For 10 years, singer-songwriter Marie Miller made albums with Curb Records, scored hits with songs such as “You’re Not Alone” and “6’2“, and found herself compared to artists like Taylor Swift, Shania Twain, and Sara Bareilles. But in recent years, Marie also felt restless, yearning to create music with more of a country/bluegrass sound while also openly singing and speaking about her Catholic faith. And so, despite some trepidation, she left the safety of her record label to become an independent artist.
That journey from fear to faith is reflected in Marie’s new indie album “Little Dreams,” and we discussed it recently on “Christopher Closeup” (podcast below).
“The deepest part of me is a lover of Jesus,” explained Marie about her decision to leave Curb in 2018. Though she loves pop music and performing in regular venues, she wanted the option to do more faith-oriented work as well.
At first, Marie felt excited by this new adventure. Then, fear crept in as she realized she no longer had the monetary and marketing power of a major record label behind her. But she trusted in God anyway, noting, “In the way that God does, He has given me the daily bread of what I’ve needed. There’s been investors that have gotten involved and wonderful people, a great team. So, as an independent artist, I feel even stronger, but it took a leap of faith to do that.”
The title track of “Little Dreams,” written with “American Idol” winner Kris Allen, especially reflects Marie’s concerns of late, as well as her devotion to St. Therese, the Little Flower. She recalled, “I walked into Kris’ studio in Nashville, and I was feeling down about my journey, thinking, ‘I’ve been doing this for so long. Does it really matter? Are people actually listening? It’s a grind.’ And…it’s funny because Kris Allen did win ‘American Idol,’ but…he’s still having to work hard to fill in seats, and he’s an incredible singer and artist. We started talking about the significance of the dream itself, whether you play for a million people, or you play for five people, and that’s where the St. Therese connection is: do small things with great love, focus on the soul and the small and then do it with love – and don’t worry about the quantity, but more the quality.”
Marie also feels another connection with the saints, saying, “I’m learning that the artist and the saint have one thing in common. They can enter into the mystery of suffering and make something beautiful.”
That beauty was another theme she kept in mind while making “Little Dreams.” Marie explained, “I was thinking about the idea that when we take broken pieces in our lives, we can make a mosaic out of them and make something beautiful. And I was thinking, ‘Wow, our Lord does that for us.’ He takes our brokenness and makes something beautiful out of it. He takes the most broken thing in the world, the murder of God, and brings out the resurrection.”
Brokenness and suffering are experiences that Marie only became acquainted with in recent years, having grown up with a “pretty idyllic, pain-free life.” When suffering, heartbreak, and death entered the picture, she felt a little unprepared, experiencing a type of dark night of the soul.
However, it then occurred to her that “we have to be a remembering people. Our Lord says, ‘Do this in remembrance of Me.’ The thief on the cross says, ‘Remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’ When we are in dark places, there’s a call to remember that [God] is faithful – and when He was faithful. We [should] go to that place that we were confident and lean on it. The thing is, God doesn’t need us to feel good about Him all the time. He just needs us to trust Him.”
The track “Homeland” finds its influence not just in Marie’s life, but also her literary tastes. She said, “It has three layers. ‘Homeland’ is a song inspired by ‘Lord of the Rings’ and Frodo’s journey stepping away from the Shire, [from] the simple, easy life to save the world basically. Also, it has [my] Virginia home aspect to it, because I love my home so much. There’s definitely a type of musician that says, ‘I wanted to leave my hometown and see the big city.’ [But] leaving home is very hard for me. For the sake of the listeners, I leave, but it’s not the easiest thing. And then, ultimately, I was reading in Hebrews, the word homeland when they talk about faith, and how we know of a better homeland. So it’s about heaven as well.”
Despite her focus on faith, “Little Dreams” is accessible to everyone. Marie doesn’t hit listeners over the head with a Bible, but rather includes Christian undertones in her songs that are born out of hardship and struggles.
She said, “My audience is still pretty half-and-half Catholic and non-Catholic, maybe non-believers. So, I perform in theaters and then I’ll perform at a Catholic conference. I’ve always enjoyed both, because I think that beauty is a pursual, like God’s pursual for us, whether or not we know it. It can uplift the soul and bring us closer to God, even if it’s not talking about the Scriptures or rosaries. The reason why I don’t write worship songs – even though I love worship music – the reason why I decided not to do that was because I wanted [my work] to be more of a universal music that someone who would be afraid of walking into a church or listening to a worship song could come to this and find some truth in it.”
Marie sums up her hopes for those who listen to “Little Dreams” in this way: “My hope is that they are encouraged and inspired to live out whatever unique journey that God has created for them. Each of us was made with a special gift inside of us, something that nobody else has. We were made to do something great for each other, and we have that inside of us. So, don’t be afraid to live out your dream. And also to say, God dreams over us. We can’t think, “What I love is probably not what God wants.” What you love is what He’s put in your heart to do. It’s not either-or – like ‘I have to do God’s will’ or ‘I have to have joy.’ Joy is God’s will, even though it can be hard, even though it can be painful. So, I would say, live out your dream. That sounds so Pinteresty, but live out your dream. Do it.”
(To listen to my full interview with Marie Miller, click on the podcast link):