Tony Cummings reports on the award-winning singer NATASHA OWENS finding a new reservoir of hope
Natasha Owens is one of the many artists on the US scene vying for a Christian radio hit. What makes her rather special is that her latest set was produced by the award-winning hitmaker Ian Eskelin, and what makes it powerful is that it exudes optimism and joy. It was released on Eskelin's Radiate Music.
In May 2010 the Dallas-based singer experienced tragedy when her father died of a self-inflicted involuntary gunshot wound to the chest while he was cleaning one of his firearms. Natasha subsequently recorded the independent album 'I Made It Through' on which she shared heartache and pain. Four years later, her second album 'We Will Rise' proved to be something of a breakthrough, earning her the Best Contemporary Album Of The Year in the 6th Annual WE LOVE Christian Music Awards.
But it's Natasha's third album that promises to be her most successful so far. Recognising the need to mix up the heavy balladry with some up-beat songs, Owens teamed up with the Dove Award-winning Ian Eskelin. She said, "This is more pop-driven than anything I've ever done before," elatedly sharing that the songs have 1980s-style undertones in the instrumentation.
Coming into her first meeting with Eskelin for 'Warrior', Owens admitted she showed up empty-handed, discouraged that she didn't have the same kind of clear direction she had with 'We Will Rise'. Natasha explained, "With the last album, my husband had all these dreams, and we wrote songs from those. The songs were my heart, but they came to me, not so much out of me. I was so concentrated on God giving me direction the way he had in the past - through someone else."
But then the singer remembered the notes she'd taken on her phone. She explained, "As I'm bopping around town, different thoughts and things hit me, so I go into the notes on my phone and start typing out what God's laid on my heart." Owens, her husband David and Eskelin pored over page after page of Owens' notes - and songs began to emerge from those writings. After that first day of song-writing, David pointed out that the theme of overcoming clearly had emerged. "When he said that, I was so astonished," Owens said. "You get to a place in your walk where you feel like you've figured God out - but then in moments like that you just sit back in astonishment at what he can still do. Tears filled my eyes as I saw what he was doing."
The final song for 'Warrior', "Surrender," came to Owens as she was in the bathtub, up at 3 am facing terrible nerve pain. "I was bawling, so tired and worn down from hurting for so long," she said. "God just came in and calmed me down and spoke to me. He said that there are so many things in life you don't have control over. You'll have to let me have control, trust in me that I've guided you this far and I'm not gonna let you down now." As a result of that encounter, "Surrender" became an overcomer's anthem balanced by the realisation that the only way to truly overcome is to surrender to the loving Saviour, Jesus.
The album's lone cover song is a fresh take on Bright City's "Rock Of Our Salvation". Talking about the whole album Natasha said, "I want to show people that they can make it, too. Being a warrior means that my wounds have healed, but I still have the scars to prove it. The scars remind me that I don't have to worry about the next battle because I know God will be standing with me. So many people are at different stages of their story. In any crowd you have people ranging from being at the beginning of their grief all the way to being overcomers. With these new songs, I'm really able to take people on the full journey, making them feel all of these emotions - but leaving feeling hopeful."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.