The songs of Solveig Leithaug (pronounced Sol-vey Light-houg) have traveled the world over, literally. Having lived half of her life in Norway, the other half in the United States, the Dove Award-winning singer-songwriter has spent a lifetime heartening audiences across the globe with strains of faith surrendered through chords of hope. And on her most recent studio recording, Time (buy)—masterfully produced by Steve Hindalong (Sara Groves, Andrew Peterson)—the multi-faceted, multi-cultural folk-songstress enlists music to wrestle with one of humanity’s greatest fears … the passage of time.
Harnessing her gift for words to reflect upon messages appropriate for all-times—but, oh-so-needed now—perpetuated throughout the breadth of her musical career, Solveig sits down with Andrew Greer for this poignant conversation with one of gospel music’s most unique voices.
CCM Magazine: Time is your fifteenth solo studio recording. This many years into songwriting and recording, do you ever fear you will run out of things to say through singing?
Solveig Leithaug: I haven’t been afraid of running out of topics nearly as much as I have battled fear of writing poorly. Fear is my worst enemy when it comes to creating. It makes my thinking narrow. I’m familiar with the fear of sounding cliché and of wasting someone’s time, and will rewrite, and rewrite again, in the earnest search for a fresh angle that resonates with others.
The human experience offers vast angles for poetry. I was eager to fill the new record with words I need to hear myself. It mirrors my own longing for peace, for true connection, my aim to not take my loved ones for granted, appreciate the simple things, remind myself of the need for a higher call to empathy, compassion and to listen better to others—songs that help me lift my eyes to God, where I invite Him into my situations. I have a great respect for my non-believing friends and family, and also how hard it can be for some to hear a song about God. This pushes me to work even harder to find ways that don’t turn people off unnecessarily to what I may want to try to convey.
CCM: Your history in music is astounding. Parliament dinners. Major airtime on international radio and television. Performances around the world in venues ranging from churches to prisons. In your opinion, what about your music has spawned these diverse invitations?
SL: I’m not sure. I’ve stayed flexible. I’ve been willing to try new things, to do things while being scared, and to love the people who come and hear me. I’ve seen that heartbreak is no discriminator of titles, status, religion, paycheck or position. In my view, we’ve all got stuff to overcome. We all need a little kindness—a little grace. I bring that with me to the work and stages I’m given.
Music has the powerful ability to be therapeutic. To bridge. To heal. To lift. To change an atmosphere. To restore. I go in and out of many different denominations, networks, and “worlds,” and work with people from all kinds of backgrounds. I get to be around people who have no faith background, and many who do. My mom taught me respect for others who are not the same as me. Music is a leveler. Jesus is a leveler. Our human desire for connection is the same, and music bridges all of it. As I see it, Jesus does too.
CCM: All of my hurries / All of my worries / I just keep running out of time. The new record’s title track is enchanting. Give me the background on the lyric, and talk about the thing we are all a bit fearful of … time.
SL: I first started to write this song thinking about how my youngest son, sixteen now, will soon be grown, and how fast time goes by. I brought the draft to a writing session with Reba Rambo-McGuire. As we were digging into the subject the song found its form. I guess few things touch closer to the heart than questions like: How am I treating my nearest loved ones? Am I rushing so hard, working so much, that I miss out on the moment within reach—to connect with a loved one?
CCM: As someone who has so much international experience, in a culture that is so divided and rife with tension, is there a solution? Is there a way to diminish our differences so we can connect on a heart level?
SL: That’s a great question. We are living in a world of increased tension. My husband Jim and I have a wide circle of friends who represent a lot of opposing political viewpoints. I often read articles on the same news story, seen from a European perspective alongside the American media. I’ve challenged myself to pause and listen.
I made a phone call recently to a friend whose views made me mad and genuinely sad. I thought, Is there a way to actually discuss this? We decided to give it a try. I told her my guns weren’t loaded, [and] I would like to try to understand why she takes the stands she takes. In return, she asked me the same. It was hard, but after an hour or so we had found renewed common ground. Our friendship deserved it. It was an hour well spent.
CCM: What about music?
SL: Music has an incredible power to bridge, to heal, and transform. Musicians have a unique platform to bring our hearts a little healing, help us forget our pain, or help change someone’s day for the better. We all can do something wherever we have our places of influence. Sometimes all we can do is “show up” and be present, offer our melodies and lyrics, and invite Jesus to do His beautiful thing.
Check out the rest of the interview with Solveig and CCM right here: