Derby-based gospel diva SANDRA GODLEY was quizzed by Tony Cummings.
The release of Sandra Godley's 'Sweet Surrender' album didn't exactly set Christian retail shops alight (independent albums don't get that opportunity) but it has opened many doors for this talented Derby-based singer. 'Sweet Surrender' was described in Cross Rhythms as "a worshipful album with vertical lyrics but with a lot of retro '70s soul influences" which sums it up pretty well. So who is this soul sister? I pitched some questions at her to try to find out.
Tony: Tell me about yourself.
Sandra: Although I was born in Bristol l was actually bought up in Derby. Both my brother and I grew up going to Sunday school and we've both got great memories of coming home after Sunday school and reciting Bible verses to our parents. I absolutely loved church as a young girl. At 13 I went away to a youth camp and it was while I was in a meeting that I suddenly became aware that this message was for me. It was if the room had gone misty and the guy at the front was just talking to me. He talked about knowing all about God but not really knowing him personally. I knew that this message was for me but I was too scared to respond by going down to the front of the church. So I waited till I got back to my room and I remember clearly saying, "God if you're really there, prove yourself to me." I kinda thought angels would come leaping out of the wardrobe to a fanfare of music but nothing happened so I went to bed, a little disappointed. The next morning I couldn't believe what had happened. An incredible peace came over me and it was as if a huge burden had been taken from me. I felt lighter and happier. I knew God was in me and I couldn't stop crying - I'd found my Maker!
After that I threw myself into most things. So much so, that by the age of 15 I became a Sunday school teacher. What a cool time that was. My earliest memory of singing was leading songs with my guitar at Sunday school - three chords went a long way then! I gradually built up to four chords and started writing my own songs which I would sing at church. I eventually teemed up with two other girls - Di and Jennie - and for a season we would write together and perform our songs not just at church but also at outreaches, coffee bars, etc.
About four years later I joined a band called Voice and we played up and down the country at various events. I particularly remember singing at many Youth For Christ Events which were always great fun! By the age of 25 I wanted wider experience and so joined a secular band as their lead vocalist. This was a cross between Cajun, soul, blues music - a great sound and great experience but after about three years I'd had enough of singing in smoky pubs and clubs.
Tony: What were the circumstances which led to you recording?
Sandra: Recording my album has been a dormant dream of mine from an early age but I have to admit that there always seemed a good reason not to go ahead, eg, lack of money, lack of material, past hurts, marriage, children, etc, etc. However, I was always happy to lend a hand on other people's projects, sing and minister at conferences, festivals and events. But one day, at the tender age 39 (2 years ago) (I think I was changing my daughter's nappy at the time!) I was suddenly gripped by the reality that I was getting older.
I could see myself sliding downhill all the way to age 40 and wondering if I'd actually achieved everything I wanted to in life. Then really clearly I heard God say, 'It's time for you to do your album.' You have to realise that I wasn't going to argue with God even though I thought it was a crazy idea. I didn't argue because I've had a few "suddenlies" in my life which were definite "God moments", one time being when I "suddenly" met and got engaged to my husband on the same day! We've been married for 13 great years!
Making this dream become a reality was the next task and so I talked to two great friends - Chris Bowater and Andy Bromley - who were instrumental in getting me started and helping me focus not just on the immediate (writing songs) but also on the future. I have to say at this point that during this time I was a student at Worship Academy - a two year course designed and run by Chris and Andy. I believe that this course was a turning point in my life, drawing out of me my creativity, while challenging and developing my confidence and character.
I've got a message behind this album and it's this: "There's a
sweetness waiting to be found when you surrender to God." I use this
message whether I'm singing to a secular or Christian crowd.
Surrendering is such an old fashioned word, almost unheard of in some
circles. But I think God wants us to come back to that place of
vulnerability to him, like a child responding to a loving parent who
says, "Come." If you're a parent how awesome do you feel when your
frightened child responds by coming to you? This is awesome stuff!
Tony: What's your favourite song on your CD and why?
Sandra: I love all my songs but the one that really does it for me is "The Deeper Your Love" co-written with a great guy in our church, Mike Trahearn. I think this song took us just over an hour to write. I love it because it's pure Scripture taken from Psalm 139, one of my favourites.
I remember specifically thinking about hurting girls who I'd come into
contact with around that time. Some of these girls were victims of
child abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. I wanted to write a song that
would help them find real comfort and hope in God their creator. It's
an incredibly powerful moment when someone opens up their wounds to
God and I know that this song has been powerfully used.
Tony: How would you say British gospel compares with the American version?
Sandra: It's widely accepted that American gospel is so much more a part of the American society than it is here. But I think things are changing over here. For example, today I was on a course with 11 women learning "how to be become more empowered." Each of us had to name a great achievement in our lives and I naturally said that I had recently recorded my debut album at the late age of 40! I mentioned that it was gospel music and they all screamed out "tell me more, I love gospel music," etc, etc. I was completely amazed because apart from one other lady, all the others were not Christians. That just confirmed to me that people in our society love and want gospel music.
There is a definite heightened sense of spirituality in our nation and people are certainly seeking something, even if they don't actually know that it's God they need. We are called to be salt in the earth and to put goodness into our society. I believe that gospel music has a big part to play - if you put on a gospel track in most environments people will soon start tapping their feet. Not only is the music great but the sentiment behind the words is so powerful.
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