Until recently, Lauren Daigle was popular mostly among fans of Christian pop music. As a singer and songwriter, Daigle rose to fame with that audience for her soulful ballads about faith in God during tough times. Then she took some time off, wrote a new album, and her fame exploded.
Released in September, “Look Up Child” debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart, besting more well-known singers like Drake and Cardi B for that week. Daigle promoted the record with performances on “Ellen” and even the “Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.”
Her inspiring song “Rescue” was played during a tragic montage on “Grey’s Anatomy,” a coveted slot in the music industry because of how it can skyrocket previously unknown artists. So who is Lauren Daigle, and how is this former “American Idol” contestant finding success in the music industry as a devoted Christian?
Who is Lauren Daigle?
Originally from Louisiana, the 27-year-old has been singing professionally since 2010. Daigle grew up with a love of music, and was largely influenced by the sounds of the South, particularly blues. Despite this, she wasn’t sure if she should pursue music as a career until she fell ill with mononucleosis. The disease debilitated Daigle, keeping her out of high school for two years. During this time she began to feel called to pursue music. Daigle finished school, did some mission work in Brazil, then went to Louisiana State University.
In 2010, amid pressure from family, she tried out for “American Idol.” Daigle was cut just before the Final 24. She made it back through “Idol’s” Hollywood round in 2012, but was ultimately cut again. Undeterred, Daigle kept singing. Asked to provide background vocals on an EP for a local band called “The Assemblie,” she agreed. Eventually, Centricity Music signed her.
Daigle made a single for a collection of holiday songs, which helped spread her distinct, soulful style. That led to the release of her EP “How Can It Be,” before the full-length album hit shelves in 2015. The record was a hit on Christian radio.
Her thoughtful ballads, sung with a deep, Adele-like voice, made her a success with fans of Christian pop, which lacked that sound almost entirely. The songs touched many people on issues they wrestle with most: faith, God’s sovereignty, trust, and confidence. Daigle’s first album garnered a plethora of awards within the Christian industry, as well as a 2016 Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album.
Following that success, Daigle took some time off and, as she has said on Instagram, “turned her skin inside out” to write the songs for her new album, “Look Up Child.” While her voice is just as distinct and powerful, this album couldn’t be more different. Where “How Can It Be” was somber and gut-wrenching, “Look Up Child,” is a celebration of God’s goodness, joy, and miracles.
For example, in “Still Rolling Stones,” the song she performed on “Ellen,” Daigle belts out, “Now that You saved me/ I sing ’cause You gave me/ A song of revival/ I put it on vinyl.” Catchy, joyful, but clearly celebratory of God’s saving grace, Daigle’s distinct voice and songwriting capabilities have contributed to her sudden rise to fame.
Some of Daigle’s songs are simply positive, and more vague about faith and God. But others are articulate about Christianity. One song on her latest album is a rendition of the old hymn,“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” A few lyrics to her song “Trust in You” are overt:
Truth is You know what tomorrow brings
There’s not a day ahead You have not seen
So in all things be my life and breath
I want what You want Lord and nothing less.
Her new song “You Say” describes what God thinks of His people, regardless of feelings:
You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh You say that I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
Daigle’s Popularity Beyond Christian Audiences
Since September, “Look Up Child” has taken not just the Christian music industry by storm, but incredibly, everyone else. Drake, Cardi B, and Ariana Grande had albums on the Billboard 200 the week she released “Look Up Child,” but it was Daigle who competed with Paul McCartney’s new album for the third slot.
Just a few weeks ago, Daigle said a “personal dream” came true when she appeared on Degeneres’s daytime talk show. The host even joked following Daigle’s incredible performance that she’s now doing well because of Ellen’s brief period as an “American Idol” judge. That same week, Daigle appeared on “The Tonight Show.” Just a few days later, her song “Rescue” was featured during a poignant moment on “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Actress Selena Gomez recently gave Daigle a huge shout-out on Instagram. In a set of several stories, Gomez revealed she had been struggling with depression and anxiety and Daigle’s song “This Girl” inspired her. “I’ll stop talking and just suggest the song that I really love. Of course, it’s by Lauren Daigle,” she said. “Don’t get annoyed that I keep talking about her but she’s speaking my language.”
Daigle’s single “You Say” peaked at No. 44 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in late September as well.
While it’s certainly normal for shows like “Ellen” to feature popular musicians and artists, it’s far less common for them to highlight women like Daigle, whose music is so overtly devoted to faith. It’s her very earnest expressions of belief, combined with incredible musical prowess, that helped boost Daigle to mainstream success.
Daigle Says She Won’t Compromise Her Faith
Many Christians believe the way to vocational success is to compromise their faith. That’s not so with Daigle. This debate is common in the Christian music industry. When I was growing up, if an artist who mostly produced Christian music (think Steven Curtis Chapman or Michael W. Smith) suddenly were to produce music that appealed to more “secular” audiences (think Amy Grant), such a venture would receive mixed reviews: Some would frown upon it, others would applaud.
These musicians were labeled “crossover artists,” and those who didn’t approve would say they were “selling their soul” to make an extra buck. Those who did approve would say they were simply “being a light.” Daigle does both, and unabashedly. In an interview with the Christian Post, Daigle said, “[My music] is having crossover appeal, but it doesn’t mean that I’m leaving one for the other or that I’m going to be swept up by one thing or the other. For me, it’s like, ‘Oh, everything just got even more clear.'”
While many Christians might struggle with how much to allow faith to be visible in their work, Daigle has not. She’s not only removed the filter, but she’s supplied a pipeline for all to see, straight from her own personal joys and difficulties to her music.
In another interview with the Christian Post, Daigle confirmed this. “I think the passage that says, ‘Go out into the world and draw people unto Him,’ the Great Commission, that’s what I think about in regard to the mainstream aspect. I wasn’t looking at [making my music] as in mainstream versus Christian. I was like, ‘OK, what is the purest version of me? Or what is the purest thing that God has written into my spirit and how do I express that? How do I communicate that?'”
Daigle had been walking this path without interference until just recently. In an interview on iHeart Radio at the end of November, a host questioned Daigle about her views on homosexuality, given that she had performed on “Ellen.” Daigle responded vaguely, to the chagrin of many fans.
“I can’t honestly answer on that,” Daigle said. “In a sense, I have too many people that I love that they are homosexual. I don’t know. I actually had a conversation with someone last night about it. I can’t say one way or the other. I’m not God. So when people ask questions like that… that’s what my go-to is. I just say read the Bible and find out for yourself. And when you find out let me know, because I’m learning too,” she continued.
This issue has divided many Christians with platforms, including women like Jen Hatmaker, who was beloved by her fan base until she and her husband said they thought homosexuals in a committed relationship were not committing a sin.
Hopefully, Daigle will grow in her faith, not weaken her beliefs for the sake of popularity, and still produce incredible music. Daigle has found success by doing the very thing many are afraid to do. For that, she is not mocked or shunned, but appreciated and admired.