Mike Rimmer spoke to American singer/songwriter LANAE' HALE and her battle to overcome cutting and lack of self-worth
Lanae' Hale is sitting on a high stool in a circle with some other artists. BarlowGirl are there chatting to Jaci Velasquez who is sitting next to her guitarist. Aaron Shust recognises me from meeting him last year so we're talking and new girl Francesca Battistelli is doing last minute tuning of her guitar. We're all in the frankly sumptuous setting of the board room of the mighty Warner Brothers Records in Nashville. The smell of fresh coffee and doughnuts wafts through from the room next door and the gathered audience - worldwide distributors and a smattering of media people - are here to check out the musical action.
Each musician takes a turn to sing one of their songs before handing over to the person next to them. This is called a "guitar pull" for some reason and is a tradition of country musicians. I watch as Lanae' Hale quietly introduces her song, telling the story of how she wrote it and then plays. This is the first time I've heard her sing and I'm immediately struck by an unusual quality in her voice as she sings "Alive Again". There is a slight silence at the end as the gathered representatives in the board room seem momentarily stunned by the performance before the applause breaks out. It's Battistelli's turn and as she settles herself to sing she exclaims, "Wow! How do you follow that?"
How indeed? Watching her performance there is certainly something very special about Lanae' Hale. She looks very comfortable singing and playing and a couple of days later when we meet to chat, she tells me she has been playing guitar from the age of 15. "I taught myself and asked my dad questions; he was a guitar player as well; and I looked at books. But I was mainly self-taught. He encouraged it. Music was always encouraged in my home."
An early influence was Nichole Nordeman and Lanae' confesses, "She was a huge inspiration for me. Her lyrics got me through a lot during high school. I think she's probably the female Christian artist that I've looked up to the most." With that kind of influence, perhaps it isn't surprising that Lanae' soon turned to songwriting. How long was it before she shared those songs with anybody else? "Pretty immediately. I started playing for my friends. I did worship a lot and then my own songs I would do here and there. I remember when I was 15 and I went on a youth missions trip over to England and I played songs there for elementary schools."
One of the most obvious lines of enquiry is about her name. I tell her that I've never come across another Lanae' anywhere. She explains, "It's actually my mom's middle name and we're not quite sure where she got that! I think it was a friend's name and we think it's Hawaiian."
One of the ear catching things about Hale's music is her voice, so how old was she when she discovered she had a voice? "Really young," she exclaims. "I've been singing as long as I can remember. I always loved it. I have pictures of me with plastic microphones singing my heart out. I'd always annoy my brothers because I'd be singing Ariel songs, from The Little Mermaid!"
You can imagine that this must have been very annoying for her siblings but who can argue that it was worth it if it was part of the journey to get her here. Lanae' went through the usual childhood pursuits of school plays and musicals. She says, "It was always my passion but I always prayed that if it was God's will for me to do it on a large scale that he'd just open the doors. So I was in college for a nursing degree a few years ago and the Lord began opening doors for this so I was really blessed because I didn't know that I'd ever do it professionally."
So the nursing profession's loss was our gain. One of the distinctive things about Hale's voice is the slight vocal inflection she has which I can only describe as a slight yodel. "I take that as a compliment!" she responds. "I've tried to yodel and I can't. But I have tried! Because LeAnn Rimes; I listened to her song "Blue" and I was like, amazed! I don't know if you've heard that but she yodels in it and I tried doing it and it was scary!"
Lanae' Hale was raised in Florida and she describes her upbringing: "I grew up in a Christian home. Both my parents were believers. I grew up believing in Christ and did worship all growing up in the youth worship band and all that. I loved serving God. So no one would really know that I had a lot of insecurities. I never thought I was good enough or pretty enough. I heard about God's love and I believed it for everyone else but I just didn't really think he could love me that way. During high school I was also in a really serious relationship and when I was 17 I got a diamond ring and my boyfriend wanted to marry me out of high school."
If Lanae' had gone ahead, her life could have easily turned out very differently but she says, "That relationship really didn't really reflect a Godly, loving relationship." She admits that because of her insecurities, it was tempting to go through with it. "The little worth that I thought I had was wrapped up in this guy. So when it fell apart, I didn't see it as God saving me, it was more, all my insecurities were solidified. I really wasn't pretty enough, not good enough, not worth anything. And so into my senior year of high school I began walking in deep depression and then that led to cutting. I was a cutter for three years. I struggled with that. And the Lord really saved my life out of that."
She explains what made her cut herself. "I know for me, I had never heard about it before. It was several years ago. Now it's pretty well known. People know about it. But I hadn't heard about it and for me there'd been so much emotion built up inside of me that I was so tired of being weak that I just wanted to get it out elsewhere so I didn't have to cry anymore. So when I would get super sad and emotional and I couldn't handle it I would just cut and it was almost like an adrenaline rush. I would just feel better and I wouldn't have to deal with emotions anymore. Actually after several years of doing that I didn't even remember how to cry. I couldn't cry anymore."
Lanae' continues and explains how her healing happened. "I began to embrace the verse Psalm 147v3 where it talks about him being near to the broken hearted and he binds up their wounds. I'd always heard that growing up but I grabbed hold of that verse and I wouldn't let it go and I asked that God would heal me because I tried so many different things to try to heal me and they just didn't work. They left me even more alone and broken."
Her experiences are reflected in the song "Start Over" on the debut EP. She explains, "It came from talking about how the Lord has allowed me to start my life over in him with this love and this forgiveness that I'd never known outside of him before."
In all of her experiences of cutting, it must have been very difficult for her parents. She was raised in a loving Christian home; did that make it worse for her? "They didn't really know about it that much because I was into my senior year and then I left for college so they weren't really around during the hardest parts of that time. But as I got deeper into it I think they started realising that I had more problems and they began to get worried."
Lanae' explains some more about how meditating on Scripture helped. "I had to run to truth because it's with truth that we can combat lies. Cutting is an addiction and it's not something that's just easily given up. So I had to learn different ways of dealing with my emotions; one being that sometimes I would just have to jump in my car, throw a CD in and listen to music and drive for a long time till I got the urge out of me. Or read the Bible. Or go for a long walk. Do things; other things. Get out of the house. Get out of the situation that compelled me to cut because there's certain places that you'll go or certain positions you'll be in to start cutting so I just had to start releasing myself from that. And also meditating on the Scripture. Psalm 139; I encourage everyone to read that because that got me through a lot because it talks about our worth in Christ and who we really are in him."
Her testimony about cutting comes through when Lanae' plays concerts. It isn't an easy subject to tackle but even at the start of her ministering through songs, she's already finding people responding. "It's a subject that not a lot of people like to admit to but people who have come to talk to me after concerts have been from all different walks of life, not just emo kids. I've had college girls and sororities come up and talk to me. There's a lot of different people and walks of life who struggle."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.