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LaRue Bibliography: (click on each album cover to view tracks and LaRue lyrics)
"I can do no more justice to the awesome wonder-filled theme called love than a child can grasp a star. Still by reaching toward the star the child may call attention to it and even indicate the direction one might look to see it. So, as I stretch my heart toward the high, shining love of God, someone who has not before known about it may be encouraged to look up and have hope." - Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer
Phillip and Natalie LaRue find inspiration in these words, and now this brother and sister are ready to make themselves vulnerable to every eye as they reach toward God. "When we started LaRue four years ago," says Phillip, "there was pressure to keep an image of perfection. But the wisest people I know are those that say, 'I don't have all the answers, and I fail everyday, but by the grace of God, I still strive after Him.' I know that I have limitations, too, and I will fail. So all I can do is reach for God and seek with all my heart."
After recording two albums, watching two videos rocket up The Disney Channel video charts, and experiencing the explosion of teen pop in the marketplace, LaRue had felt the pressure of finding and establishing its identity as a young modern rock/pop duo. But the core of Phillip and Natalie nowadays is a passionate pursuit for knowledge of God and the heavenly kingdom. They seek it for themselves and challenge others to seek it as well.
"Do I reduce God to this earthly kingdom?" Natalie asks herself. "God cannot do much for me in this earthly kingdom because His ways are above my ways. Reducing God to manageable terms doesn't give me fulfillment. There is so much more to receive from the Lord when my eyes are focused on the heavenly kingdom.
"The more we search for God, the more we discover that He is completely incomprehensible. But that's not hopelessness. The view on this mountain gets better as we climb. There's sacrifice and hardship in the climbing, but in the end it's worth it as long as the kingdom of God remains in our sight."
Natalie and Phillip's quest for seeing more of God comes from their share of trials over the last year. From the rare and dangerously severe reaction to the malaria drug Larium that Phillip experienced while on a missions trip, to the questioning of their very purpose in making music, "Nat" and "Phil" have come full circle in rediscovering their purpose.
"Last fall Phillip and I kind of cracked," says Natalie. "We were continually asking God, why are we really doing this? We got so caught up in our own call, in our own mission, that we felt compelled to do this just because God has told us to rather than pursuing our true, ordained purpose."
"Although it might have felt weird to quit music, we were ready to say, 'God, help us let go because we don't want to be in this just for us,'" admits Phillip.
As Phillip and Natalie searched for their niche and determined that they were going to step forward in music, God started giving them songs. "We made our first record when we were 14- and 16-years-old," says Natalie, "so we were working out our foundation of faith while we were on the platform singing songs. Now the Lord has used life's circumstances to refine us as His children and as musicians. The motivations of our hearts have been checked, and our focus in our songwriting is much clearer."
"We were just kids when we got into this, but now people are seeing us become who we are as people as well as musicians and songwriters," says Phillip.
Who LaRue is becoming is a more mature, challenging version of its simple, tangible self. Going back to the "how's of songwriting for a first record," Phillip and Natalie re-approached their writing as if never having recorded a major label release before-"without arms" as Natalie phrases it. To show listeners maturity in songwriting, the LaRues determined to simply write songs to write them-without thoughts of radio singles or achieving certain "pop" sounds.
"We wanted to deal with theological subjects in a way that helped people grasp them," says Natalie, "You can make the most beautiful painting in the world. But if the average person can't get anything from it, then what's the use? While writing about deep subjects, you still have to make something tangible in order to reach people."
"There are themes of surrender - surrendering emotions and feelings, surrendering relationships, and surrendering to God. It's not necessarily every song, but when you listen, you get a feeling of giving things up or letting go to God," says Phillip.
"That idea of surrender defines who we are," says Natalie. "Phillip and I are not pursuing the God that fits our needs; we're pursuing the God that's bigger than our needs. As we strive toward this and challenge ourselves to expand our concept of who God is, then we are challenging the body of Christ to do that, too."
Produced by Monroe Jones (Third Day, Ginny Owens), Matt Bronleewe (Rebecca St. James) and Ken Mary (LaRue's self-titled debut and sophomore Transparent), Reaching includes songs that show off the rock side of LaRue and songs that highlight the sweeping poetry of the band.
The title cut "Reaching" sums up the album as it explores the idea that every circumstance in life becomes a stepping-stone to a higher purpose. The idea of striving for God can also be heard in the driving sound of "Tonight" with its musical plea of surrender. In "Without You" Phillip and Natalie search through their desperate need for God, showing their daily dependence on God above and beyond their need of salvation.
LaRue tells the listener in "OK to Cry" and "Everything" that there can be hope in falling apart in surrender. "There is peace and hope in realizing you are weak. In surrendering your life to God, you'll find greater rewards in life," says Natalie.
On Reaching, LaRue also reminds the Church that together we are all in pursuit of Christ. "We need to focus on what matters as the Church so we become more united and can minister to the outside world," Phillip says, "and that's the sole focus of the song 'Unite.'"
Phillip and Natalie had the opportunity to be more hands-on with this project than previous ones, and working with Monroe Jones was another huge but satisfying step for LaRue. "He stretches you as an artist and takes you to places that are scary at first, but he shows you there are no limitations to trying new things," says Phillip. "What's unique about Monroe is he doesn't put his own stamp on the music. He would always say, 'Phillip, you already hear this in your head, so let's make it sound like that.'"
Another way LaRue reflects its growth on Reaching is the addition of Phillip and Natalie's own band to the recording process. The passion that LaRue and its band generate on stage is finally captured on a LaRue album, as the band stepped into the studio alongside Phillip and Natalie to capture the group's energetic live sound.
"That made such a difference to this album," Phillip notes. "Studio musicians are great, but our live band understands us, our daily lives and our hearts. They know what the songs are about, so there is an emotional connection there."
The goal of Reaching is simple-to challenge people to think about God in higher terms. "Our generation has lessened the image of God. We don't think about Him in the highest terms of who He actually is. I hope the direction of Reaching will intrigue people and cause them to look deeper into God," says Phillip.
Phillip and Natalie themselves have searched and wrestled with God. And they discovered there is nothing better than to continue reaching toward Him. As Natalie says, "We are in this to glorify the Lord and to point toward Christ-more than we point to our music, more than we point to our artistry, more than we point to saving someone or looking Christian."
Phillip and Natalie realize their identity comes in fulfilling God's two greatest commandments-to love the Lord their God with all their heart, mind and soul, and to love their neighbor as themselves. The LaRues believe the size and shape of their musical platform will come on its own as they uncompromisingly follow Him.