For Rebecca St James, 2020 has been a year of new beginnings, with the release of her EP Dawn in July, and the birth of her third child in August. The singer-songwriter-worship artist posted a picture of baby River Jack on social media last week.
In this ‘Artist Spotlight’ interview with Rhema 99.7’s Wayne Hindson, St. James talks about the early years of her career, what it was really like waiting so many years for the right partner to come into her life, her new EP “Dawn” – and what she’s discovered about herself through being a mum.
WH: When did you feel God call you into music?
RSJ: Well, I definitely had indications pretty early that God might be leading me that way. I grew up in a family where Christian music was just always around us. I think my first show ever, I was six weeks old and it was a Larry Norman concert at the Sydney Opera House. Yeah, it’s just a very natural part of our lives. But when I was going to a Christian school in Brisbane when I was 12, I auditioned for a Christian rock band and got involved with that, as one of the singers. And then Carmen heard a demo tape that I had recorded through that school and asked me to be his support act in Australia for his ‘Revival in the Land’ tour in 1991.
It was so long ago, as such a baby. But yeah, [I was] so honoured to be able to open for him and sing some worship songs. And that was kind of my beginning. And then we moved to the US when I was 14 for my dad’s job and some management opportunities he had in Nashville. And it was really pretty soon after that, that it became a little bit more official. I recorded a worship album on his label actually in Australia before he left, but we kind of left before we were even able to tour that or anything.
Then when I was 15, Forefront Records in Nashville signed me to their label and then went full time at 16. So, yeah, I look back now and I’m like, wow, I was so, so young. But God had a plan and definitely called me to it. And I’m thankful for the journey that I’ve had.
WH: What was it like when people started to recognise you as an artist after you released your popular 1996 album God?
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RSJ: Yeah, I think growing up in Australia, listening to a lot of both Christian bands and then some mainstream bands, I feel like I had this rock element to me where I just I had grown up on a lot of rock music, mostly Christian. And so when I was working on that that album – we worked on it for nine months, my producer and I – I was involved in every song on that album, writing and programming – and it just felt very congruent and very right and very passionate. It was really lovely to see people respond so well to it and just see kind of the connection that that album had. Musically, spiritually, I feel really thankful to have had that opportunity with Forefront to just make an album that felt so right for that point in my life.
WH: As an 18 year old, when you started to hit the spotlight, what was important to you then? Fast forward 25 years and reflect back: are the same things important, or has that changed for you?
RSJ: I think at that point, being single and being out on the road and travelling as much as I was, and when music was just so all-consuming – and I was doing other things too…writing books for teens and doing a bit of acting here and there – and I was kind of juggling. I’m in this season now that’s just so sweet… I feel it’s such a sense of satisfaction and joy in the fact that the dreams that I had than of being a wife and mum have come true in the most beautiful way. Having children, having my husband and that support – we’re going to go on the road as a family – just the loveliness of that, the foundation of that is different.
I want to primarily be a great daughter of God, but which was always the case. But then I second to that, want to be a great wife and a great mum.
WH: Did you feel like a lot of pressure, as a young lady, being almost a spokesperson for this sexual abstinence movement?
RSJ: You know, it happened very organically. Just the fact that I even spoke about purity. It started as a very organic scene, because there was a movement happening in the US at that time called the True Love Waits movement. There were a lot of young people that were pledging to save sex for marriage and to wait. And so I do a lot of these rallies with churches and youth groups and even larger rallies to, you know, sixty thousand people or more, where the organisers would say, “Hey, can you just say a couple words about the importance of purity and honouring God, you know, relationally?” And so I did. And there was just such a really massive response to it from both the young people and parents, that I saw a real need for it.
So, yeah, I kind of fell into that in a way that was very congruent, a commitment that I really valued and was going to live anyway. And then the song (Wait For Me) happened, and the book happened (Wait for Me: Rediscovering the Joy of Purity in Romance) and all of that continued.
I think, honestly, the only time I felt pressure about it was just when I continued to talk about it [and] it became kind of a little bit painful… It wasn’t the message that was painful itself. It was more just that I had this love song to my future husband saying, “I’m waiting for you and I’m praying for you. Wait for me, too”, but he wasn’t here yet. And so I think there’s an element of “hope deferred makes the heart sick”. That was very real in my heart. But then I’m still talking about it from stage because it felt like is an important part of my platform.
I think it kind of played into some stress towards the end of those years, that nearly 20 years, where I was on the road so much. I don’t necessarily regret it, because I think the message is still so, so important for people to hear about. But it definitely became a bit more costly as I continued to talk about it, but was still single.
WH: Can you take us through your pregnancy journey?
RSJ: Well, we were a couple years into married life and had just really sensed that this was the next season or kind of phase in our journey and our life together, my husband and I. And so thank the Lord, we fell pregnant actually quite quickly with our daughter. And I was so exceedingly thankful because I did get a later start in, you know, in that part of my life. And it’s not a given that that’s even going to happen, or happen quickly. So I’m very, very thankful.
I’m the oldest of seven children. And so I felt like I’d kind of been second mum already to all my siblings. So I think I went into parenting pretty confident about, “Oh, you know, I’ve just got to read the right book, it’s going to be pretty second nature.” And I think when Gemma was born, which was an absolute delight for my husband and I – I mean, just over the moon, thrilled – amidst the delight and the joy and the honour of being a mum, there was definitely this pretty steep learning curve and pretty quick realisation that just because you read the books or even been the oldest child doesn’t mean that it’s going to come easily. There’s just so many choices in parenting, so many different ways that you could go and different things that you can do. And you’re kind of meant to be a student of your child, really, and their specific needs. It’s definitely been something that I’ve loved every minute of. But then also it’s turned me to God for wisdom in a different way in my life, and also really helps me to surrender our kids to God and recognise that they’re His and just asking Him for what we need to parent well.
WH: What was one thing you learnt about yourself as a mum?
RSJ: Probably pride. I was already conscious of my pride, but more in life, just in the parenting sense. I think there was times where she’d be playing up a little bit. And I just feel like [that was] such a reflection on me. You know, like, “Ah… it’s a showing me up as a parent”. And it was humbling. She’s reasonably strong. It’s just there was this moment of like, “Okay, yeah, this is a little humbling because it’s just not the easiest”. And I really need to know how [husband] Cubbie [Fink] and I can navigate this well.
She’s just got this beautiful little face at six years old and softened so much and really come through those years of being a bit more trying, which were like age two and three. You can’t be like, your own selfishness and humanity and pride, with kids… It’s humbling. It’s good.
WH: It’s been about a decade since you have released new music. [With the release of your new album Dawn], were you ever concerned that people may not resonate with your new music?
RSJ: When you’re releasing songs, especially a whole album, it’s like birthing a baby in a way, it’s like presenting a part of you to the world. People either connect with that and admire your baby, your music, or they don’t. So I think it’s that vulnerability that just hits every now and again. But for the most part, I knew I was so called to this album, and God had done such a huge work out of the blue without me even wanting it, or even, like, looking for it. He’s called me back to music so radically, that in those moments of vulnerability, I could come back to know this was God’s idea. He did this work and he has got a purpose here. And so we just have to see.
My part is just to be faithful to creating what I feel He’s called me to create, and being true to that mission and then leave the rest to him. It is easier said than done sometimes. But for the most part, I just rested in that in that sense of calling.
WH: Let’s talk about the song Middle of the Fire. Can you talk to us about the heart behind this song?
RSJ: So last year I was actually in Redding, California a couple of times [with] Heritage Music, which is kind of an extra arm of Bethel Music Ministry outside of their church. And so I was thankful that they were open to really, you know, encouraging me in my journey with music and supporting me.
Josh [my brother] is a wonderful man and has an incredible heart for God and for ministry and for worship. We were writing a song, Middle of the Fire. It just came kind of pretty organically. And little did we know that this year, 2020 was going to be such a challenging year for all of us, really. It’s such a curveball that none of us could have anticipated. [The song] says, “In the middle of the fire, I will talk to You, Father in the middle of the fire. You are standing with us in the midst of my darkest hour. Holy Spirit, come. Show your power in the middle of the fire. You are faithful, Jesus”.
And it’s a worship song, kind of honouring His faithfulness and also reminding us that He’s faithful and can be trusted.
Article supplied with thanks to Rhema 99.7.