I’m very excited to introduce you all to Linden Hope. She released her first single today, and we had a great opportunity to discuss the context of the song, the ways we truly live out Christ’s mission of being one family, and all things surrounding her forthcoming record. Check out the song below and read on – this is personally one of my favorite interviews in quite a while!
Thanks so much for taking time to talk with me. Let’s start with your new single, Chosen. Why did you choose it as the first taste of your upcoming record?
Thanks for the invitation! Honestly, the biggest factor for me in choosing Chosen (ha!) was that it felt the most complete of my songs. As in, I did not believe it needed many more lyrical or musical tweaks before recording. I recorded this song near the end of my 40 day fundraising tour and was too exhausted to put in much creative energy at the time. I also imagined that it would not need as many instrumentalists as some of my other songs, which would make it more cost effective at a time when there was still some uncertainty I would be getting the funds to record the rest of the songs. Upon reflection, I’m really happy to see Chosen fly solo as my first single. It is one of the more hopeful songs on the album and in promoting this song, I have had the honor of highlighting some amazing friends who are participating in forms of chosen family I hope to see more and more in our society (find the first “episode” at bit.ly/gregcoleschosen and the remainder on my Facebook page @lindenhopemusic .) I’m also really pleased with the final mix!
How’s it feel to be on the other end of a successful crowdfunding campaign? What was going through your mind during the campaign?
Mostly I was just excited and grateful! I have certainly never crowdfunded that much money in my life; $23,178 felt like an astronomical and unachievable amount. At the same time, I have never felt as confident about anything else in my life so far as I have in the belief that God wants me to make this album. I won’t say I never worried that it was going to get funded, because that is a lie. There were a couple of moments in particular when I had to remind myself, “If the funds aren’t raised, it does not mean you are a failure.” However, reminders of purpose persisted, and God has been faithful in every step of this journey to see it through to completion. Truly, all I brought to the table was a couple of metaphorical loaves and fish and God multiplied them into a feast that has brought me to breaking down in tears of joy more than I thought possible. It feels pretty miraculous.
What’s your spiritual background like? How has your relationship with (and understanding of) God changed over the years? How does that influence what you want to say with your music?
I grew up in an EFCA church that my parents helped start the year I was born and attended there until I was 18. So even though neither of my parents were pastors, my dad was on the leadership team and I felt like a pastor’s kid. I don’t remember a time when I did not know who Jesus was. I have always had an honest relationship with God and have felt comfortable questioning him, doubting him, and bringing him all my messy self. When I finally admitted to myself that I was indeed gay and when my searching landed me in side B convictions though, my honesty with God turned pretty brutal. Even so, more than anyone else in this world has, God has welcomed all of me. That does not mean he affirms or endorses everything I think or do; only that my love of Him (or lack thereof) has had no effect on His unconditional love for me. His compassion knows no bounds. I think that concept is all over my music; this idea that we can bring to God even the parts of us that communicate hate towards and rejection of him and be met with His kindness instead of His judgment. There is something very freeing about that.
This album definitely feels like a needed perspective on a host of subjects that are often reduced by people on all sides of the political spectrum. You’ve got the people who say there’s no need to change, you’ve got the fire and brimstone, those who want you to be a pawn or poster child. It all seems pretty dehumanizing and simplistic. What do you hope you can add to this conversation?
I really hope this album can reveal a little of the complex heartbreak and the humanity of the side B (gay Christians who believe in the traditional sexual ethic) experience. People of all political persuasions can be quick to speak their opinions about the side B community from a distance, but it is really difficult to read a page of someone’s diary and condemn them for wrestling with God in honest emotions. That’s kind of what these songs are; my diary entries. They’re raw, messy, and very human. I hope even the most antagonistic of listeners can be disarmed by the vulnerability of these songs, even if they don’t agree with my theological conclusions or with the way I identify myself. So I guess I hope my music can get people to drop their metaphorical weapons. But even if people misunderstand or judge or pity me which will all happen I am sure; I want to honor and bless my side B friends with this music most of all. If I can do that, I consider that a win!
You’ve mentioned that Chosen is about wanting to be pursued by community – be it meaningful friendships, families to “adopt” you, people truly treat you like flesh and blood. Obviously God first pursued us, and there are plenty of non-romantic relationships in the Bible (take Paul and all his collaborators – he had a huge network). We don’t really see much of that these days, do we? Have you experienced this sort of community at your church? Why do we have such a hard time living this out?
We don’t see enough of this sort of community, to the detriment of all!
I feel inordinately blessed to have a wide network of friends as well as a good biological family. Friends from college and even high school who I had not talked with in over a decade have been giving me encouragement and financial support in this project, reminding me of so many people I love and who love me, even if we have neglected to stay in touch. I am also a part of a small local Anglican parish where I have experienced so much love and care. Hosting chats about chosen family with my friends has really opened up my eyes to how much I have already been given. I am so grateful.
Even so, the sort of pursuit I sing about in Chosen is different than what I have experienced so far. Though the broader meaning remains, the song has a specificity to it. It is an invitation to a particular friend to journey with me in lifelong committed friendship (I could write an entire blog post of what I hope for in that term.) My friend does not know this song is about her, though she has heard it. I have no clue if or how to approach that conversation. I wonder sometimes why, though I have such an acute awareness of what I want and need, I have a hard time pursuing it. I think I feel paralyzed by fear of rejection and even if there is a mutual desire; a fear of a spotlight of scrutiny being put on any committed relationships I have outside of marriage to a man. I think a lot of us in the side B community might be able to relate?
Another barrier I sometimes encounter is the belief that I should just be grateful for the community I have found and stop seeking deeper intimacy. But, it is possible and good to both be grateful for the community God has given and pursue a longing of deeper intimacy for mutual sanctification and delight. I have two hands. I can hold gratitude and longing at the same time.
For a lot of straight people, my conjecture is that there is a complete lack of awareness of the need for lived-in family outside of marriage or biological family for a variety of reasons, even though Jesus endorses elevating spiritual family to the level of prioritization and commitment that biological family enjoys (Matthew 12:48-50.) Most of our churches are not helpful at truly expanding our vision of what family means.
Admittedly taken out of context, I find this C.S. Lewis quote could probably apply to our half-hearted, creativity-stunted attempts at building family:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
What would it look like to attempt to mirror the sort of community we will experience in heaven? We certainly won’t be siloed in marriages and biological families then (Luke 20:34-36.) Let’s practice bringing heaven to earth.
You’ve got a lot of artists under the Christian umbrella embracing the queer label – Semler, Flamy Grant, so on. In some ways it feels more taboo to take your approach on things. And it feels like that is going to bring in some complexity a lot of artists can usually just sidestep. So, thank you for stepping out in boldness. I know this isn’t really a question, but I felt like it was worth stating. The whole concept of not just making safe art.
Thank you! It certainly has felt scary and maybe even foolish at times to release this music into our current cultural landscape. But I trust that God will speak in the ways that he wants to through it.
From the crowdfunding campaign to Revoice to guest musicians, the whole project seems veiled in community. Would you take a moment to give a few shout outs to some other folks who’ve supported you through this journey?
Oh heavens, there are so many people I could thank . . .
my therapist – for being the first person to hear some of the songs that will be on the album, and who assured me that my story is worth telling
Art Pereira – for asking me to play my songs at Revoice this year
my parents and sister – for seeking to understand, for enthusiastically supporting my music, for feeding me during my crazy Kickstarter tour when I had no time, and for watching my dear pup Dobby as I traveled
an anonymous donor – a brother in Christ who believed so much in my project that he gave me $5,000 to create my Kickstarter promo video and record Chosen before I could be sure the project would be funded
Steven Bowman – violinist extraordinaire and friend encouraging me in the musical endeavours, arranging strings like a boss, and touring with me
Lisa and Doug Durr – generous friends who offered their barn venue for my big hometown concert in Nashville
Bee friends – willing to share their beautiful art alongside mine to offer others as rewards for giving to my Kickstarter
Honestly I could continue for about as long as movie credits roll at the end of a feature film! There have been SO MANY people involved in bringing this project to fruition and for encouraging me along the way. I’m so excited to continue to include my community and the wider side B community throughout production.
What are your plans for 2024, other than the album obviously? Any tours? Festivals? Collaborations?
If you want to celebrate the release of the album with me, come to Revoice! I’ll be playing a concert there in Columbus, Ohio sometime June 26-29, 2024 during the conference which will coincide with my album release on all streaming services! Tickets to Revoice: https://revoice24.sardius.live/
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Keep up with my musical adventures by following me on Facebook and Instagram at @lindenhopemusic