Series 15: For the Love of Music | Episode 01
Sandi Patty: The Legendary Christian Singer Finds Her Personal Voice
You asked, we listened: this is the kick-off episode of our For the Love of Music series! We’ll hear from artists of all stripes and genres, and find out what inspires them to create songs that touch our hearts like nothing else can. No doubt today’s guest has given you goosebumps a time or two. Whether it was her stunning rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” that launched her to fame in the mid-80s, or when she belted out gospel classics like “We Shall Behold Him,” Sandi Patty is a vocal force of nature—but, ironically, she never felt she had a true voice in her own life. Today Sandi tells us some deeply personal, tragic and triumphant stories she wrote in her book “The Voice: Listening for God’s Voice and Finding Your Own.” Sandi shows us despite the darkness we face and despite others who may try to silence us for their own gain, our voices are valuable and worthy to be shared—and when we do, we’ll likely find a community of others waiting for a relatable voice to help them through their own darkness.
Narrator: Hi everybody, my name is Remy. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast, with your host Jen Hatmaker, my mom. She writes books and speaks to crowds. But she mostly loves talking to amazing people every week on this podcast. Thanks for listening! We hope you enjoy the show.
Jen: Hey guys, Jen Hatmaker here, your host of For the Love Podcast. Welcome, welcome, welcome to the show.
So good news, we’re kicking off a brand new series. It’s called For the Love of Music. I’m pumped. This was your idea. We mine the community. What do you want to hear? This one came up over and over and over. I can’t actually believe we didn’t do it ourselves, because I love music, all types of music. Brandon and I are big time concert people. Music has always mattered so much to me. I’m not a musician, obvi, but I’ve seen and listened to so much great music. I’m friends with musicians. I can sort of chart back over my life songs that were the defining moment of that season or that time in my life or that year that lent words to literally what I was going through, what my life meant at the time, what I was learning at the time, how I was feeling at the time.
So it’s going to be so great to bring some musicians to you in this series and hear them talk about their careers and what it has meant to them to write and perform and sing the music that has mattered to so many of us for so, so very long. So we are going to have some great conversations. Wait until you see the lineup, you’re going to love it, with artists and musicians who have mattered to so many of us.
Our first guest to kick off this series definitely has done her share of that. If you were anywhere remotely near an evangelical church in the ’80s and ’90s, then you know her. Of course you know her. She has the voice of a buttery, heavenly angel, and that’s just a fact. She should have been a Disney princess, but she was too busy selling out auditoriums and arenas as the queen of inspirational Christian music.
I’m talking, of course, about Sandi Patty. One of the best voices, not just in Christian music, but really ever. I don’t know anybody who’s got her range and her style. If you haven’t heard her ever, well, I don’t even know what to say. Get to a YouTube version of, let’s just say, her “Star Spangled Banner.” You’re going to freak out.
In fact, her rendition of that back in the ’80s got her so much attention. She ended up on The Tonight Show talking with Johnny Carson himself, who was in awe of her like everybody else was, of course.
But listen, Sandi wasn’t just a big deal in Christian circles. She has won five GRAMMYs, four Billboard Music Awards, she has three platinum records, five gold records, and you guys, 11 million units sold. So Sandi is the most awarded female vocalist in contemporary Christian music history, with 40 gospel Dove Awards. Okay, she’s done all right is what I’m trying to say. She’s going to make it, I think. She’s now branched out all over the place with her incredible . . . she’s performed with symphonies across the country, New York Pops, Boston Pops, Cincinnati, Dallas, Baltimore, Houston, Oklahoma City Philharmonic. She’s all over the place.
She released her autobiography called The Voice last November. You probably heard me talk about it. It’s not her first book, but it is the first time that she opened up and really, sincerely shared about some of the things that were going on in her life while she was Christianity’s reigning songbird. Heart ache, sadness, tragedy, rejection. It’s all in there. She tells it all. So it is such an honest, beautifully written book. We’re going to talk a little bit about that, too.
Also, if you don’t know this about her, and you’ll see, but she’s funny, like really, really funny. Which, you know, that is my value system. When I first meet Sandi and realized pretty quickly how sarcastic and hilarious she was, I had found my soulmate.
She and her husband currently live in Oklahoma City. They have eight, count them, eight children who I am friends with. I adore every one of them. I mean, this is a really, really special family. She also has three grandbabies, so yay for the next generation.
You’re going to love this conversation. You’re going to love Sandi. Listen, she talks really frankly. Over the course of the next hour, she tells it how it is. I just commend her for her truthfulness and the way that she is so genuine with us, and in front of us, and for us. She is the actual best.
So without any further ado, I can’t wait for you to listen to my conversation with my friend and my mentor, Sandi Patty.
Jen: I can’t be happier in the world than to have my friend Sandi Patty on this morning. Hi, good morning!
Sandi: Hi! I am so excited to get to talk to you.
Sandi: I feel like we see each other pass by on social media and go, “Hi!” but I just love that we get to sit down and just have some time today.
Jen: Oh my gosh. You know how I feel about you. You know how I feel about your family.
So just for everybody listening, and we’ll get into all this, but of course I’ve known of Sandi Patty for my whole life, but we first met on . . . it was the final leg of the Women of Faith Tour, right? Does that feel like it was maybe five years, maybe four? Maybe it was four.
Sandi: Yeah, yeah. Four or five-ish.
Jen: Totally. I was so nervous! Oh my gosh, I was so nervous to meet you. I was so excited. I kept telling myself, “You’re grown. You can be a calm, grown person who acts normal and talks normal.” I had to give myself a pep talk before I met you.
To my greatest delight . . . I was on most of that whole tour, and you were on the whole thing, so we through bunches of cities together that fall. I fell so hard. I fell so hard for you! It’s hopeless. It’s hopeless. It’s irreversible.
Sandi: You and I got to sit together at the end of the row. We’d always look down the row of like Patsy Clairmont, Luci Swindoll, Marilyn Meberg. The row of fame. Thelma Wells, Sheila Walsh. And then me and Jen.
Jen: And we were naughty. We cut up the whole time.
Sandi: We kind of did.
Jen: I understand why they put us on the end. I do. It’s fair.
Sandi: But it was amazing.
Jen: Oh my gosh, it was for me, too.
Sandi: Just the best.
Jen: I said this then, and I meant it. That will always go down as one of the best experiences for a million reasons. Just to get to sit under that level of leadership and just . . . those are the women. They are the ones that are trailblazers, including you. Then that was really my first time that I had ever worked with a team like that. I know that you’ve experienced Women of Faith at that point for what? A decade at least.
Sandi: Yeah, it’s been about ten years. Mm-hmm.
Jen: I mean, now that I know what that is like to be with sisters and to serve together, I’ll never go back. Yeah, that changed something for me. All the loneliness of travel, it just evaporated. It was so fun.
Sandi: Right. I called it my group therapy. It was my group therapy every week. I’d go home and I’d be such a better mom and a nicer wife. They could tell when Women of Faith was taking a couple of weeks off, because they’d be saying to me, “So when is Women of Faith starting up again?”
Jen: Definitely. I’m tickled. It’s real, it’s true. It was nourishing.
But anyway, I just . . . and we’ve been friends ever since. Your family, who I just . . . they’re so special. We’re going to talk about your family in a minute, but I just love you so much. You’ve been such good friend to me and a good mentor. You obviously know this, but since we became friends a few years ago, we’ve had some hard things in our life and in our ministry. You mentored me, you really did, and in the most specific, pointed ways that I needed. I’ll be grateful for the rest of my life.
So listen, listen.
Jen: Listen. Almost all my listeners, of course, adore you. But for the handful of listeners who are new to you, I’ve told them a little bit about you and your impact on millions of peoples’ lives, with your music, with your story. But I wonder if you would just indulge me for a minute and go pretty far back. Would you just talk about how originally you even came into music. Did you always have this range of yours even as a kid? At what point did you think this music thing, this was your deal, this was where it was going?
Sandi: You know, I’ve always loved music. My parents were very musical. My dad was the minister of music and my mom a pianist. So music was just ever present in our home.
I’m really glad I was born into that home, because I was a very shy kid. Words were hard for me. I would panic when the teacher would ask everybody to read a paragraph. So then I would be the one counting ahead paragraphs to try to read the one I was supposed to read when my time came and know no context of the story. Words paralyzed me.
I found music and music found me. I would hear a lyric, and I would think, “Oh, that is how I feel. So I’m going to learn that song so I can tell somebody how I feel sometime.” I remember one of the very first ones that really connected with me was the song, “I’ve Got Confidence,” from The Sound of Music.
Jen: Oh my gosh, of course.
Sandi: She leaves the nunnery to go be a nanny. She’s going, “I can do this. I can do this. I can do this,” and then she gets to the gates and she’s like, “Oh, I think I can do this.” So the whole time, she’s singing, “I’ve got confidence and sunshine,” and I remember thinking, “I wonder what that feels like to have confidence like that. Well, maybe if I sing that song, I’ll know what that feels like.” So a long story short, music became my voice, because words were hard, and so music became a way that I would speak my heart and speak to the world.
Jen: I love it. How old were you when people started saying, “Wait a sec, this kid’s got something here.”
Sandi: I sang a lot at church. I sang a lot at high school. It wasn’t until, I think, I did Maria in West Side Story . . .
Sandi: My senior year of high school. That was really the first time I thought, “I wonder if I could do a career in music? Is it musical theater? Is it musical . . . I don’t know.” I always wanted to teach.
So I kind of went through that in high school and loved it, thought maybe musical theater. Then I just kind of backpedaled on that and thought, “No, I really wanted to teach.”
So I went to college to teach to get my teacher’s certificate, an went to a little college in Indiana called Anderson University. My parents had gone there, my grandfather was the first seminary in the first seminary class there.
Sandi: I know. So that was kind of fun to find all of that out. But Bill and Gloria Gaither were alums of Anderson University, and they began to hear me sing around campus. I taught piano lessons to pay my way through school, and I had two of Bill and Gloria’s kids take piano lessons.
I did a lot of studio work at Bill’s studio and did some background vocals for records. Bill called one day and said, “Hey, we’re looking for a backup singer to travel with us. Would you at all be interested? We do arenas.” I mean, they were selling out unbelievable arenas. So I said, “Wow, let me pray about it. Yes.”
Sandi: It really wasn’t . . .
Jen: What year was this? I’m trying to remember when this was arcing upwards.
Sandi: It was probably 1979, around there, when you were a baby. But for five years, it was kind of like we were talking with the Woman of Faith years, how it was just a weekend long master class for all of us.
Because they let me sing a solo in their concert, that just sort of began to open doors for me to do some solo stuff. I thought, “Well, you know what? We’ll just kind of play this out for the next couple years and then go back to teaching.” Then here we are 40 years later.
Jen: It worked. It stuck. I love that story, because there’s something powerful about people who are ahead of us in their careers and their ministries and their work that have a real gift for spotting young, fresh, maybe untested talent and giving them a spot, giving them a space.
Folks have done that for me. I can’t even imagine where I’d be without that belief in me, that, “We think you can do it. We want to give you a little space to try it out.” I mean, you just never know who’s coming up behind you who’s destined for really amazing things.
Sandi: Right. You know, one of my favorite stories about you is that you came to Women of Faith as a group leader, right? Would you have ever thought when you were sitting there with your little group of women, “One day I’m going to be on that stage”? Would you have ever thought that? Yet you just kept doing the next right thing in your life, and then you’re cutting up with me on the end of the row, you know. I mean . . .
Jen: Honestly, it still blows my mind when I think about it. I can see where I was sitting with my group. I can see in the arena where it’s way up high watching you girls years, years, years, years before I ever met any of you, before I even imagined. In those stark terms, it’s bananas. It is bananas.
But to your very salient point, it’s always just the next thing. The end game is unknown, even. Not just impossible, it’s impossible to even know. So it’s so true, just putting your feet in front of the other, just one day at time. You never know. It’s so bonkers.
I love thinking about you in your early years. You’ve always done this bit, and I’ve seen you do it, and it’s very, very funny when you talked about in your live shows to artists that you wanted to be when you were growing up, like Karen Carpenter, Barbra Streisand, and then you do these imitations of them singing, “Jesus Loves Me.” It’s fabulous. I’m going to find it. I’ll track it down, you guys. I’ll put it on the transcript.
But you were a vocal performance major, which is much more formal. It’s a very formal sense of training. So it’s interesting to think about you in those early steps of your career having, on one hand, these pop icons, for lack of a better term, and then on the other hand, this really formal vocal training. I’m curious how you dovetailed it? How did you know what your thing was going to be? How did you find your way through your own personal style, which is now absolutely yours? There’s nobody else that ever touched it. There’s nobody who could duplicate it. It’s completely Sandi Patty, but you had so many sources of input. How’d you find it?
Sandi: You know, that is an awesome question. Believe it or not, no one ever really asks me that question.
So my parents . . . you’re going to have to backtrack just a tad with that. My parents, even though they were in the church, they really gave us a gift of being able to listen to all kinds of music. So from The Beatles to Broadway to Brahms to Beethoven, the hymns of the church, and Aretha Franklin. Just all of it.
So my mother being a classical pianist also, we were exposed, because we had to take piano lessons, to a lot of the classics. So my education and my exposure to music was very wide ranged. I didn’t find that personally I liked one style, I just loved music itself and the way that it spoke.
So when we were getting ready to do my very, very first record, I remember the record executives saying to me when he was listening to it, he said, “Now you’ve got this very orchestral song on here, and you’ve got this jazz song with all background vocals. We’re going to need you to narrow that down and define who you are.” I said, “But what if who I am is all of this?”
Jen: Yeah, good.
Sandi: Not just . . . because he was making me choose, and I couldn’t choose, because I was all of that. I said, “What if my style is doing all the styles?”
He kind of went, “Huh, okay. Tell me more about that.”
So I think that really began the . . . I think it also comes from knowing . . . because of my mom and dad, and we did some traveling as a family. That knowing all of these things have to work live, that you have to keep the attention of an audience, and you can’t keep the attention of an audience if every song sounds the same.
Jen: Great point.
Sandi: So I think I also had that lens that I was exposed to with my family. So my style sort of became doing all the styles, which was born out of that then kind of this parable, of you will, of telling the story of learning “Jesus Loves Me” as a little girl and then trying to fit Jesus loves me into my identity crisis. Karen Carpenter and Barbra Streisand. Then going to college and saying, “You have to sing real music now.” All of those . . . I realized that in all those moments, Jesus’s love was there for me. It just maybe looked different in each season, but it was always there.
Jen: Well, you were right. Your instincts were right. I’m so happy that you pushed for that freedom to have your own sense of style, because it worked.
So all of a sudden, you are a Christian radio favorite pretty early in your career. Honestly, it was an instant hit. People loved you from the get-go. It’s fun to think about, because at the time, the Christian music industry was really growing, and you were central to it. When I think about that season of you and Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith, I don’t know if there’s ever been a season like it where it was just such monumental growth and popularity and listenership. All of a sudden, this was a thing. Honestly, I can’t think of who preceded you, because you were the introduction really.
You just introduced us to a new way of listening to music and new ideas and new styles.
I can’t imagine how that must have felt for you. I don’t know that you ever dreamed of being a star on Christian radio. That was hardly a thing, much less becoming a chart topper. So I would love to hear you talk about that season when your star was just rising so quickly. Were you glad for the path that you chose? I wonder, I’m curious if you would have ever . . . did you ever imagine, “So I went this Christian route, but what if I would have gone Broadway?” Did you have any . . . now, of course, it seems obvious. We can look backwards and go, “Right, right, correct, correct.” But I’m wondering if at the time, you had more tension around the path that you had chosen?
Sandi: I think because I grew up in the church, there was always that . . . my spirit was always bent toward the lyric that had some life-sustaining power to it. I would listen to Evie, I would listen to Andraé Crouch. I would get their albums, and I would just devour the lyrics. I’d hold the little sleeve while the album was playing. I did not move from my spot until I knew every single lyric.
Jen: I love it, yup.
Sandi: I think there was something that happened in my journey. I had auditioned for Disney at one point. We lived in San Diego, California, so Disneyland was really close. It was where you could go into the park free if you didn’t want to ride any rides. So I would go and I would start at one end of the park and listen to all the musical groups and go all the way to the other end. I just did that loop about four or five times.
Jen: That’s so great.
Sandi: I wanted to be . . . they had a group called the Kids of the Kingdom, so that’s what I wanted to be. So I auditioned for that. My singing went well, but they said I was too heavy and I didn’t dance well enough. So that was hugely disappointing for me. It did make me much more cautious about putting my feet into the Broadway world. So it’s still kind of carries a bit of heavy disappointment in me, but I think as it turned out, I ended up leaving California after high school and coming to Indiana for college and blah blah blah. But it definitely . . . sometimes you have your choice, sometimes a choice is made for you.
Jen: That’s right, that’s right.
Sandi: So that was one of those seasons that a choice was made for me that it seemed to be, “Okay, all right. We’ll just give this thing a go, singing backup with Bill and singing a solo here at there. Okay, well, then that’s all that it is.” So I never really thought I would have a career, like a lifelong career. I thought it would just be a couple of years a season.
Jen: Huh, crazy.
Sandi: Then go back to something else. So that whole career thing still just mind boggles me that . . .
Sandi: Just mind boggles me.
Jen: Right, because frankly, since you’ve done a ton of that, Broadway and symphonies. You’ve had your hand in so many musical genres at this point. So it may have started narrow, but it absolutely funneled outward.
Jen: But I want to go back to . . . I want to talk about your place in Christian music, because pretty quickly, you were known as the voice of Christian music, which is pretty daunting, frankly. That’s kind of a heavy weight to carry.
I’ve heard you . . . you’ve said before that you struggled to find your personal voice, your real voice, the authentic you. I completely understand this as someone who also began a career in the Christian space. I think this is very, very relatable when we feel defined so much by what we do, which then feels attached to this need or compulsion to project a certain image that goes with that thing we do, that way that we’re leading, the way we’re performing. But it’s pretty easy to lose our core identity in the middle of that. That is, I think, ubiquitous to people in Christian work, be it music, or writing, or pastoring.
So you’ve talked a lot about your struggle with feeling unworthy of love or of value, like deep, deep in the middle, like the real you. I’m curious if you can talk about that sort of sense of loss and then also sort of how you found yourself again.
Sandi: Yeah. When my very first record came out with the record company, my name was misspelled. So my last name is actually spelled P-A-T-T-Y. That’s my family name, my dad’s name, my grandparents’ name. That’s our family name, P-A-T-T-Y, on my birth certificate.
So when the first project came out, my name was spelled S-A-N-D-I, which is correct, P-A-T-T-I. Everybody thought it was so cute and blah blah blah. I’m thinking to myself, “Oh my goodness, if I speak up, it’s going to cause everybody to have to go back and redo everything,” and da da da. So I just kind of left it. The first half of my career, that’s why it was P-A-T-T-I.
Jen: Crazy. So I already mentioned to you that I had a quiet voice and music was so important in that. But when I was six years old, Jen, a woman felt that her pleasure was more important than my innocence. Sexual abuse entered my world. I just did not know. Where does a six year old place that, because that isn’t even in the realm of reality, normal, anything. So I believed what I was told, that, “This was your fault. If you tell anybody, you’ll get in trouble. You’re the one that . . . ”
So the only thing I had left really to do was just sort of put all these pieces in a . . . you know the Rubbermaid Tupperware? They’re clear boxes, but they’re kind of cloudy? So I feel like I just have a lot of . . . less of those boxes in my life, but I just went that in one of my boxes and set it up on a shelf. In my heart. I could still see it, I still knew it was there, and it was true, but I didn’t know how it played out in the rest of my world.
So until I was 35, never said a word to anyone. But what happens is, and you know this, you don’t realize you’re seeing the world through that lens, though. You see the world through a lens of, “It’s my fault.” Whatever it is, it doesn’t even matter what it is. It rained today. “Well, I’m not going to comment on the rain, because eventually it’s going to get around to how it’s my fault. I already know it’s my fault, so why are we going to talk about it?” So just everything would filter through that lens of, “Don’t say anything. It’s your fault. You’re the one that’s going to get in trouble.” So you just carry all those rocks in your backpack and see that lens. It wasn’t until I really got into . . . All at the same time, my career is growing.
Somehow, the grace of God, I knew what I was singing about was true. I think that helped me so much. But there was always these silent words after every sentence in my mind. “God loves you, except for me. God is so for you, there is nothing you can do that would ever make God not love you, except for you, Sandi.” That was just that in my mind.
By the grace of God, I . . . and had children and I felt that I wanted to never be seen as someone who chose career over family. So I didn’t know that God could call you really for a specific season of real intentionality full-time. So my answer to I didn’t want people to think that I chose career over family was the bigger my career got, the more kids I had. I just didn’t know that God could call you for really a specific season, and that it’s okay. It just made my mind.
I began going to Bible Study Fellowship, someone invited me. I began to place God’s Word in my heart. I began to see what it looked like to be in a small group of women. The first time I went to Bible Study Fellowship, this one gal in our group, she said, “You know . . . ” Our discussion leader said, “So why’d everybody show up today? Why are you here?”
One lady, she just blurted out, “I am here because otherwise I will hurt my children during the week.” I just had never . . . nobody had ever been that honest that being a mom is hard.
Jen: It’s so true.
Sandi: We will say so often, Jen, when we gather together with our family, we will say, “In this fragile juncture, I think it’s best we just . . . ” and then whatever it is. But you are part of our family.
Jen: That’s so funny. For everybody listening, that’s a line that I said in our tour when I was talking about parenting, which is sometimes wonderful and sometimes not.
Sandi: It’s so hard. Nobody . . . I’d never been around anybody who said, “You know what? I come here to be with my friends and study God’s Word because parenting is hard.” That’s basically what she was saying.
I was just like, “Wow, I’ve never heard anybody be that honest.” Never. So I began to allow myself to listen in deeper, to lean in a little closer. I began to put some of God’s word in my heart, that, “Come to me when you’re weary.”
And then God brought people into my life that I could speak the truth of my childhood and help me go to this counselor and to really begin a true healing.
Jen: I so appreciate how you are candid about the painful parts of your story. That draws me to you. There’s more of a normative culture for women to be honest like that girl at your Bible Study group. That now is something that we have way more permission to do, but you were a bit more of pioneer on it, to be frank. There were a different set of expectations at that time, I think, for women. Some of that vulnerability was not rewarded. So it draws me to you that you managed the courage for that sort of transparency before it was applauded, because now we kind of get applauded for that, we do. There is a brand that really appreciates honesty.
So one thing that you’ve always been honest about . . . and it has brought untold healing, I can’t even imagine how many women and how many families . . . is when you have spoken frankly about just such a hard time in your career that centered around your divorce from your first husband, and then the ensuing fallout that occurred in the Christian community, especially then and your fans. I just wonder if for a minute you can talk about that time for us.
Because a lot of my listeners, and frankly Sandi, me, we kind of have a complicated relationship with the church, or just with the Christian crew, the Christian world. Some of that is why, that sort of, “You’re in, you’re out. We love you, we don’t love you anymore. You’re a part of us, you’re separate from us.”
So I wonder if you could just talk about that season and then how, honestly miraculously, you found your way back to loving the church, even after it felt like you were abandoned by people who once adored you.
Sandi: I would love to talk about that.
One of the most beautiful things that I get to do in this season of my life at 62 is I am on staff now at our church as artist in residence. One of my roles, it’s sort of a self-appointed role, but it’s speaking to the generation coming behind me and talking about just practical things first, like things that nobody ever told me.
Don’t have a meeting in your office with your door closed with another person. First of all, if there is a conflict, there is no third party present to say, “This or this.” But what also happens is there’s an intimacy that builds when you share deeply with another person, particularly of the opposite sex, but not necessarily.
Jen: Yeah, that’s true.
Sandi: So wisdom and working with other people that are not your inner circle, and those people you share a life with on an intimate daily basis. There’s a protocol. I wish I had known things like that.
As I began to find my voice, I began to speak up in my marriage. That was hard. We worked together and so one of the first things that happened was I began to speak up and say, “For the sake of our marriage to even have a chance, we need to not work together anymore.” I understand the dynamic of what that does to a man when that’s their job, but I just knew I could not survive. If we had a chance of surviving, which we did not survive. I began to just speak up. That just became really hard.
So in the midst of separating and going through divorce . . . Listen, I know God’s Word says he hates divorce, and I’m going to tell you what, anybody who’s been through divorce hates divorce.
Jen: Of course.
Sandi: Nobody likes divorce. It sucks. It’s terrible. Does that mean that God isn’t with us? I believe he is with us always.
Jen: Of course.
Sandi: But I believe the fact that he hates it, because anybody who’s been in it hates it.
Jen: That’s a good point.
Sandi: Yeah. I mean, it’s just not . . . sometimes it’s an unfortunate, necessary thing.
Jen: Yup, that’s right.
Sandi: So as our marriage was sending, not legally, but as it was ending, there was someone on the road who was hearing me, and seeing me, and championing me, and was also a fabulous father. Our kids liked each other. I was just drawn to him.
So there was just such cloudiness in not one closing one chapter before another chapter began. That is absolutely the other piece of advice that I say to someone, “Just do yourself a favor and close one chapter before you open another chapter. It just makes it cleaner and clearer for everybody, especially you.”
Jen: That’s good.
Sandi: So I had gone to my church and I had gone to the pastor and said, “Okay, I need to be honest, I need to be . . . Yeah, there’s some things I need to get right and own.”
So Don and I talked to our pastor, we acknowledged that infidelity happened outside of the bounds of marriage. We went before a small group, and then we, at our choosing, went before the church board. Then because a magazine was going to write something, we felt like, “Well, you know what? It’s always better for the truth to come from your own selves.”
Anyway, our pastor was amazing, and he spoke about the five steps of biblical restoration. Many steps Don and I had already gone through. Knowing this article was coming out, Don and Sandi wanted to their church family to know what was happening. So that all felt very right and appropriate for the set of circumstances.
So I don’t have this anger towards the church. I feel that it is my responsibility to educate.
Jen: That’s good.
Sandi: So I want to be a voice within the church, and that’s where I’m at, and I love being able to be that.
Jen: I love that, and you are that. You have, just by virtue of your absolute transparency. So for everybody listening, Sandi talks about this on stages and arenas, too. This is not . . . You’ve been very, very authentic in the way that you’ve told the story of your life.
When you came back, I mean, really and truly, I think that for my money is when your influence, your impact on the church at large, on the community of God, really, really took off. It’s been interesting to watch. I’ve had the great privilege of watching people circle around you now, like at this stage in your life, which is still very public. You’re still very visible.
I watch them talk to you about how many ways their story mirrors yours, or how they went through something that you’ve talked frankly about. What they’ve learned in the same sort of scenario how they were ministered to by watching you.
So I wonder if that has just been a sort of hidden beauty in just this wobbly life that we all live. We wobble and it just goes every which direction, but now, there’s such a depth to your ministry born out of all that.
So I wonder if when you sort of came back around and said to yourself, “Well, I’ve got my voice now, so I’m going to say the truth. I’m going to talk truthfully,” I wonder if you sort of braced yourself for another round of rejection.
I wonder if you were surprised at how much that actually drew people to you, the same people who were also hiding their scars or struggles or trying to live up to some weird sort of expectations, and you helped set them free. Was that surprising to discover this whole new world of ministry?
Sandi: Honestly, yes. It was very surprising, because I can remember the airport, I can remember the airport floor, I can remember the landline payphone that I was on sitting on that airport floor in Cleveland, Ohio, talking to my pastor, saying, “Listen, it’s time for me to be honest. I don’t care if I ever sing again, I don’t care if I ever have a concert or invited to a church, I want to be right and clean before the Lord.”
Jen: Wow, gosh.
Sandi: So the fact that God began to open doors again just began to astound me. Then the fact of being able to share some really hard truth and having people say to me, “No one’s ever talked about this. This happened to me. This was my story.” Or this or this or this. I feel like 25, 30 years ago, I had a lot of people listening to what I had to say, but I didn’t feel like I had a lot to say. I think there are maybe less people listening to what I have to say now, but I feel like for the first time in my life, I have something to say.
Sandi: So whenever I have an opportunity, I want to be able to say it. I had a letter from someone who was going through a divorce and kind of was explaining some of the situation with her family. You know what? There’s always two sides to everything, and the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
Jen: I’ve said the same thing.
Sandi: This was what she said to me. “I read your book and it was my day to testify. I took your book and I held it the entire time that I was testifying to the judge.”
Sandi: I’m like, “Okay. If it was for that one person that I wrote it, just for them to be brave in that moment to speak their truth, then yay.”
Jen: That’s amazing.
Sandi: I know.
Jen: They’ll never forget that. That is amazing.
That is honestly just priceless. That’s the sort of stuff I’m talking about. I think I know what I’m looking for in my leaders and in my mentors, what I think my generation is looking for, is that sense of authenticity, which for me equals trustworthiness. When you lead like that, I am not going to hide myself from you. That tells me I can come talk to you for real when my life is going is sideways, when my marriage is going sideways, when I’ve got a kid who is struggling, or the train’s leaving the tracks. I know that I can trust you. I think that’s what you have since done for a whole generation of women is shown yourself to be such a reliable, faithful, trustworthy leader. That’s exactly how we all see you and think of you.
Jen: I wonder . . . let me ask you this. I’m curious about . . . I’d love your take on the Christian music industry right now. I mean, you have seen it through monumental shifts, from the sort of beginning of your career to where it is now. There is just no way to even talk about how many turns and twists the industry has taken.
I wonder, though . . . I’d love to hear your thoughts on if you think Christian music can continue to find its staying power in our culture right now. If you’re guessing, if you’re thinking, “This is what I think we should be seeing out of the industry and out of the artists in order to make a continued impact,” what’s your opinion?
Sandi: Yeah. There’s always been Christian music, but I think that one of the things that I love seeing is in this culture and generation now, there is such a wide variety. Because if you think about it, music, just music in and of itself, is personal taste.
Sandi: Just music, right? What makes Christian music what it is is not the musical style, but the lyric content.
So it’s the only type of music, if you say Christian music, that does not define style. If you say jazz, if you say blues, if you say southern gospel, if you say classical, you’re talking musical style. Christian music is really the only one that is not talking musical style, under this umbrella of Christian music is you have all of these styles, because if music is personal taste then you are going to have lots of various people who are drawn to different styles of music. When you have that kind of music with a lyric content that is life challenging, life changing, life altering, you really do have an amazing ability to impact the culture.
So for that, that’s one thing that I love about Christian music is that it is widely varied in musical style, because you have people. People like different things.
Jen: That’s good.
Sandi: There are people who will come to my concert that won’t go see Lauren Daigle, but there are people who will go see Lauren Daigle that won’t come to mine.
Jen: That’s a great point.
Sandi: So we need each other.
The second thing that I really love is technically, and just the craft in itself, of music is incredible. We should offer no less than skilled and trained and professional music.
Jen: I love that.
Sandi: So I love that that’s happening.
Now my third point may seem a little different than some people, but I kind of believe it’s the lyric that will always be the stumbling block for other people, because not everybody’s ready to do the deep and dive work.
Sandi: I think Christian music should always reflect a journey towards Christ. So I think because of that, it may not always just open itself to worldwide, because not everybody’s ready to hear that . . .
Jen: Of course.
Sandi: . . . in their life. So that’s my take on Christian music.
Jen: I love that.
Sandi: I think there are some incredible doors that are being opened for some Christian artists, and I’m so proud of how they are walking through them with tremendous grace. Those are the ones I just continue to text every once in a while . . .
Jen: Do you?
Sandi: . . . and just go, “You’re doing this. You’re doing this. Do it proud and loud. Do it.”
Jen: Oh, that’s so great, that you cheering them on is so invaluable. I know that you do that, you’ve done that for me. So I know that that’s so important and special to those artists.
One last question before we sort of get to the wrap up. Let’s just say I’ve got somebody listening today and they’re a hopeful musician, they’re a hopeful artist, and this is their gift, this is the song in their heart and in their mouth, and this is their dream. Do you have any advice that you might give them as they begin to pursue their own voice toward music, toward a career even, toward making an impact with what God has given them?
Sandi: Absolutely. I think the first thing that I would say to anyone who feels that music is somewhere that God is directing them: learn music.
Jen: Good, yup.
Sandi: Take piano lessons. Jen, how many writer conferences did you attend?
Jen: It’s so true. This is literally what I tell aspiring writers. I’m like, “Work on your craft. Learn. Go learn.”
Sandi: Yes. Work on your craft. Take piano lessons. Understand music theory. Get a good education of music. The people who understand music and how it relates to within itself and how it relates to the world are few and far between. So if you can be that person, to understand your gift and then hone your craft . . . that’s the boring part. Nobody wants to do that.
Jen: Great point.
Sandi: That’s the boring part.
Jen: Yup. There’s no glory in it.
Sandi: But if you really, really want to do that, you must do those things. Be involved in music. Be involved in school. Be involved in church choir. Be involved, volunteer. Just saturate your world with music is another . . . Show up and be faithful where God has you today. So often, we want to go, “Well, I want to do this.” “Well, have you done this?” “No, no. I don’t want to do that. I want to do this.” So show up where God has you today and honor Him today. If there is a music camp, if there is . . . I know gospel music often offers a lot of really a great week of music education and answers to questions and stuff like that. Go to those kinds of things. There are all those kinds of things available.
You know what I tell people? Try the song out at church.
Jen: Yeah. That’s where I tried out all of my teaching.
Sandi: It’s kind of sad how many times they’ll say, “Oh, you know what? I did try it out. They didn’t like it. I just don’t think they get it.” It’s like, “Maybe that’s a clue.”
I think the last thing is be prepared for God to take you a different direction.
Jen: I love that advice. It’s true. You don’t necessarily know when you put your yes on the table which path it’s going to take. You really don’t. I think not trying to micromanage the outcomes, to control the outcomes, but rather just say, “I’ll just be real faithful with what I have, where I’m at today.” That’s it. That is the best advice for anybody, frankly, be it music, whatever.
Sandi: Yeah, anything, right. There’s a phrase, I’m sure you’ve heard it, but opportunity intersects with preparation.
Jen: Yeah, I love that.
Sandi: You just spend your days preparing.
Jen: That’s good.
Sandi: You don’t know when that opportunity is going to come.
Jen: Okay, so here are three just pretty quick questions we’re asking everybody in the music series, so this is just whoever comes to mind, what’s right there at the ready. So here’s the first one. When you need the pick me up, what artist do you listen to? Who would you put on the stereo?
Sandi: Natalie Grant or anything instrumental.
Jen: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Me too.
Sandi: There’s so many words involved in what we do, sometimes I just want no words.
Jen: Same. Listen, not only are there so many words involved in what we do, there’s so many words involved in our families. So just can we have some silence or maybe just some violin?
Okay, how about this one? I don’t know if you . . . I’m curious about this one. I don’t know what you’re going to say. Do you have a musical bucket item still on your list? Anything. A venue, somebody that you partnered with or sang with or for, anything at all.
Sandi: Oh my gosh, yes I do.
Jen: You do? What is it?
Sandi: There’s two of them. Doing Hello, Dolly! on Broadway.
Jen: Are you serious? I just got goosebumps.
Sandi: I am so . . . it doesn’t even have to be Broadway, like anywhere. I would love to do Hello Dolly!
Jen: Oh my gosh. It just feels like you’re made for it.
Sandi: I’m the age now, I love meddling in people’s lives, all of that. And . . . okay, are you ready for this one?
Jen: Yeah, I’m ready.
Sandi: Dancing with the Stars!
Jen: Get out of here, Sandi.
Sandi: No, it’s the little church girl in me that never got to dance that’s screaming really loud right now, “Dancing with the Stars!”
Jen: Oh my gosh. I just feel like we just are now in possession of some really important knowledge. This is exciting. I could see you doing that, you’re very theatrical. A lot of the work you do involves choreography and dancing. This is in your wheelhouse.
Sandi: Oh, those would be so fun if I got to do that bucket list. not my life would not be complete if I never got to do those, it’s not on that bucket list. It’s just in the, “Wouldn’t that be a kick in the head?”
Jen: All right, universe, you’ve heard us. Grant us our request. This is what we want.
Here’s the last one. We ask every guest in every series this question. It’s actually from an author that I love, Barbara Brown Taylor. Anyway, this can be a very serious answer, or it can be absolutely nonsense, silly. So it’s whatever you want, but here’s the question. What is saving your life right now?
Sandi: Binging Netflix.
Jen: Oh, tell us what you’re watching.
Sandi: Well, so The Crown, which you can’t get enough of.
Jen: Yeah, no, cannot get enough of. I’ve seen every episode.
Sandi: Can’t get enough. Then Victoria.
Jen: My mom’s watching that. Do you love it?
Sandi: Oh, I love it so . . . we just have so much happening in our family right now that it’s just so much that my go-to to recover from that, I have to go to the completely opposite extreme. So watching someone else’s turmoil in life is like the best thing. So yeah.
So just anything that has more than two episodes, I am on Netflix right now.
Jen: Okay, I love this. Thank you for saying that. That is also my go-to. That’s my go-to brain needs to check into somebody else’s fake story for a minute. So, yes, I love it.
Sandi: Right, absolutely. You have to figure it out.
Jen: Okay, well you just tell me just real quick what you’re working on right now and where they can find you.
Sandi: Where they can find me is online, probably mostly, and in the pages of a book. I don’t mean that to sound commercially. But honestly when an introvert, which I am, puts something down in paper, it’s been really thought through, and it’s gone through all the tests in my head and the sieve. Those words really, really, really matter to my heart. So that is a great place to find me.
Jen: It is really a beautiful book, Sandi. Just absolutely beautiful. I read it cover to cover.
I want everybody to know, we will have . . . It’s called The Voice. We’ll link it everywhere. It will serve you well. You’ll be glad that you sat down and read this book. I applaud you, because I know how much work that is.
Sandi: I know you do.
Jen: It’s so much work.
Sandi: At the end of every chapter, intentionally, we put discussion questions. Whether that’s for your journal, or whether that’s if you’re reading it with a group of people, or whatever, just things . . . I just don’t want something to just stay there as my story. I want something to spark something in someone else to begin to maybe look and shift their focus differently or go, “You know, I never about it that way,” and begin to sort of uncover pieces of nuggets, like treasures, of their story.
Jen: Well, that’s exactly what people will experience.
So once again, we just thank you for giving your story to us to borrow, and to learn from, and to add our own to it, and just sort of find a good and a clean and a healthy path forward. So you are just . . . you know, I just sincerely love you. I want to thank you for how kind and good you’ve been to me for the last few years. I mean, every second. The hardest days in the last few years, the darkest and the most lonely, I would have a text from you, I would have a call from you, I would have a voicemail from you. I will never forget that. I will never, ever, ever forget that you stuck close to me. So thank you for being exactly who you say you are.
Sandi: And I want to tell you this, that we love watching . . . when I say, “we,” our family . . . because we see a lot of us in your family, just the bigness and the diversity and all of that. My kids are like some of your kids’ fiercest warriors.
Jen: That’s so dear.
Sandi: They just, “We’ve got to look out for those Hatmaker kids,” you know?
Jen: That’s so dear.
Sandi: They have this ownership of, “We don’t want them to have to go through this or that. We’re going to look out for them.” It’s the sweetest. We love the Hatmakers a lot.
Jen: Thank you, thank you. Same. Thanks for being on the show today.
Sandi: Thank you for having me.
Jen: I’m your biggest fan. I’m so happy we’re friends. Love you so much.
Sandi: Love you, too, girl.
Everything we will have linked over at jenhatmaker.com under the Podcast tab, so we’ll have all of Sandi’s stuff, and it’s a bunch, but especially her book, The Voice. That is her most recent offering, the most transparent, just a really, really, really beautiful gift to the world. We’ll have her book over, plus her music. We’ll dig up some old videos of some of the stuff we talked about, because if you’ve never just seen Sandi perform, I don’t know how to talk about it except for you just have to see it. So you have to see how powerful and special she is and why so many of us have loved her for decades. So anyway, thank you to Sandi for being on the show today. Thank you guys for listening.
This music series is going to . . . you’re going to love it. We’re kind of all over the place, so we’re not just going into a niche music space. We’ve got artists from a lot of different genres. I’m sitting here grinning thinking about the episodes we have coming up in the series. You’re going to love it.
So thanks for listening, you guys. Thanks for subscribing to the podcast. If you haven’t, go do it. This will just show up in your phone week after week, you don’t even have to try for it. If you love it, share it. Share it with your friends, stick it on your pages, link to it. I can tell you that me and Amanda and my producer Laura are so grateful for your amazing loyalty and your listenership week after week. You guys are the best.
Okay, more to come in the music series. Can’t wait for it. See you next week, you guys.
Narrator: That’s it for today’s show. Hope you enjoyed this chat. Be sure to subscribe to my mom’s podcast and give it a “thumbs up” rating if you like it. From the whole Hatmaker family, hope you have a great week and see you next time!