Jessa Anderson has a long list of things she loves: her adorable daughter Lorelei (whose name was inspired by a “Gilmore Girls” character), Nashville, songwriting, traveling, honest conversations and missions. Equally as much, she has a list of things she dislikes: playing sports, going anywhere without her family by her side, glossing over serious issues, bad days, and things out of her control. Her lists look a lot like yours and mine. The fact that she happens to be a brand-new artist on BEC Recordings is simply icing on the cake.
Her second independent release fell into the hands of someone at BEC Recordings and soon evolved into her label debut, Not Myself Anymore. The label liked Jessa’s sound so much, in fact, that aside from a few minor tweaks and repackaged artwork, she never had to re-record a single song, a tribute to Anderson’s talent and her producers’—Brandon Perdue and Kevin Bruchert—attention to detail. The young mom is simply grateful for the opportunity to live out her dream and share her music on a larger scale. “I seriously almost had a nervous breakdown the night before we left to start doing concerts [full-time], because it was weird to picture myself doing what I wanted to do and being on the stage,” shares Jessa, “and now it’s up to me to say what I want to say and present [these] songs that are so personal to me.”
The 20-something Michigan native currently can’t imagine doing anything else and desires nothing more than to be a part of the larger story God is telling through her music—honest, open narratives about faith, struggles and real life. “I just want people to be more open with each other and with themselves,” Jessa explains. “Sometimes it’s embarrassing to say, ‘I’m dealing with something’ or ‘I’m struggling’ or ‘This happened to me.’ I want to be open about the things I’ve dealt with so I can say, ‘Look what God has done in my life.’ Because if He doesn’t need to save us from anything, who is He really?”
Jessa believes it all starts with a choice—a choice she personally faced when struggling with an eating disorder her freshman year of college, a part of her story she doesn’t take lightly. “I think sometimes we gloss over the issue to get to the end result and say, ‘Oh look what God did.’ Those issues are really serious. When you are in that self-destructive place, you latch on to things that are [toxic] instead of latching on to hope,” she says.
“I got to a place where I knew I could either choose my relationship with God, or I could choose to go down a path that was really going to destroy my life,” she continues. Jessa made the decision to follow God’s calling on her life. “I hadn’t been embracing God for all He was,” she says. “Over time, [your relationship with Christ] kind of becomes your history, not necessarily a living, daily thing… I wasn’t focusing on who God is and how He can help me effectively change my life. When we do that and say, ‘OK God, come in and do Your work; and I’m going to get out of the way and trust You wherever You may take me,’ it’s a revelation that God’s not what we thought.” This idea inspired Jessa’s first radio single, “Not What I Thought.”
Drawing from an influential pool of strong female songwriters such as Sara Groves, Nichole Nordeman and Ginny Owens, Anderson’s music reflects a constant wrestling with the unknown and the darkest parts of humanity right alongside the gritty, everyday things that make up the human life. “I always gravitated toward women who were writing their own music and just that honesty. That’s what I like to listen to, and hopefully that’s what I’m communicating when I’m writing songs, too,” she shares.
“We have a real life, and part of that is our relationship with God and praising Him, but other than that you’re taking your kids to school or you’re going to work or whatever you have to do that day. So to focus only on that one little sliver in your songwriting feels like cheating people out of what really happens,” shares Anderson, who believes talking about real-life issues makes her music accessible to Christians and non-Christians alike. “If all I say is ‘I love God,’ then [non-believers are] wondering, ‘OK, what if I don’t?’ I think everyone can relate on some level whether you have the same religious beliefs or not. Hopefully, I can connect with people and then share what God’s done in my life.”
The thread of divine intervention throughout her journey is something Anderson doesn’t take for granted. She met her fellow singer/songwriter husband, Jordan, while touring with Cedarville University. Shortly after she transferred to Belmont University and they married, the couple decided to pursue music full-time. With no back-up plan, they struck out on their own recording albums independently and booking their own shows. Jordan plays guitar for his wife, and he and their young daughter continue to travel with Jessa full-time.
Although she never had any specific goals in regards to a label deal or radio play, she says the whole process of pursuing her dream of music has forced her to trust God like never before and has shaped her into a new person, inspiring the name of the record. Though the title track is actually about a broken relationship, Jessa says the title holds a double meaning. “I think when you go through the transition of deciding to pursue your dreams, you change so much in that process. I’ve felt God really change me and define who I am a little bit more over the last few years.”
Though her days are now filled with the schedule of a busy label artist, she always goes back to her “life anthem” on her new record to sufficiently introduce herself to fans. “One of my favorite songs to do live is ‘Everybody Has Those Days,’ because I’m seriously having one of “those” days all the time! I’m so clumsy! I have these near-misses all the time,” laughs the transparent songwriter. “Let’s be honest: everybody has bad days.” She is quick to add that being a Christian doesn’t mean life is always perfect, but that “God is good at the end of the day.”
There’s a lengthy list of things to like about this candid, clumsy, insecure, ordinary girl who is discovering that every awkward misstep, every anxiety and every bad day is a chance to learn something new about herself and, in turn, share it with others.