by Tracy Darlington
Bethany Dillon Interview
at what you're passionate about, and then be okay with it being a process.
Don't take yourself too seriously. Enjoy the journey."
From her recording debut at age 14, Bethany Dillon was one of those rare young singer/songwriters who did not fit the status quo. Her songs possessed a lyrical depth that belied her age. Her carriage, sense of composure and way of looking at the world revealed a certain maturity, disarming for one so young.
it almost seems a given, seven years later, that 21-year-old Bethany Dillon—now married and living in Dallas with her husband, Shane Barnard
(Shane & Shane)—would be officially grown up.
Stop & Listen, Bethany’s fourth release on Sparrow Records, reveals a young woman coming to terms with God’s grace in a new season of becoming.
Tracy: How did you know God was calling you to pursue music as a career?
Bethany: Honestly, I didn’t at first! I started playing guitar and writing my own songs around age 10, and at that point in my life, it was definitely only a hobby and something I enjoyed in my quiet times. As far as music being my job, that wasn’t on the radar at all! That’s why it was so random when we got a phone call the summer I was 13 years old about meeting with some label executives. I had thought before that it would be so cool to do for a living what I loved, but I never thought it was possible. And, really, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I felt really, really confident in my craft. I think it’s like anything else—you have to figure out your strengths and weaknesses and exactly where God wants to use you.
your music changed over the past seven years?
A lot of the changes are pretty subtle, you know? I’m into the same music now that I was then: singer-songwriters, artists that tell stories. I grew up listening to Rich Mullins and Keith Green, and Sara Groves has continued to be a huge influence on me creatively. So, I’m not sure if the heart of the music has changed drastically, but I think it’s just been honed in more over the past seven years. I had a big-picture idea of what I wanted to sound like, write songs about, all of that, when I made my first record at 14; but now I have a better, clearer picture of what that actually looks like, what I enjoy about music, and going after something a little more specific. I think the songs and the sound is getting simpler, but hopefully more engaging at the same time.
bio says that “Stop and Listen” is the most confessional
record you’ve ever made. Can you explain that?
Yeah! I guess what I mean by “confessional” is that it feels as honest as I’ve ever been in songwriting. I think being newly married has something to do with it. All of the sudden, you have this life-size mirror living in the same house with you, pointing things out about your humanity you didn’t notice before, causing things to surface that could stay quiet when no one was really challenging it. It’s been such a sweet, healthy, wonderful year and a half! But more than anything, it’s been honest—and I think the songs reflect that.
You co-wrote the title track on your record with Joy Williams. What was
that experience like for you?
It was awesome—Joy has been a good friend for a while. She is the most genuine, comfortable-in-her-own-skin, sweet person you’ll ever meet. I love her voice and her melodies, so I was excited to have a writing session with her and our mutual friend Ben Glover . . . and I feel like the result was great!
married to Shane, have you considered singing a duet together? :)
We actually did! I have a bonus track on my new record—it’s an acoustic version of the single “Everyone To Know”, and he’s singing with me on it. I can’t wait to do more of that in the future!
message do you hope people will come away when they listen to Stop
I think there are a few topics that are tucked away in “Stop and Listen”, but the main thing I would hope someone would be drawn to is (ironically enough) to turn down the music (after having listened to the whole thing, of course . . . ha!), go into a quiet room, pause . . . and wait on Him. The thing I’ve struggled with the most in the last couple of years—and probably will struggle with to some degree forever—is the art of stopping, listening, and enjoying. The story of two sisters in Luke 10 gets me every time: Martha invited Jesus over for dinner, but as soon as He’s there, she busies herself with work. Meanwhile, her sister Mary is in the room with Jesus, sitting at His feet, listening to Him teach. Martha eventually gets so worked up that she asks Jesus whether or not if He cares that she’s the one working and her sister is the one enjoying. I love His response to her: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but there is one thing necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, and it will not be taken away from her.” Hopefully, these songs inspire and remind people’s hearts to chase after that one thing that’s necessary—knowing Him.
your favorite song on the album and why?
That’s a tough one! I feel so partial to all of them, I don’t know if I could choose. One of my favorites, though, is a song called “So Close”. I wrote it during a season of feeling distant from the Lord—all I could see were my failures, and it drove me farther and farther away from Him. It’s been such an amazing encouragement to be reminded of Jesus’ promise to keep us and not lose any one of us (John 17), and that I really can’t do anything to separate myself from His love! The love of God in Christ is so much deeper and stronger than my worst failure.
What advice would you give to someone who is trying to reach their friends
There are two schools of thought when it comes to witnessing to people who don’t believe on Christ: witness through your words, or witness through your life. I think a balance of the two is probably the way to go in most situations—if you are constantly preaching at someone and yet don’t show them an example of it, you lose your credibility. But in the same token, if you only are a good example and never explain WHY you’re different, or what the hope you have is, then they’re just left thinking you’re a really moral person. So, as far as figuring out the time to talk or just love on them and wait, I think it’s all about asking for a heart of wisdom. You’re not the one who’s going to save them anyway! It’s the Spirit of God that draws them to the Father through Jesus, and He knows exactly how to do it. Just surrender your insecurity, or over-zealousness, and ask for discernment and wisdom to be used in such a mysterious, wonderful, unseen thing.
Do you have any advice for teenagers trying to pursue their dreams?
Chase it! I think there’s a healthy balance of drivenness and humility when it comes to pursuing your dreams at a young age, you know? Or maybe at any stage in life. For example, if you love singing, writing songs, playing an instrument, and you want to have a job in music—I’d say the best advice is to give it the Lord, and then practice, practice, practice. Just because you surrendered it to God doesn’t mean you aren’t meant to refine your talents and try as hard as you can to be excellent at it. Then, on the humility side, I think it’s good to be content where you’re at. Although that may seem to be a contradiction, I think a grace-filled balance of those two gives you the most peace in that time of limbo and waiting for something to happen. Work at what you’re passionate about, and then be okay with it being a process. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Enjoy the journey. (Now if only I could follow that advice! Ha!)
Are there any steps you take to stay on track spiritually?
I can definitely fool myself into thinking that it’s something I do that keeps me walking with the Lord, but the truth is, it’s all Him. My best efforts on my best day aren’t enough! That’s why I need Jesus, you know? When I’m out of the habit of praying, that’s when I’m in trouble. I love something I read in Anne Lamott’s book Traveling Mercies - she said the only two prayers we really need to pray are, “Help me, help me, help me,” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” I love that! It’s such true picture of dependency. I have to ask for His help often… daily… hourly.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Hmm. . . good question! Honestly, my highest aspiration in life is to be a Godly wife and mother. I’m really excited about that stage of life of having kids and parenting, because my parents were such a huge influence on me. If that’s where I’m at in five years, I’ll be happy.
If you could have dinner with anyone living or dead, who would it be and
what would you talk about?
Okay, I thought about this one long and hard. I wish the question was “if you could have ten people over for dinner. . .” but, alas, it’s only one. I have always been fascinated by the life of King David. He had such an amazing, dramatic, broken, inspiring life. And to be called a man after God’s OWN heart? Yeah. I think I would make him some homemade mac and cheese and ask him what his relationship with God looked like. And how you can kill a lion with your bare hands.
sure you have some fun road stories. Can you share with us one that sticks
in your mind?
Oh, do I have stories! One of the most memorable road-moments was on my first tour with (you guessed it) Shane & Shane. At the time, both Shanes were driving the bus . . . there wasn’t a bus driver. Actually, there weren’t a lot of the usual suspects that are on tours: tour manager, production manager, none of that. So everyone had more than one job, and that especially included Shane Barnard and Shane Everett. Well, one of Shane B’s jobs was to empty the waste tank on the bus . . . but one night when we walked out to the parking lot after a show, we smelled this horrible smell. We couldn’t figure out what it was until Shane himself walked out to investigate, and then opened the luggage bays under the bus to find . . . yes, the waste tank had leaked all over our suitcases. It’s a funny story now, not so much then.
there anything else you’d
like to say to TitleTrakk.com readers?
I hope you guys enjoy the new record! Let me know what you think by either commenting on my MySpace (myspace.com/bethanydillonmusic) or writing on my wall on Facebook, or you can follow me on Twitter (twitter.com/bethanydillon) for daily random thoughts and concert updates! Come see us when we’re in a city near you!
two things people might be surprised to know about you?
1) I am obsessive-compulsive when it comes to cleaning. Not literally, but almost.
2) I chew about ten pieces of gum a day.
Three things always found in your refrigerator:
next in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?
Tall Americano with an extra shot, half the water, please. (Cheaper than a grande Americano. I’m all about beating the system!)
Tracy Darlington is a freelance writer, and her work has appeared in Brio, Breakaway, YS, CCM Magazine, Insight, Susie Magazine, and other publications. She has interviewed countless Christian musicians including Rebecca St. James, Delirious, Newsboys, Leigh Nash, Barlowgirl, Krystal Meyers, Joy Williams, Pillar, Michelle Tumes, and many others. In her spare time she can be found riding horses or listening to music and sipping a Venti 3-shot sugar-free vanilla latte. Visit her online at her blog where she talks about Music, God, dogs and coffee. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.