Lauren Daigle on Topping the Christian Albums Chart: ‘I Found Myself Coming Alive Making This Record’
On May 12, singer-songwriter Lauren Daigle released her new 10-song self-titled album. Ten more tracks are due later this year, rounding out its bonus edition.
The set launches at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Christian Albums chart (dated May 27) with 25,000 equivalent album units, including 20,000 in album sales, in the United States May 12-18, according to Luminate. It becomes Daigle’s fourth leader on the list. The project bows at No. 21 on the Billboard 200.
The album, which pairs Daigle with new producer Mike Elizondo, is also her first with Atlantic Records. She signed with the pop label in January in a partnership with her longtime label, Centricity Music.
The LP’s lead single, “Thank God I Do,” tops the streaming-, airplay- and sales-based Hot Christian Songs chart for a second week, having become Daigle’s sixth No. 1. It is No. 13 and climbing on the Adult Contemporary chart.
Daigle’s new set marks her first new music since Look Up Child, which opened at the Top Christian Albums summit in September 2018 and proceeded to ring up a record 102 frames at the summit. It was bolstered by the crossover smash “You Say,” which dominated Hot Christian Songs for an also unprecedented 132 weeks starting in July 2018.
On Christian Airplay, “You Say” reigned for 18 weeks. It also crossed over, crowning Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart (where “Thank God I Do” currently ranks at its No. 13 high).
Billboard caught up with Daigle at her management’s offices in Nashville about her new album and some of its recent achievements.
Congratulations on the new album. With 10 songs now and another 10 later this year, is it finished, and why did you decide to release it this way?
Yes, it’s mastered and completed, and we’ll definitely get it out there this year. As far as why, I was in a listening session with some of my team and we heard all 20 songs top to bottom … and it’s a long session! One of them says, “OK, it’s your baby and it’s like asking Van Gogh to cut [The] Starry Night in half, but would you be open to splitting this into two releases?” At first, I was like, “What? … no.” But then thinking about it more and more, I didn’t want listeners forced to skim, say, tracks 14 to 20, because they’re fatigued. So, that’s why.
You’re a big believer in the album format as a cohesive piece of work, aren’t you?
Yeah, it’s a streaming-driven world right now, but I’m an album purist at heart. I love getting in the car, jumping on a road trip and listening to records from start to finish. And something else that makes this fun: I’ve not released an album in five years, so for loyal longtime fans they can get excited about two albums instead of one.
It’s your fourth studio album, yet it’s self-titled. Why did you make that choice?
First of all, working with Mike Elizondo was a dream, and a dream I didn’t know I had until we started recording together. He’s so collaborative, so I was able to speak into a lot of the creative elements like melodies that I may have held back on before.
Do you mean in the actual recording process?
Yes. We did this old-school, all the musicians on the floor at the same time. I was in the room with the whole band and we all tracked together. Plus, we did as much in one take that we could possibly get. Don’t get me wrong – there’s some overdubs and things like that, but it’s cohesive for the most part. That’s what made the process liberating. It made me feel like I was part of a method that for the most part doesn’t exist anymore.
You have a new label involved in Atlantic, and there has to be some pressure to have a hit as big as “You Say.” How do you not let that consume you?
So, whenever [you’re] creating under rules of comparison to something you’ve done previously, then you’re not really creating from a blank canvas. Essentially, when those questions come up, it’s noise. I have to block out the noise. That way I can stay in the present. If I am going to compare to an earlier song, like “You Say,” it inhibits me from going forward.
Listening to your album as a fan, or even as a former program director, there are many options for hit singles. Why did you come with a ballad as your first single, “Thank God I Do.”
As I push forward, I also don’t want to leave people behind. That’s really imperative. I’m talking about the fans that have been here the entire time. With “Thank God I Do,” to a degree there’s familiarity. Leading with that might feel a little like home.
I was talking to a young fan of yours recently – she’s about 20, a student – and when she started explaining how much “You Say” meant to her, she started tearing up. How do you talk to people like that? They’re not in the record industry; they’re fans and it seems like they’re the most important component.
You’re right, they are the most significant. As an artist, when you have all of these different voices coming at you, these folks have to be the loudest voice. With so many people vying for attention — contracts, appearances, interviews, etc., which is just part of the process, that’s all fine – as long as those fans maintain the loudest voice. I think maintaining that helps keep you grounded.
When I hear about one of these stories, maybe it’s about grief. I try to internalize it, write about it, and in effect, give language and voice to their story that maybe they’ve always longed to say but just didn’t know how. That exchange is the greatest gift that I can ever be a part of.
When we talk about not leaving people behind, does that also include Christian radio? Some of those programmers have been with you since the beginning.
Christian radio is really vital, and that’s where we launched “Thank God I Do.” As I had my first success in the mainstream, a lot of Christian programmers celebrated that, even cheering me on. That was really beautiful. Another thing that we’re really conscious about is that just because pop stations may be supporting my music, that does not mean we’re leaving any of our early supporters behind. Plus, with streaming such a big part of the puzzle, it’s better for radio in general if they stay united.
Finally, what do you want fans both old and new to take from this album?
I love carrying messages of hope. That’s what inspires me. It’s the thing that motivates me to get up every morning. You never know the moment when someone needs a message or a song to be lifted up. I truly hope that people gain new elements of encouragement from this album. I found myself coming alive making this record, after all that we have been through during the pandemic. I hope that my listeners feel that, too. If they’ve been overwhelmed, overcome, this album is something they too can find strength in.