The Rebecca St. James File:
by Tracy Darlington
Rebecca St. James Interview
"God does not want us to be living in the past, in shame, in fear, or in the future, in worry. He wants us to be living in the present, in now, with Him." --Rebecca St. James
REBECCA ST. JAMES is both a Grammy and Dove Award recipient, with international success that has driven her record sales into the millions. The Australian-born St. James, who has been called "the definitive voice in today's contemporary Christian music," is the author of such books as Wait for Me and She. She is known for her passionate involvement in youth-related ministries.
Tracy: It’s been awhile since we touched base, and we’d love for you to share with our readers what’s new, what’s going on in your life.
Rebecca: I’ve been on and off the road this year with the SHE events, which are fantastic. I love getting to see my mentor Evie and do these events that are bringing the generations together. It’s pretty cool being able to model that and see it happening in the audience, too. My mom often comes to those events - it’s a big mother-daughter event. Having my mentor and my mom both there and seeing moms and their daughters having a night out together bonding and growing in God is pretty neat. We got to do a SHE evening in Norway this year, so it’s extended now to both Australia and Norway as well as the U.S.
We also went to Europe twice, which is always sort of the front lines of ministry. Getting to see God work around the world and being a part of what He’s doing in different countries is encouraging. It’s challenging too, as you don’t have quite the same rhythm as you do when you’re back at home or in a tour bus. You don’t always have the comforts you do when touring in the U.S. It’s challenging but really powerful and encouraging on a heart level, too.
A couple books came out this year,
and I’m looking at getting more
involved in film. I dabbled in it with Hero and a couple small movie parts
over the years (Unidentified and Veggie Tales). That’s been a real
passion of mine over the years. I was actually offered a tv show on PAX years
ago, but we couldn’t do it because I was on tour at the time, and we
didn’t want to have to cancel the shows. So I’m actually having
a lot more meetings in LA the last year, and I got my first role in a faith
and family film we’re starting next month. I auditioned just in the
last couple weeks and got the part. It’s a part I’m super excited
about. Pursuing acting has been a dream of mine since I was about six years
old. My brothers and my cousins and I used to put on plays together.
(Just In! The film is called To the Wall, and here is Rebecca pictured with Bobby Downes, Kevin Downes & David A.R. White)
What was the inspiration behind your new book Pure?
Devotional books have changed my life. When I was fifteen there was a devotional book called Time with God that really drew me close to God. And a few years after that He opened up doors for me to be involved in the 40 Days with God books. Devotional books and purity both have been huge passions of mine for a long time, since my teens. Having an opportunity to marry those two passions in this book was great, because there is a real need for young people to be encouraged in purity.
What was the process like to write the book?
Dale Reeves is the guy who helped me with both devotional books and Wait for Me - I think this is the fourth book we’ve worked on together - he was actually the main compiler for the whole thing. He gathered stories of mine and direct quotes from the last ten to thirteen years of my ministry. So a lot of the credit for the day to day gathering of material and work goes to Dale and to Jackie Monaghan, my publicist, who’s been doing interviews with me for years and years and years. So it’s a compilation of my life’s work, my ministry. It’s not really just pulling from the last few years. It’s pulling from my entire ministry.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started in music?
I wish someone had told me that rest is incredibly important, and that it’s essential to take time out for sabbaticals---to live and grow and learn and fill up so that I had something to give when I was on the road and writing songs and books. The problem is that if you don’t stop and take time out to live and to learn you end up having nothing left. You actually dry up. You become an emotional and spiritual anorexic where you’re eating into yourself because you have absolutely nothing left. You’ve got no food to draw on because you haven’t rested. Burnout has been something I’ve struggled with for many years now. Who knows if I would’ve listened or not, but I do wish someone had spoken that into my life way earlier, rather than having to learn the hard way about that.
Do you have a fun road story to share?
I was just looking at some pictures of my European tour from a couple years ago, and we had this one extensive tour when we went to Moscow. We had a tradition on that tour of doing karate moves, and we have some pretty cool pictures of us in Norway doing karate moves with the band and Charmaine my background singer, my brothers and me. It’s pictures of us in mid-air on this ferry crossing over this Norway fjord, and then in front of some of the most famous buildings in Moscow doing the same thing, karate moves. It was goofy and really fun. I look back and remember that with a smile.
Cooking has helped me on the road. I bring my crepe maker out and make crepes for the band, the team and myself. I used to bring a toaster oven and cook banana bread and Korean beef barbeque, which stunk up the bus ‘cause it had so much garlic in it! That wasn’t quite as popular. I had to marinate it for days. Cooking on the tour bus really helped bring a piece of home to the road.
You’ve recently talked about The Shack novel by William P. Young and how it impacted your life. Tell us what you enjoyed about it.
I loved The Shack. I want to encourage every Christian and non-Christian to read it. It’s profound. I don’t think it needs to be taken absolutely literally. When Christians start making it absolutely literal they get upset. But there is a lot that is incredibly prophetic and profound and positively challenging to believers, to anybody. It makes you see God in a different way. One of the biggest challenges about that book is that there’s a real focus on being with God in the present. God does not want us to be living in the past, in shame, in fear, or in the future, in worry. He wants us to be living in the present, in now, with Him. The Shack helps us see Papa, Jesus, the Holy Spirit in such a new life giving way. Sometimes we put God in a box, in our own vision of who He is. That was very challenging to me. A lot of us have a view of God that is very much like a school teacher ready to rap us on our hands if we mess up. I think this picture of God as somebody who has sense of humor and is loving and is all embracing when it comes to our hearts is a beautiful picture of God. The compassionate elements really come to the foreground. It really rounded out my view of God in a healthy way. Yes, God is a god of justice and to be feared and honored and respected. That’s incredibly important. But the merciful, gracious, and loving God needs to be focused on. I just love that book. I talk about it a lot to friends and recommend it to everybody.
Can we expect a new album any time soon?
We’re looking at going into the studio the first half of next year, so I’d say maybe mid-next year. It could be earlier, but it just depends on a few factors. We’re talking about sometime early next year doing some recording. It will be a departure for sure. It’s probably not going to be a rock focus. The music I’ve been listening to lately is a bit more chill. It’s been more emotional, really drawing you in, but more on an intense level---a hot, emotional, vulnerable level.
Even as adults we don’t always know how to follow the dream in our hearts. Do you think God puts dreams in our hearts early that we’re supposed to pursue later in life?
I’ve been seeing that in my own life. For a long time I got really busy with the opportunities right in front of me, and I don’t think I really listened to my deep heart, the dreams and visions God had birthed in me that were really, really, deep. It took me taking time out on a sabbatical. For some people that could mean taking a weekend to pray. A friend of mine took forty days to plead with God to show her a new vision for her life, and He did. I needed a sabbatical to help me to uncover the distractions and get to the deep parts of my heart again and realize there were some unfulfilled dreams I needed to follow. I had to make some major changes in my life. It’s cool, because I’m now seeing the confirmation that it was right. Only He can open the doors that truly need to be open. That’s what we need to pray, “God, I surrender to You. If I’m wrong, close doors. And if I’m hearing from you just open the doors, and help me to be led by you.” Being in relationships where we’re kept accountable is incredibly important, too.
You’re in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?
I go back and forth between a Grande decaf Capuccino with 2 Splendas that I put in myself, and a Venti iced Americano with lots of milk in that.
What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
When anybody gets to know me outside of music and ministry, and they spend hang time with me, they’re surprised that I’m actually fun. People incorrectly stereotype me as being really intense and focused. I can be fun, goofy. I like to make people laugh, and I like to laugh myself and just joke around. That’s the part of me I’m getting to celebrate a lot more lately. I like to be a kid.
When was the last time you cried?
Actually, it’s been a little bit. I’ve had a big cry within the last month or so, but I don’t really remember. I had a light, touching moment kind of cry taking my brother to the airport this morning. I was telling him about a film I had watched that moved me called Under the Same Moon, and as I explained the ending I just started getting emotional! I was tearing up about it! I like that I can be moved to tears reasonably easily.
Three things always found in your refrigerator?
Milk, yogurt, and eggs. I would never want to give up dairy! I’m so addicted to it!
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
You know how much I love the ministry Compassion. I just recently sponsored another child in Uganda. I wanted to sponsor a child where I could speak to her in English. I just got my first letter from my sponsor child, Lucy, the other day. It was so cool. Sam, in Uganda, he and I write back and forth to each other a lot. So we’re keeping in touch. Lucy and I are just starting, so I sent her a Polaroid picture of me and I held up a sign that said “Hi Lucy”. It’s such a great ministry. I always encourage people to get involved with that. And if you don’t have enough money, get a group of friends together and sponsor a child.
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.