Sarah Vinson isn’t preparing something to fall back on.
The 18-year-old Sanger resident is promoting her debut album, Shine, through Tate Music Group. Otherwise, she’s on campus at Dallas Baptist University, studying music business courses.
“Music has always been my passion,” said Vinson, who has already put in countless hours in front of her congregation with a church praise team. “I started singing with my mom in church when I was 3. I started taking piano lessons at the Denton Music Academy when I was a kid, and then I started studying guitar with Victor Gann.”
Vinson then joined the nonprofit agency Actors, Models & Talent for Christ, which grooms performers and models to represent ministries and Christian ideals in the entertainment industry. She attended a Florida conference staged by the agency. That conference put her in touch with Tate Music Group, a Mustang, Oklahoma-based label friendly to emerging Christian artists.
Vinson said she started writing music when she took up the guitar.
“When I started working on chord progressions, that’s really when I started writing songs,” she said. “It was sort of natural.”
Shine is a contemporary gospel record delivered with folk-pop appeal.
“There are three genres that make my heart happy — gospel, folk and alternative,” she said. “I love the Civil Wars and the Decemberists. And I was brought up listening to Boston, Van Halen, AC/DC and Queen. So I can’t not love rock, right?”
Shine reflects both Vinson’s experience and her youth. She penned eight of the nine tracks, and easily gets radio-ready, midtempo songs with hooks. Her contralto doesn’t soar easily to the higher notes that she’s written for herself, but she hits them true. And Shine could benefit from some songwriting dynamics.
Vinson said she did have to decide how overt her Christianity would be on the debut. Denton boasts a fair few folk acts populated by Christians who express their faith more metaphorically, sidestepping the worship-oriented tunes altogether. Both Doug Burr, Least of These and Big Round Spectacles write from a faithful point of view, but employ broad poetic devices when they write.
Not so with Vinson. In Shine, she embraces God-talk in “Lover of My Soul” and “God I’m Yours.
“That was actually a big struggle of mine,” she said. “I didn’t know if I wanted to include my worship songs, or if I was just going to use my testimony in a more symbolic way. I felt like my relationship with Christ is so important, and it’s such a huge part of my life, that I couldn’t avoid putting those songs on the record.”
In “The Moon,” one of the strongest tracks on the record, Vinson shows herself up to the challenge. It references faith in the same way Jars of Clay reached beyond its Christian audience with its 1995 Top 40 hit “Flood.”
Vinson said she hasn’t discussed a second record through Tate, but is considering recording again at Dallas Baptist, where music students’ tuition includes studio time. Regardless, Vinson plans to continue writing for herself, and for other artists, if possible. And she hopes to continue recording.
“I think the thing with church music is connecting the song to the words,” Vinson said. “Music is transformative. Music is about bringing people together where they are. When you get into music that has been perfectly planned with the sermon, there’s nothing like it.”
ALBUM RELEASE SHOW
Who: Sarah Vinson
What:This is factbox type This is factbox type This is factbox type CD release party & show for ‘Shine’
When: 8 p.m. on Friday
Where: Zera Coffee Company, 420 E. McKinney St, Ste. 106
On the Web: ‘Shine’ is available on iTunes, Spotify and at Wal-Mart. For more information about Sarah Vinson, visit https://www.facebook.com/sarah.vinson1?fref=ts