After leaving Flyleaf in 2012 to focus on her family, Lacey Sturm stormed back onto the music scene in 2016 with Life Screams, her solo debut. It became the first solo female release to top the Billboard Hard Rock Albums chart, but her work didn’t end there. Last year also saw the release of her second book, The Mystery, following 2014’s The Reason. Even with her career taking off again, her family remains a priority; husband Josh Sturm plays guitar in her band (and is her primary songwriting partner), and their two young sons are on the road with them. When her headlining tour recently came to the Chameleon Club in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Live Metal’s Greg Maki got the latest from Lacey.
LIVE METAL: How’s this tour going so far?
LACEY STURM: It’s really good. It’s been really fun. Our crew is sort of new with each other, so it’s been getting to know each other, and at this halfway period, we’ve really become friends, like real good friends and family, in a sense. And the rest of the bands—I have my boys out on the road, and I’m working on my third book, so I don’t get a lot of time to hang out—but when we have, it’s been really cool to hang out with the other bands.
Have you gotten used to pulling up to a venue and seeing just your name on the marquee?
(laughs) It’s weird. That was my husband’s idea to name what we’re doing my name. (laughs) I was like, “That’s the band name? I don’t know.” He’s like, “I think that’s what it should be.” ‘Cause, in the truth, behind the scenes, he really is trying to—my husband plays guitar—so he’s always trying to pull out what my vision is, for music and even stage stuff. So he’s like, “This is your thing. I want to make it happen, so I don’t think we should have a band. I think it should just be your thing, and then we’ll have people come support what your vision is.” I’m like, “OK, but I never heard of a band named a girl name.” And it was so wise of him to do that in the end, because if we had named it a band, we probably wouldn’t have gotten that recognition of being the first female solo rock artist to top the Billboard charts. If it was a band, it would’ve been like, “Oh, whatever, that was OK.” (laughs) So it’s crazy. He’s knows what he’s doing.
What is it like touring with your family?
I wouldn’t do this if they weren’t able to come. That’s why I left Flyleaf. I didn’t know how to hold onto my priorities in a way that I feel responsible. But also, I really enjoy my boys, and I was at a point in my life where I really could pick what I wanted to do. My husband, his dad has a plumbing business he’s had for 40 years. He taught him the trade, and he actually makes more money doing that than what we’re doing now. (laughs) We were comfortable, and I didn’t have to work or do things. But in that place of being home and putting my whole heart towards my family in that way, I just found myself writing songs all the time. And that was OK. I didn’t expect to put them out. It was just a natural response to just feeling really settled and feeling like I’m coming into my own identity as a mom and a wife and a woman in this generation. It just was a natural progression, I think, for me. So yeah, having my kids on the road is the only way I would do it. Otherwise, I’d go home. (laughs)
Do they understand what it is their parents do?
Yes. They’re like, “You’re gonna go rock out, Mom.” “Why yes, I’m gonna rock out.” They’ve been on the stage a few times waving at the audience and making them all cheer.
It’s been about a year since the album came out. When you listen to it, do you think, “Oh, I should’ve done something different here” or anything like that?
No. That’s the funny thing about this album. Every album, I had that feeling about it. I think the album was what it was supposed to be, and I really think I would listen to this, personally. Our other albums, I have a hard time listening to, because there was such a compromise of vision. If it was just within the band, I would’ve been happy with that, ‘cause it’s so personal. With Flyleaf, (guitarist) Sameer (Bhattacharya) wanted this, so we all changed that, and (bassist) Pat (Seals) wanted this, and (guitarist) Jared (Hartmann) wanted this, and (drummer) James (Culpepper) liked this, so that’s how it became what it was. But then when we got in the studio, I don’t think we had that same soft-heartedness towards our record label or towards our producer–because it felt sneaky. We would do what we did, and then they would go in and change things. So sometimes when I listen to those albums, I find myself going, “That was just sneaky.” The thing I love about what we do in the art process is that we’re all coming together, and it feels like a memory we made. But if they’re cheating–no connection to that.
But in this album, Life Screams, there was none of that. It was so open and so free and just exactly what I would want–the greatest memories attached to every bit of it. The guy who recorded us, Evan Rodaniche, he’s a singer for a band called Cage9. He’s one of the best male vocalists I’ve ever heard. I love his voice. He actually does some background vocals on it. He’s a great artist, and I heard his album, Cage9—one of his albums—and I was like, “This is the most amazing mix I’ve ever heard.” I love a couple mixes—Rage Against the Machine, their first album, and Nirvana’s In Utero is one of my favorite mixes, as far as just listening to musical quality. In Flyleaf, I never could find a mix that I was totally 100 percent like, “Oh man, this is exactly what I would envision.” But I think Evan did even better than I could’ve thought, and I’m so thankful for him. He’s talented in a lot of ways. Obviously, he’s a great producer and mixer. But anyway, I love the album.
I wanted to ask about the inspiration or meaning behind a couple of my favorite songs. My favorite is probably “The Soldier.”
What is that song about?
Well, I think a lot of our songs have a few different meanings, and the meanings change as we perform them. My brother’s a ranger in the U.S. Army. I went to Afghanistan with Flyleaf and played for the troops while they’re wearing their 30 pounds of armor. We had to wear 30 pounds of armor everywhere we went. We knew where the bomb shelters were. We knew where the enemy was, which horizon they were on. They coached us every base we went to about all these things. And there’s the audience of soldiers wearing their guns, all ready to go whatever happens. It was an amazing experience. There were some 18-year-olds on the wall watching, who couldn’t come. And so, we went around to those posts and said hi to the 18-year-olds on the wall. I was like, “You’re so far from home. Do you know that we’re so thankful for what you’re doing? You’re so brave.”
And the thing is, when I came home, I didn’t realize how thankful I was, ‘cause it was back when everybody hated George Bush, and everybody didn’t understand what was going on over there exactly. But I encountered so many people, even locals, who were volunteering with the army to help them fight Al-Qaeda–that was when Al-Qaeda was in power. And they had captured some terrorists that were transported with us. It was crazy. And they were just so thankful. “What can we do to serve you, military, because you’ve rescued our families from this terrible thing?”
I remember coming home and looking out on the horizon and being like, there’s no enemy over there. It feels weird not to be wearing that armor right now, 30 pounds of armor. There’s no bomb shelters, and literally, it’s because they’re over there fighting on this territory, instead of having it in our homeland, where they are, because they really want to be over here and doing that here. So it was just powerful to see what we have to be thankful for. And every base we left, the day after we left–the base has to be stable for at least three weeks before anyone can visit. So as we visited each one, the next day someone died. The next day after we left. It was crazy.
So I have such a heart for our military, no matter what part or branch of the military they’re from. There were international bases, so there was people from all over—from Canada, from France, from Germany, from different places—that were there fighting Al-Qaeda together. I felt that was just crazy to see all that.
But again, as I talk about the actual war going on in the world, the physical war, I believe there’s a spiritual war going on. One of the things that I say at the show when we do “The Soldier” is that we have a choice to make, all of us. The spiritual war going on—there’s a war going in our house, in our street, in our nation and across the world. The spiritual war going on underneath the surface is that we’re always making these choices of whether we’re gonna act in love or in fear. I think that, for me, having seen what I’ve seen throughout my life, it’s not a feeling. Love and fear—you can feel the feelings that feel like love or fear, but actually in all reality, they’re choices that you’ve made in the midst of your feelings. Am I gonna choose love or am I gonna choose fear? My thing is that when I sing “The Soldier,” I’m choosing to stand up and live in love in the face of fear, whatever that looks like, whether that means I’m defending my family, whether that means I’m laying down my life for someone that I could retaliate against that I’m not. Whatever it means, love in the moment is so important, that we choose that over fear and retreating or hiding or hurting someone that we’re not meant to hurt that way.
I feel like that message is more important now than ever.
Another one of my favorites is “I’m Not Laughing.”
We play that right after “The Soldier.” It’s about standing up for what you believe in. I’m part of a movement called the Whosoevers. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but Brian “Head” Welch from Korn and his story about overcoming drug addiction and finding faith in Jesus, and then the same with Sonny from P.O.D. He was part of a gang. His mom died of cancer, and on her deathbed, he decided that he wanted to give his life to God. And the thing is Sonny started the Whosoever movement—Sonny and Ryan Ries, who was another guy who was in C1rca Footwear. He did skate demos across the world, like extreme sports and things like that, and sold C1rca Footwear. And he almost OD’d several times and ended up coming out of it and changing his life and giving his life to God. So we got together when Chi from the Deftones was in a coma, and we decided to stand up and say, “Can you please pray for Chi?” Because he was running out of money for keeping him in the hospital, he’s in a coma, so let’s pray for him. That’s kind of the first thing we gathered together to do.
We were the Whosoevers. And we said the Whosoevers because we wanted to distance ourselves from the title that Christians had made for themselves. It comes from John 3:16—”For God so loved the world that whosoever believed in him would not perish but have everlasting life.” We said when people hear the word Christian, we have just made it mean whatever—whatever harm, whatever hurt. And it doesn’t mean we’re ashamed of Jesus. It just means that we want to show this is what Jesus looks like in our life. One of those things is just how people are hateful, Christians particularly, and I have a really big heart for people who have been bullied. I was bullied growing up. I’m gonna cry right now just thinking about how those kids need to know, especially the ones having a struggle about finding their identity, and they can’t help their home life, they can’t help what clothes they wear, they can’t help what they see, how they were raised or what they were taught. And they don’t know really—they’re finding out who their individual selves are. In that process, there’s all these people that think they know everything, whether it’s a mean Christian or a hypocritical, judgmental whatever or whether it’s just somebody who’s just hateful, who hates Christians. Maybe that’s who it is, somebody who’s picking on you because of your faith. You take a stand even though everybody else is joining in by laughing or being rude in whatever way. You take a stand, and you’re like, that’s not me, I’m not doing that.
I even thought of a video for that song—I’m not sure if we’ll do it—but where somebody’s getting picked on and they’re getting bullied pretty bad, and somebody stands up for them. All the kids that are like them come in, and they rescue the person out. And then all the kids that are like them start to bully the others, and that one that was being bullied first stands up for them. Because the wrong is the hatred. Like Martin Luther King said, you can’t drive out hate with hate. And we don’t acknowledge that in this society. That truth is so important. Hatred, that’s the problem. And then we say, “Oh, well, you hate people, so I’m gonna hate you.” But hatred is the problem.
Yeah, it just prolongs it.
Yeah. “You beat me, so I’m gonna beat you.” Violence is the problem. We’re pointing it at this person, and the thing that actually attacked us, we’re actually taking it into our soul and attacking someone with it, empowering that thing, that hatred, that violence, that mocking, despising thing that just removes the dignity from a human brother, a human soul. We can all take it in. That should humble us. We can all be on the same side and say, “Hey, I could be just like you, but I’m not gonna take that in me. I’m not gonna be like that, and you don’t have to be like that either.”
You mentioned how song meanings will change over time. How does that happen?
I think, for me, I’m wired in a way. Some people, they can get up and they can perform, and they have choreographed things and things they say every night that are the same, and I respect that. It takes a lot of work and diligence. But I’m really a very present person, and sometimes that’s really frustrating for people. (laughs) I don’t know where my phone is right now. I’m talking to you; I don’t need it. (laughs) It’s like, in the moment, I find that I know what to say. Even the songs will change. I have kind of a structure for what we do and have an idea, and sometimes it will be the same, but it’s only the same because I feel that it’s just as important today. And it feels different when I say it, because I’m looking at different faces who are dealing with different things, and I can just sense the energy in the room. That’s just the way I’m wired.
I remember I did a Ted Talks one time, and (laughing) when I was doing the Ted Talks, the guy who orchestrated it was like, “I know you guys have been rehearsing your speeches for months, and it’s been a lot of hard work bringing you in.” (whispering) I was like, “I just wrote it yesterday in the bathroom.” (laughter) I was like, “Don’t tell him.” And I was so nervous ‘cause he was making it such a big deal. We can’t mess up this live recording. It was the hardest thing I ever did, having to give a rehearsed speech. (laughs) So that’s how it changes, just the energy is different.
You said you’re working on your third book. Can you tell me anything about that?
My husband and I talked about doing it together, in a sense, where it’s kind of like a journal of how to follow your dreams and how to find out what your gifts are and how to steward your gifts and how to steward the life around you. So it’s my journey with being a steward.
My story is, in the first book, I talk about (how) I was a suicidal atheist and became a believer on the day I planned to commit suicide and had an encounter with God. And then the next book is how in my journey with faith, I ended up in an emotional affair, feeling like I was doing the right thing and finding that I was just deceiving myself and ended up suicidal again and then questioning my faith in God and overcoming that really powerfully, meeting my husband, through our dating, and we’ve been married eight years now. I talk about how we fostered faithfulness in marriage before we even married and how that actually was planting seeds in our dating process to produce a good marriage now. I still think about those things. When we fight, I have this thing to hold onto, that I know from our dating, that keeps me grounded. I’m so thankful for that time, and I wanted to share how powerful it was.
Christians always talk about not sleeping together before you get married and how they make it all about these rules for your body—”Don’t go too far.” It’s kind of weird stuff for this generation to even think about probably—I don’t know. But what I realized is that it’s about your heart. I think it’s more tumultuous to your heart that you have become one in your heart, like connected in your heart, and then having to break up—I went through a divorce. I was 19 when I got married, 21 when I divorced. I went through a divorce, and it didn’t hurt nearly as bad as the first breakup I had. I had broken up and let my heart be torn so many times that divorce just felt like another one of those times, almost. I don’t think that our hearts are meant to tear over and over that way. So when I finally felt like I was healing, my heart felt like I was whole again—like I went through this process of learning how to be whole emotionally—and then I met my husband, I was like, “I’m not giving you any of this. I’m not giving you my heart!” And we didn’t actually kiss until he asked me to marry him. It was such a powerful thing. It was so romantic and so healthy at the same time. You know how when you’re a kid and you sit by the girl you like and you don’t know if she likes you, and you’re like, “Oh my god, she’s so close to me. Her hand touched mine!” That’s what it felt for a year. That never let up, because we never kissed, and there was just this passion that was reserved. It felt like there was constantly this romantic tension. Then when we finally were married, it was so amazing to just feel so free. The vulnerability’s there, but it’s safe—so safe. If we mess this up somehow, I know that we’re gonna work through it.
Anyway, it’s just so different than anything I’ve ever seen in life. I’ve never seen a relationship like that, and it’s just so beautiful and powerful. I was like, I’ve gotta tell people, ‘cause this was so cool to go through. So I wrote The Mystery about that. Then when we got married, my husband, he helps people realize their dreams. He did that for me for three books, and I’m like, “Can you help me tell people about how to steward your gifts?” So that’s what I’m writing about.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
If anybody wants to find out about where we’re gonna be at or doing, you can go to laceysturm.com. The social media, we have links to all that stuff on the website, and there’s email sign-up if you want to find out where we’re playing and all that.