Lauren Daigle exudes the kind of energy you remember having as a child. The day I encountered the 25-year-old singer-songwriter, her bohemian bracelets caught the light as she gestured with her hands and spoke without pausing for a breath.
Crammed under a canopy with 900 of Lauren’s ‘closest friends’ for an elective at Hillsong Conference in Sydney, I was immediately taken with how down to earth the chart-topping star is.
She began by telling Warcry about her favourite things.
“I have a very deep affinity for ice-cream. It’s probably bad,” she said as a guilty admission, before telling me about how much she loves travel and why Australia’s her new favourite place.
“Wanderlust is tattooed on my forehead,” she says. “Can you see it?”
People around the world know Lauren for her powerhouse vocals, and the same warmth and smokiness that coats her songs fills her laughter—a laughter which pulsates to everyone in the tent, making us feel intimately connected with this Louisiana-born Southern belle.
Perhaps this connectedness comes from Lauren’s fast route to fame. While she has been singing her whole life, it was only after two failed attempts at American Idol as a teenager, and a chance recording with a band, that she signed a record deal with Christian music label Centricity Music in 2013.
The past four years have been a blur of a number of successful releases (her debut album How Can It Be and a jazz-based Christmas album both peaked at #1 on Billboard’s Christian Album chart), two Grammy nominations, three Billboard awards and multiple tours. And in the midst of this, she also became the fastest-selling new artist in Contemporary Christian Music in the last decade.
“That [pace] is the most difficult thing,” she says. “In the process I’ve done a lot of things right and a lot of things wrong. And when I do things wrong I say, ‘Lord, teach me how the fabric of my DNA works in conjunction with this much excessive living.’”
The strength and stamina Lauren speaks with aren’t bravado. She willingly tells people she developed a strong relationship with God after being diagnosed with cytomegalovirus, an illness which left her housebound between the ages of 15 and 17.
“I remember there being moments when I would lie in the bathtub and think, ‘Could I let it all slip away?’ because of how real that isolation was, and my body was fighting itself,” she says.
“After a year and a half of having no medical answers for it, I was so defeated, but God is amazing. His presence became so significant because he actually reached down and pulled me out of the depths.”
And then, as if we had been friends for years, Lauren begins telling me about her path not just to fame, but to recovery. The same path that led her to become a worship singer—the very genre she was adamantly against becoming.
“I started having visions about things that would happen, and two weeks later it would happen,” she says, still bewildered.
“There was this trust that [God] started to build in me. So when there were things like tour buses and stages and singing platforms started popping into my head in the same way, I started realising that God was trying to connect some dots.”
When Lauren became ill, her old dreams of becoming a missionary doctor died. Yet in the season of isolation, she began a journey that directly correlated with the visions she was having.
Encouraged by her mother to sing for their church worship leader (“I sang very softly and understated, and he said, ‘Lauren, I’ve heard you laugh. I know that you can sing louder!’” she laughs), she joined the church choir, and paid for vocal lessons by scrubbing the toilets.
“That was the beginning of it all,” she says.
Though young, Lauren’s experiences gave way for some of her most profound art. Her debut single, ‘How Can It Be’, delivers a bluesy telling of God’s grace. The natural cracks in her southern tones underscore her years pleading for her own healing—a healing she has now fully experienced, also being freed of a diagnosis of Lyme disease and autoimmune illnesses including Lupus in 2015.
In the same way, the track ‘My Revival’ is a bold declaration of this very miracle. “[My healing] wasn’t through a remedy or anything like that,” Lauren explained to JesusFreakHideout in 2015. “God just came and taught me, ‘I’m not a God who causes sickness, and I’m not a God who prolongs sickness. I’m a God who has called you healed.’”
This freedom permeates every part of Lauren’s being, and it is her heartfelt desire that she remains authentic whenever performing on stage. Given that she is categorised as a Christian ‘worship’ singer, this is not always easy. Crowds don’t just expect a concert, they want to engage with God, and Lauren constantly lives with the tension of sharing her personal faith in such a public way.
“It’s really tricky, because you go into it saying, ‘This is the fullest expression of how I worship God in my closet, but now all the world is in in my closet,’” she explains. “In that process I’ve had to learn how to keep me hungry [for God] despite what obligation is whispering in my ear.”
To keep herself on track, Lauren has mentors who both encourage and challenge her creatively and spiritually. Listing Jon Foreman of Switchfoot as one such person (“He’s been a waterhole for me to drink from and understand how God has wired my nature to be expressive,” she says), she also notes that Alex Seeley, the pastor of her home church in Nashville, The Belonging Co, keeps her grounded.
Ultimately, though, it’s Lauren’s own faith that helps her stay on course. And given the miraculous road she’s taken to fame, and inevitably the big things still ahead of her, it’s telling that her favourite Bible verse is from Proverbs chapter 16 verse 9, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”
“If I want my purest worship to come out, I have to have unhindered expression. Expression that is so exuberant for who is he that every tribe, every nation, every tongue can experience [God] through my expression,” she says.
Evidently, people don’t just experience God when Lauren sings from the stage. They also sense his love and acceptance when she speaks to them like an old friend. And if that’s not authenticity, I don’t know what is.