Lauren Daigle On Crossover Hit “You Say” & Extending The Tent: Interview
Every so often, a song comes along that completely transcends genre and introduces an artist to a whole new audience. Lauren Daigle’s “You Say” falls into that category. The powerful ballad, which conveys a timely message of hope, has been a mainstay in the iTunes top 10 for months and ranks as one of the few inspirational anthems to crack the Billboard Hot 100. Amazingly, “You Say” is only at the beginning of its journey — with pop radio finally coming on board and a slew of TV appearances on the horizon.
I recently spoke with the budding superstar about the song’s breakout success and the incredible reaction to her just-released Look Up Child LP. Lauren also opened about the support she has received from artists as diverse as Selena Gomez and Keith Urban, and expressed her willingness to extend the tent — in other words, experiment with sounds and genres not traditionally associated with Christian-pop. Get to know the humble hitmaker a little better in our Q&A below.
First of all, congratulations on the success of Look Up Child!
Thank you! Thank you so much. It’s been crazy watching the trajectory supersede what we… not necessarily what we expected. You always shoot for the moon, but it’s just amazing to see the response from so many people. It has been wild.
“You Say” has really taken on a life of its own. Did you know you has something special when you wrote it?
It’s so funny. We wrote a couple of songs about three years ago, before we really sat down to make the record. I was touring and I remember thinking, “Okay, I guess we’re going to start making a record,” but I ended up pushing it back like five or six times. When I finally sat down with my producers, Paul Mabury and Jason Ingram, “You Say” was the first song that came out. I remember after it was done, I immediately left the studio and ran to my manager’s house, and I was like, “This is the first song.”
The label wanted to go ahead and release it right away. They were just obsessed with it, but I had the feeling that we needed to wait. It needed to be a part of an entire project. It doesn’t need to be a single-driven thing. We had to make sure that it fit the record, and so they were so gracious to wait. They legitimately waited about two and a half to three years when they knew they had that sitting right there.
It’s rare for a Christian music to crossover to the extent that “You Say” has. Why is it speaking to so many people that don’t ordinarily listen to this genre of music?
I think it’s the message of hope. There are so many people leaving comments on YouTube and Twitter. It’s wild, because you’ll see, “I was committing suicide and turned on the radio, and I heard this song,” or “I was about to commit suicide,” or “I was contemplating suicide, and this song came on.” It’s amazing because social media can be so ravenous and chew you up and spit you out, but it’s now becoming this place of unity where people are sharing a similar experience together.
I think “You Say” is speaking to people because it’s a message of truth. It’s a message of hope. People need that right now. You turn on the news and there’s just this need for hope, this hunger for hope.
That’s so true. I also think there’s a soulfulness to “You Say.” If you’re not paying too much attention to the lyrics, it could be easily be mistaken for an R&B ballad.
Wow. It’s funny you say that because I grew up in Louisiana and I was always so into the music scene there and in New Orleans. Soul was everything. Jazz was everything. We would sit on the street corners and listen to the street musicians. They had the richest, purest sound. They didn’t have the most beautiful instruments. They were banged up, and they had years on them. But the sound that came from them was deeper than a new instrument could produce. It was this crazy experience, just growing up in that culture.
I remember being a really young kid, feeling layers and layers and layers of sound that was greater than me. I remember being five years old and turning on Celine Dion and Whitney Houston and just waiting by the stereo. As I got older, Aretha Franklin was super pivotal. When I started recording the album, I told my producer: “I can not do strictly pop. If it’s going to be pop, it has to have a soulful element.” It’s too much in my DNA to forsake.
Do you have any interest in doing a secular song or album in the future?
Oh, yeah. I would definitely be interested. It’s funny, because while we were making the record, we would always say, “Let’s just extend the tent.” If the first record is just a little tent that we’re living under, how do we extend the tent pegs with this second record? That has definitely always been my heart, to see the music permeate through genre, not be locked into one space in particular. I just want to make music that is true. I don’t want to regurgitate a sound that is easy to manufacture.
It’s also fascinating to see other artists embrace your music. I remember seeing Selena Gomez promote your music on Instagram. Does that help bring your music to new ears?
I think so. Selena has texted me a couple times. “You Say” came out at a really difficult time for her. My manager gave my number to her, and then she reached out to me. It has just been really sweet texting back and forth with her and seeing how much this music has impacted her. She has really encouraged me from the very beginning. From the time that it was released to now, she has just been super, super encouraging. I also saw Keith Urban talking about “You Say” on TV. To see the reception the song has had from people outside of gospel music is super humbling.
Have you had a chance to think about your next single yet?
Well, we just sent “You Say” to pop radio last week. Because of that, I feel like we’re doing “You Say” all over again. Part of me has just been super focused on that. I don’t know what the next single is going to be. That’s a good question. Part of me has toyed with whether it should be “Rescue,” “Still Rolling Stones,” or “Look Up Child.” Those are the three in contention, but who knows? You never know until it’s actually on the radio
There are so many good ones to choose from.
Thank you. It’s crazy how much time will dictate what you’re allowed to put out and what you’re not Like with How Can It Be, my first record, we had five or six singles. When we first went into it, we thought, “Okay, we have two.” I made it a point with Look Up Child to create an entire body of work versus singles-focused music. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there was something about the old-school way of doing things that I was longing for in this digital era.
I studied Aretha Franklin and Roberta Flack and Lauryn Hill, some of the women that really inspired me. I looked at how they made a record. I remember for “Rebel Heart,” we had the whole orchestra, plus the piano, plus me, we all laid that song down simultaneously. I wanted to stay true to the old way of doing music. For example, when someone starts from the top of the record and has a listening experience all the way through, and where does that journey take them? Is it a cohesive body of work versus isolated singles?
I have to ask, how did “Almost Human” end up on the Blade Runner soundtrack?
It was crazy. I was actually taking a break for about six months. I was so burnt out from touring. I was just so fried that I needed to fall in love with music again. Towards the end of that six months, my management called me. They were like, “Hey, we have an opportunity we need to talk to you about, but we need to make sure you’re in the right head space, because at that point, everything was a no.” And then they told me they received a phone call from some of the people that are producing the music for Blade Runner.
I ended up talking with the producers, and we hit it off. At the time, Hans Zimmer wasn’t on it. It was supposed to be singles. There were so many artists that were involved. I think The Weeknd was going to be on it. There were multiple big artists. By the time it was finished, it ends up being a completely scored movie by Hans Zimmer. The only song that they left for the end credits was the song that we had written. I was like, “What in the world? This is crazy.” Then, they used it for all the anime related to the movie in Japan.
What can new fans expect from your live show? I know you started touring recently.
It’s such an adventure to create an environment that new fans can enjoy. I love it so much. What they can expect from the show and what we’ve just been working on is a lot of fun, energy and emotion. I told my producers when were making the record, “I really want to sweat at the end of every set.” I want to be sweating, just because I’m having fun and moving, and just feeling each song to the depths that it was written. It has been so rich. Thus far on the tour, it has been that experience. I do walk off stage sweating.
What is one song, either your own or by another artist, that can help someone going through a tough time?
Oh, that’s awesome. One of my own that I would listen to is a song called “Everything.” I remember when I was just in a rut, flying back and forth, just feeling super small. Even though everything was blowing up around me, I felt super overwhelmed and didn’t know if I could cope with the pressure. I wrote that song with my producers out of that space, out of that sentiment. It’s still the song that I go back to all the time. For other artists, let’s see. Have you heard of the band Until The Ribbon Breaks?
Yes, I have.
They’re a bit obscure, but their music is so sonically beautiful to me. I just can put that on, and it’s like everything eases and comes back to center. You know? Pretty much anything from them, from either one of their records, is definitely a place I go to as well.
Thank you so much for your time.