Crystal Lewis begins again.

This week we had the dream-come-true opportunity to catch up with our dear friend, Grammy nominated and 4-time Dove Award winning music legend, Crystal Lewis. We met at the authentically simple Hopper & Burr in Orange County and discussed this new season of her life + journey over delicious cappuccinos. Discussing her newest self-titled album,  available everywhere on 9/11/15 – and also happens to fall on her birthday, we shared many laughs and also got to the heart of what it took to create her 28th album. Afterwards, we walked down the hall to Little Sparrow to an empty restaurant where I pulled out my camera and snapped a few images of this dynamically beautiful soul singer. Below is our interview along with the fun images captured during our time together. Enjoy!

“Crystal Lewis” is available on Apple music

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CTL // As we’ve spoken in the past, it was evident that deciding on the title of your new record was a difficult one to make. Can you let fans in on potential titles that didn’t make the final cut, and how you ultimately decided that your newest record would simply be self-titled?

CRYSTAL // I had debated for quite a long time about the title. I had gone back and forth with various song titles, such as “Beginning Again” which is an obvious theme throughout the record that seemed like a great fit. “Love Each Other” was another that I really thought would be a great title. We had talked about “Testimonium” which I looked up and is an actual word! But I have a creative team that I am required to run everything by. It is my husband, my daughter and my son – in additional to a handful of friends whose opinion I trust! While on the one hand, I feel as an artist I really am going to do what I want to do, it’s always a gamble and there’s never really a right or a wrong answer, it’s just the one you pick. Although my daughter was the one who said, “I think it should be self-titled because it represents exactly where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing at this stage in your career – it shows a turning point of some kind and this is a new beginning.” But Izzi said, “The title ‘Beginning Again’ sounds like a midlife crisis and you don’t want that for your title! It’s too obvious.” So, this self-title thing just made sense after I thought about it for a while because I just disagreed for a long time, I just kept trying to think about other titles but I never could settle on one. There are previous albums like “Beauty for Ashes” where I had that album title way at the beginning before I had the song. Eventually I decided to write a song that went with the theme because I was taken by that theme, I was taken by those verses and wanted it to be that. For whatever reason, this record was different. I didn’t come to a complete decision on the title until ¾ of the way through the recording process. I like that it represents, just, me… And where I am, and where I’m going.

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CTL // Do you feel that your audience that has followed you throughout the years will be surprised to hear your new sound, or do you feel as though you’ve prepared them along the way to expect the unexpected from Crystal Lewis?

CRYSTAL // To me, I think, yes, this is a natural progression. I didn’t go from one genre to another where I’ll be unrecognizable to the listening audience. I think it’s a natural progression. The majority of the people closest to me, as they have heard these songs have said, “Oh my gosh, this is SO you!” I think that will come across. It won’t be so different that people are taken off guard. That being said, it does feel new at the same time so I like that it’s an interesting mix of something that feels fresh and authentic, but is also familiar.

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CTL // Albums such as Beauty for Ashes, Gold, Fearless, and Plain and Simple (just to name a few) have a central theme backed up by scripture. If you were to define your new album by scripture, what would that scripture be?

CRYSTAL // Ecclesiastes 3. There’s a season for everything. Something we’ve learned, of course, from living in Montana, is what to expect from seasons, what seasons are, but the reality that you can’t expect anything from any season. Every summer is different. Every winter is different. We need to realize that there’s a time for everything. Watching fires this last summer – we’ve had insane amounts of fires in Montana – and the firefighters don’t go in and put them all out. There are certain areas and certain times that they just let it burn because they know that’s what the earth needs. There are things that need to be burned up. To us, we’re like, “Ahh, it’s smokey! Put the fire out!” But really, it’s good for it, because it encourages that cycle of death and life. There has to be an ending if there’s going to be a new beginning. Just that realization that there is a season for everything, that the burning is okay for a minute. Although scary and you may lose something in the process, new life will come eventually.

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CTL // When you look back on the journey of putting this entire new record together, can you pinpoint a pivotal and defining moment that took place that set an unexpected turn to the direction of your newest offering?

CRYSTAL // This record has taken many twists and turns. We started in January 2012. We moved ahead by faith, hoping that something would eventually feel right. Schedules fell through and it felt like constant dead-ends that I was coming to. Two things happened: Andy Prickett, my musical mentor – I credit him in my album credits as my “musical mentor” – played guitar on “One Man” (from the Fearless record) and he was at a church that I sang at back in December of 2011. We reconnected after a year. I trusted him as a musician, as a person. He connected me with two different writers and we ended up writing three songs together – Beginning Again, Be Alright, and Love Each Other – and it felt like progress! I cried at our first writing session! I couldn’t believe that it felt so right. We did a songwriting boot camp for a week, it was awful and wonderful – hilariously embarrassing! It was such a terribly vulnerable space to be in, you know. But it was awesome! Musically I felt sharpened and better because of them – it was such an incredible connection that acted as a catalyst, creating a big push of momentum. Second, I was in California and got a text from my friend Elijah Thomson, who I hadn’t seen in at least 5 years. So we ended up sitting down together and just catching up on life and he informed me that he was going on tour but had 3 months free afterwards. I immediately called my husband Brian who encouraged the route of having Elijah produce the record. I called Eli back and he agreed to produce my record! That is what changed the trajectory of everything. Once Eli was on board, I was able to just settle in my spirit and relinquish creative control as scary as it was to let go. But he’s the musician; I can’t play or have access to players, that was one of the huge problems being out in Montana. But it was Eli Thompson saying, “I’ll do it!” that dramatically changed our course.

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CTL // It’s often been said that a picture can speak a thousand words… What would you say you wanted to convey to your audience with the imagery of your new self-titled album cover? (view here)

CRYSTAL // We actually did an entire photo shoot months before the album was finished and I loved it and will use those pictures at some point, but when it got down to the final product we realized that the pictures didn’t convey a spirit of joy – and that’s what the album conveys – joy. I tend to be on the hyper side and I move around quite often, the cover was very accidental in many ways, it’s not like we set out to make it what it is but it was divinely inspired as all art is, it comes together on it’s own in an organic sort of way. The cover was no different. It’s very autobiographical and it just says, “life is fun and there’s joy to be found even in the midst of the struggle.”

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CTL // You’ve always said that as an artist and as a creative, you are never at the end. In a real sense, you are beginning again! Where would you say you see yourself next after the release of ‘Crystal Lewis’?

CRYSTAL // As we talked about this idea of new beginnings and the idea of ‘endings’ in order to have a new ‘beginning,’ which is such a great reminder – I think that I’m excited to see what’s next, too! In the last few years I’ve just kind of been treading water, staying afloat, and feeling like I needed something else. To be at the end of this process and to be looking forward, swimming in big broad strokes instead of being fatigued doing the same thing, I wouldn’t mind seeing what it would be like doing Broadway, voice-overs, more acting – something different. I am really excited about music, though, which is really fun. Obviously I’ve had a successful career doing music. But often it’s out of expectation or duty, or, “I have to do this next thing because it’s my job.” But to think about doing something else, musically, like another Jazz record, or exploring different genres like that. Moving back to California, that is part of the plan – to immerse myself into musical communities that I don’t have access to in Montana. We’re not leaving Montana behind entirely, we’re keeping our place there and everything, but for this next season – whatever that looks like, whatever comes next – is going to hinge on being in California and integrating myself into the musical creative art community between Los Angeles and Orange County!

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CTL // If given the opportunity, What words of encouragement, advice, or wisdom would the Crystal Lewis of 2015 tell the Crystal Lewis of 1985 as you look back 30 years on the person and the artist that you have become?

CRYSTAL // I think this question would be more difficult to answer if I didn’t have a teenage daughter right now. I’m able to see things and say, “I wish I would’ve done this differently.” I think that I would tell myself to not care so much about what other people think. To care more about the things that are more deeply at the core, and to be totally confident and courageous in being exactly who you are. I think I was that to a certain degree, I grew into some of that, as evidenced by some of the ridiculous things that I wore back then! I clearly didn’t care. But I think you can get deeply bogged down by the industry and all these sudden expectations that people put on you. Something I’m seeing in Izzi now, that she’s doing – that I didn’t do – is being a little bit more assertive and aggressive musically. One of the first things I would tell myself is specifically, “Get your buns on the piano-bench and practice!” because I wish like anything that I could accompany myself today. I wish I played the guitar or stuck with piano. I took piano lessons through college and cannot accompany myself today because I just gave it up. So I would say, learn an instrument completely, dive into your craft, be passionate about the music that you’re making, and don’t let anybody else tell you what you should be making as an artist because it should come from your heart. We are given these gifts on purpose and we should develop them, nurture them, and take care of them.

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Spread The Love Campaign | Part 1

On Valentine’s Day, Closer to Love turns 5 years old!!! Being dreamers and visionaries at heart, we knew we wanted to be a part of something revolutionary to celebrate all that God has done in and through our photography since the very beginning. Over a cup of coffee in Downtown Fullerton, we met with Sevenly’s Director of Marketing, Stephanie, to brainstorm ways to do something new, to make a difference and positive impact in the world around us. Knowing how powerful partnerships can be, Sevenly and Closer to Love decided that whatever we were going to do would unite people with shared beliefs, and that’s how “Spread The Love” began to take shape.

“Spread The Love” is the idea that our reach and influence can go farther and wider if we support each other and unite for a better tomorrow. Inspired by the belief that we are better together, 5 world changing brands that tell unique stories: Krochet Kids Intl., Sackcloth & Ashes, Sevenly, The Giving Keys and TOMS created a collaboration that reaches farther than any one of them could individually. Being a part of something that has never been done before, these 5 brands along with Closer to Love decided it was time to be a part of a new uprising: changing the world, TOGETHER.

These 5 leading brands have come together during this Valentine’s Day season to spread love and goodwill throughout the world; to support each other and work towards their common goal: impacting lives, helping those in need, and changing the world together. The result of all these brands uniting is beautiful imagery that celebrates each brand and what they stand for.

The campaign took place at a one-of-a-kind location: Salvation Mountain in Niland, CA – a fitting backdrop for this special occasion. The outcome? A Valentine’s Day-themed lookbook featuring apparel, shoes, and accessories from the 5 leading social good brands that will help introduce the brands to new audiences and certainly inspire those looking to discover products that give back.

Krochet Kids Intl., Sackcloth & Ashes, Sevenly, The Giving Keys and TOMS have all come together to show us that we all can and should unite for one purpose: to change the world we live in. If you agree, please spread the love this Valentine’s Day season by sharing a post, pinning a photo, or liking an image on Instagram. Unite with us to make the largest impact this Valentine’s Day season and spread awareness about the good these brands are doing globally.

Join us by using the hashtag #becauseloveunites as we unite to change the world, together!

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Krochet Kids (www.krochetkids.org)
Krochet Kids intl. is a non-profit social capitalism brand that empowers people by creating, selling apparel knit & crochet hats for babies, men and women. Every product made is hand-signed by the person who made it. Over 185 women and their families are being empowered through the products made at Krochet Kids!

Sackcloth & Ashes (www.sackclothandashes.com)
Sackcloth & Ashes is a company that sells high-quality blankets in the United States. With every blanket purchased, they give a blanket to your local homeless shelters. The summer of 2013 the Founder of Sackcloth & Ashes’ mother lived on the streets. This taught him an invaluable lesson because his mother was a hard working woman who had two college degrees, had managed restaurants, was a homeowner, and raised two kids on her own. Yet, life got the best of her. She lost nearly all she had due to unfortunate circumstances and moved across the country to start her life over. His mother had become homeless. It was then that he realized that not all choose to become homeless – that some just need a second chance. The Founder began calling shelters in his area to ask what their greatest need was. They all said – blankets.  Providing blankets to people in shelters is not just a felt need – it’s a real need.

Sevenly (www.sevenly.org)
Sevenly sells lifestyle products that help fund charity projects across the globe. For every item purchased Sevenly gives $7 to the designated charity. With nearly $4 million raised and counting, Sevenly is helping to inspire a generation of generosity. They’ve made a tangible difference in the stories of more than a million lives as people like you share these causes!

The Giving Keys (www.thegivingkeys.com)
The Giving Keys exists to employ those transitioning out of homelessness in Los Angeles to make key necklaces and other jewelry out of repurposed keys. If you receive a Giving Key, you must give it away at some point to a person you feel needs the same message engraved on the key.

TOMS (www.toms.com)
This year TOMS launched TOMS Roasting Co. With every bag of coffee purchased, TOMS provides one week of clean water to a person in need. TOMS has also given more than 35 million pairs of new shoes to children in need and helped restore sight to over 250,000 people. They are incredibly proud of and humbled by this milestone, and more excited than ever to see how the continual evolution of their Giving can positively impact communities in need around the world. Shop TOMS for shoes, eyewear, sunglasses, coffee, TOMS Marketplace brands and more. Each product purchased helps a person in need. One for One.

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Below is Part 1 of the “Spread The Love” series. There are tons of more amazing imagery to follow, so please check back throughout the month of February and help spread the love by supporting the vision behind the photographs: #becauseloveunites

*Special Thank You to our AMAZING Closer to Love crew for assisting, supporting, encouraging, creating, and making this campaign far greater than we could’ve possibly done on our own:
Lorina Daiana
Natalie Thornton
Brian Evans
Jennifer Bermudez
Daniel Cadena
Josh Cosa
Paul Stan

Matthew Coca

 

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#becauseloveunites