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Sonya Isaacs: the long wait ends

By Joel Bernstein, November 2000

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One addition was to take more advantage of Isaacs' long developed skills as a mandolin player. "I played mandolin on more of the new songs. The Dixie Chicks have shown that you can use bluegrass instrumentation and still make it cool. I'm not trying to rip off the Dixie Chicks idea. You can't just pick up a mandolin and learn it in a year."

Isaacs feels that "maybe Vince was overcautious about me being labeled as a grasser instead of a country singer. And maybe I was a little intimidated. I never said 'I want to play mandolin on these songs.' Maybe I leaned on him too much instead of creating my own identity. That's my fault. How can he know what I want if I don't speak up? I've grown a lot in the last two years."

There is also an aspect to Isaacs' attempt at a country music career that most singers don't deal with - the reaction of her gospel fans.

"I have lots of fans who are very supportive and who have been anxiously awaiting the album. Others accuse me of selling out and turning my back on God. I get emails and letters saying 'You can come back. God loves you and will forgive you.' When people actually hear the album, I'll be okay. You don't have to sing gospel music to be a Christian. I was very careful in selecting material."

Isaacs feels it's important to choose songs carefully.

"Some people have to learn to be selective in what they listen to. I don't stereotype country music as a whole as bad. Our whole music industry is partly responsible for the way people view life. Children growing up are very influenced by music. It's our responsibility to feed them the fruit."

Five of the songs on her album list Isaacs as a co-writer. "I started songwriting when I was seven. I had a creative mind even when I was young. First, I wrote poems. The first song I wrote was called "Lord I Thank You." The first one I wasn't embarrassed about was "And The Mob Cried" when I was 13. I wrote my first secular song for my husband for our wedding. Now, I'm co-writing a lot in Nashville."

Asked about the line between Christian songs and secular, Isaacs says, "There are songs that come across as either secular or Christian. Everyone should be able to interpret a song as how it's appropriate to them. 'Healing Hands' (on her album) wasn't written as a gospel song, but it can be taken that way. 'On My Way To You' I never thought of as being about God, but the director of the video took it as a very spiritual thing. I'm not ashamed to be a Christian. If someone wants to take my songs that way, it's fine with me."

Isaacs is aware that modern technology allows even bad singers to make perfect records. "I want people to know that I'm a real artist, not a phony out there to make a quick buck. I really love my music, and I want to make someone happy with it."

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