David Bain chats with American teen pop hit maker RACHAEL LAMPA about her beginnings and why she has just recently decided to release a remix album.
She is warm, friendly, slightly shorter than one would imagine, onto a third album and only 17! Of course, she could only be Rachael Lampa! With her successful launch into the, rapidly changing, world of CCM, (with 'Live For You'), Rachael has proved from the start that she is serious about her music and message. The release of 'Kaleidoscope' showed her moving on in leaps and bounds, impressing many that this was a young girl with serious R&B-tinged vocal chops she's not scared to use! Now a third release, 'Blur', gives a bevy of remixers a chance to put a new rhythmic twist to many of Rachael's catchy, teen pop anthems.
It's just another hectic press day for Rachael Lampa at Authentic Media's headquarters in Milton Keynes, but she remains unfazed as she reminisces on her growing up. "Oh, I was a loud, obnoxious little girl! Whenever I had the opportunity to sing, I would, whether it sounded good or not. I couldn't keep my mouth shut! Then there were all the different talent shows that you get involved in and I sang in church as well."
Rachael continues, telling me how she came to know God; "I was always the good Christian girl, who went to church on Sundays and didn't drink alcohol at the weekends. At 14 I went on this youth conference, with my church. On the very last night, the leaders asked us to spend some time alone with God, to ask him some questions and tell him your concerns. During that time I realised that I was at a point where I was too comfortable with my life, acting the good churchgoer. Just saying I was a Christian wasn't enough for me. I asked God to show me a way I could work for him: for him to do something really loud with my life!"
It was just after this commitment to God that Rachael signed her record deal with Word Records and began to put together the debut. "About an hour away from where I lived there was this small café, at which I sang a little showcase event. There were a bunch of record companies there, who I got to know. From that came the record deal. Yes, I was still 14 and it took a lot of prayer and talking with my family, before I fully took that deal on. But, I have really no idea how I landed that deal. I was so shy. Like, when I would introduce myself it went, "Hi.my name's Rachael.play the song.!" I guess God just got in there and had some conversations with those record labels!"
'Live For You' came as quite a mature album, for a young 15 year old girl. However, it was written by quite a collection of people. Rachael describes; "I sat down with all the writers, because I wasn't a songwriter at the time, but I knew what I wanted to sing about, what was going on in my life. So, I told them where I was with God, at that point, and they wrote from those conversations. But, with 'Kaleidoscope' I wrote five of the songs. I love trying to put together lyrics. Songs come to me in all sorts of odd places, from scribbling on a 'barf bag' in a plane to being inspired by a sermon!"
The track, 'Song For You', she wrote when she was 11, as a poem! "I remember the day I wrote that, because it was when my Mum told me Dad had been diagnosed with cancer. This was really shocking for me. I'd never considered what it would be like not having someone around, who you loved. Other than God the next most important thing in my life was my family. I didn't even think it was going to be a song, until I showed it to Cindy Morgan a few years later. She helped put some music to it and made it into an amazing track. And I just thought it was a child-like poem!"
She explains the message behind some of the other songs on the album; "'Saviour Song' is very out there, not hiding anything. The lyrics basically say that this is exactly what I believe and I don't care what you say because this is who I am. When we made this album I experienced this big rush of boldness and confidence. This is captured here and represents the album well. Also 'Brand New Life' talks about life without God, as opposed to life with God. We react to and see things differently, with God: like the nature around us becomes more beautiful.
"I think the main thing about 'Kaleidoscope' was that the style was a lot more me. I love rock music, funk "kind of Stevie Wonder-type" music, so we incorporated a lot of that influence. I think people saw this record as a huge departure from the norm, but it's a lot more me. I haven't paid much attention to record sales, but I know it's caught the ear of a lot more people my age."
I ask whether she is missing out on "normal" experiences for a person her age. She laughs, "Well, I'm not always home! I still love going to the big football games with my friends. And I miss doing that often. But, I do get home enough to not feel like I'm missing out. I'm still in school; I do most of the work over the Internet. My life isn't that much different! You know, I still have problems with grades, boys and zits. It's not like I switched a button and grew up 20 years. I have definitely had to make big decisions in my life and make quite adult choices. But, I do have friends, who I'm growing up with, and who are my age!"
With the huge flurry of groups and artists recording remix albums I am slightly sceptical on Rachael's reasons for the release of 'Blur'. I wonder whether this is just a girl who has run out of inspiration. "No, it's not like that! These songs have such good messages. By redoing some of these tracks, hopefully they will catch the ear of a new type of listener, who normally wouldn't listen to them! Some time next year we'll start the process of putting together the third (or fourth!) one."
"With this remix album, I can say that this is more the music I really like. By redoing the track I can go out and perform and really enjoy it. We have producers remixing them, but it's very much governed by me, as to how it will sound. It is tricky though, because I have trouble making up my mind sometimes! But, I love being an instrumental part of getting songs mixed."
I ask why she decided to call the album 'Blur' when most of the tracks are very powerful! "It was so difficult to come up with that title. Meaning wise, I think, we are trying to blur the lines between the last two albums. It's certainly not implying some deep spiritual meaning. It also describes the music, I suppose: kind of "blurry"! The album is very diverse. 'Saviour Song' has this rock/hip hop feel to it, but then there is a really mellow, Middle East sound to 'For Your Love'. There is also the upbeat, dance style on a lot of them, which is very me! A lot of people think a remix record is a party album. But, that's not my definition of a remix. I wanted this to be an opportunity to give new life to some great songs."
From touring with Amy Grant, on her Christmas tour, to singing in front of three million people for World Youth Day in Rome (including the Pope!), it seems that Rachael is growing up fast. She reveals, "It's been amazing to see the kinds of people who are touched by the songs. That's the cool thing about Christian music; it reaches people at a totally different level. After a concert once, there was this girl who asked me whether I could meet her over by the toilets. Normally you wouldn't do this, but anyway, we ended up spending about an hour, just praying together. She was getting over being raped, so for her, the concert was a very spiritually renewing experience. I remember her saying how she felt God tug on her heart. While I'm not a preacher, I can still sit there and pray with her. After that night she phoned me to tell me that she had accepted God into her life and that she was a changed person!"
So with a hint from Rachael that another album is in the works, I
wonder whether she'll ever stop! "Not for a while, yet; I've been
having too much fun. My managers are helpful; they find ways to
balance me out, so that I don't get too overwhelmed. Maybe there'll be
a time when I need to take a big break. For now I'm on a roll and
having fun where I am. But, God is so unpredictable. I could get
married in a few years!
"When I think about it, I find it hard to believe that I got all that stuff done in three years. But at the same time, I feel like I'm just starting out. I'm sure it's a common thing, which Christians experience: God finding new ways to show you how you need him, putting you through new situations in life. Yes, it's been a challenging time, but one that's also strengthened my faith."