How truly wonderful it is to be able to
share with our readers the beauty of Advent music, recorded by great
Catholic musicians, as we anticipate Christmas together. Catholic Mom
and musician Susan Bailey shares her insights on the Advent season in our
interview below. I loved Susan's music from the moment I popped
Wait with Meinto the CD player in my car. The combination of
Advent favorites such as Susan's treatment of O Holy Night and
heart-filled original compositions makes this a treat for the Advent season.
I hope that you and your families will enjoy Susan Bailey and her talents as
much as my own family has!
CM: Happy Advent Susan! Could you
please tell us a little about yourself and your family, and your relationship with the Catholic Church?
And a Happy Advent to you! I am a 47 year old mother of two teenagers,
Stephen (18) and Meredith (15) and I have been happily married to Rich for
Rich and I were high school sweethearts so God obviously had us in mind as a
couple very early in life. :-) Stephen will be graduating from high school
this year and wants to become a filmmaker; he loves playing the guitar and
writing songs (carrying on the family business so to speak). Meredith is a
and also loves to sing.
I was born into the Catholic Church but came to know Jesus in a personal way
through a born again experience as a teenager via a Protestant youth group.
But I needed another conversion experience in my mid-30s to make it truly
and that was through learning to forgive someone who had hurt me. I never
stopped going to mass and even at the lowest point in my faith, I always
that Jesus was present somehow in the Eucharist, and that's what kept me
CM: Your musical style is so wonderfully
contemporary! How have you come
to focus on recording Catholic music? What is your musical background and
I am basically a self-taught musician. I inherited a good ear and my passion
for music from my dad but not his mathematical ability so I have trouble
reading music. I took piano lessons for 5 years as a child but it didn't
stick. Instead, at 15 I took up the guitar and taught myself Joni Mitchell
Beatles songs. Around that time I started writing too.
About ten years ago, after my second conversion experience, I bought an Amy
Grant album, "Lead Me On." Her music inspired me to take up writing again
a long absence. About a year later a friend of mine was dying of AIDS and I
wrote a song in tribute to her. I sang it at her funeral and became keenly
aware of how powerful a ministry tool music could be. It was that day that I
decided to deepen my vocation to music and devote it to the Lord. I had been
involved in folk groups and choirs since my teens but I hadn't realized
there was more I could do with my music.
I got fired up with the idea of bringing music to fellow Catholics in arenas
outside of the liturgy. I hoped I could inspire them to listen to Christian
music in their homes, their cars, wherever. I derived such inspiration and
encouragement from it myself that I hoped to share that love with others.
CM: Your Advent CD,
Wait with Me, features many
original compositions, as
well as Advent classics such as O Holy Night. Could you please describe
your creative process and how you go about writing song lyrics? What is
I can be inspired by scripture (such as "A Shoot from Jesse" and "The Lord
Has Come to Save You", or by inspired writings (such as Fr. Gobbi's writings
the Marian Movement of Priests in "Wait
with Me"), and I am also inspired by
The melody and the lyrics have to come at the same time or else
the song doesn't get finished. I've tried saving melodies for a day when the
lyrics would come, but that never works for me.
I'd like to say I'm a disciplined writer and that I write songs on a regular
basis, but I am not. I go on stretches where I will write lots of songs, and
then I will go through desert times when I will write nothing. I see
songwriting as hard work (I've never been lucky enough to take dictation
from the Lord)
with lots of editing and rewrites, but I also see it as a partnership
myself and the Lord. All the songs belong to Him ultimately.
CM: My favorite song on the CD
Wait with Me(which was hard to
choose, because I loved
them all) was Baby Jesus, which you sing with your daughter Meredith. What
a special treat to be able to record with your daughter! Please tell us how
you manage to combine your roles of mother and musical artist?
Although music is in my blood and can be very consuming, my roles as wife
mother always come first. Sometimes it has been frustrating putting aside
strong desires to write and record for motherly duties, but there's never
question of what is first and foremost. And the rewards of motherhood are
great indeed. We are very much blessed with two very beautiful children,
of whom have a faith in God, and both of whom love and respect us as much as
we love and respect them.
Sometimes God will ask us to put aside things that we love for those things
that He wants us to attend to. And later on He will honor that obedience. At
the moment, I have had to put aside my music to help care for my dying
It wasn't easy to obey, I have to be truthful. But the graces, especially
little ones, have been so sweet. God has been doing a great work in our
through this time. Honoring Him is most important.
CM: What words of wisdom would you have for
Catholic Moms looking to pursue
their creative dreams as you have done?
Pray, pray, pray! Ask God over and over and over again for wisdom and make
sure He guides you along the path. Be flexible; rather than make long term
just be awake and ready like the surfer, waiting for the wave to catch. And
always know what is most important.
CM: Any advice to share on how families can
cherish and celebrate the
season of Advent? How does your own family commemorate Advent?
To me, Advent is the antithesis of the holiday season as the world presents
it. Advent must be celebrated in the quiet. Therefore, you have to make
conscious choices not to do too much. The world would have us believe that
crazy activity will lead to happiness on Christmas morning. That frantically
shopping in crowded malls will bring joy. That attending endless Christmas
parties will be fun. All these things do is to create stress and crowd out
purpose of this season - to wait in joyful anticipation for Jesus, both for
when He is birthed in our hearts, and when He comes again.
As a family, we are making these choices. I don't decorate with Christmas
decorations until the last week before Christmas; instead I bring out the
candles. In years past we began each dinner with Advent prayers and readings
(with the children being teenagers, it has been harder now to sit down
because of their work and school schedules, but we're working on it). Being
faithful to the liturgical calendar says that we celebrate Advent, and then
celebrate Christmas on the 25th and 12 days after that up until Epiphany.
associate pastor at our church (St Luke the Evangelist in Westborough, MA),
Steven Labaire, really taught me the beauty of following the liturgical
calendar to set us free from worldly concerns.
CM: Please share with us about your additional
recording projects and any
future plans you have in the works?
I have another full length CD entitled "Teach Me to Love" which is a
collection of adult contemporary songs that I wrote. There are two songs on
honor of Mother Teresa. I then have a 4 song CD prepared as a hopeful
to the sexual abuse scandal in our church. It features songs about hope,
vocations, forgiveness and faith, and is entitled "Still the Same."
In the long term, I plan to record a Marian album. I have written a
collection of songs based on the writings of Fr. Gobbi of the Marian
Priests. I hope to work with several other female Catholic artists in the
of this album. Presently I am working on demos and trying to figure out how
God wants me to accomplish this, since the people I want to work with
live all over the country!
CM: Are there any additional comments or thoughts
you'd like to share with
our CatholicMom.com readers?
I can't stress enough how blest I have been to be a mother. As I prepare to
send my oldest off to college next year, I am keenly aware of the change and
cherish all the memories we've shared as mother and son. I still have my
daughter for three more years and plan to cherish those moments as well.
There is no
greater call than to be a wife and a mother and I thank CatholicMom.com for
recognizing this and supporting this most important vocation.
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