With her brand new album Red Sea Road releasing this week, we had the pleasure of talking with singer-songwriter Ellie Holcomb for our newest NoiseTrade One-on-One. During our chat, Holcomb opened up about her new album, the story behind her new song and scenic video for “Find You Here,” how she approaches her solo work and her band involvement, and much more.
NoiseTrade: You’re getting ready to release your brand new sophomore solo album Red Sea Road on January 27. What does that title mean to you and how did its themes shape your new collection of songs?
Ellie Holcomb: The past two years for our community have been heavy, full of suffering and loss. Red Sea Road is a record full of songs about how I’ve seen God show up in the middle of all the pain. I know now more than I did two years ago that He is faithful, no matter what we are facing. I’ve seen Him draw near to our broken hearts and make a way for us to keep going when there seemed to be no way. There’s an Ann Voskamp blog post where she describes it like this: “…we believe that an unseen Hope makes a Red Sea Road when there seems to be no way.” This record is celebrating the unseen Hope we have in Jesus, and the way I’ve seen Him make Red Sea Roads through some of the most difficult & heartbreaking years of my life.
NT: Tell us about the scenic music video you shot for “Find You Here” and the story behind the song’s inspiration.
Holcomb: “Find You Here” is a song about the profound peace my family and I experienced in the face of a cancer diagnosis for my dad. It tells the story about God drawing near to our breaking hearts, bringing comfort into our chaos and covering our deepest fears with His faithfulness, and it’s grounded in this beautiful promise from Philippians 4:4-7: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Since the song is a celebration of the faithfulness of God, and how He shows up in the most unlikely, most broken places. I wanted the video to capture this celebration, so we drove to the Appalachian mountains. It was a beautiful thing to sing that song over and over again in such beautiful places, with a beautiful team of women capturing all of it on film.
NT: How did the writing and recording stages of Red Sea Road differ from (or look similar to) those of your debut album As Sure As the Sun?
Holcomb: I wrote most of As Sure As the Sun before I had our first child. I wrote a lot of Red Sea Road with our two children running around at my feet or dancing in the kitchen as I was singing! I’d circle around during nap times and at night to finish songs, but a lot of times inspiration would hit in the middle of the day when my kids were both around, so it was definitely a different writing process.
I got to work with the same two amazing producers, Ben Shive and Brown Bannister (my father) on this record, but because my dad was diagnosed with cancer towards the beginning of the recording process, we moved more slowly through the recording process. My mom also lost her mother while we were making Red Sea Road. It took a little longer than usual to make the record, but it was a beautiful thing to be singing songs full of truth as we walked through these trials together.
NT: You’re offering As Sure As the Sun here on NoiseTrade in its entirety. Has that album or its songs changed or evolved for you in anyway since it was first released?
Holcomb: Those songs are still so good for me to sing. Most of the songs I write are kind of like prayers. My husband calls me a “modern day psalmist” and it has been a joy to see those songs continue to ring true in my heart. They may apply to different circumstances or situations, but they continue to be a way for me to anchor myself in the truth of God’s love.
NT: How do you approach your different roles as a solo artist and as a band member (Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors, Rain for Roots)?
Holcomb: I love collaboration. I’m an extrovert, and I’m that kid who always loved a group project in school. Whenever I’m partnering with other artists, whether it’s my husband or a group of friends writing songs for children like Rain for Roots, I’m looking to be a support and to find an appropriate place where I can contribute or add to the dynamic. I’m very much a collaborative writer for my solo work, but each song I write and each show I play feels much more personal, tied to the inner-workings of my heart and more cathartic in nature.
NT: Finally, as someone who creatively employs scripture and hymns for a variety of your lyrics, who are a few other songwriters who do the same that you recommend listeners check out?
Holcomb: Sandra McCracken, Jon Foreman, and Sara Groves all do it masterfully.