It's Sept. 6 and singer-songwriter Lauren Daigle is in Orlando, Fla., mixing, mingling and performing at Momentum, the annual conference of Christian Music Broadcasters.
It is also the day before her new album, the highly anticipated Look Up Child, is released.
Sooooo, any pre-release jitters?
"My mood is pure excitement," the Louisiana native says. "I feel like I've been holding in a secret and I'm ready to explode. Yesterday, I was probably pretty stressed and overwhelmed, but my manager said: 'No stress allowed. This is music, it's supposed to be fun.' From then on, it's just been a blast."
Daigle's moment of anxiety was for naught, if sales and critical approval are any indication. Look Up Child debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, selling 115,000 copies, and got the 27-year-old written up at outlets like stereogum.com and rollingstone.com, with the latter's headline proclaiming: "A Christian Singer Is Bigger Than Drake and Ariana Grande This Week."
She performs Wednesday at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock. AHI and Scott Mulvahill will open.
Produced by Tom Avery and recorded in Nashville, Tenn., Look Up Child is a Christian-pop showcase for Daigle's powerhouse, Adele-like vocals, and features the kind of expansive arrangements that are custom-made for arena-size singalongs.
A former contestant on American Idol, Daigle grew up in Baton Rouge and Lafayette surrounded by music, from gospel and pop to zydeco.
"We had so much culture," she says. "It's this community of sounds that is so rich. That was one of the most special things about growing up in Louisiana, the people and the culture, the French influence. And there's a camaraderie and a vulnerability that people have with each other."
She was 11 when she first started writing songs ("They were awful," she says). After years of hearing her sing around the house, her mom pushed the 16-year-old Daigle to join the choir at their small church.
"That was the beginning of me singing out," she says.
It also came after Daigle had been diagnosed with cytomegalovirus when she was 15.
"I wasn't bedridden, but it was close. I remember feeling like I don't know what to do with my life, and I started seeing visions of crowds and stages."
Joining the choir was the first step on her musical journey, she says. She performed on the ninth and 11th seasons of American Idol and played in cover bands before releasing her debut album, How Can It Be, in 2015.
A FRESH START
She spent the better part of three years touring behind the record, returning to Louisiana more than a little worn out.
"I was wiped," she says. "I moved back in with my family, traveled a bunch with friends and took about six months off."
Refreshed, she began work on the new album in January.
The first single, the powerful ballad "You Say," with its affirmation of faith and love over the darkness of self-doubt, has over 18 million Spotify streams.
It's a track that had been around for a while, Daigle says: "We wrote that about 2 1/2 years ago. I fell in love with the song and started playing it at some of my shows. One night, by the time the second chorus hit, people were singing it. It was wild. We got all these requests on social media and in emails from people wanting to know when we were going to put it out. Once we started writing the record, we wanted to make it the first single and honor the fans that had been waiting for that song."
The title track is all about looking at the world with a less jaded eye.
"It's so special to me," she says. "It's a representation of the past season I've been walking through. My life has been upside down, and I'd been trying to figure out how to manage stress and the demands of all of this while still being myself."
A friend offered some good advice.
"She told me to get in touch with my 8-year-old self again, and discover how she would look at all of this. It really changed everything for me. That childlike joy, that childlike faith is so compelling. It's this awe and wonder. That's the heartbeat behind that song."
Canadian indie soul "singer-storyteller"AHI says he jumped at the chance to open for Daigle.
"I was introduced to her music when I was asked to open for her," he says. "She's an amazing artist, very talented and she's killing it on the charts. When they asked me to open, I was definitely down to do it."
AHI -- pronounced "Eye" -- has been on the road in support of his second album, In Our Time, a soulful mix of indie rock, folk and pop reminiscent of The Head and the Heart and Michael Kiwanuka.
Music critic Ed Whitelock at popmatters.com said: "It's the kind of album that wins listeners over with its hard-won positivity and unapologetic sincerity."
The 35-year-old AHI didn't start making music until his early 20s, when he taught himself how to play guitar. He had a band, but didn't really start singing until after the group broke up. He began to focus on a career in music about seven years ago.
When AHI hits the Verizon Arena stage it will be just he and his drummer Shawn Killaly. But don't worry, he says, they won't have any problems filing the arena with sound.
"Shawn is a really dynamic drummer, and I'm a pretty heavy strummer on the guitar. One compliment we often get as a duo is that we really fill up the stage and it doesn't sound like two-piece, it sounds like a full band. It's a good way for people to get to know me and be introduced to me."
Style on 10/09/2018
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