Singer/songwriter and self-taught musician Staci Frenes has immersed herself in writing to uncover and make sense of the mysteries and chaos of life. From the tender age of 12, music has been the unmistakable key to her salvation and self-discovery. Not a matter of happenstance or something she just fell into, but one deliberate decision after another to cultivate songs and stories into something strong and beautiful and brave.
It’s rarely been easy. Being an independent artist is an all-guts, no-glory proposition. With every new effort comes the challenge of connecting and marketing and improving your craft. But eight records in, this UC-Berkeley graduate and former English teacher has enjoyed successes she hadn’t dared to dream.
Her acoustic folk-pop songs have inspired not only audiences at her concerts all over the country, but millions of viewers on major network shows such as The Biggest Loser, America’s Next Top Model, One Life To Live, All My Children, Nashville and Summerland, as well as in nationally released feature films, a feat many label artists aspire to but never achieve. Her song, Miracle Baby has been licensed heavily by hospitals, charity organizations and small businesses. National-level corporations such as The Gap and American Airlines have also featured Staci’s music. And, perhaps as rewarding as creating music, Staci’s role as a spokesperson for World Vision has brought her great joy.
Everything You Love Comes Alive may well be one the biggest accomplishment of her recording career. And not just because it reveals a songwriter in her prime, but also because these wildflowers sprang up in the midst of one of the most painful seasons of her life.
“We lost our home in the real estate market crash around the same time both of our teenaged children were experiencing life-changing crises. Everything that was good and beautiful in our lives seemed to crumble before our eyes. I was ashamed, depressed and fearful of an uncertain future. I let my heart just kind of shut down; it was easier than dealing with the pain.”
But toward the tail end of some traumatic events, she picked up her guitar to discover an alternative tuning, dissonant and beautiful, unlike the familiar chords in her writing. These chords began stirring her soul.
Staci, who often teaches seminars on Cultivating the Creative Life, began thinking about the way God loves. “God’s love is like liquid, seeping into those places you think are air tight,” she says, “the depth of those places where we’re hurting, those frozen places where we can’t even feel anymore. And I knew I couldn’t keep from letting it in. As I played those chord progressions, I felt myself come alive again.”
And that was the beginning of Everything You Love Comes Alive, an unforgettable collection of songs cultivated in the rough patch. These songs explore the depth and the simplicity of the ways love transforms, the imagination and creativity it brings with it, and the powerful way it shapes us into who we were meant to be.
“The album,” says producer Nate Sabin (Sara Groves, Jason Gray), “is a testament to the discovery of love, joy and beauty in entire experience of life. It is, in my estimation, the most transparent of Staci’s work to date. The music, while hopeful, is not silly or naïve. It carries a backload of meaning, so it was important to me to not cover up the honesty of the songs with a lot of fancy production. We tried all through the creative process to prioritize simplicity. The tracks are intentionally ‘small’ and relatively bare, so that an encounter with the lyrics is unavoidable.”
Love Anyway, Until My Heart Breaks, The Thief and the Lover—all variations on love’s transformative power—showcase Staci’s intuitive heart and, ultimately, her uncanny way of wrapping a lyric around doubt, fear and uncertainty without losing site of the hopeful truth therein.
Intricate, authentic and hopeful, Everything You Love Comes Alive—like the artist herself—is a picture of God’s grace bursting from the deepest, darkest night of the soul. Her faith has been rewarded in song, if not in sight. And her face is turned, guitar in hand, toward the light.
by Melissa Riddle