“We have said from day one God if there is ever a time that we are embarrassed to speak your name take us down and pick us up quickly,” says Alyssa Barlow and her thoughts are echoed by older sister Rebecca the bassist for rock band BarlowGirl. Alyssa continues, “We have prayed that from day one. We still feel that way three and one half years later. As a family we have made a little pact together that if we ever start to think that popularity is more important than the message then we’re going to quit.” Once again her thoughts are echoed but this time by the youngest member of the family drummer Lauren Barlow.
In the background you can hear the thudding of Lauren’s bass drum as the crew put the instruments through their sound check at Austin Texas’ Lake Hills Church. As I met backstage with what is arguably becoming America’s most popular girl group we discussed their rising popularity and if it has impacted their message of purity, chaste dating and God’s love. Alyssa says if ever they are asked by the record label (which they haven’t been) to dilute their message, water it down — they won’t. She tells me they would rather quit first.
Those unfamiliar with the riveting rock tunes played by BarlowGirl and the media attention that has come their way in the past twelve months may question the extent of the sacrifice. During the past twelve months BarlowGirl has been featured on the Today Show twice, a feature story by Associated Press was picked up by news agencies throughout the United States and a two-page spread about the Barlow sisters appeared in Sophisticates Hairstyle a top fashion magazine. The nationally syndicated Rick and Bubba radio show, Billboard, Tommy2net, Enterteenment News, Charisma, EntertainmentWorld.us, CCM Magazine, CBN.com, Brio Magazine and Voice of America have all focused the spotlight on the rockers.
“We haven’t really thought about it (the media attention). It has been really cool. The biggest thing is we haven’t tried to change who we are. With all this stuff like the Today show we have tried to stay true to who we are. We haven’t taken God out of anything. We are just who we are. God has continued to bless us with that and it is really cool,” says Lauren.
When I confess I have not read the article in Sophisticates Hairstyle they break into laughter and in unison ask me, “Why not?” Alyssa tells me how it all came about.
“We got a call to do an article with Sophisticates. (We thought) okay that works, we will talk about our hairstyles. The thing that was really cool is they talked about our ministry. They asked us questions about our music. They asked us questions about our music and our image.” Without a trace of pausing to catch her breath Alyssa continues, “That is something that we speak a lot about anyway. (We speak) to kids about the whole image conscious culture that we are in right now. We really got a chance to share our faith through that. Even though it is a hair magazine we really got a chance to share what God has put on our hearts in regards to image and comparing ourselves to the rest of this world. It was a great opportunity.”
“It is awesome to see the doors that God has opened. There have been so many opportunities that we have (received). It just seems that God is taking us to places that maybe other people haven’t gone before. (He says) ‘I am going to take you to places where you are going to speak and impact people that normally you wouldn’t have an opportunity to (encounter)’ It just seems like God is doing things a little upside down,” says Alyssa.
When I bring up the subject of the Billboard feature there are some puzzled looks and then Alyssa says, “I think I did Billboard.” Lauren confesses that they have been on such a hectic base it is difficult to keep track of all the articles that have appeared about the band. The day prior to our meeting the liberal newspaper the Austin American Statesman interviewed BarlowGirl.
“People are really hungry for someone who is going to say, ‘This is what I stand for and you are going to see it everywhere that I turn.’ They are looking for people who are standing firm. We see that everywhere we go,” says Rebecca. “People say to us, ‘Wow we have seen you on stage but we have seen you backstage and you are actually living what you speak.’ They don’t see that everyday. It is so amazing the opportunities that we are receiving in the secular market (because) we are obedient to God and are doing what he has called us to do,” continues Rebecca.
On August 29th the Another Journal Entry Expanded Edition CD is being released. The album is being released in response to the resounding success enjoyed by Another Journal Entry during 2005 and much of this year. By midsummer of this year iTunes alone had recorded more than 150,000 downloads of the hit single “Let Go”. The enhanced CD contains five new cuts including acoustic versions of “On My Own”, “Porcelain Heart” and “I Need You To Love Me”.
Rebecca lays aside her Fender telecaster and Gretsch guitars to play an acoustic guitar. She is joined by Alyssa on piano (normally splits her time between electric keys and guitar) and Lauren on the D’Jembe an African drum that is played by hand.
Rebecca says the album will contain a disc that provides exclusive website access for three music videos. The CD also includes wallpaper for your computer, buddy icons, myspace skins and screen savers. “We wrote a book (More Than Music) this past year with a ghost writer. It will be coming with the CD. We want to open our lives up more to our audience and say this is who we are,” she says. To that end fans will be able to watch behind the scenes footage of the sisters.
“The first videos that we did were for “I Need You To Love Me” and “Grey”. (We shot them) in three days. They were the first music videos that we had ever done and we were very excited. (The video) “Never Alone” was just done three weeks ago (in early June). It was fun. The fun parts are getting dressed up and having your makeup done,” says Alyssa.
Lauren talks about the video “I Need You To Love Me”, “It is very dark. The video shows (the character) in different dark settings. She feels as though she has no life. It is always raining on her. As the song progresses?” while she looks for the words to describe the video Alyssa picks up the storyline, “It’s a transformation. Her life is transforming throughout the song. The bridge sings about, “Your love makes me see who I really am. Through that process it begins to rain on her. She is wearing dark Goth makeup and it starts to pour off. Throughout the whole video the girl is set free from different (types) of bondage. In the end it is just her and the makeup coming off. She has been transformed.”
Concerning “I Need You To Love Me” Alyssa says, “What we really wanted to get across through the video and the song is the transformation (that takes place) through God’s love. We believe so many lies (that we are told) about our lives. We are trapped in a dark place but through God’s love He starts to wash away all of that. (The video is about) the journey of this girl trying to find herself and God’s love.”
Rebecca feels that the music videos will have a big impact on the viewer/listener. “I think that instead of just giving you a song it paints you a picture of how (the message) can be applied to one’s life. Particularly the way “Never Alone” is portrayed. The way Eric Welch directed it is amazing. It shows the physical bondage that this guy is in. It shows that he is bound by ropes and is trying to break through the ropes. (It is) through his submission and falling down to his knees that he is set free. As human beings we really love music but there is such a visual part to seeing things and applying those things to your life. One of the reasons we wanted to have music videos is so you could have that sort of attachment.”
On a lighter note Rebecca and Alyssa discuss the behind the scenes footage that was shot of the band. “You feel like an absolute idiot. I am such a dork and to have this camera follow you around,” says Rebecca. Alyssa adds, “You feel insecure when you are standing there and a crew of people is standing behind you with cameras. There is a camera literally a couple of inches from your face at times and you are supposed to be acting like it’s not there.”
I wonder aloud if opening up their lives through the book and behind the scenes footage puts the band members under more scrutiny and pressure. Lauren says, “It does put you under more of a microscope but I think God has put on our hearts that we have things to share about our lives. The things that we have to share are very personal and the only way that we can reach people in our situation is to share our brokenness. We have to share our life story for people to be touched. I think we have come to grips with people seeing our hurts and brokenness. We have to be okay with that because that is what God is calling us to right now.”
Alyssa takes it a little further, “I would agree with Lauren. I think when we are afraid to be put under a microscope the truth is we fear looking real. We fear people seeing us broken. We fear being under the microscope because we fear not being perfect. God has shown us over the years, ‘Girls your right answers aren’t going to change the world one bit and the things that you think you are going to bring to this world (will only come) through your brokenness.’ People will say, “Look they are real. Look what God has done in their lives. Look what God has taken them through,” she says as her voice quickens with excitement. “That’s the only time when people can relate. It’s in those moments that people can see that there is hope in their own lives. We have to say, “Take us where you need us.”
Copyright © 2006 Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved. This material may not be redistributed without prior written permission from Joe Montague. Joe Montague is an internationally published freelance journalist / photographer.