Abbye West Pates, known to many in the Christ Church community as our former Coordinator of Local Missions, is releasing her first album Leaving the Shadows this month. She extends an open invitation to her Album Release Show on Friday, October 26 at Victory University at 7 pm. Admission is pay-what-you-can, and the album will be available for sale.
Abbye was kind enough to allow me to buy my copy of Leaving the Shadows several weeks ago, and it’s been playing on my iTunes ever since.
At times folksy with hints of bluegrass and at other times somewhat bluesy, Abbye’s music ranges from the upbeat in “Freedom” to the melancholy but still hopeful in “Memphis Song.” The album is a mix of different themes and its lyrics are not always explicitly “Christian.” Rather, Abbye sings like someone whose Christian beliefs are deeply contextualized in her own life, whatever she happens to be singing about. At many points, however, there are clear biblical allusions and themes such as those in “Lilies and Sparrows,” which stands upon the promises of the Sermon on the Mount, and “How to Believe,” in which the conversation between God and Job lingers in the background.
Most importantly, Abbye is always performing from the heart. She doesn’t sing to us about anything that she doesn’t really know about in her heart and soul, and some songs clearly reflect events in her own life such as “Carolina” and “Mr. Cooley,” the latter of which she has mentioned is her favorite song on the album to play.
I recently interviewed Abbye about the new album and her musical career:
NB: Abbye, what led to the production of Leaving the Shadows?
AWP: I’ve been writing songs for over 10 years, but for the past few years, the songs I’ve written have had a new depth and quality. Friends and other musicians have been urging me to make an album for awhile. Really, it just took a collision of relationship (those who produced and recorded my CD), job transition, and being ready on my part. Simply: it was time to make album.
NB: What do you hope to accomplish with your music? Is there something in Leaving the Shadows that you would like your listeners to learn or experience?
AWP: Honestly, this journey is so fresh that I don’t know where it’s taking us (my husband, Jeff, and me), but there are some specific things we’d like to do. We want to travel more, want to share songs in people’s homes and backyards and local coffee shops. We want to be close enough to people to give them our music and ourselves. And, we hope this can become sustainable financially so we can continue to do this work. As for the album, we just hope people will listen and engage in good stories and good melodies.
NB: What were some of the main artistic decisions that you made in the album?
AWP: I’m a “lyrics-person”; I tell a lot of people this. But sometimes, if left alone with my melodies, they aren’t very interesting. The best decision we made was to invite Matthew Clark and Wes Leyshon along to help produce and record, including all the technical pieces of the process. These songs became what they are because they spoke into the music, from melody changes to instrumentation and beyond.
NB: One of the songs on the album that the Christ Church community can probably resonate with quite easily is “Memphis Song.” It’s a unique piece about the most sung-about city in the world, because for once it’s not completely celebratory. You sing about pushing through the darkness. What feelings and experiences in Memphis sparked this song in you?
ABW: Last summer, while on my yearly get-away to Vermont to be with friends, I was running away from Memphis. I was tired of trying to love friends with addiction, apathy and a love of the darkness. But while I was there, I realized – and not for the first time – that running away isn’t the answer. And besides, the truth is that just when you’re feeling closed in by the darkness, you recognize the Light for the beautiful, redemptive thing that it is. And you keep pushing through. It ended up being my favorite song on the album, production-wise.
NB: I’ve noticed that the album includes only one song not written by you. Why did you include the hymn “O Master, Let Me Walk With Thee?”
ABW: Well, quite simply, I was sitting in a worship service singing this one Sunday and thought, “These words are awesome… but this is hard to sing.” I just didn’t like the melody. So, I went home that afternoon, and re-wrote it. But, also, in light of what I said about the Memphis Song, I resonated to deeply with these lines: “Teach me the slow of heart to move… teach me the wayward feet to stay.” Keep me moving. But teach me how to put roots in; teach me to stay.
NB: What is next for you in your music career? Do you have already have ideas about your next album?
ABW: I don’t have specific ideas about my next album, but I’m already writing new songs. The making of Leaving the Shadows helped me find my “home” in terms of what type of music fits me, what sound I like writing most. It’s more of a folk/Americana sound (Patty Griffin is one of my main inspirations).
NB: Thank you Abbye!
ABW: Thanks, Nathan, for taking time to get to know what’s going on with our music. We’re really hoping for good support at the album release show, so we hope to see you there!
I’m not saying this just because Abbye is a friend: This is seriously great music. It’s not just a pleasure to listen to; you can celebrate with it, pray with it, weep with it, and worship with it.
Abbye told me she’ll have over ten shows throughout October and November, so if you can’t catch her at her Album Release Party, try to make it to one of the others. Visit her webpage here and like her Facebook page.
See you on the 26th!
Photo Credit, Laura & Casey Zumwalt, lovelyunion.net.