When two-time GRAMMY award winner Lauren Daigle was a teenager, she contracted a debilitating virus that led to her being homebound for two years in high school. On this week’s episode of the All In podcast, Daigle shared how that period of isolation ultimately served as an “incubation” of sorts and led to the song that has become an anthem for many Christians.
Although not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Daigle appeared on the podcast in conjunction with BYUtv’s Christmas Under the Stars, which featured Daigle. The Christmas special aired last Sunday but can be viewed on BYUtv’s website or app for free at any time this holiday season.
The following excerpt has been edited for clarity.
Morgan Jones: Have you always had such a deep love for the things of God, or when did that kind of kick in for you in your life?
Lauren Daigle: It really kicked in—it's kind of funny—I was sick when I was in high school for about two years. I was taken out [of school] and I was placed on homebound for two years. And I started having all these dreams about singing. And it was so random. I mean, it was really, like, visions almost. Like, I could see tour buses, I could see stages, I could see audiences, charts, awards, whatever, you name it.
And I remember thinking to myself, "Wow, this would be an incredible dream." Like, I feel like it's real. And step by step kind of led me to, you know, meeting my label. And I wasn't singing in high school, I wasn't a part of anything like that. But it was really cultivated in that alone period, in that isolation period. And I think that was when God marked my heart with the things that He cares about.
And I remember thinking if there—you know, I was feeling despair in moments, or depression even in moments, just because of being isolated. I'm a people person, and that much isolation—especially when everybody's, you know, getting their driver's license and going to school dances and all that stuff, and I was at home—it was really hard. So I would cry by myself. And in that desperation I would say, "God, if you are real, please, please help me see things that are to come, to just keep me hopeful."
And that's when I started having all of those dreams. And so, I just, I say that to say I really think He became my Comforter, He became my Friend, He became my Confidant, you know? And I felt such hope and such joy in that period when I should have felt nothing but pain.
MJ: The song that I think our audience will be most familiar with is "You Say,” and you have said that you wrote that song in hopes that each time that you sing it, it would remind you of the things that you know about who you are. And I love your focus on identity. It's something that I have had on my mind so much lately. This idea that if we have our identity as children of God in the forefront of our lives, that changes everything. If we understand that at the root of who we are, then everything about who we are and how we live our lives changes a bit. Why would you say, Lauren, that it's important to have that firm grasp on your identity? And how has that identity helped you?
LD: That is a great question. I really think that a lot of my identity was forged in that isolation time and that time when I was sick.
MJ: Which is something a lot of people can relate to right now, right? This feeling of isolation.
LD: Yes! Yeah, I actually rejoice sometimes when it's like, "Okay, I'm gonna have to be in this kind of incubation period." That's what I started to call it, because it's like when chickens are about to hatch, or whatever, they put them underneath an incubator and they're in a space of isolation, right? So, I think a lot of times, "Wow, God. In isolation, You've always brought something forward. You've always allowed something to be born from that experience."
So it's really more like incubation than it is total isolation. And I—in that time, I would look up stories about people that have overcome great difficulty or great traumas or great pain and saw how they were able to overcome those hardships. And I think in that that's kind of where my identity was formed was, "Alright, God. Here's a hardship, but I need to stand on Your truths and Your principles and not look at these things that I'm walking through as definite but just as a route to a greater journey." And it really kept my focus alive.
Well, fast forward all of these years, whenever I found myself kind of at this crossroads, it was like this split, where the road took a “V,” you know? And I could go to the right or to the left. And it was at the Dove Awards, this award show that takes place in Nashville, and it was my first time ever going. I was brand new to the industry, and I remember sitting after that award show. I had won, like, three awards or something. And it was the next day, and I was just, like, ridden with—I don't want to say anxiety, but just questions. Just like, "Oh my gosh, what did I just get myself into? I'm a girl from Louisiana, I live in the swamps, you know? I am not used to this ‘Lights, camera, action’ kind of life.”
It was this weird head spin for me of, “How much of myself do I lose in order to fulfill the role that this industry demands of me? How do I do that? And I don't want to give up that Louisiana girl. I don't want to give up who I've been all this time, because I love who I am, and I love where I've come from, and I love how I was created and the things that make me explore and make me dream and all that.” And then you put yourself into this environment that's, like, complete comparison, you're made into a product, you have to measure up to a certain standard. If you don't make a certain amount of money, then you're not important for the overall industry. Like it's just so toxic and weird.
And I remember thinking, "How in the world am I going to survive in this and not lose that person that came from Louisiana?" And I remember going into my producer’s studio the next day and just saying, "I'm at crossroads. I don't know." And he said, "Well, all the doubts, all the lies that you could believe in this moment, let's go ahead and replace them with the truth." And that's how "You Say" was written.
And I remember in that moment, like, full on, [it] felt like it was just God and I in the room, and I was having a direct conversation with Him. I remember saying, "Lord, I think that you're about to make this a lot bigger than anything I've ever seen." And I was like, "I thank you for doing what you did in my life. Whenever I was, you know, a teenager in that period." And I remember saying, like, "God, if I don't have my identity in check, I will never survive this. I won't. There's no way I'll be able to sustain what it takes to be in this environment."
And little did I know where He was going to take all of this, like, I had no idea. And I have not done everything right. I'm not even going to claim that whatsoever. There have definitely been mistakes along the way, but just to know that He is my foundation. He is what I'm able to glean from and learn from. And when I make mistakes, I can say, "Alright, that wasn't a good one, God, help me clean that up and do that differently.” And that is coming from the firm foundation of listening to what He says about who I am and learning how to gain my identity from Him.
Especially in the question you just asked before, when you're being ridiculed, a lot of times you'll sit back and say, "Wait, am I not who I think I am?" And that's a hard question to have to ask yourself, like, "Wait, is there something else going on here that I'm just not aware of?" And then you can hear God come and say, "No, let me remind you of who you are.” Just knowing He is so forthright, and the closer you draw to Him—He draws near to us. And in that exchange, He really does give us a mirror and let us see who we are, you know? And He stands in front of that mirror, and we're allowed to see ourselves through Him, and there's something pretty profound about that experience.