Courage. It is one of the rarest commodities in the music industry today, especially among artists. After all, courage requires adhering to your passion, your creativity, regardless of the outcome. Taking a song from the piano in the living room to the studio with a strong sense of faith and abandoning thoughts of commercial success, can be liberating. On her self-titled, fourth full-length album, Michelle Tumes displays this rare form of courage in every possible way.
After three releases on Sparrow Records it was time to part ways with the company that had nurtured the beginning of her recording career. The irresistible pun would be that Tumes left the nest and found herself in a place where she needed courage; courage to forge the next chapter in her musical life.
“Though it was so difficult, I left Sparrow, and decided to take a hiatus from putting out records and touring. I really needed some time to regroup, to get back to where I started in every way. I knew I needed to get back to just writing what I love, and just leave the rest to God. I prayed that the Lord would give me a new direction.”
And new direction is what He gave her. In the interim of creating her own music, she wrote for other artists (Disney Radio’s Jump 5 and the Italian tenor, Alessandro Safina), and secured a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell. She moved from Nashville to Los Angeles with her husband, Doug. Tumes decided to hone her craft and went back to University via correspondence from Australia, delving into ancient history and literature. After adjusting to her new life, Michelle began writing songs again for herself, taking her time.
Several years passed. The innocent love which characterized her early career--a love for sharing her heart through song--began to return, only this time with wisdom to match it. Her publisher, Judy Stakee (Sheryl Crow, Jewel, Michelle Branch) guided Tumes through a grueling time of refinement that was extremely challenging. Many songs made their way to the drawer of her desk. One day, after sensing that her song writing had captured the relationship she has with God, her husband said, "Let's make an album." The journey of the recording began. It is in this motivation that she once again enraptures audiences with her sound.
Michelle Tumes is one part classically influenced one part worship, one part singer/songwriter, all parts inspiring. One might compare the material to a blend of Enya, Tchaichovsky, U2, and Bjork, if it wasn’t, well...so unique. There are rich orchestral movements (conducted by Michelle), vibrant piano selections (written and performed by Michelle, and songs which feature everything from live drums to ambient samples (yes, produced by Michelle as well, along with her husband, Doug). And through it all, her voice is beautiful, even angelic at times. Urgent. Reverbial. Haunting. And the emotions of the album can be felt on the proverbial record sleeve.
"Shouldering the production of an album with my husband was really daunting, but it was a very exciting time also. Every step of the way there was confirmation to keep going. Time and again I would open up the Psalms and there would be specific instruction to make excellent music for God. I even went to a tiny church during mixing and the words "Domine" and "Introit" were in the bulletin, which made me smile because I don't often see those words in bulletins!"
In addition to an entire orchestra, Tumes has some very special guests on the album as well. Vinnie Coliauta (Sting) adds his prowess to the rhythm section. Leeland Sklar, bassist for Phil Collins, appears. And Bernie Dressel of Brian Setzer fame contributes orchestral percussion. Along with renowned players, Tumes co-wrote with Peter Vetesse (Annie Lennox, Jethro Tull) and Stuart Brawley (Don Henley, Brandy, The Corrs).
Perhaps one of the strongest elements of this release is the lyrics. Michelle excels at painting pictures of both emotion and imagery with eloquence, and it is obvious that this is an aspect of her artistry that is of high priority. On “Caelum Infinitum,” she reflects on the beautiful moments of this life as a mirror image of our coming eternal life: Like ribbons that dance in a summer fair, I'm overjoyed oh Sacred Head. You shower the roads where angels tread. The blessings of heaven seers foretold... On “Gypsy Heart,” Tumes draws from ancient Biblical texts, as well as various other pieces of classic literature, to tell the tale of a wandering soul, searching for meaning outside of God, but failing. It is an ode to Adam's Lament: This desert road draws every step. I roam on endless sands. Fables of treasures told have kept me in foreign lands. Finally, she references the epic tales of old, such as Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings, on "Break Through": Storm the tower of my heart, for only you can break through to me.
Michelle Tumes includes the two lead singles, “Domine” and “Fair Weather.” The former is a moving, upbeat track whose chorus promises to linger in your mind long after the song is finished. Written with the co-author of the Annie Lennox’ hit, “Walking on Broken Glass,” it implores the Almighty to find us when we are far away. The latter is a dramatic, epic piece that’s filled with deep emotion, yet no less memorable. It proclaims God is never fair weather, and though many may leave us along the way, He is always an anchor point. Both singles should find plenty of play as impact dates approach.
Michelle plans to tour like never before, beginning in fall 2006 with dates in the U.S. Shortly thereafter she plans to travel to Japan and Australia in the early part of 2007, followed by a full U.S. tour. And after the United States she will travel to the UK for yet another string of dates. Consistent, worldwide touring will be her mantra for the next eighteen months with the release of the album.
"I am very thankful to be able to release this album, as it’s the culmination of some very important lessons learned. If you really love making music it makes everything else surrounding the process insignificant. And if you really want to glorify God, He will stretch your faith to produce in you what He wills, to make you what you need to be. He provides the courage.”