Lauren Daigle is having a major moment. Her second studio album, Look Up Child, and its lead single, “You Say,” are making history, as the Louisiana-born singer-songwriter simultaneously tops five Billboard charts -- Top Christian Albums and Hot Christian Songs, Christian Airplay, Christian Streaming Songs and Christian Digital Song Sales.
She’s being dubbed “the Christian Adele,” and music industry insiders are scratching their heads over the fact that an artist known primarily in the Christian music community debuted at No. 3 on the all-genre Billboard 200 chart, with over 100,000 albums sold -- the biggest number for a Christian set in nearly nine years.
Daigle seems just as surprised by her success. “I am freaking out. I’m so thrilled,” she tells Billboard. “I was talking with my manager and I said, ‘Okay, now that street week is done, I feel like I can actually exhale and take in everything as it is...' This week has been the week that I’m like, ‘Holy moly! What is going on?’"
Daigle says she’s happy fans were patient in waiting for the follow up to her debut set, How Can It Be, which came out in April 2015 on Nashville-based indie Centricity Music, hitting No. 28 on the Billboard 200. “I know they’ve waited,” she says of her supporters. “Having that space in between gave me time to rediscover myself as an artist, and gave me space to get home to Louisiana for a little while. From there, we started making the record, so to see that people were so generous and receptive coming back into it, I’m thrilled.”
Daigle has said the theme of her first album was trust. With Look Up Child, she explains, “It was all about joy. I feel like there were moments in the past year or two years that I really had to learn the difference between happiness and joy and where to fight for joy when all you feel is overwhelmed... everything that I wanted people to experience on this record are songs of joy, songs of passion and excitement, songs that remind people of their childlike nature, their childlike view of their life. And combining that with a message of hope.”
Working again with producers Paul Mabury and Jason Ingram, she feels like the project hits the mark. “I was in a meeting with this sweet lady who said to me, ‘I don’t know much about this Christian stuff, but all I know is that hope thing that you’ve got going on, I want a record of that,’" Daigle relates. "Someone just nonchalantly saying that opened my eyes to see that’s what we’re all starving for. We’re starving for hope. We’re starving for joy in the world right now.”
Daigle has known her share of challenges but these days. At six years old, she announced that she wanted to be a singer, but as her teen years approached, she switched gears and planned to attend college to pursue a career in the medical field, and go into mission work. Then at 15, she became ill with a debilitating virus that kept her out of school for nearly two years because her immune system was so compromised. That down time forced her to reflect on her true course. “When the Lord just brought me into that solitude, I was like, ‘How did I get distracted from what my true passion is? I need to be singing,’” she recalls.
With the new album, Daigle is seeing her music reaching beyond one genre. “When they first told me, ‘This is moving beyond people who’ve heard your music for the first time with the previous record, and new people are discovering it,’ I honestly was really impacted,” she says. “Because there’s so often where you feel like, ‘Okay, this is the place that I am going. This is the height of it all and is this the box that I’ll forever be in.’”
She admits she wasn’t sure who would embrace the first album, but over the past few years of touring, she’s seen a lot of the same faces -- and she says this album was written, in part, for them. "I heard John Mayer say, ‘I never make a second record. I always make a first record,’ and [recording Child] had that feeling," she says. "More people are discovering this and the whole goal of writing this record was to engage the people who have supported us thus far and then add more to the equation."
Known for her earthy beauty and bohemian fashion sense, Daigle is not the conventional Christian music act, and the launch of the album reflected her uniqueness and sense of adventure. “A lot of times, whenever you are doing the business end of creativity, sometimes you can get stifled or feel like a sell out,” she says of the album's marketing. “But we really just stayed focused the entire time on, 'What are the things that are naturally fun?' And are naturally things that I gravitate towards or love to be involved with? Let’s celebrate those things, and bring people in on the journey that I’m already walking.”
Daigle says part of her inspiration came from watching EDM producer Zedd’s True Colors documentary, which detailed the creative ways in which the dance star engaged with his fans about his then-new album. "I am so about adventure like nonstop and I actually saw the True Colors documentary and was completely enthralled,” she gushes. “I said, ‘I don’t know how to make that happen, but I want to be a part of something like that. That looks to be so much fun,’ and so we did."
So Daigle launched Adventure Days, which saw her sharing similar experiences with her fans nationwide, in anticipation of Look Up Child. "We just celebrated the making of the record with fans and partnered with radio stations along the way and we would do various adventures," she explains. "We made beignets for one thing in Florida and we rode a hot air balloon in Dallas for another adventure and someone proposed at the end of that ride. It was so beautiful -- and she said, ‘Yes!’ It was so awesome! So we did things like that partnering with people that have been there to support all along, and in that we’ve seen tremendous reception.”
Speaking of a tremendous reception: the lead single from Child, “You Say,” has already topped four Christian charts, and Daigle is excited to see it crossing over to mainstream pop stations -- even though she says there’s been no formal crossover push for it (yet). “I definitely think that they are going to take ‘You Say’ to pop radio, and it’s kind of naturally opening itself up for that which has been just so surprising,” she notes. “Radio stations are adding it already and we don’t even have a team around anything, so that’s been cool to see.”
Daigle’s initial success has been in the Christian market, and fans in any genre tend to be a bit possessive at times when an act looks to expand their base, but Daigle says she hasn’t experienced any backlash “Thusfar I haven’t -- the reception has been incredible,” she says. “That’s a gift. I don’t think that happens all the time, but for some reason it’s happening and these fans are cheering me on loud, very loud and I hear it. I can go on social media and see how people are saying, ‘This record is amazing’ and ‘Thank you so much for giving me something else to listen to...' People are in."
With a solid and enthusiastic fan base in the Christian community and a burgeoning mainstream audience, Daigle looks poised to have it all. "I feel like authenticity speaks louder than anything," she offers. "I want to let authenticity be the thing that people hear and that people connect to and that people don’t feel left [out] -- the Christian fan base doesn’t feel left, but the non-Christian fans don’t feel isolated or excluded, because that’s the exact opposite of what I would want as well. It’s balancing that and that purest form of balancing that is just staying genuine, staying authentic to who you are and who God created you to be.”