Helga Sierra
Helga Sierra

Journal: Stories on Creativity & Adventure

Learn about the artist's process, photo stories, traveling & more. 

How Charis's Prayers Became Songs

Meet my friend Callie,  she's a really talented artist, and goes by the artist name of Charis.  She's a singer-songwriter, designer, really awesome human being that I met in Nashville.  She is currently in Lisbon, Portugal working on starting a church with my friends, by being a worship leader.  She has been working on writing music for quite some time and a week ago released her EP: SHADOW.

I hope you enjoy reading about WHY SHE CREATES. 


Meet Charis

Photo by the amazing  Davis Camp .

Photo by the amazing Davis Camp.

On Process

What inspired you to make an EP?

To be quite honest, I’ve written more songs that have been sucked into the black hole of my voice memos than I’d like to admit. Over the past few years, a lot of my friends were courageous enough to begin their own journeys of recording and producing their albums, and this past fall I finally got to the point internally where I knew I was ready to embark on this journey as well. Knowing that I was going to move to another country at the beginning of 2017, I saw this as a sort of personal year-book to cap off the previous season in my life. Also, I had a good friend basically tell me that I had to do this. I knew he was right.

He called out the gold in me that I thought was just sand.


What does the process of writing a song look like for you?  


My favorite songs that I have written have come out of prayer. It took a while for me to be comfortable enough with the Lord to pray in song and melody, but, once I forgot about making everything sound perfect, it was like I unlocked another door I didn’t know existed.

I would just start singing prayers with my guitar, and a lot of times they would turn into songs.

I also had to learn to be just as grateful when they didn’t turn into songs. I didn’t write songs intending to record an album. I sang to Jesus, and these songs were formed.

I do, however, cowrite a lot and would suggest sharing the creative process to anyone who wants to access deeper levels of creativity. Sharing creativity means that potential is maximized. Any notion of competition is defeated when two creatives share their gifts with each other for mutual benefit. 

Did you have a theme in mind? 

I didn’t know I was writing for an EP when these songs were created. They simply came our of moments of intimacy, so I would say that the theme that I unconsciously leaned toward is intimate connection with the Father.


I know it takes a village to create music.

Would you mind sharing about the recording process and how crucial it was to have a producer that added value to your creative process?


Oh man. If I didn’t have my friend, Lalo Guzman, as my producer, I don’t know how I would have gotten through this process. He was so patient, and he is also one of the most talented and creative producers I know. He helped take my wimpy voice memos and turn them into fleshed-out songs that I got to watch “grow up.” I don’t naturally have a producer’s ear to hear things that don’t exist in songs yet, so having Lalo on my team was a huge game-changer.


Lalo Guzman also worked on my friend Calah's EP, if you missed why she creates: read this post.  She's also friends with Callie and is another awesome human being. 

Were there any particular musicians/bands you looked at that influenced the style of the EP? 

I would say the greatest influences for the production of my EP were Steffany Gretzinger, Amanda Cook, and Brook Fraser. However, some of the bands/musicians I listen to most frequently are Coldplay, John Mayer, Death Cab, Local Natives, John Foreman, Sleeping At Last, and Bon Iver.

(Personal note: I love all of these bands, so naturally when I heard the Shadow EP I loved it.  I even had the thought, "Man this is a really good singer and for a moment forgot it was my friend singing & the one who wrote the songs!")


On Design

Tell me about the creative direction for the album cover.

I actually had a vision for the album cover before I knew what songs were going to be on the album. I knew I wanted something simple and black with my face looking up. After I saw the photos from the shoot, I remembered a song that I had written a couple months prior entitled “Shadow.” And that’s the story of how the title track made the cut for the EP. I am such a visual person, so it makes sense that seeing the album cover helped me determine the creative direction for the entire project. 


I know you are currently in Lisbon and have been doing lots of photography work. What are some of your current design/photography influences?

I grew up in Texas and have lived in Nashville for the past 5ish years. I didn’t really know what it was like to live in a huge city with rich culture (don’t get me wrong, Nashville is incredible!), but after moving to Lisbon, it’s as if my creative mind expanded past what I thought was possible.

Being surrounded my people, places, culture, and a language that is entirely foreign to me has added interest to the smallest things I probably wouldn’t have noticed in America.

The culture surrounding me has influenced me greatly and has opened up a new love for travel/street/lifestyle photography.

you can find more of her awesome pictures & follow her adventures in lisbon at: thenamescal.com


On Advice

What’s the newest band/album you’ve started listening to (who should I listen to as I start a new year)? 

Photo by the amazing  Davis Camp .

Photo by the amazing Davis Camp.

Honestly, I still haven’t gotten over the new Bon Iver album, 22 A Million. I think it’s so interesting and intriguing. I love everything John Mayer has put out recently, and I am a huge fan of movie scores, so I’d recommend the La La Land score (not just the soundtrack).

(Yes! I'm loving all of these.  Bon Iver & the La La Land Soundtrack remind me of my recent travels to Europe; and John Mayer has been a go-to since I've been back in Honduras. If you haven't listened to these lately take her word for it).

Last but most importantly:

What would you tell someone who is wanting to embark on a creative journey (regardless of the level they are in)?

Photo by Calah Caballero. 

Photo by Calah Caballero. 


The only way you can fail is not to try.

Creativity is like a spark of inspiration, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t take hard work, dedication, and commitment. You have to be ready and fit to receive the inspiration. Don’t try and make something sound/look/feel like someone else’s work. Use other artists to help guide you on your journey to discover your own voice. You have something worth sharing, but it’s also just as important to create when no one is watching or listening. 

*All images are courtesy of Callie Burnett.

Thank you Callie! 

Thanks for being awesome, loving tacos & taking steps to change the world through your music! Miss you, love you, proud of you.

Callie inspires me greatly, and hopefully we'll get to collaborate on other fun projects in the near future so stay tuned. Remember to Download her music if you're looking for new worship tunes (find her as Charis on iTunes and Spotify). Leave a comment below if you have any thoughts, or share with a friend who might be looking for a little inspiration today.  

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