Grammy-Nominated Artist Francesca Battistelli
Francesca Battistelli: Blooming Where She’s Planted
Written by Kelli Gillespie
Since her debut a short six years ago, Francesca Battistelli has earned a Grammy nomination, numerous Dove Awards including 2011 Artist of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year, plus her music has been featured on television shows ranging from Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance, to ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. This year Battistelli hits the road with The Bible: Son of God Tour 2014, and releases her third studio album If We’re Honest. Risen caught up with the talented artist and mother of two to talk focus, honesty, and a little soda pop.
Interviewed Exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: Over 100 million people saw the epic The Bible mini-series last spring. You were included on the soundtrack and now that Mark Burnett and Roma Downey are taking it to individual cities across the country you will join them to kick off the tour. What can audiences expect of the show?
Francesca Battistelli: It’s really going to be an amazing thing. I think the coolest part is that it is so unique and we are going to be doing something that isn’t done a lot. It’s not just a concert. It has incredible footage from the mini-series and Son of God film. It’s really like nothing that has been out there before. I think it’s combining technology and immersing the audience in the footage while tying each scene back to one of the artist’s songs. I can’t wait. I think the moment someone walks into the theatre, church, or wherever the venue is, they will feel like they have walked into an experience. That’s our vision and our goal.
Risen Magazine: Your song [lyrics] “It’s Your Life,” has been used on so many mainstream TV shows… “the world is watching you, every day the choices you make say what you are and who your heart beats for.” How is that lived out in your own life, and what does being involved in The Bible Tour mean to you?
Francesca Battistelli: That is a song that definitely ties in really well. The Bible says where your treasures are, your heart will be also. And there is something about the treasure being your time and the things you give your life to; where you choose to spend your time and put your energy. That’s where your heart is. So to be part of something like this, it’s definitely close to my heart to spread the love of Christ and the Gospel everywhere I am. The tour is part of this movement that Mark and Roma started with a vision in their hearts. It’s an honor to be part of it and I think the tour is something that will continue for years. I don’t think it’s the first and only; I think it’s just the first.
Risen Magazine: What would you say to someone that is struggling with identity issues or having trouble finding the strength to be authentic?
Francesca Battistelli: Everybody struggles with that, even the strongest believers, and the strongest people need reminders that it’s okay to be who we are, and trust that God wants us to be authentic. He wants us to stand up for Him. In the position that Mark and Roma are in [producing Bible-based content] in Hollywood, an industry that is usually very anti-Gospel, to see them [succeeding] is inspiring. I think to anyone that is struggling, look to the examples of people of faith that have gone beforehand as Jesus said. And obviously turn to Him, because He risked it all, and gave it all for us, and that is the ultimate example.
Risen Magazine: When you won Artist of the Year in 2011, you were the first female to win the award in 21 years with the prior female being Amy Grant in 1992, and you would’ve been seven years old at the time. How have you most seen God grow your talents and bless you in ways bigger than you could have even asked for and what encouragement would you give people to pursue their dreams?
Francesca Battistelli: God has done some amazing things and He does so much more than we can ask or think, and what a blessing that is. To first say, “Okay God, here I am. Use me.” And then He does. Sometimes we overcomplicate things, and God just wants our willingness. And there is a beauty in that simplicity. Life, I’m learning as I grow older, is sort of a day-by-day thing. I think you can get caught up in, “What am I supposed to do? What does God have for me next week, or next year? Or five years from now?” And I think He just wants our ever-present attention. Just like a parent wants their child to be there and listen to them and say, “Okay Mom and Dad, what do you want me to do next?” There is something about that childlike faith that God wants us to have. I think whatever dreams you are pursuing, or whatever calling you think God may have placed on your heart, just follow Him day by day and don’t worry too much about what it is going to look like in the end because I think the journey is really what life is about. At the end of it, we’ll see that the journey was life.
My job is to please God and not to please people, though hopefully He is doing that through the music and the way I live my life. I definitely want to be a good example.
Risen Magazine: There are probably a fair number of people that think you have the most amazing life and I imagine most of the time you do. God has blessed you with incredible talent, a loving family, and the ability to live out your dreams. But, all of that requires risk and sacrifice and most of the time I’m sure it is incredible. For the times that it’s more challenging or tougher than initially imagined, those days when the devil tries to rock your foundation, what keeps you focused and moving forward?
Francesca Battistelli: Oh, this is so true. I have those days far more often than I would like to admit. It’s oftentimes my husband’s encouragement that gets me back in the right mindset, or it’s a band member, or honestly sometimes I’m on stage and God just meets me in the middle of a song, and I’m totally wrecked in a good way. On top of that, the stories I hear from people who have been touched by my music totally spurs me onward when the days are tough.
Risen Magazine: Speaking of your husband, you’ve been able to keep music a family affair with him in your band, which allows you to be together when on the road. How does that work with your kids?
Francesca Battistelli: Yea, we’ve always brought our kids with us. They travel on the bus with us and it’s a family affair. It is a lot of fun to get to travel as a family.
Risen Magazine: Where does the conviction come that keeps you tied to the Lord and not seduced by other aspects of the industry?
Francesca Battistelli: When I was a teenager and I first started writing music and thinking, “I can really do this. I could be a musician,” I just wanted to make music; I didn’t really care what it was [classified as]. I just wanted to get a record deal and be a musician. God really got a hold of my heart my senior year in high school and kind of stripped that desire away and I fell in love with worshipping and leading worship, and wanting to make music that glorified God that my friends in church could listen to. He took me on a journey. This [music] is what I wanted to do and I knew He was calling me to do it, and it didn’t matter to me if I stayed in the church or just played coffee shops all my life or whatever. I think God just got me to that point of, this isn’t my dream anymore; this is His dream. So it just isn’t anything I’ve ever seen be any different. If Jesus chooses to take my music down a different avenue, then great, I’m totally fine with that, but I’m going to keep writing the songs He puts on my heart. I think that came from having a great family and an amazing husband who grounds me and reminds me what it is all about and also the desires of my heart are not to stray from where I am right now. I’m grateful to get to live the dream that God put on my heart and just make music for Him.
Risen Magazine: But there are still some interesting aspects. I have to ask about last year when you were part of Christian Artist Can Panel Series. You were featured on 3 million Diet Pepsi cans along with a handful of other artists like TobyMac [who] graces the Mountain Dew can. What was it like to see your image used in this way?
Francesca Battistelli: Definitely not something I ever thought would happen, but a very fun thing. It’s pretty cool to see the funny ways God uses and chooses, to get the message out there. We’re close with the Crisp family [Lee Crisp is President & COO of Pepsi Mid-America] who was behind that campaign, and seeing their heart to use what they do, which is soft drinks, to get the message of the Gospel, and Christian music, to more people – I love that. Even though it’s just kind of a fun thing, I know that lives are going to be changed through that. And it’s just cool to see how God chooses to use His servants in all areas of life.
Risen Magazine: People are placed in all different arenas with spheres of influence whether it’s a talent or skill, or on a soda can. What responsibility do you feel when it comes to being a role model to others?
Francesca Battistelli: I think there is a balance with being smart with the things you support, or the things you talk about or tweet. But at the end of the day I know there is always going to be someone that doesn’t like something I’ve said or done. I want to honor God and be that role model because I do know there are countless girls that listen to my music. Every concert I perform parents thank me and say, “Thank you for being a role model and creating music my daughter can listen to.” So I take that really seriously and it’s definitely a responsibility. My job is to please God and not to please people, though hopefully He is doing that through the music and the way I live my life. I definitely want to be a good example.
Risen Magazine: It’s been a few years since your last studio album and fans are eagerly anticipating your next one titled, If We’re Honest which comes out April 22. One of the singles released says, “Write your story on my heart.” What advice would you give others on how to actively seek out and know what plans God has for them?
Francesca Battistelli: I am thrilled to finally be sharing new music! This album is my most personal yet and I think it comes down to having open hands with your life and future. As long as you’re stewarding the gifts and opportunities He gives you, He will be faithful to lead you and open the doors He wants open in your life. “Bloom where you’re planted,” is what I always say, and let God do the rest.
Risen Magazine: I would think due to the amount of time spent writing, singing and recording these new songs, much of it has to reflect your life or at least areas you see where others are struggling or thirsty for encouragement. Which song is the most personal to you where you are currently at in your journey?
Francesca Battistelli: “If We’re Honest” is the most personal for sure. I wrote it during a season where a lot of people around me were just not being real, and I was thirsty for authenticity in relationships. God has called us to live transparent lives with Him and with each other. James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins one to another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” But the enemy wants to keep us hiding and isolated so we can’t find healing and restoration. The song is a plea for truth, honesty, and integrity in the lives of believers, including myself.
Exclusive interview originally published in Risen Magazine, Spring 2014
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