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BarlowGirl Bibliography: (click on each album cover to view tracks and BarlowGirl lyrics)
In 1984, a modern day philosopher woke up the world with a simple statement-We are living in a material world, and I am a material girl. Over 20 years later, the statement still rings true, even though the well-known singer of that lyric is now a mother of two.
In 1984, the three sisters of BarlowGirl were either in diapers or in utero. But not all that much has changed since the '80s when it comes to the world's fascination with celebrity. In today's world, to stand out may mean having to cover it all up. Enter a trio of rebels of a different kind-rocker chicks with a message of their own to proclaim.
"We are giving kids freedom to not conform and speak out loudly about what they believe," says the middle Barlow, Alyssa. "Our generation is ready to live boldly, free of what everyone thinks of us. We must live, and live with passion!"
Becca, Alyssa and Lauren Barlow hit the music scene in 2003 with their self-titled debut. They stirred up the male-dominated rock world with hit songs like "Mirror" and "Never Alone," the number one song that earned the trio numerous 2004 GMA (Gospel Music Association) nominations, including Best New Artist and Best Rock Song and Album. Touring non-stop since the release of their first album, the sisters have hit every corner of the US with a couple of trips to meet fans in Europe as well.
Writing songs along the way, BarlowGirl recently returned to the studio to record their journeys on the eleven tracks from their sophomore release, Another Journal Entry, produced by Otto Price (BarlowGirl, GRITS, dcTalk). Following up such a successful debut might intimidate some artists, but Becca, Alyssa and Lauren Barlow have written songs that are easily its equal.
And while rock may traditionally be a man's world, the three remain fun young women while holding their own as serious musicians. Alyssa, the middle of the three, is the group's bassist and keyboard player, who takes her ever-worn jeans to the girlie side topped by a skirt and sparkly t-shirt. Decked out in Chuck Taylors and Dickies, the eclectic baby of the family, Lauren, picked up drumsticks at age 13. Becca, on guitar, pairs the traditional studded rocker belt with big pearls and her latest find from Marshall Field's.
"Coming into it, we knew that if we wanted to be taken seriously, we had to work really hard. Before we got signed, we practiced six to eight hours a day. We don't want people to write us off as just another 'girl band.' We wanted to be able to stand on stage with guys and feel confident in our abilities," says Alyssa.
With only two songs on the project that the girls didn't have a hand in writing, BarlowGirl's latest project contains a joyously rocking cover of the David Crowder worship song "No One Like You" and a beautifully harmonized arrangement of Chris Tomlin's "Enough." Each of the other cuts came out of the Barlow sisters' journal writings and personal prayer times, inspiring the album's title, Another Journal Entry.
"As soon as we could write, Mom and dad bought us each a journal and showed us the importance of writing down our walk with the Lord," Alyssa explains. "During songwriting, we open up our journals. It's really amazing to see where God has brought me-looking back at the process of how I've grown, and fallen, and it helps to refresh my memory on what God taught me through those experiences."
"Grey" and "Psalm 73 (My God's Enough)" are rockers with grinding guitar. Tender piano with inventive percussion characterize "Thoughts of You." The trio takes on a big, anthemic sound for the powerful ""Take Me Away" and a fragile tone on "Porcelain Heart."
Another Journal Entry builds on the issues that are central to the BarlowGirl message. In our society, money and fame don't talk, they scream, says BarlowGirl, and never more loudly than at young people.
"Look around you," says Becca. "Everything is about being a rock star and getting rich. It's on every t-shirt. Celebrities are huge-even reality shows have made celebrities out of ordinary people. Our culture thrives on it."
The pop/punk attitude of "Five Minutes of Fame" skewers the idea of this age of celebrity. "We wrote it as a little parody about one of us selling out," says Lauren. "When an artist is new on the scene, they often have strong morals and values. And then they might hear, "Well, you'll be more popular if you do this or that. You'll get more record sales if you girls wear a little less clothing and don't say 'God' as much." If you sell out and get what you want, it doesn't matter. Because you have compromised everything you are. And in the end, there's nothing left."
Coming straight from the pages of Alyssa's journals is the poignantly personal "I Need You to Love Me." "I think a lot of us believe that we're unlovable and that we've got to clean ourselves up. We mess up over and over again," she says. "So I said, OK, God Love me-even though everything in me wants to push you away until I can somehow prove to You that I am worthy of love. I know my sisters related when I brought the idea to them, and I know a lot of our fans can relate as well."
Unlike most high-on-a-pedestal pop stars, BarlowGirl has their feet planted on solid ground, arm-in-arm with the fans that not only love their music, but hold fast to the message. In a reality-TV world, these girls have a message that rebels against the crowd and says simply, be real.
Their sisterly approach to rock comes from tight family values and a sprinkling of good genes. Their dad Vince came from a highly musical clan of 13 brothers and sisters who all play instruments and sing. Mom, MaryAnn started all three on piano lessons when each turned seven years old. The Barlow's' suburban Chicago home was full of melody, with the girls being raised on the music of James Taylor, The Beatles and The Mamas & Papas.
Vince trained the girls to play as part of his ministry band in the late '90s, when he was on staff at Willow Creek Church in Chicago. He wrote what Alyssa describes as "very edgy kids' music," and started making CDs for the church's children's ministry, which later led to a touring ministry of his own.
Not only do the Barlow sisters get their musical chops from mom and dad, but a healthy helping of traditional Christian values as well. When the girls were counting down the days till they could date, Mom and Dad challenged their thinking about dating, and about finding importance in someone else's eyes. It hasn't always been a popular view, but the girls found themselves surprisingly happy to not date until they are to be married.
"Some people look at our not-dating thing and go, Well, that's weird. That's extreme," says Lauren. "I like being extreme. We don't question what the world does often enough."
"It's not about the act of not dating-it's truly about seizing those single years and throwing distractions to the side," Alyssa says. "Don't conform. There are so many things in our culture that fight for our attention, emotions and hearts. Let God define you, and not the distractions of running from boyfriend to boyfriend."
It's a message that the world may not be ready to hear. Modesty. Purity. Not dating. Pretty rebellious stuff for a society that lifts up underage party girls famous for simply being famous. But BarlowGirl is hearing straight from their fans all over the world that their rock music and strong message may have hit the bull's eye.
"The response has been overwhelming," says Alyssa. "There have been almost 500,000 postings on our message boards from kids who have heard our songs or seen us perform. We talk about our struggles and what we learn from them, and hope by sharing these stories in our songs it will help others."
"Every night, kids will come up to us and say, What you said tonight changed my life," adds Lauren. "We pour over the letters and emails that we get."
"It's a daily occurrence," agrees Becca. "On stage, I share with the listeners about eating disorders. And every night I have two or three guys or girls who come up to me to talk about their problems. We've even gotten letters from kids who were about to commit suicide but didn't because they heard one of our songs."
While in 2005, we may still be living in a material world, and a number one song like "Never Alone" might get them their 5 minutes of fame, BarlowGirl knows about lasting importance-the lives that are impacted along the way.
"We are so honored and privileged to be a part of each person's stories," adds Alyssa, reflecting on the release of Another Journal Entry and the prospect of hitting the road. "We are just excited to get another year to be a part of more lives."