Patreon: TuneTribe 2.0

Well friends,

It's climbing toward 80 degrees today here in Nashville, and I'm sitting by the window working through my list like you probably are. My head swims with ideas and anxiety and gratitude and excitement.  I've been working hard the past couple of months to plan the next thing(s) in terms of music. And things are cooking!

A couple months from now, I'll release a new single, a new video and a new EP! I'll also begin the funding process for a full studio album, tentatively slated for a January 2018 release! The process of creation takes energy and gives it back, and I can't tell you how grateful I am every day to do this work.

Working in small margins means you have to get creative, and being an independent artist means community is everything. In an effort to take better care of this tribe and give my closest members what they've asked for, I've launched a Patreon community.  

What is this Patreon, you say? 

Patreon is a subscription-based platform. Subscribers are called Patrons. You can be a Patron for as little as $1/month.  I love & appreciate the word "patron" more and more. A patron of the arts! That's what you are! How does it feel?

Where TuneTribe members received one new song demo per month, Patrons will get that plus more, if they choose. Video blogs, monthly postcards, behind-the-scenes photos, artist journals, and anything else we together decide on.

I'd love for you to check it out and consider coming along for this. It brings me such joy to interact with you, share new work and hear your thoughts!

Get the scoop by clicking here: PATREON

If you've read this far, you are truly THE best, and I love you. :)

Hope to hear from you soon!

always love,


2017 + a book review

First of all, Happy New Year!

Yes, yes, we are 30 days in. But writing here on the blog hasn’t made it to the top of my list before now, so I haven’t said it yet! 

Our first Christmas in Nashville wasn’t half-bad, though we had deep moments of homesickness for our family of friends in North Carolina.

I entered this new year with a mix of emotion: heavy-heartedness around the events shaping our world and culture, and yet a persistent hope that we are fully capable of doing better, of drawing closer together for things that matter.

I woke up with fresh ideas brewing for songwriting, potential projects and collaborations that excite and challenge me, that hopefully will see the light of day and feed others in some meaningful way.

I carried over the awareness that the best way to push back against quiet despair is with loud thanksgiving, so I remind myself of the monumental gifts I still enjoy every single day.

I also started 2017 with an armful of new books - poetry and fiction and memoirs - that help me wake up every morning and think new thoughts.

Wendell Berry, Mary Oliver, and Seth Godin were all under the Christmas tree. I don’t usually read just one book at a time but have them all right there on the wicker chest coffee table, and I pick up whichever is calling me at a given moment.

Here’s something from Mary Oliver’s Upstream that spoke to me as an artist:

"No one yet has made a list of places where the extraordinary may happen and where it may not.  Still, there are indications.  Among crowds, in drawing rooms, among easements and comforts and pleasures, it is seldom seen.  It likes the out-of-doors.  It likes the concentrating mind. It is more likely to stick to the risk-taker than the ticket-taker."

It’s amazing really. The power of a single poem to transform my outlook at the start of the day.  Thank you, Wendell, Mary and Seth for your good and life-giving work.


And then I occasionally am lucky enough to get free books from author friends or publishers who are looking for book nerds to potentially review or endorse a new release. Because of that, I’m getting to read an early version of Tsh Oxenreider’s At Home In The World (more on that in the near future!) and Erin Loechner’s Chasing Slow.

I don’t know Erin personally, but I wasn’t shocked to discover that she is friends with Tsh Oxenreider - one of my favorite bloggers, thinkers and online pals - and has been working with Tsh on the Simple Show podcast.

I’m not gonna lie. The first thing that drew me to Erin’s book was the cover. Yes, I might sometimes be that shallow. It was just so clean looking. Modern. The layout & design of the hardcover is very cool, very different. She’s a designer, after all.

And also, I like the word “slow” (almost as much as I like the word “quiet”)

Erin is a former art director/stylist. She’s a wife, mother, writer, designer. But most helpful to the rest of us is that her story has had some major challenges to face, which has given her added depth and insight and relatability. Well, it's hardship AND that she’s from Indiana. A midwestern girl who just happens to spend time in Hollywood and be featured by HGTV and the NY Times. Since I attended college in Indiana, I pretty much have to like her.

I’ve seen a lot of writing about “slow living” the past few years, because obviously we’re bad at it. We’re trying, though, and all of us have at least one bee-keeping friend and have tried to grow our own basil. We walk when we can and play games with the kids and celebrate simple moments on Instagram. But we all know it’s an effort in these times when you CAN do/be/see/try/accomplish so much.

So I appreciated reading Erin’s personal story of working harder and harder, to get...where, exactly?? That’s the thing I’m personally realizing: How little we stop and question ourselves on just about anything. We follow whatever crowd we identify with and react emotionally and do-by-default more than we think we do. (At least, I do.)

Foreclosure, bankruptcy and family losses helped Erin see that what “everybody” wants was not actually what she wanted. A Pinterest-perfect house isn’t necessarily a heart-safe home. And work success doesn’t equal life-success.

Though it’s not the only less-is-more story, it is Erin’s unique story, honestly and vulnerably-told, and a good one especially for female friends who struggle with perfectionism and a my-life-looks-plain-next-to-hers inner monologue. Also a good one for the young, creative crowd finishing school and ready to find an exciting place in the world. Erin’s husband is a filmmaker and they spent their first married years in L.A. pursuing work in the arts.

Click here to order your copy of Chasing Slow. Or here.

Well, here's to a new year full of making - music and art and words and moments, stories that light up our small and big patches of the world.

It's an honor to be on this journey of making with you.

Love, Christa







NEW MUSIC + Thoughtful Gifts For Songwriters

Well, friends, the time really got away from me this fall! While it's not quite as wintry here in Nashville as in this lovely photo, it's getting a bit brisk for the thin-skinned (me) and Christmas is a mere 15 days away! 

Somehow between tour's end and now, I failed to post about the two most recent songs released through Tune Tribe! These two happen to be a couple of my favorites this year, so I don't want to leave them out. 

ALSO, since it's December and you just might need gift ideas for a special music-maker in your life, I have some great suggestions for you at the end.


It was campaign season here in the States, and like most everybody, my ears were so tired of the ugliness. Many of us had to be intentional about taking a break from social media because it can become so unhealthy to feed on the strife. It was a challenge to me, too, because I want to know how to be a good listener and share my thoughts in a loving and open way.

So on the first leg of the Three Birds Tour, while I drove from Atlanta to Nashville alone, I kept the radio off and started thumping on the steering wheel and singing this melody a capella. A totally new approach for me, as I typically have to be at the piano to write.

The accompanying artwork by Mandy Rogers Horton is appropriately titled "Noisily Day and Night."

Here's a preview of Down Down Low:


The last new song of 2016 is "This December" which I also did not start at the piano. I wrote this chorus on the ukulele with my oldest son in mind, but also so many others who are asking lots of great questions about faith and tradition. It has a hint of Christmas and winter, but I like to think you could listen to it year-round and not be offended. :)

This piece of Mandy's is titled - also aptly - "Something I Cannot Name."


Digital Downloads - If you're new around here and are interested in getting these and the rest of the year's song demos digitally, you can subscribe HERE ($10) & we'll send you a link to stream/download (wav + mp3) at your leisure. You'll get 11 songs now plus one more next month and the opportunity to vote for the ones you think I should include in my next full-production album. Would love to have you join in!

Physical CD - Order a copy of Tribe Songs, my home-brewed album of all these new song demos I've recorded with Jess Ray this year. I'll send you a hand-labeled audio CD with 11 previously unreleased songs. Click HERE to get your copy of Tribe Songs ($12).



A new or different instrument, other than their primary one...New strings...Travel case...Cables...Boom stand...Guitar stand...Yeti Pro USB Microphone (I love mine!) for home recording/worktapes...Quality headphones...Portable PA...Soundboard...Performance mics...


Everyone has their preferences. In recent years, I've used basic marble composition books. My most treasured one was a small-sized soft leather journal with a string that wraps around it. Small enough to not be intimidating, lovely enough to be inspiring.


Here are a few of my favorite creativity-themed books:

  • Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith & Art by Madeleine L'Engle
  • Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
  • Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon
  • Show Your Work by Austin Kleon
  • A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman
  • Songwriters on Songwriting by Paul Zollo
  • Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison (supposed to be great, though I haven't yet read it)
  • Tribes by Seth Godin
  • Linchpin by Seth Godin

I also recommend books of poetry and great fiction, both great food for the soul and inspiration for songwriting!

SUBSCRIPTION to American Songwriter magazine. This is truly a great gift for any music-maker. I only wish I had time to read every issue cover to cover!

CONCERT TICKETS - There's almost nothing more helpful to a musical artist than to actually go see live performances. If cost were not an issue, most of us would be attending a lot more of these events & would be better for it.

Don't just look for the big productions, though. Those are a lot of fun, but your typical working artist needs real inspiration and ideas that can come from enjoying a great performance at a more intimate venue. It's so helpful to be up close and learn how to share music in an effective way without the big machine & lights. 

I also recommend giving tickets to theater productions and arthouse movies. Most of us will spend the money to see a mainstream film that's gotten great reviews. Fewer people take a "risk" on indie films, but those can be the most provocative and interesting. Read reviews & get two tickets so you can go together and discuss after!


If your writer is ready to share their work publicly, you could plan a concert in your own home and invite your neighbors, co-workers and family. Being a host is always a gift to yourself as much as anyone else. It takes a bit of planning and effort, but it's so worthwhile. You don't have to have a lot of space or a fancy house. Just space for some friends to gather & listen - everyone will thank you!


Retreats - There are always songwriting workshops and retreats available & I speak from experience when I say it can be just the thing an aspiring songwriter needs to take the next step and grow. I am co-hosting one such retreat with my friend & collaborator Nicole Witt in East Nashville January 6-8, 2017 (one spot left), but with a little googling you'll be able to find one nearby, maybe even hosted by one of your favorite writers! (Link to our retreat: "Artist And" Songwriting Retreat)

Masterpiece Project - Masterpiece is a creative arts camp for high schoolers in southern Kentucky. I facilitate songwriting workshops there one week each summer and cannot speak highly enough of this experience. It's exactly what I wish I'd had when I was 16.

Escape to the LakeThis non-profit organization is all about promoting "gourmet" faith-based music, and their annual 4-day music festival is unlike anything else. The biggest difference is that it's small, no green rooms, no smoke and mirrors. Your songwriter will get to sit at the lunch table with the performing artists and writers, talk around the campfire, play at an open mic, and attend panel discussions. AND the festival is usually prefaced by a 2-day songwriting bootcamp! This is a fantastic opportunity, another one I would have loved to have had early on.


Help your writer get a song professionally recorded. Cost can range from $200-1500. Find some local producers, listen to their work online and make sure you like what they do, and consider the purpose of the demo before determining your budget so you don't over-spend. This can be an exhilarating experience for a new writer and would be a fantastic gift!


I know Spotify and Apple Music are the go-to, but here's the thing. They pay us next to nothing. The reality is musicians NEED to be paid for their work in order to keep creating it. Encourage your artist to pay for the music he/she loves most by giving an iTunes gift card. Or give a vinyl copy of a favorite album to your younger listeners. Physical CDs for the car. And maybe give music that has stood the test of time, something a young writer can learn from and enjoy.


If your creative person is married to you or has children, the best gift you could give them is TIME & SPACE. Take the kids for a whole day or one night a week and let her write in peace! Or surprise him with a room or space set up just for his composing. Simple, free, and oh so meaningful!


We all need them, and the good ones are usually expensive. Help arrange and pay for their next session with someone who specializes in artist photography!


You can build your own, but some of us could use a little help taking it up a notch. Or maybe your friend doesn't have a domain yet and you could buy the domain in their name so it's ready when they are!


I - and other writers I know - love to encourage up-and-coming songwriters. We don't have all the answers and are still growing ourselves, but we have learned a few things along the way, and it's really a pleasure to share what we have. When I host a session, I like to hear some music and give feedback and then discuss anything the other writer has questions about. It's really great (and rare) to get one-on-one attention from someone just a few steps further up the road. Email for more info:

Through a group we've started called ARTIST AND, my friend Nicole Witt and I also periodically host online gatherings of about 8 people at a time to discuss particular themes related to artmaking. Join the Facebook community ARTIST AND to stay in the loop!

So I think that's a wrap (heh heh) on gift ideas! Have something you'd add to the list? Please leave suggestions in the Comments section.

Love to you and yours as we wait & prepare for the glorious coming, now just a couple of weeks away!










So, there you have it. My quick brainstorm on thoughtful gifts for songwriters. Have more ideas? By all means, share them below!






Friends, I released a new single last week called "Feels Like Home." 

As a moderate introvert and Type 9 on the Enneagram, I'm prone to feeling overwhelmed by the noise & chaos around me. I wear myself out protecting my peace of mind and talk way too much about woods-walking and tiny houses. 

Living in a full house amplifies the pleasure of a little bit of quiet, a little bit of solitude or a date night where we get to be just ourselves and drive somewhere. As a former army brat, I never tire of exploring the elusive notion of "home" and have no choice but to allow it to remain fluid in terms of place but constant in terms of people.  

If "home" requires a permanent physical address, then many of us are homeless. But if home - at its deepest level - is about being known & cherished by someone, then we sleep in mansions.

So one day at the piano, craving a wide open sky and quiet companionship, I began this song. I shared it in progress online and found others resonated with it. About a year later, I finally finished it and collaborated with Nashville producer extraordinaire Ben Shive (Colony House, Ellie Holcomb) to record it for a possible film/tv pitch.

Now we wait and hope it will get picked up, but in the meantime, you can download and enjoy it. In fact, this week it's a FREE download on

I never stop feeling crazy joy & gratitude that you'd take the time to pay attention to what I'm making up over here at my old piano. 

Thank you for that...





OCTOBER SINGLE: I Can't Get Small Enough

OCTOBER SINGLE: I Can't Get Small Enough

The kids and I just got home Monday night from a 4-day trip back "home" to Raleigh. We haven't been back since we left in July, and we were all super excited to hang out with our people there. 

But as we started rounding familiar corners, the first thing that grabbed all of our attention was the lush green wall of 80-foot pine trees and sweet gums on either side of the road. That's Raleigh. Trees for miles. Green, green, green all year. 

The trees are highly protected in Raleigh, so that strip malls can be almost hard to spot. And the houses, even the big small, surrounded, overwhelmed.

When we moved to that place, I initially hated those trees, felt suffocated and closed in, not enough sky.

I'm different now...

September Single: HOME

September Single: HOME

Well, things took an unexpectedly joyful turn when I started writing this one. Honestly, I could write on the theme of "home" for dayyyyys - and have. Home is a fascinating concept for an army brat and so I find myself turning it over in the palm of my hand with curiosity and changing emotional response. 

My family has just relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, after almost two decades in North Carolina, and I find myself in a place of tension between missing "home" and finally BEING "home" with all of us inside the same walls after a full year of separateness. 

This song is me focusing on the latter. Ultimately, it's being able to hold the people you love most that makes us most at home...

cheers to getting older!

cheers to getting older!

So since I just happily celebrated another birthday, I want to share some good news with you, my friends.

Even in years of hardship, even in the moments I recognize deeper lines in my skin and fewer open roads in my future, I have not yet wanted to return to a younger version of myself. Revisit some great moments? Perhaps. But I'd insist on taking modern-day me along.

I find that life is always turning over, and the moment something is lost, something else is gained...


Apparition, Mandy Rogers Horton. 2016

Apparition, Mandy Rogers Horton. 2016

Let It Out

I’m looking up at the stars

From the bottom of a well

Feels like we might be rising 

But it sure is cold down here


And I’m looking over the earth

From the inside of a cloud

That refuses to rain or dissipate

Yeah, it seems I’ve forgotten how to


Let it out, let it out, let it out, let it out

Let it out, let it out, let it out, let it out


So I’m gonna walk in the forest

Deep in the silent green

Til I get to the place where I know it’s safe

And I’ll fall down on my knees and


Let it out, let it out, let it out, let it out

Let it out, let it out, let it out, let it out

Let it out, let it out, let it out, let it out

Let it out, let it out, let it out, let it out


Sometimes it’s only,

Only Beauty,

That breaks us open

You don’t see it coming

Til you are weeping

Like a child again

Oh, oh, oh


Look at the stars coming closer

I taste the tears on my lips 

Look at the stars coming closer

I taste the tears on my lips now


Let it out, let it out, let it out, let it out…


This week I had the almost cathartic experience of sharing this song with a group of teen artists, a few of whom I’d secretly asked to stand and join in towards the end in a flash chorus kind of way.

On the final, rising let-it-outs, the rest of the students stood and sang at the top of their lungs as well, and I’ve never believed it more, how much we have to do just that.

After the final swell, one of my sisters singing with me broke into a sob, overwhelmed by the beauty of all our voices joined in such an uninhibited, expressive way.

This one is about taking a walk with your inner person, so you can listen well, and maybe weep a little if that’s what you need to do.




To stream/download the song in full (plus 11 more) subscribe here.


Apprehend, Apprehension. Mandy Rogers Horton. 2016

Apprehend, Apprehension. Mandy Rogers Horton. 2016

Every now and then, admittedly rare, I get to write a song that’s born from nothing more, nothing less, than joy and wonder.

Madeleine L’Engle once said that as we grow older, we keep all the ages we’ve ever been, and I believe it. When I’m out in nature, especially in the baby greens of spring, I’m all the ages of childhood, and I barely know what to do with myself in the face of so much beauty.

And in other months and other settings, I find I’m just as prone to wonder and get crazy delighted with people and created things and displays of kindness and joy.

On the heels of such a trying season of my own life, it was such sweetness to sit down and let the piano lead the way into expressing my love and gratitude for the Maker’s gifts.

It is both the gifts and the gratitude for the gifts…recognizing the evidence of love…that keep me breathing in dark seasons.

Enjoy this preview of the July release, “over & over & over” and click here to become a subscriber & be able to stream/download 12 new songs as they are released (less than $1 per song).

Hoping you are also keeping your eyes open, remembering the little kid inside seeing it all for the first time…



over & over & over


I’ve got a crush on the whole world

Cause it’s full of the soul of its maker

I fall in love with the whole world

Over and over and over


I’ve got a crush on the piney woods

And the fields growing wild with clover

I fall in love with the ocean 

Over and over and over


Bah da da da…


I’ve got a crush on the legs that dance

And the elegance of the composer

I fall in love with the potter’s hands

Over and over and over


I’ve got a crush on our little ones

With their hearts wide open in wonder

I fall in love with the joyful young

Over and over and over


Bah da da da (x2)


I’ve got a crush on the aged

Who carried us high on their shoulders

They know moments are meant to be savored

Over and over and over


For Hours, Alighting Everywhere.  Mandy Rogers Horton, 2013.

For Hours, Alighting Everywhere.  Mandy Rogers Horton, 2013.

Yesterday I released a new song –“Butterfly” —  to TuneTribe subscribers.

This is a song for your graduates…or perhaps it’s for anyone you love who needs to follow a different flight path for a awhile.

Nothing’s harder than letting go. But since we know that the process of becoming fully alive depends on our leaving being uncomfortable, stretching, flying, falling…

May we be people who cheer each other on, even through tears…

May we be glad for the curiosity and passion that sometimes necessitate separation…

May our connections be defined by more than geography…

And may we always build new fires to gather around & share our adventures.

Here’s to finding the beauty in whatever comes next!



The Destination by Mandy Rogers Horton

The Destination by Mandy Rogers Horton

This piece by my sister, Mandy Rogers Horton is a companion to my new song about our lives and earth and work as sacred space. I love the many & varied windows and invasion of green inside the cathedral-like enclosure.

It’s pretty easy to be either flippant or harried with our days and with our relationships, desires, and work.  Easy to compartmentalize, designating one day or aspect of our lives meaning-ful, and hanging the domestic and the uncertainties and the unattractive people and the “things on the way” out to dry. It’s in the pause, the long gaze of gratitude, and the co-creating that we recognize the preciousness of every breath and really begin to live.

After reading Jon Foreman’s introduction to Charlie Peacock’s book, New Way To Be Human, I pretty much ran to the piano and started writing this song. So thank you, Jon Foreman, for your insights, and I hope you’re flattered and not offended that I borrowed them.



You think singers & dreamers

Invent escape from the real

Oh, but they have eyes to see

What must be revealed

There’s a kingdom before us

whose gate is always open

Looks like earth & sounds like human voices

And it feels like heaven


Holy, Holy

All that is within us

All that is without

All of life is holy ground


If your compass points to wealth & fame

It has been altered

There is only one true north

One good road to follow

When you lift your eyes you’ll find

The view is ever wider

Til the vanities fade and your love burns

Brighter and brighter




We’ll take our shoes off

Honor the moments of our days

Find our treasure when we give our love away

What a gift to hold this in our hands

Behold the beauty

See the face of God in a grain of sand

Holy Holy

Holy Holy…


Please take a listen to this preview of the song. If you’d like to have the full song, I’d love to send it to you.  Just sign up as a TuneTribe subscriber, and we’ll send it over, along with the other songs already released this year.


The Collection by Mandy Rogers Horton 

The Collection by Mandy Rogers Horton 

A few weeks ago when it was finally my turn to pick the movie, the kids and I sat down to watch Little Boy which I’d been eyeing for a few weeks. I loved it & was only mildly surprised to learn it was made by Metanoia Films, producers of another favorite, Bella.

The story behind this new song involves a reference that may be a bit of a spoiler for a particularly great moment in the film, so feel free to save this post for later if you plan to watch it.

(Note: This isn’t a review of the film, but as an aside I do heartily recommend it, because it was such a beautiful balance of tragedy & hope, and we found it both entertaining & provocative.)


Little Boy is a young kid whose life has been turned upside down during the war. He’s lonely. He’s fearful. No one can promise him his circumstances are going to improve or that loved ones are ever going to come home again.

One day the community’s children are gathered in a theater, and a magician chooses him to volunteer onstage and allows Little Boy (and the audience) to believe that Little Boy, by his own inner power, willed a bottle to slide across the table. He leans towards it groaning and stretching his small arms to pull it through the air towards himself.

And the object obeys.

Little Boy is as shocked as anyone else, but now his mind is working on the greater implications of this newfound power of his. What else might be possible?

Then a sermon is preached on Matthew 17:20, and he hears that the power to “move mountains” is directly tied to faith the size of a mustard seed. So naturally, he heads to the local grocery and gets himself a mustard seed to examine. Doesn’t look so big.

Next, Little Boy visits the priest (Tom Wilkinson!) and asks him how one goes about getting a faith big enough to make big things happen.

And this is the moment that lodged itself in my thoughts for weeks.

Little Boy mentions to the priest his success on the magician’s stage, and the curious priest sets a wine bottle on the desk and gently asks for a demonstration.

Little Boy stretches his hands out in the direction of the bottle, closes his eyes, and grunts and strains, willing the bottle to come toward him.

Nothing happens.

The priest says, “Try again.” Little Boy takes a deep breath, stretches, grunts and strains again.


The priest says, “Try it again.” Little Boy repeats the effort, and by now your heart is breaking for this disillusioned child, as nothing happens again.

The third try is no different, until suddenly and swiftly…

The priest grabs the bottle and moves it to the boy’s side of the desk.

“There, you did it.”

Little Boy’s face is crestfallen, and he says, “No I didn’t move it. YOU moved it.”

The priest replies, “You MOVED ME to move it.”

I don’t pretend to comprehend the mysterious ways of God or the power of prayer or the seeming inconsistency in the changing of circumstances through faith. There must be a thousand differing opinions on the other spiritual insights offered in the context of this film. Plenty of room for those discussions around any dinner or pub table.

But that singular image of the desperate boy and the priest’s response that, in the midst of my own mountainous landscape, stayed with me and became something musical.

I write songs that reflect humans as we really are, in the context of a God-centered worldview.

I like to explore the questions we ask even if they don’t have easy answers. This song represents our side of the conversation.

Hear a preview of the song here & join the Tribe to get all 12 songs:

Can I Move You
Every one day feels like a decade
Carrying this weight
Where did you go to
Don’t you know I need you
The situation is grave
There’s a light on the other side
But there’s a hill I’ve yet to climb
I thought I had the strength
But I was wrong
Won’t you roll this rock away
Can I move you?
Can I move you?
Can I move you to move this mountain?
Can I move you?
Can I move you?
Can I move you to move this mountain?
I heard a witness praying to Jesus
Hands laid on his lap
If you’ve been listening
Don’t hold it against me
My faith don’t look like that
I’ve been waving at the sky
If you see me, don’t pass me by
Hear the hope inside my doubt
I want to feel the quake
Before the sun goes down
Can I move you?
Can I move you?
Can I move you to move this mountain?
Can I move you?
Can I move you?
Can I move you?
I don’t think I’m shouting into a void
I don’t think that I’ve been just making noise
I’ll keep it up until I get your attention
‘Cause I have seen you show up in the past
And my heart’s not giving up yet
No, I’m not giving up today


Untitled by Mandy Rogers Horton (2013)

Untitled by Mandy Rogers Horton (2013)

(Today members of TuneTribe 2016 are hearing the second new song release of the year, called “You For Me” and getting an email with some behind-the-song thoughts. These songs are not available elsewhere, though I will perform them in live online shows every few weeks. Join at any time and get all the tracks released so far and going forward. The email with notes goes out on the 1st of each month.)

This month’s single release is a love song. Yayyyyy for Valentines Day-inspired romantic reflection!

Before you roll your eyes, I don’t tend to write about one-night stands, so you may be getting a love song, but this is real life, real love, friends.

I was a very young bride and have seen up-close all the trials and temptations that follow the infatuation & exhilaration stage. Like you, I’ve watched the marriages of friends fall apart for all kinds of reasons. I’m incredibly grateful to have some remarkable role models and to be married to someone who makes me laugh and makes me more than I would be without him.

That kind of love deserves a song or two, don’t you think??

Hear a clip of this new song here (& join the Tribe if you’d like to get all 12 songs):


You For Me
Christa Wells, February 2016

At 17, I hung everything
On a boy who needed more time
I fell again and again for strangers and friends
But not one of them was mine

I was told there is a great big sea out there
The possibilities are endless
It was easy to believe til I met you
And impossible ever since

‘Cause I’ve had my share of warm embraces
There’ve been some who can make me smile
And there may be a million beautiful faces
There’s only one you for me

Well I tried to lie to myself
But I couldn’t run when you said my name
And I see in you what I’m trying to become
In so many ways

I have seen there is an ocean full and fair
And she’s given her best to me

I’ve had my share of warm embraces
There’ve been some who could make me smile
And there may be a million beautiful faces
There’s only one you for me

And if you roll away
Like a restless wave
I will follow you to shore
If your blues and greens
Grow dark and deep
Still my heart will beat with yours

My heart will beat, my heart will beat
My heart will beat with yours
My heart will beat, my heart will beat
My heart will beat with yours

‘Cause I only want your embraces
And the ways you can make me smile
There may be a million beautiful faces
There’s only one you for me
There is one you for me

February Single: Lighter From Here

What We Love (artwork by Mandy Rogers Horton)
What We Love (artwork by Mandy Rogers Horton)

I shared with my email list last week that I won't be recording an album this year but instead invite you to join a tribe of listeners who will be able to stream or download a new song each month of 2016.

Album projects are amazing, but it's also amazing to share a new lyric and melody with your friends while it's fresh from writing and you're still living the story.

So every month Jess Ray and I will go into her home studio and lay down acoustic production on a new tune. If you join the tribe ($10), you'll get a little note in your Inbox each month letting you know your new tune is ready (mp3 & wav available). Download right away, or wait and get several at a time when you're in the mood.

These songs will not be available elsewhere this year, but you may be hearing the demo of a future single, who knows?

To top it off, each track will be paired with an image of an original piece by Mandy Rogers Horton, whose artwork was featured on the COVERS ep.

"Lighter From Here" is our January song, and it's ready, folks. Head on over to The Store if you're ready to take this musical journey with us.


2015 brought some hefty trials into our life, and Lighter From Here is my song of response. It's a new year hope rooted in the memory of God's goodness and of the faithful return of light year after year.

I've written before about my loathing of winter darkness. Well, I was interested to consider a couple of years ago that the longest night of the year arrives just before Christmas. Our hanging of decorations and our songs of Advent waiting and Christmas celebrating are a massive communal effort to persist in hope and survive the shortened days.

By the time we take down the white lights and get back to regular routine, the long night has actually passed. It's behind us, the worst. We can expect a literal lightening, slowly but surely, day by day.

It's not mere optimism. It's a beautiful and true thing, this faithfulness of nature to reflect the promise that light will win.

We may have some winter yet ahead, but I hope you'll hear comfort and even a gradual return to joy in these words and melody.

Hear a clip of this new release here & join the Tribe to get all 12 songs.


In late December the sun refused to show

This frosty winter has cut us to the bone

But maybe we’ve felt the worst

We’ve been to the bottom

Maybe we’d take the hurt and the loss

For all that they have taught us

And if what lies behind is the darkest night

Of a long and brutal year

We’ll keep our eyes on the horizon

It’s all getting lighter from here

It’s all getting lighter

The sky will be brighter

The days will be kinder from here

We pull the embers into the new year fire

We will remember how wind and flame conspired

To bring our bodies close

And bind our hearts together

Send everything that’s gone up in smoke

Give us hope for warmer weather

And if what lies behind is the darkest night

Of a long and brutal year

We'll keep our eyes on the horizon

It's all getting lighter from here

It's all getting lighter

The sky will be brighter

The days will be kinder from here

It's all getting lighter

The sun will be higher

The days will be kinder from here

TuneTribe Photo
TuneTribe Photo

You Are My Defense: behind the song


"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer."

Albert Camus

I love that quote. But it hasn't always been so. At least I didn't think so.

I finished high school outside of Chicago and don't remember the cold or snow, even in the black early morning at the bus stop, being the real issue. I was rather lonely during those high school years. I attributed that to being new, awkward, shy, fashion-challenged.

But maybe it was really the long winter. Or maybe I've merely associated winter with those blue feelings? Whatever the reason, my dread of the dark months seemed to grow over the years, even here in mild-natured North Carolina.

IMG_0696 (1)

As I said during a recent show, I even resented autumn because I knew where it was heading. The months of September, October and November formed a long, dreary hallway leading to winter, which felt like death.

(I'm not prone to overstatement at all.)

The slow but sure shortening of daylight was oppressive to me, to the point that the beauty of falling leaves or seasonal festivities went unappreciated almost entirely.

IMG_0694 I talk about this in the past tense, because this year and the last have, thankfully, not had quite the same effect. Certain circumstances in my life now allow for more solitude and focus which seems to be helping.

But in 2012, we saw a friend in our community repeatedly hospitalized for severe and chronic depression. This wife and mother of two young children known for creating beautiful and whimsical wall murals in playrooms seemed unable to keep her face above water for long, no matter the weather.

Numerous friends and family close to my heart have felt themselves swallowed up by depression during different life seasons, due to circumstance or chemistry or a combination of both. I remember the dread I felt walking into the apartment of one of these, the blinds closed mid-day, lights off, music blaring, finding there was nothing I could say or do that could get a smile out of this former class clown. I found red marks across his wrists and chose to believe him when he said he'd cut himself washing dishes.



When I really look at it, I know my own struggles have never been quite that.  Depression is a brute, and I am less an expert than a bystander devastated by her own powerlessness to fix anything.

I asked my friend back in 2012 if she could describe it for me, what it was like for her. The songwriter, I suppose all artists, are prone to walking battlefields as well as beaches, gathering shells and making something out of them.

I wanted to write about this reality without trying to fix it. It's okay for a song to be a moment in time, to write where you've been and what you've seen. Of course, I've also seen too much love for it to not to make an appearance.

The stories of my people became linked to the story of me in winter, and this song, "You Are My Defense," took shape.


I feel the clouds coming over like a bad dream

Same shadows I’ve known since I was 18

Weeks before winter falls

You find me in the back hall, hiding

I feel the sunshine slip away


I don’t know how to climb out of this valley

I don’t want to go back where I’ve been

And every time you’ve laid yourself beside me,

Your love my one defense

Oh, you are my defense


You carve the stone with evidence of your love

Strike a match to warm us when the cold comes

And I will sing of summer light

That feeds the soul through the dark night

Will you feed my soul through the night?


Oh, when I’m a ship out on the sea

You are, you are the lighthouse calling me

And when I feel unreachable

You get to me

You get to me


And I don’t know how to climb out of this valley

I don’t want to go back where I’ve been

And every time you’ve laid yourself beside me,

Every time you’ve laid yourself beside me

Your love my one defense

Oh, you are my defense


I wish I could say I actually remember writing the second verse, what prompted the stone image. I sing it almost as a newcomer to the song, which is kind of cool. The stone may have had a different inspiration, but I now think of it as the whole of planet earth. Call me crazy, but I do believe there is a Person behind all this wonder. And I think the whole place screams it.

Similarly, the match doesn't have to be one thing, but one thing it might be is the faithful-to-return sun-soaked months that restore and revive before the cold.

The song I sing of hope is one I choose to sing and must choose and choose again, because it does not always come naturally. I sing of summer light because I want to live and that's the only way to survive. I sing because I remember the way the sun felt on my skin and expect to feel it again.

It is invincible within me if only I pry my hands from these fearful, reluctant eyes and see.

IMG_0707Time and time again while I sleep, Someone comes and lays himself beside me.  Being aware of that...saves me.

It's not about pulling yourself up by the bootstraps but by Love that lays down for you and with you.

Finding yourself not alone, not beyond the reach of one who loves really is something.


Through the end of January, every moleskine journal we ship will be sent with                       a handwritten lyric of your choice inside + a free copy of my COVERS ep.

The journals are a great place to record the things that feed your soul this winter or any season. The songs on this album are songs that, in their own way, fed my soul "back then."

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 8.11.56 PM


thoughtful gifts for songwriters...

ITBMW_Art Well, friends,

Before I get to the point, if you haven't yet gotten your free download of the Christmas single (cover art above) I recorded with my pals Jess Ray & Taylor Leonhardt, I want to make sure to give you that link, so go ahead and CLICK HERE. Merry Christmas!

Hopefully you're ahead of me and have finished all your gift planning for the Christmas celebrations. If not, and if one of the outstanding recipients happens to be a songwriter/music-maker, then this is for you.

My friend, Taylor, and I were talking about how sweet it is when you find a gift that truly adds to a life without also being a burden in terms of clutter or maintenance.  I googled "gift ideas for young filmmaker" the other day, because I have one of those in my house, and I thought I'd put together something like that for us musical types, in case you're googling "gift ideas for songwriters" (probably not on the most searched list, but still...).

Here are a few that came to mind, in no particular order.

I apologize for not taking time to add pretty pictures and poetic descriptions. As I mentioned, I'm not done with my own preparations yet! May update in time for next Christmas?

Instrument or Accessories

I almost didn't include this, because it's obvious, but if it's time for new strings or a travel case or cables or boom stands? Easy.

Journal & Pen 

I'm partial to ordinary composition books these days. Less intimidating, less guilt if I don't fill it, slim & lightweight. But, I've loved many a fancier journal in my life - so just choose something soft that lays flat when opened. Then find a nice ink pen to wrap with it. Voila. (I do have this Moleskine journal now in my store, but I promise that's not why I mentioned journals.)


I know not everyone enjoys reading, and there are artists who make great work without reading a lot.

But if you CAN enjoy it, I say it's one of the very best things you can do to fuel your art.  For me, any books that come highly recommended and are well-written, fiction or non, will make me happy.

But here are a few I've especially appreciated as an artist:

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith & Art – Madeleine L’Engle

Writing Down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg

The Artist's Way - Julia Cameron

Steal Like An Artist - Austin Kleon

Show Your Work – Austin Kleon

A Million Little Ways – Emily P. Freeman

Songwriters on Songwriting – Paul Zollo

Writing Better Lyrics - Pat Pattison (okay, this one I have not yet read, but a number of my writer friends have & have highly recommended it)


American Songwriter magazine - I love this magazine so much & only wish I had time to read every issue cover to cover


There's almost nothing more helpful to a performing artist of any kind than to actually GO to see live performances. If cost were no issue, I think most of us would be attending a lot more shows and watching less Netflix.

Give your loved one tickets to concerts, and not just the big productions. Those are great fun, but most of us aren't ever going to have the resources to pull off that kind of show. Find tickets to a house show with a reputable artist performing or an intimate local venue, so they can learn by watching & be inspired.

Give tickets to theatrical productions & arthouse movie theaters. Most people will spend money to hit a mainstream theater a few times a year, but it feels risky to a lot of people to try an independent film. Because those films are often so interesting and provocative, get two tickets so you can go together and then have dinner & conversation after.

 Host a House Concert

If your writer is interested in sharing their work publicly, help them out by graciously planning a concert in your home and inviting your neighbors, friends and family. It'll be a gift for you, too!

Does it sound scary or difficult? It's totally do-able, and my friend Matthew Clark has this great house concert resource page for you. Check it out!

Yeti Blue Microphone 

I love this little guy for capturing work tapes or even rough demos. We've also used it for broadcasting live online shows. I love it because it doesn't require me to be a techie and it's the best affordable USB mic I've found so far.


I've used Bose and Audio-Technica. Again, I'm not a techie, so definitely do some research, but something other than earbuds is super helpful for recording and listening to mixes.

Scholarship to Masterpiece Project

I work at Masterpiece Project as a songwriting studio leader one week every summer and cannot speak highly enough about this place. It's exactly what I wish I'd had when I was a teenager, a safe intimate environment to explore art and make friends under the mentorship of faith-based professional artists.

If your artist is rising 9th-12th grade, this would be a fantastic Christmas gift that won't end up on their bedroom floor with dirty socks.

Demo Recording Session

For a beginning songwriter, one of the most exhilarating experiences is to have one of your songs recorded professionally. Demo production can range from $200-$1500 depending on complexity of recording and reputation/demand of the particular producer.

If it's a new/young/aspiring songwriter, definitely find someone in your local area who will do it on the budget end of the scale. Make sure you hear samples of their work before hiring.

Portable PA

This has been the handiest thing I've purchased in the past few years. I use the Fishman tower system, but I've heard good things about the Bose, as well. Perfect for small venue performances. If you only need 1-2 inputs, you won't even need a soundboard.


For performances with multiple vocalists or instruments, use a mixing console like this one from Yamaha with your PA.


You can't go wrong with iTunes gift cards. Or vinyl for the young/audiophile crowd. Or physical CDs for the non-digital car. And maybe give them some music that has stood the test of time that they wouldn't ordinarily seek out. I was heavily influenced by music I found laying around my childhood home, music popular before my time...Patsy Cline, The Beach Boys, Dire Straits, Roy Orbison. Help your writer get acquainted with the greats of the past OR greats from genres other than their first love.


If your writer is a grown-up, one of the best gifts I can think of is dedicated time.

Is she a mother? Take the kids away from the house for a day and let her write in peace!

A married man? Give him an evening a week to himself & a place to create.

Or get crazy and find a place on the beach where you can go together - but go your separate ways during the daytime.


Enough said. It's true, not all artists love Apple, but it's a good bet.

This Calendar

I don't have this, but someone is getting it for my young filmmaker, because he's interested in making actual progress toward goals, and I've heard great things about this helpful tool from Jon Acuff. Check it out.

 Professional Photos

If he or she wants to share their music or book shows, this is going to be necessary. Find a good local photographer who has some experience with artist photography (different from wedding or baby portraits) & book a session.

Website Design

You don't have to have a pro do it nowadays, at least not to start out, because there are some good build-your-own sites. But if they are getting busy with music work, this could be an amazing gift. OR, simply buy a domain with their name so they can use it whenever they're ready!

Skype Songwriting Mentoring Session(s)

Finally, I love to encourage up-and-coming songwriters. It's one of my passions to come alongside others who are using their gifts.

If you have a songwriter in your life who would benefit from conversation and feedback on the craft of songwriting or the life of music-making, I'm happy to offer a limited number of session times as I have time.

Please email me at to discuss the possibilities. Fun!


So, there you have it. My quick brainstorm on thoughtful gifts for songwriters. Have more ideas? By all means, share them below!









Plumb Exhale Tour Journal: 4


29 Oct 2015

I’ve been home for three days, hanging with the kids and realizing autumn somehow breezed in while I wasn’t looking and set up camp. Carolina is looking fine in gold & bronze, and even this cold-weather hater is smiling about it. And about the butternut squash soup I made last night and will eat again tonight.

I didn’t post a journal last week. Monday was an early travel day, which left me wanting only sleep & cuddles. Tuesday was prep for youngest daughter’s birthday. Wednesday, family day. We kept the kids home from school (unexcused! Gasp!) and headed to the state fair, which was EXACTLY the right call. So much fun. Thursday I was back to Nashville and climbing on the bus for our last weekend of the tour!


Several bus mates were ill over the weekend, leaving everyone a bit wary of picking something up. Would have made a very interesting finale! Plumb was recovering from bronchitis, and I was amazed by how she powered through. When your body is your instrument and it breaks…it’s a pretty stressful predicament. It would be for any of us, but especially when you have larger audiences and a busload of musicians depending on you to not cancel.

Connecting with people at the Food for the Hungry table.



Anyway, the show went on & we loved every minute. Apparently pranks are common on last days of tours, and the best prank of all was the fact that Geoff Duncan & Brad Dring had me prepared (as in, nervous wreck) to be pranked during my last set and then DIDN’T. Exhale.

What we did do is scavenge some costuming backstage and rush the Rapture Ruckus set during Mister Roboto for a (somewhat) impromptu dance party. I guess they knew we were coming, but they didn’t know we’d come in style. It was incredible.


I soaked up every late night conversation and listening session, knowing this was a special moment in life. I felt ready to be at the end of this stretch and home again, but not ready to let go of the people I’ve come to love & admire. I mean, you can’t brush your teeth with a bottle of water next to someone for five weeks and not feel pretty tight. It’s a strange temporary reality that I think resulted in permanent relationships. They are good people, every one.


Tiffany and I have lives that have circled back together over the years, and I love that. So grateful she took a chance and invited me to be a part of this journey. And overwhelmingly thankful to my Raleigh family & friends who cared for me & my family in so many ways. I wouldn't have been able to be present on the road if you weren't present at home. Thank you.

Cheers to new adventures & new friends & each of us doing the work we were made to do.