Editors' Notes “At nine, I wrote my first song, because my mom had miscarried my baby brother, and that was literally my first experience of writing as a form of therapy,” Lydia Laird tells Apple Music of the cathartic songwriting that fuels her self-titled debut EP. “Through my music, that's really my focus: wanting to really reach people who struggle with their mental health and, especially in the Christian world, maybe don't feel like they have a space to talk about it and be honest.” Laird grew up in Texas in a large musical family that did mission work overseas, and her path to a recording career was a meandering one. In her early twenties, she left a stable law office job to move to Nashville, only to spend years working low-paying jobs as she tried to get noticed in the Christian music industry. In 2018, Laird independently released “I’ll Be Okay”, a billowing ballad that depicted her turning to divine comfort while in deep distress. “It was a song that I wrote when I was in a very low place,” she says. “And one day, I'm waking up to go work at the coffee shop and somebody texts me, ‘Hey, did you see your song on Apple Music, the A-List?’ The song ended up streaming a couple million times.” “I’ll Be Okay” is one of the seven tracks that she sings from a posture simultaneously confessional and devotional on her debut project. Here are the stories behind each of them.

Hallelujah Even Here
“I wrote that song with Mia Fieldes and Jonathan Smith, and it was produced by Jordan Sapp, who actually produced quite a bit on this EP. When we were getting together to write, I found out some medical news that basically had the chance to hurt my voice—and I was just a few weeks from signing a record deal. We talked through it. The contrast element [in the song] comes from the book of Psalms. Obviously David struggled with moments of depression and anxiety. He would literally pour his heart out to God and say, ‘I am walking through the valley of the shadow of death. I am overwhelmed. I have enemies coming against me.’ He would even say, ‘Where are you, God? Why are you letting this happen?’ Often in the exact same psalm that he was writing, he would remind his soul of how faithful God had been before. Then he would shift his focus from the problem at hand to the problem solver. That first verse, it was me saying exactly how I felt: ‘Right now, I don't feel like it is well with my soul. I'm going to be honest with you, God. I'm not going to be ashamed of how I feel, because you can take it.’ And then to go, ‘But I'm going to choose to worship you, not because I feel it, but because of who you are.’ That hard turn, there's something powerful in it.”

To Be Loved
“It's so funny, because it's produced in a very light-hearted way, but what it's saying is really serious. I grew up in an incredible family and good Christian home, involved in church, wonderful parents, but there was something in me and in the world that I was in that constantly felt like I had to earn God's love. It was a subconscious belief that nobody necessarily taught me. You can't be completely honest. You can't be completely open about your crappiness and your sin and your issues, because God's going to be upset with you. That was a struggle through a lot of my young life, even into my twenties, where that made my depression and my anxiety even worse because I just constantly shamed myself and felt like I could not do enough to earn God's love. For me, this song was such an incredible journey of going, ‘You know what, fellow Christians? That's not who God is.’ We may love each other that way, where it's like, ‘Oh, you disappoint me. I'm mad at you,’ but God's not like that. I'm hoping this song sets people free, because I've been set free.”

Meet Me There
“When I wrote that, I was really struggling with depression and it was a prayer. I was literally crying out to God. What you hear in my voice is a cry. I sat at my piano and it was the kind of thing where I couldn't feel peace or feel happy if I wanted to. All I could do was cry out to Jesus: ‘This is where I'm at, so please, Jesus, meet me there.’ I had written a good portion of the song, and then I had a writing session with Michael Farren. I said, ‘Well, this song is more like a prayer, but I'm going to just read it to you. See what you think.’ He just sat down at the piano and we finished it in 45 minutes. It was just completely emotional for me, because every bit of it is how I feel.”

How You See Me Now
“Lyric is the most important thing to me, because that's always been what I am passionate about. I love myself some good pop music, but I'm not one who can ever write throwaway lyrics just to have a fun song. It was me, Matt Armstrong and Jeff Sojka, and we started talking about the struggle it is when we look at ourselves one way and God looks at us another way, and how often we get so caught up in our past mistakes, or even our present ones, that we can't stop allowing them to define us. This song goes, ‘If I could only see how you see me, I would lose these chains and lay my shame down.’ So it's one of those where it feels fun and upbeat, but I still think it's such a powerful song, because the lyric is something I need and I believe other people will need as well.”

I’ll Be Okay
“When I was growing up, I didn't always feel like I had a safe place to talk about mental health—not because my family was against it, but because the very conservative world I lived in looked at it as only spiritual and had a hard time saying that we could be broken in that way: 'You must need to just pray more or read your Bible more and then you'll be fixed.' I wrote it when I had just gone through a really painful heartbreak and I was at one of the lowest points of my life. I was completely away from my family and now this guy I thought I might marry was gone. I remember I was at a friend's party and I could not shake my depression. We're all hanging out, having fun. I snuck away, went into a room she had with a piano, and I wrote that first verse. I think the beauty of this is not that we have to be okay. I think the beauty of talking about mental health is saying, ‘I can accept that on this side of heaven, I may struggle with my mental health all my life, but as long as I can talk about it and find people to share the burden with me, I'll be okay, because not only is Jesus with me, but now I have a community with me.’ This is one of the most important songs of my life and my career.”

Where Your Heart Is
“When we wrote this, I wanted it to be very anthemic and almost like a movie, like a film score or something. The music of the track, it just feels giant. I wrote it with Rusty Varenkamp. We were talking about, ‘Man, being a Christian right now in today's world, it can be very difficult.’ Because we hear a lot of different voices, and we can get confused on which side we're supposed to follow and what we're supposed to do. For me, the cry of this song is ‘All I need is you. So wherever your heart is, bring me there.’”

Here Again
“This is a cover by Elevation Worship. To me, it's one that the church needed and continues to need. It goes back to the foundation of the gospel. I think we get so caught up in ‘religion’. We show up on Sunday and we do this and we do that, and we almost forget just what the simple truth is. My favourite lyric in the song is when it says, ‘Come, Holy Spirit, dry bones awaken.’ Because I think as Christians, we can get stagnant. We can get lukewarm. We can get to this place where we've kind of forgotten it's about Jesus; it's about his love. And there's so much power when we come back to this place.”

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