Music has always been a big part of Emily Bea’s life. It’s something she has used to cope with and endure personal struggles, and it has always been something she could use to share her testimony of and faith in Jesus Christ. That’s part of why she decided to participate in a new podcast and video series produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called the Saints Studio Channel.
“I know that the gifts I’ve been given were from God and that I’m supposed to use them to share my testimony and help people feel His love, so just having this opportunity to share my music and my thoughts and testimony was just a cool opportunity to share Christ’s love,” she said.
The Saints Studio Channel launched today with Bea’s episode as the first of a weekly series featuring musical artists speaking about their faith, personal struggles, musical inspirations and why and how they do what they do. The series is a spinoff of sorts from the popular Mormon Channel Studio series, which was produced prior to President Russel M. Nelson’s request for Church entities to better align their branding with the proper name of the Church.
But, as Devan Lavar Butler, the Saints Studio Channel producer, explained it, this new series is quite a bit different.
Designed to offer a more engaging and longer-form introduction to the artists featured on the series, the new Saints Studio Channel is available in both video and podcast form, Butler said. And the interviews offer more of an opportunity to have a real conversation. “We get to hear them sing of course and that is still amazing, but we really get to hear them talk about all sorts of topics that will resonate with our audience; topics we weren’t getting before,” he said. “When we were doing it originally, the goal was just to connect people through music. Setting it apart this time is the way we have committed to these longer-form interviews so we can let the details of getting to know the artists and their music come more naturally. The shows really speak for themselves.”
With each episode ranging from about 30 to 40 minutes, the series will feature a new artist in each weekly episode throughout October and November.
But the hope is that this is just the beginning, Butler said. “There are so many extremely talented musicians, so we’ve compiled a pretty big artist list.” And while this first season features primarily artists local to Utah who are members of the Church, the hope for the future of the series is to feature more artists from around the world of all faiths who are willing to share their faith and experiences and connect with people through music.
For Richie Steadman, the host of the series, one of the greatest things the episodes offer is the opportunity to see the artists being themselves and having a real conversation.
“So often, musicians are judged, and you just hear their song or the final polished performance of it and that is really all we know about that song or that artist,” he said. But the series offers the opportunity to really get to know the artists better and go beyond just asking what their songs are about. It is about finding out who they are and how their life experiences have led to their music and how it connects them with people. “That’s a unique perspective,” Steadman said. “It’s one you don’t see very often.”
Another unique aspect is the focus on the reality of struggles and trials and faith, Steadman said. “We know that everyone has struggles, but we don’t really talk about them. I wanted this to be an opportunity to bring those to light and hear how those difficulties have inspired them and show that, in some instances, there isn’t a resolution yet.”
Each interview demonstrated that “we can be raw and emotional and that things don’t always have to be a polished or finished project,” Steadman said. “It is a reminder that we don’t have to have all the answers, but that beautiful things can come along the way.”
The series offers a more bold and raw picture of life and struggles than is commonly seen in Church-produced media, Steadman explained. It’s a raw look at real people with real issues making real decisions, and it provides a depth that shows that, “sometimes, in order to feel connected, we have to get know people’s struggles and be able to empathize with them and know that it was more than a minute that they struggled; to have that time and recognize we’re not alone.”
As Bea explained it, the series digs deeper into the personal side than most interviews. “From the outside, people often assume other people are perfect. I think it’s really cool that I and the other artists were able to open up and to be real about the fact that we also struggle with things.”
For singer Nathan Waite, participating in the series was a blessing. “I have a unique story in the way faith and music have come together to help me overcome challenges in my life and being able to talk about my struggles cemented for me why I want to share my story and my music and why it’s important,” he said. “It allowed me to feel grateful, and it was a good reminder to bring me back to earth to see that there is a lot of good happening. I have always wanted to use my talents to share that with other people who may be struggling and this gave me that opportunity. It was great to be able to share my story and music with people.”
In a time when connection feels more important than ever, especially because it is so limited by circumstances like the pandemic, the Saints Studio Channel series offers a way for musicians of faith to continue to connect with, uplift and inspire others.