Audrey Assad’s music has always been drawn from a well deep with personal experience and discovery. With each new release, she gives listeners an honest look at the seasonal highs and lows of what has turned out to be a layered and complex spiritual journey. The multiple Dove award nominee has never shied away from writing her wounds and struggles into her songs; instead, she seems to face her greatest trials armed with the knowledge that true healing can only take root in the soil of vulnerability. The result is a bravely authentic, confessional approach to writing songs about God, a style which has never been on brighter display than with Assad’s newest project, the highly anticipated Eden (Fortunate Fall Records/Tone Tree Music).
Eden places Assad’s stand-out songwriting into a sonic space as lush and warm as the garden from which the record gets its name. Texturing eclectic pop shimmer with organic, earthy depth, the record is a front-to-back look at what makes Assad’s writing so compelling; she sees the spiritual in the natural, and sets it to music. Her bright, airy vocals lie effortlessly on top of rich soundscapes. Wild imagery meshes seamlessly with glimmering synth lines. Or, as Audrey herself puts it, “birdsong and quivering strings meet drum machines.”
While Assad’s critically acclaimed 2018 LP Evergreen marked the beginning of a period of spiritual rewiring – of digging up old roots and searching for fresh ground – Eden finds Assad blossoming with a fluorescent display of new healing and hope. If Evergreen was a plea for growth, Eden is an announcement that her prayer is being answered in abundance.
“There’s a deep calm that I can hear in the lyrics,” observes Assad. “I can tell that I’ve grown, deepened, healed, and opened up quite a lot. I try never to write a song I haven’t lived in some way, so each of these songs is born of some experience in my life.” Take as an example the Psalm-like lead single “Shiloh,” a vibrant, colorful call to all who, like Audrey herself, have been tormented by past hurts. “Now as your tears flow, let them be cleansing; washing your heart so you can be mending,” sings Assad. “May loving kindness calm the raging of the wound; may your healing be a clearing in the wood; and may you breathe in deeper than you ever could before.”
Teeming throughout with an undeniable sense of the old being made new (there’s even a graceful, orchestral cover of Jimmy Eat World’s 2001 classic “The Middle”), Eden unashamedly covers the distance between Audrey’s old ideas about God and her freshly gained perspective that can only be the result of a true-to-life spiritual awakening.
It’s the significance and depth of this revelation – that God is to be found everywhere, from the most extravagantly beautiful places in the universe to the deepest sorrows of the most fragile human heart – that stirred Assad’s resolve to put her experience to lyric and music so that listeners can share in the story of Eden. “I hope for people to look around at nature and see the vibrating, pulsating love of God that is and always has been with them,” she explains. “To anyone who has listened to my music and found themselves far on the fringes of their younger projections of themselves: God is in all. God is not inaccessible to you. You have never been completely separate from God, and you never could be.”