Singer/songwriter Sandra McCracken has always loved hymns, which is apparent to anyone who spends time listening to her body of work. Combining ancient words with modern sound, McCracken is careful to keep the integrity of hymns intact. McCracken’s ethereal vocals are solid and beautiful.
McCracken’s latest release, In Feast or Fallow, offers all of the above. Produced by husband, singer/songwriter Derek Webb, the album is a masterpiece that has a ancient modern feel, and of course, a good measure of justice rolling down. Sandra McCracken was kind enough to take time out of her busy practice schedule, to “Take Five with Backseat Writer.” I love her incredibly articulate answers.
I learned that you are a bird lover, as in, you can identify various birds by sight and song How did you become so interested in birds?
I do love birds…my parents are into birds. When my Dad was in college, they had a record of bird sounds (he is a retired biology student/teacher). They still have hundreds of birds that they feed year round at their house, on the edge of a wooded are—woodpeckers, towhees, cardinals, robins, blue jays, sparrows, finches, you name it. They have given me their love of birds.
On Twitter, your husband, Derek Webb, talked about producing your new album, In Feast or Fallow. What was it like working with your husband on this album?
I think we make a good team. Especially after two kids, we’ve gotta work with efficiency and focus. I don’t think we could have pulled this kind of collaboration together in our first years of marriage. But as we’re in our tenth year together, we have figured out a few tricks of how to make it work and find balance. And we are constantly making adjustments. He is a very talented and intuitive musician. And he makes me a better artist. I’m grateful to have him, and to be able to play at so many life roles with him.
My favorite song on the album is, “Can’t Help Myself” or “This is the Christ.” I can’t decide. What do you think my favorite song should be?
Haha! I’m afraid can’t decide that for you. “This is the Christ” is a traditional lyric, written by Martin Luther. The other is a new lyric, inspired in part by Psalm 121. I’d like to think they live in the same space, but that each has a different sphere of resonance.
My favorite is “This Is The Christ.” Just today while rehearsing that tune I marveled at Luther’s poetry, “Were earth a thousand times as fair…she yet, were far too poor to be a narrow cradle, Lord for thee.” It makes me want to pull out a telescope to see the night sky, or climb a mountain, or throw out a blanket in the park because the beauty of creation always points us to something still bigger and more beautiful—this one, Jesus.
What song (or two or three) on the album are particularly special to you and why?
“Hidden Place” was written days before my daughter was born, and is important to me because it is a snapshot of that particular moment in my life. “Justice Will Roll Down” is important to me because it is the first song of its kind that I have written, direct and pleading. It is inspired by the work of International Justice Mission, and the being made right of all things. We have little need for “justice” songs unless we sit next to the majority of people in the world who daily experience social, political and physical oppression and see the world as it is, in a posture of longing for redemption.
Right now, a lot of artist want to bring attention to Nashville’s Flood Disaster. What has been your experience? How can people help?
We had it easy by comparison. We had a few feet of water in our basement, and have had some minor clean up. City wide, there is still a lot of rebuilding work to be done, although it has been amazing to see neighbors helping neighbors. There is no place I would rather be during all this.
You can give and find out more about specific needs through The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. Their website is a great, central place to donate city-wide: http://www.cfmt.org/floodrelief/mndrf.