April 5, 2016 Interview – Lacey Sturm
Life is full of surprises, some positive and some negative. If we look deep down inside, we will find the true meaning of it all, and when the smoke clears, hopefully love prevails. That is certainly the battle that Singer-Songwriter Lacey Sturm faced at a young age, and through inspiration, hope, and meaning, she has found her true calling. Initially a founding member of the award winning Hard Rock band Flyleaf, back in 2012, Sturm surprised fans when she bowed out of the band she helped create. A bittersweet exit for Sturm and her supporters, she decided to take the time to become a mother and concentrate on her family. Now four years later, Sturm has returned to music with her debut solo album, Life Screams. A conceptual piece about life, its true meaning, and true love, Sturm clearly found no lack of inspiration in her absence from music. Recently we caught up with the warm soul that is Lacey Sturm for a glimpse in her early years with Flyleaf, her decision to leave the band, her return to music, her proclaimed purpose in life, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in music professionally for about 15 years, as well as an intricate part of the success of Flyleaf, of course there has been some detours in the road along the way. First tell us, what has your journey been like as a musician?
Lacey Sturm – Wow, it’s been crazy. I started playing music with my brother when he started getting Guitar World Magazine and I got a bass guitar when I was 15. We just started learning the songs in the back of the magazine and started my first band shortly after that. I had this epiphany moment after, when I was about 16, I quit playing music for a little while in a band. I started playing acoustic at coffee shops and that is where I met the guys in Flyleaf. We started playing out doing battle of the bands and stuff and crazy things happened.
I think we were playing on a Tuesday at The Vibe in Austin, TX and we were playing for Jared’s mom, which was our 15 year old guitar player. His mom and his sister were there and the sound guy, that was our audience (laughs). The sound guy happened to be our promoter for the Engine Room in Houston, and we played the best show of our lives. We were pretty much practicing with a cool, live sound system on the stage on a Tuesday. The sound guy liked us so much that he said, “You hear about this band coming through named Evanescence, and they are going to be playing next Saturday, do you guys want to open?” We were like, “Sure (laughs).” We sold out of our CDs that night and got a ton of fans from that. We did South by Southwest and ended up miracles happened. It’s been an adventure.
CrypticRock.com – One can imagine so. You really became a centerpiece of Flyleaf, everyone really adored you as the vocalist. The band grew into one of the biggest and hardest Rock groups. One could imagine it was a very difficult decision for you to leave and pursue other things. In hindsight, do you have fond memories of your time in Flyleaf?
Lacey Sturm – Yes, Flyleaf was a family and we grew up together in a lot of ways. We went through hard things together, like I was married by 19, divorced by 21. Our guitarist graduated high school, our bass player ended up having to quit college, but we saw a lot, people or family members passing away. That was the hardest thing about leaving Flyleaf, it was leaving my family. It’s interesting to me that you get into a band, and tour like we did, that is your life. There is no you go to work and come home, it’s life, it’s just all life.
I remember one year, I think we were home for two weeks. That’s the hardest thing, leaving your family. Of course the shows were great, going around the world, playing with our favorite bands, it was amazing. When we look back, the things we remember the most were the moments where we through a birthday party for our sound engineer or having a family dinner.
CrypticRock.com – Those are some nice memories to have. You took the time to be with your family, you wanted to build a family, you wanted to be a mother, and that are all very respectable things to do. Do you think that time off helped you put things in perspective and perhaps restore your passion for creating music?
Lacey Sturm – I don’t think I ever lost that passion for music or creativity. I think that’s a lifestyle that I’ve known since I was a little kid. My mom was a musician, we always had music on in our house. Whether or not the music you write is for the world, if it is meant to be marketed is another question. I definitely had no plans of marketing any music until very recently. The thing is, I just didn’t know how to. I told the band, with the last tour for Memento Mori, I was about 6 months pregnant and my husband and I didn’t talk a whole lot that we weren’t sure if I was going to stay in the band. We didn’t even know how things were going till we had the baby and were parents for a while. We made a decision to take a year off, and after that year, then we would decide if we would even stay in music or not.
The band of course, that was a hard thing to hear, it’s not certain at all. They had to take a year off and not even know if we were going to come back together in the end. That was really hard because that was their livelihoods. I told them if you want to get a new singer that is fine, you have my blessing. I have to make a decision for my family, I don’t know how to divide myself up again. I felt already divided in a lot of ways, pulled in so many directions. I couldn’t imagine having a baby and trying to make that traveling part of my life with so many other things going on. It was an amazing time. This is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. Like you said, I really did learn about this new identity, how to maintain priorities, and having that identity as a mom.
CrypticRock.com – Life is strange like that, it takes you in different directions. Just when you think you have it all figured out, something else happens and you go in a completely different direction.
Lacey Sturm – Yeah, that is exactly right. It’s funny we feel like we know who we are and something else happens and we don’t know anymore.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, it happens all the time. In your time off, you did partake in some guest sessions with others including We As Human for “Take The Bullets Away.” Did you know inevitably you wanted to get back into music at some point?
Lacey Sturm – I did not think I would ever do it (laughs). I definitely wanted to stay in touch with the fans. I was writing emails back and forth with them. My husband made some space for me to be able to write my book about overcoming suicide and my encounter with God as an Atheist and how it it changed my perspective of myself, as well as other people. It taught me to love people and myself. I always planned on staying connected with fans.
Those little opportunities to still have a voice in the mainstream was such an exciting thing. I was not really pursuing anything before this though. There are a lot of people still struggling of knowing their self-worth. I want to spread that message to let people know they are valuable and I understand it. That is really my goal. With my kids now, I get to show them how to face the darkness, but not have to become the darkness. Also, not have to run from it either, but actually be the light in that place. To move forward and watch how glory can come out of it.
CrypticRock.com – That is a great message to convey. Everyone is struggling with those things in some capacity in their lives, whether we know it or not. You mentioned your book, The Reason: How I Discovered a Life Worth Living. The book is very honest and telling. Was it difficult for you to write?
Lacey Sturm – As far as technicality of being able to write a book, if you talk too much, you can write a book (laughs). It definitely had a lot of editing and I was so thankful it came together the way it did. I know I overshared at some point and I had great people helping me narrow it down, the message, so it was really just about love. It was about loving yourself and loving others. As far as it if being difficult, hunting for emotions, that was really hard. That was really important for me as a person to go through, my life and how my relationship with my mom really was not what I thought it was when I was growing up. I felt very isolated, but when I look back with what my mom had to deal with as a sixteen year old with two children and struggling to put food o the table, or even have a roof over our head, I just marvel.
It is so weird to have both of those perspectives. I could be totally bitter and angry at God, life, my mom, and my dad. When I look back, I realize there is nothing I could do about those things, but let’s look at it for what it is and see what gifts came out of it. Almost every song I have written comes from the fact that I was raised the way I was. It gave me the perspective I have. It helps me give hope to other people going through similar situations. I am just amazed that I was picked to have a life like that, make it through, and be able to have that creative outlet to make song, write books, and talk one on one with people and give them hope. It is powerful.
CrypticRock.com – It is very powerful. It is a wonderful gift to behold, to have that. A lot of people yearn for that creative release. That is why many of us listen to music, because it helps release emotion. Now, you have made a full return to music with your debut solo album, Life Screams. What was the writing and recording process behind this group of songs?
Lacey Sturm – Well, it was a lot of fun. I had a lot of friends in this process who I had been friends with for years. It felt like family. My husband designed all the album artwork. He also laid down all the guitar and recorded the bass tracks. The drummer from his old band, Drew Rodaniche, was a groomsman in our wedding, and he laid down the drum tracks. His brother, Evan Rodaniche, actually produced it, he is the singer for Cage9. It felt like family through and through. Our management, who started Followspot Records with us, helped us put this record out too.
The process was very genuine, full of friendship, family, and love; it was beautiful. There was no pressure on this record, which I think frees you creatively. We did something we loved. If other people love it that is awesome, if they don’t, we love it, so it doesn’t matter (laughs). There is this freedom I have never felt in the music industry. When we put the thing we love into the business machine, sometimes it loses all that freedom because there is all of sudden this pressure and exceptions. Some of it is good and some of it sucks the life out of you.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, that is certainly true. The business end of things sometimes can really put a damper on your passion for something, especially when you are working so hard for it.
Lacey Sturm – Yes, it has been cool to see people come alongside us and work for very little or no money, because they love it. We have really been investing in this, we did it all ourselves. So much of this is a investment into our passion, faith, and love. The people working along with us, as well, will hopefully get a return in that aspect. It is definitely not for the reasons I have seen it be fueled in the past. It is for fun and love.
CrypticRock.com – That shows in the music. The album certainly is very diverse, heavy, and emotional. Were these song ideas you had brewing for a while that you were just yearning to put on tape?
Lacey Sturm – Some of them have been around for a while and some of them are newer. We have so many songs. Even when I look back at our dry erase board in our practice room, there are at least 25 or more songs that no one has ever heard. I love them all. The ones we picked, we felt were important for this project. I think the cohesiveness is beautiful. It was just a kind of narrowing down of everything we had and picking our favorites. Actually, not even our favorites, but the ones that supported the cohesiveness of the project and message, which is a balance back and forth of counterfeit love and true love. That is what the record is to me, it is back and forth. It is about what real life is, counterfeit life, and that struggle. Trying to find that purpose and finding something genuine.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely, and that is conveyed throughout the record. Even the spoken word pieces in between the music. Where is the spoken word skits from?
Lacey Sturm – A friend of mine is the Hip Hop/Spoken Word artist Propaganda. I met him on tour when I was speaking about my struggle with suicide, he was also speaking Spoken Word pieces. He was in the studio and we were talking about this message of beautiful and how some people tolerate something that is totally worthless and destructive because it’s beautiful. Whether it is poetry, music, a book, or even a relationship that can seem beautiful. In the end, it can be totally destructive and worthless.
We were exploring that idea and how to embody that in a conversation. I just had read a book about human trafficking, so Propaganda’s role was a trafficker who has totally enslaved a person emotionally. That is how they do it, they have to control someone emotionally and put so much fear and manipulation into them that they won’t want to run away. Trying to make them feel there is love involved. That is what this person in the book who was in traffic explains. Her name is Annie Lobert, she wrote a book called Fallen: Out of the Sex Industry & Into the Arms of the Savior. She helps people get out of it or initiate if they want to. I just could not quite thinking about her story, how she was in love with this man and he made her feel like this was real love, but he was beating her all the time and forcing her to things she would never do on her own.
I just wanted to have that conversation with someone, because we have varying degrees of that within ourselves. Being enslaved to whatever it is, whether it be a career, or a addiction to drugs, or a relationship that is just unhealthy. So many of our fans, such as teenagers, come to me when I was in Flyleaf saying, “My boyfriend hits me, what should I do?” I would say, “You should break up, that is not good for his soul and not good for you. That is not really loving, he does not know how to love you.” It seems so obvious, but sounds like something that does not even enter someone’s mind to leave. It just burdens my heart for them. So in this Spoken Word piece, we were just talking back and forth where Propaganda played the role of this person trying to manipulate me into thinking this is love. Then, me, finally realizing I need to get out of here, this is not life. That is a theme too on other songs, The Police’s “Roxanne” has that same message to.
CrypticRock.com – That is quite interesting, but you are right, sometimes the most obvious reason does not enter the mind of someone who has been so beaten down. It happens more often than we know and it is very sad. Interesting you decided to put a live recording of The Police’s “Roxanne” on the record. Your rendition is a bit darker, moodier, and very fun to listen to. The song fits within the theme of the record. What was the inspiration for putting the song on the record?
Lacey Sturm – In the song, he is trying to tell her life does not have to be that way, but when that is all you have known, it is so hard to believe that. It is so good that it is said in the chorus and keeps coming around. In my book I just wrote, The Mystery: Finding Love in a World of Broken Lovers, I talk about a person in my life who was like a father figure who proceeded in loving me, even when I made terrible choices. I almost ruined my life, but he just proceeded in loving me by honoring my freedom to choose those things. At the same time, he always hoped I would come to my senses and come out of it. It is horrible to love someone that way. This is what “Roxanne” is about, this woman, where he has to keep singing, “You don’t have to live this way,” because she does not understand.
CrypticRock.com – Exactly, and a fitting track to include within the album. Well, Life Screams is really a fantastic record. Is it at all overwhelming to see how much fans have really missed you and hearing music from you?
Lacey Sturm – Yes, it has been. In my heart of hearts is to connect with the fans as far as my message goes. I think I have been able to stay connected over these 4 years with the message. I also recognize the music is so important and such a huge part of where we even got an audience. It is just such a great vehicle for the message. It makes it more real in a lot of ways, but also opens up doors for people who may have never heard it. That is what we do as far as the message. They may have never paid attention to the message behind the music, but it is still speaking to their soul some how. That is really the goal. I am just so thankful to see the reception to the music. I feel it’s a cool way to get to someone’s heart.
CrypticRock.com – You are absolutely right. It is wonderful to make that connection with people on some level and hopefully help. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers music and Horror/Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of these genres, what are some of your favorite films?
Lacey Sturm – I love Fantasy genre films. I love apocalyptic type movies. I love The Lord of the Rings series and Star Wars series. My son watched all the Star Wars, start to finish, he is only 4. That was my husband’s idea (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – (laughs) Well, that is pretty cool, lucky kid. You said Fantasy films. Did you enjoy the 1984 classic The NeverEnding Story?
Lacey Sturm – You know what is funny? I was going to say that. That is one of my favorite movies of all time. I was just reading the book for the first time, which is so much different than the movie. I absolutely love that movie (laughs). I love how those movies can really encompass the story of life, I think that is powerful.