We at The Christian Manifesto were recently introduced to the music of Hilary Watson, heir-apparent to the Jennifer Knapp throne. Her album, Passing By blew us away. So, we contacted her for an interview and she has agreed to sit down and answer some questions for our readers.
Hilary graduated in 2004 from Calvary Chapel Bible College in Murrieta with an Associates degree in Theology and an even deeper love for her Savior. It was by this time that she was heavily involved in leading worship and convinced that the Lord had called her into music as a ministry. Not knowing the first thing about making a CD, what began in the home studio of a friend and subsequently recorded in a world class studio with amazing musician’s, is now Hilary’s wonderfully crafted and produced debut CD Passing By. In her words, “…it truly was completely the Lord.”
Having been given the privilege of making this CD, Hilary’s prayer is that God would use it as a tool for His work and that many would be called to the greatness of His love and the joy of living in His presence. Only then, will all the work that went into making this CD be worth it.
TCM: First, we’d like to thank you for taking the time to sit down and answer some of our questions. We absolutely loved your album.
HW: Thank you so much… I am so excited to hear how you liked the CD.
TCM: You’re kind of new to the music scene, having recently released your debut album, Passing By. Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get your start in music in general? How did you get involved in Christian music?
HW: I actually never intended on pursuing music. I really wanted to do mission work and was planning on working in Peru when God first opened the doors for me to start making a CD. I didn’t know the first step to making a CD, in fact I really didn’t even know one other musician having just moved back to the states from being in Germany for college. So when God put it upon my heart I said, “Then You will have to do all the work because I don’t know the first step!” And that is exactly what He did and continues to do. Around every bend I have found that He has already gone before me to open the door and pave the way. So I am really not exaggerating when I say that I have no idea how I got involved in Christian music. Ha ha! I just keep playing and God just keeps opening more doors.
TCM: Your album is called Passing By? What’s in the name?
HW: As I said, my heart is for missions and sharing the gospel with those who have never heard it. So when I wrote the song “Passing By,” which later became the title track, it was like God was showing me the purpose for my music and for what I do. The song is about seeing other people who are suffering or hurting and just passing by them not sharing the great hope that I possess in Christ, not leading them to the only One who can set them free. It is really a prayer for God to change me and fill me with His Spirit to reach the lost. He did lead me on a mission field, just not one I ever would have imagined.
TCM: Is there an overarching theme to the songs, or should we consider them stand-alone pieces?
HW: These songs are all just bits and pieces of different seasons in my walk with the Lord. To me there is a thread because I know where each came from and I know how they fit together but I don’t suppose it would be very apparent to the listener.
TCM: Is there any song you have written that you are particularly fond of hearing or performing?
HW: There is a song that might not make much sense to very many people and I rarely perform it. The song is “Where Burden’s Lay” and it is so dear to my heart, I can hardly sing it without choking up. But it came after a long, long hard season that I walked through with the Lord where at the end of it I saw how sweet my fellowship with Jesus was during my sufferings. I longed for sorrow and suffering if it meant seeing Jesus in that way always. It was one of those rare moments when “the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace” to quote from an old hymn.
TCM: Your songs seem so heartfelt and deep. There were many times I was listening when I thought, “Yes! That’s how I felt but could never find the words for!” When you’re writing a song, what inspires you?
HW: I rarely sit down and purposefully write a song with a message in mind. To be completely honest, those are some of the worst songs I’ve written. God has a way of giving me songs that will either let me pour out exactly what is in my heart for Him or songs that are His heart for me. So many times I will just wake up in the morning and have a song playing in my head and all I have to do is write it down, five minutes later the song is done.
TCM: If you had to define your music—pick a genre, so to speak—how would you categorize your sound?
HW: I would say folk-rock or acoustic. Sometimes I am told that I have a bit of country in me as well which I can’t say that I object to.
TCM: In our review we compared your voice to Jennifer Knapp. Do you get that a lot? How does it make you feel?
HW: Are people ever going to forget Jennifer Knapp!!?? Ha ha, just kidding. Really though, I do get that a lot, a lot. But, I guess if I was being completely honest I would admit that yeah, it is not my favorite thing to hear. Still, if I am going to be compared to anyone what an honor to be compared to her. Jennifer Knapp has been off the Christian music scene for years now and people still talk about her. Her music really touched people so it is cool that my music would remind someone of hers.
TCM: When you’re up on stage you’re singing in front of strangers and connecting in ways otherwise unavailable to you except through the medium of music, how much does your faith in Jesus affect what you do?
HW: Finding the line between my music being my ministry and it being my career (as in my financial support) is sometimes extremely hard to do. I am constantly praying that God would give me the right heart in what I do and that it would always be for His glory. He is always faithful to give me wisdom and direction where I need it. For instance, early on in my ministry I was praying about different ways of getting out there and booking shows and all that. Anyway, one day I was reading about Jesus when He began His ministry and how He would heal people and then tell them not to tell anyone who had healed them. From a marketing standpoint, if Jesus wanted to be known, that is like the complete opposite of what He should do. God spoke to my heart through those verses that for me personally I wasn’t supposed to be out trying to make a name for myself or whatever you want to call it. He has opened each door and been faithful to put me exactly where He wants me.
TCM: Let’s reverse that question. How has writing, singing, and touring grown your faith?
HW: There are soooo many aspects of my faith that have been stretched through touring and singing. I suppose you could sum it up by saying that I am learning to cling to Christ for strength in everything I do. I feel so much like the apostle Paul when he says in 2 Corinthians 3:5, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.” I mean, really I have no idea what I am doing most days! But I am learning (slowly) to wait upon God for Him to provide everything I need.
TCM: A lot of Christian music tends to “preach to the choir.” Your music seems a bit more accessible than that. What have been some opportunities where God has been able to use your music to speak into the lives of the unsaved?
HW: Ha ha, one of my favorite memories is from a few years back. I was in Spain on a mission trip and through a really random and bizarre series of events I ended up being asked spur of the moment to play a song in an Irish pub. So I asked all of my friends on the mission trip to pray and I tried to think of the most gospel filled song I could to play. The whole time I was up on stage I was thinking that as soon as I said Jesus I was going to get booed off the stage but instead they cheered encore and gave me a chance to sing another song! You never know where the Lord is going to put you and who is going to be listening.
TCM: What have been one of your best experiences as a Christian artist (i.e. a conversation, a favorite venue, a favorite concert, etc.)?
HW: There is absolutely nothing that compares to hearing a person’s testimony of how God used my music to speak to their hearts. I can’t even tell you in words how humbled I am every time someone has shared with me their story. Moments like those are when I want to fall on my face and thank the Lord for being so gracious to use a sinner like me.
TCM: What’s it like being a Christian in the limelight? Do you feel any undue pressure to measure up to a certain standard?
HW: I guess being a Christian in the ‘limelight’ is just the same as being a Christian on the pew. We are all one body of Christ, each with different gifts and callings. There are so many temptations for someone on stage to think more highly of him or herself or to feel like they have no need for the help of the other parts of the body. I have found so much strength and accountability in my friends and family who will pray with and for me, encourage me and even humble me when I need it =)
TCM: One final question. Look down the road 5 or 10 years. Where would you like to see yourself? Do you still want to be an independent artist, or would you like to be picked up by a major label?
HW: My visions and goals all center around missions and reaching those that have never heard the gospel. I am just waiting upon the Lord to see what kind of doors He opens and how or if He is going to use this music platform to accomplish those goals. I really don’t have a passion to have a great career in music. I love playing and performing but my heart is really on the mission field, only God knows how He is going to tie these things together. But I can’t wait to find out!
TCM: Thanks again for taking the time to answer our questions. Any final thoughts?
HW: Just a big thank you to you readers, if any of you would like to get a hold of me please write any time to email@example.com.
VIEWS EXPRESSED IN THIS INTERVIEW DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS AND BELIEFS OF THECHRISTIANMANIFESTO.COM. QUESTIONS ASKED AND ANSWERS PROVIDED SHOULD NOT ASSUME A POSITIONAL STATEMENT OR THEOLOGICAL COMMITMENT ON THE PART OF THIS WEBSITE, ITS WRITERS, OR ITS ADMINISTRATORS.