How Willow Came To Be... I have always had a great deal of respect for songwriters. I love music and can't imagine life without it, but the art of songwriting has always been a bit of a mystery to me. I think I believed that those who were fortunate enough to be blessed with such a gift not only knew instinctively that they were meant to write music, but also that entire songs just sort of magically popped into their heads out of nowhere. That may actually be the case for some; however, being that I possess no instinctive songwriting awareness, never experienced any kind of songwriting epiphany, nor had any songs magically fall out of the sky and hit me in the head, I never allowed myself to even consider the possibility that I might one day compose a song. That is, until a few short years ago. In 2007, I had been singing in the praise band at my church for a couple of years. As a member of the band, I have had the privilege of working with some very talented musicians. One of those musicians was our keyboard player, Noel DeLisle. Noel is one of the most gifted musicians I have ever come in contact with. He has an energy and intensity about him that are contagious. Working with him, witnessing his process, hearing some of his own original pieces - all of these things inspired me to push myself a little harder musically. I began to give some serious thought to how songs are actually composed, where the inspiration might come from, how it might be applied, and for the first time, I began to think that maybe I should give it a try. Suffice it to say, it took quite awhile (months) to come up with an entire song on my own - and even longer to get up the courage to share it with Noel - but once I did, his immediate interest, encouragement, and acceptance of me as a songwriter not only surprised me, but his reaction boosted my confidence exponentially. That first song was, appropriately enough, entitled 'My Faith.' For as long as I live I will never forget the experience of sharing 'My Faith' with Noel and then having it on a CD in my hand, all within the span of about 45 minutes. The thrill of witnessing that metamorphosis from a simple melody and lyrics in my head to an actual recording with instrumentation and vocals on a CD was nothing short of amazing to me. After that, I was hooked and wanted nothing more than to write more songs and experience that miracle again and again. My second attempt at songwriting, which took only slightly less time than the first, resulted in the song that continues to be my personal favorite, "God Is Real." "God Is Real" tells the story of something that took place when my daughter Paige was small, so it has a very special place in my heart. As I was working on it, I remember thinking that I wanted this song to have sort of a "Jesus Take the Wheel" feel to it. To some extent, I believe I accomplished that. This time I didn't hesitate to share my song with Noel. Just as before, I sang the song for him, and he brought it to life on the piano - a process I would later hear him refer to as pulling chords out of my head. We recorded "God Is Real" right then and there, and just as before, I was completely amazed by the experience. It was at this point that Noel came up with the idea of recording a CD. I wasn't sure where the songs were going to come from, but we made plans to meet regularly for recording sessions. A few days later, at the first of these sessions, I arrived having no idea what we would record since I had not written anything new. I thought maybe we would just discuss our plans and perhaps start writing something together. Shortly after I got there, however, I discovered that Noel had in fact written a song that day for me to sing. His talents never cease to amaze me! The song he had written was "Willow," which would ultimately become the title cut for the CD. In the weeks that followed, things moved relatively quickly. Noel brought in some songs he had written previously that he felt would complement my voice and range. Those songs were entitled "For the Life of Me," "I Found You," "Today,' and "Would You." Along the way, I continued to write, coming up with "You Never Know," followed by the duet "Another Place and Time." Fortunately, having had a little songwriting experience by this time, I was able to write these songs much more quickly than the previous ones. Noel then set out to write another song to include on the CD. The first time I heard it, it was not yet finished. He had composed the music, and he had written lyrics for the chorus, but he had not yet written lyrics for the verses or bridge. I asked him to allow me to give it a shot, and as a result, "All the Girls" became our first co-written piece. Around this same time, I offered to write lyrics for a second verse for his song "Would You," which made for our second co-written piece, and brought the total number of our songs to ten. As often happens in life, events took place that interfered with our plans. There were obstacles and delays that prevented Noel and me from being able to complete the project together; however, a very talented and dear friend of ours, Joe Swisher, stepped in and helped finish the process of recording and mixing the tracks. Joe has been an invaluable part of the process, and I will forever be grateful to him. He is truly a blessing. As I look back on the experience, I continue to be amazed. In many ways, Willow is a dream-come-true for me. I am filled with more joy and gratitude than words can say. The journey to get to this point has been filled with "lots of twists and turns and things I never thought I'd do." There have been many ups and downs and moments of uncertainty along the way. There were days when I wondered if we would ever get to this point and times when I thought about giving up. Through it all, the one constant has been the gentle, sustaining guidance of my Heavenly Father, in whom all things are possible. Much of the inspiration and encouragement to continue and move forward with the project was found within the lyrics of the very songs contained on the CD. My hope is that you too will find your own inspiration and encouragement in these songs, and that they will bring you as much joy as they have brought me.