontent with my own circumstance.  I wish the Lord would speed my musical process along instead of having long periods of waiting and having my timeline blown to bits.  I’m slowly learning, through it all, to trust in the sovereignty of the Lord; the perfection of His timing, and his unrelenting love for me and protection of me.

We totally relate to your feeling of disappointment regarding your music. Believe it or not, you’re someone a lot of people look up too and aspire to be like. That is even something that we face from time to time too. What would you say to budding artist’s or even musicians or anyone involved in ministry on any level who’s feeling discouraged, maybe wondering when their time will come or they will get the exposure and support they desire?

Discouragement always gets a bad rap!  But I’m convinced that the goal of discouragement in the life of a believer, is to subsequently look to Jesus and be encouraged!  Sounds easy enough!  :) To anyone out there who’s down  in the slums of discouragement, look first to the cross.  For right now, notwithstanding your personal circumstance,  consider that God sent His Perfect Son to be brutally murdered for ALL of your sins…bearing all of your shame and mess…So that now, Christ’s perfect life is accredited to you.  His righteousness is your righteousness. You are eternally His.  Soak in these realities for a moment.  (It’s good to go macro to micro sometime)…If you can’t seem to get past your circumstance, then you need to sit in the reality of the cross of Christ until it becomes glorious beyond compare.  Out of this deep sense of God’s love and forgiveness, you can experience the further implications of the cross!  God knows you, sees you and is with you minute to minute.  Your ministry belongs to Him.  He will accomplish His divine purpose in you and nothing can stop Him.  We have the freedom to be honest with God and lay bare our lives before Him.  Be honest about your frustration and discouragement.  Trust Him with your life.  Trust His timing.  Our God is Good!

That’s a powerful word right there. It’s important to remember that in all things Jesus is there for us and also that we get our identity, self-worth and affirmation from God. When we look for it from man, we’re bound to experience massive disappointments but when we’re getting that from God (the best source of it) we can live our lives knowing that in all things, God is not only with us but He’s also for us! It’s important for us all to remember that we’re doing all we’re doing unto God and that “success” and “fame” is not our goal but is often a direct by-product of a music ministry that honours God. Also, we can’t compare ourselves to others and their gift’s. We don’t know the price they paid for their gift and what they had to go through to get the anointing and call (of God) that is on their life. We have to know what we’re called to do and who we’re called to.

When did you realise you had a call on your life to minister through music? How did you feel when you received the call?

I knew early on that God had something for me to do through music.  I could literally feel it as I sang as a child in church.  People would approach me after a selection and share how the words of the song really resonated within them.  The way the Lord seemed to be really ministering to people, as evident through their responsiveness, was what thrust me into embracing music as a calling.

How did I feel when I received the call?  Reluctant and unworthy.  These responses have held me back for years from pursuing the call with my whole heart.  The Lord continues to break down walls of fear and false humility in me.

Why did you feel reluctant and un-worthy about your ministry? Why wouldn’t you be worthy?

I didn’t think I had what it takes to really do this.  I looked in the mirror and
said, “psssh, God’s gonna use YOU?”  I was basically telling the Lord that I wasn’t qualified to do what He called me to do.  The Lord has been very patient and gracious with me.  He’s been faithful to always put people in my life to encourage me in the things God has called me to do.  It’s taken a while for me to bend to His will and walk confidently in knowing that this is God’s gift to be used for His purpose.

Explain “false humility” for us?

There’s a very thin line between feeling “unworthy” and actually having “false humility”…….My mother helped me see this long ago.  False humility is code for pride.  At some points in my musical journey I’ll tense up with feelings of unworthiness and it’ll look like humility, but actually be pride.  Saying in my heart, “God, I know you gave this gift, but It’s not good enough  for me. You should have given me sprinkles of what others have as well.  And because I’m disappointed in Your sovereignty, I refuse to use what You’ve given me.”  Ultimate pride. Ultimate defiance.

That’s interesting. That’s a new way to look at things. It’s amazing how we can covet other people’s gift’s and always want more. It’s like when people deny their own gifts and praise someone else in a bid to be humble, but that isn’t humility and actually disregards and de-values the gift God has placed within them.

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1 Comment

  1. Adam & Matt Brooks (@mbriomusic) (@mbriomusic)

    September 11, 2011 at 1:04 am

    M-Brio Newsflash: Beautifully Made…. Leah Smith Interview http://t.co/r71w8Em #Interviews #Acne #Acoustic

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