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Plumb Returns With A Passion
by Jon Fisher
Contributor on 2013-04-20 16:05:48
The long awaited release of new Plumb album "Need You Now" finally hit stores this last February. Now contributor Jon Fisher talks with Tiffany Arbuckle Lee about her latest album, marriage, Justin Bieber (Yes, Bieber), Christian music, and how she dealt with feeling unloved.

It’s been a few years since your last album and I wanted to find out from you what it was like getting back into the studio and recording after being away for a couple of years.

It was kind of like riding a bike. You never forget. It’s pretty much part of you, it just becomes part of you and you just pick up where you left off, so to speak. But I’m in the studio often anyway. I’m always song writing and always recording and demoing things and pitching things to film and television and commercials and other artists, so being in the studio is really part of my life. So “quote/unquote” getting back in the studio was not quite as foreign and new as it may seem. So just because there was a little bit of a break in between records, I was certainly not on a sabbatical. I’ve been pretty busy and involved in music and not necessarily in the traditional sense that most people kind of grow accustomed with an artist cranking out a record and then they tour and then they pop back in the studio and they crank out a record and then they tour and it becomes a sort of cycle.

Having three children close in age when I released “Beautiful History” in 2009, I spent 2010 writing for this new record and my husband and I started a school that was a really big undertaking. We started a Montessori school and so I finished writing by 2011 and started recording in 2011 and I was finished by that year.

In early 2012 we had discussed when the record would release and I went through a real personal crisis in my home. A very long story short, my husband and I very unexpectedly separated for about six months. I went through the darkest time of my life, and so everything was on hold. So a record that just came out a few weeks ago would probably have been out nine months ago, but life happens and you just kind of have to roll with the punches.

So I wasn’t even sure if this record would come out, much less with all of this songs on this record when it did come out just because it was so much of it was inspired by my relationship with my husband and his involvement in my life. Just our whole experience was a huge attack and God was victorious and we reconciled and our marriage is stronger than it’s ever been, it’s growing every day, it’s a journey that we’re on that we learned a really valuable lesson.

I’m a huge, huge advocate for marriage now and just what that term really means, and it’s the difference between true joy and happiness and the difference between feelings and choices. It’s just been an incredible journey that I’ve been on and an amazing year, so I’ve not really slowed down, but I’ve obviously not cranked out a record every twelve months. It’s been for a really good reason and we took our time writing it, took our time recording it, and really didn’t proceed forward until we were completely satisfied with everything and so now we have a record out that we’re really proud of and it’s doing really well.

Thank you, that leads to my next question. I really like the new album, and I especially like the song “Unloveable”. What was the inspiration for that song?

I have a friend who is gay, he is a Christian, and he has been made to feel that, pretty unloveable the majority of his life because someone doesn't understand or agree with his life and his lifestyle. Just hearing his testimony and just letting him kind of pour his heart out to my husband and me. Just from life in kindergarten until now and the story of his family and just the life he lived and grew up in a family he’s known.

I sat there and kind of felt like “this is a story of thousands and thousands of people” and his story is unique to him, but not necessarily unique in the sense that whether you’re gay or you’re black or white or you’re poor, whatever kind of separates you into a category that you feel marginalized or a minority of some sort. So it doesn’t matter whatever is making a person feel isolated or lonely, the fact is that they feel isolated and lonely, and I think there’s an incredible amount of hope in the words “me too”, and just knowing that you’re not alone and that someone else feels the same emotion, the same sense of hopelessness sometimes as you. Whether their circumstance is similar to yours or not, just sharing that someone might feel lonely or hopeless or left out or misunderstood or unloved.

It gives you a little bit of hope to know that you’re not alone, but I also think music is a great tool to create conversation and to be able to have something to converse and say “You know I really relate to this song because I feel that way sometimes, or I think my brother feels this way sometimes”, or whoever you’re referring to. Just using it as a tool, like I said to just spark a conversation that says I know someone who feels this way or I myself have felt this way. Drawing from the hope in knowing that you’re not alone to keep that conversation going, and honestly I think that’s where peace starts.

When we think that we should use our fists and sometimes our words are our fists, I just think there’s a lot of power in being understood and that really doesn’t happen through anything but relationship which comes through conversation. So I want to keep conversation going where people just don’t stop communicating and literally shut people off and end relationships over misunderstandings and such. I guess I wanted a song that for me it was inspired by him but the second verse goes to talk about a single unwed mother and that we live in this world where we want to say that we want to treat other people the way that we would want to be treated and we want to love our neighbor as ourselves.

God is love when we represent His love and He is the judge and we don’t have to be giving all these wonderful Sunday School answers about how we believe in our heads. I question whether we believe what we say we believe if we live something differently. That’s humbling to me and if you really believe something, if you’re not living it, do you really believe it? That could be something as simple as how you eat. If you really believe healthy eating is important, why don’t you do it?

I’m preaching to myself when I say this but if we really believe the way we say we do which is what the chorus says. If we really believe in a God of love and acceptance and a God of grace and of mercy and second chances, and a God who sees our potential, He doesn’t see what we are right now, He sees our potential and He loves us for that. He loves us for who He created us to be, not for who we are right this very moment. If that’s what we believe, then why do we live differently? Why do we take it upon ourselves to make someone else feel unloved because we don’t understand them or we don’t agree with them.

Someone might be doing something as black and white and wrong as murder, but in my life I’ve never been inspired to change and to grow and to make good choices with someone’s thumb on me. You resist that. You push it away and when you’re, like I said, with someone’s thumb on you.

I feel like the church has a really bad reputation and history of saying one thing and doing another, and we’ve been saying this for hundreds of years and I don’t think that it’s necessarily a song that’s going to change everybody and we’re all going to be this perfect representation of Christ, but each life is so important, each life is so valuable and if this song can inspire one person to think twice about the way they treat their son or their daughter or their friend or their son-in-law or their cousin or one of their kid’s friends or somebody that they work with. If you can challenge one person to say, “you know what, I’m not being loving to them, I’m not being accepting of them and I’m misrepresenting the Gospel and ultimately I’m the one that’s losing out on that”.

Because we have this arrogance as Christians that we think God needs us and He doesn’t. He doesn’t need us. He just wants us, and we can’t mess up His painting. He’s got this glorious and amazing piece of art that is unfolding before us and it’s us that miss out when we choose not to participate in that story and miss what is best and I think He will just pull out another brush and keep painting. It’s us, sometimes we think we have more to do with it than we do, and I’m guilty of that myself.

This song is really important to me and that’s why I didn’t add a lot of bells and whistles and a bunch of loops and crazy extras. There is obviously music there, there’s a track built around the song but it is the most stripped down song on the record because I wanted the message to be heard very loud and clear. The message that we’re failing as a church in representing Him and He is love, and when we can love people the way that we would want to be loved God can really work through us. If someone’s life needs to change, it’s going to be God that changes them. It’s going to be His love that changes them, His grace. We are lucky to be a participant in that where He chooses to use that love and that grace through us.

So often we take on this attitude that it’s us responsible for changing them, it’s that’s responsible for making sure they do what’s right, and sometimes, guess what, we’re wrong. Sometimes we think someone needs to change and they’re not actually wrong. We think that they’re sinful and they’re not actually sinful. Of course they’re human and that makes us all sinful but I mean sometimes we’re wrong.

I think about how many years ago, how many years ago, there was a gigantic percentage of our world that believed that the color of your skin dictated whether or not you could sit in the front or the back of a bus. Now, I hope in our culture we think that is so absurd that the color of your skin would dictate whether or not you could drink from this water fountain or use that bathroom. That’s ridiculous. God’s an artist and He paints with different colors and we’re all beautiful and we are loved equally by Him. Why would ever think the color of your skin has anything to do with your importance in this world? There was a time where that was the norm.

I look forward to a day when the church really is seen as a place that is a refuge and it’s just loving people for who they are and for where they’re at and letting that love be lived out through it so much so that when people need to change and how they need to change is solely the work of God and not us trying to get in the way of that. I’m pretty passionate about the song if you can’t tell.

I think it’s the most powerful song on the whole album.

I realize it’s hard to understand something you’ve not been (through). If you’ve not been tempted by something or struggled with something or been in this socio-economic place, or you’ve never had that color of skin, you’ve never been there, it is hard to understand.

This is why I believe God did not say “I command you to understand your neighbor”. I don’t think God commanded us to do that. I don’t think He said “I command you to agree with your neighbor” or “I command you to believe the same as your neighbor”. He said “I command you to love them. Just love them. I made them, I’ve got a plan for them and I see the end result and I know their days and how many days they’re going to be here, how many hairs are on their head. I’m nuts about them. You leave them to me.”

Selfishly, is it that easy? I mean it really is, but we make it so much harder than just loving them. And if you’ve never felt unloveable, it doesn’t feel very good and even though the song was not inspired by my situation with my marriage and what I went through, I went through a season of feeling unloved by my husband. If you mention that to him today, he is devastated by that and has more than made up for that season in my life. Now I can at least understand because I grew up in my life not necessarily knowing what that felt like but having an empathy for those that do.

I felt unloved by my husband and though that’s not necessarily an entire culture turning their back on me or a community turning their back on me, the single most important relationship I have on this earth, certainly God is more important than he is, but on this earth, my husband is the most important relationship.

For him to say “I don’t know that I love you anymore” was the most devastating thing I have ever heard in my lifetime, so I do know what it feels like to want to be loved by someone or something and to not feel that back. I know what that feels like now, and so the thought of me ever participating in someone feeling rejected or unloved makes my stomach sick.

So I’m very bent on making sure people know that I love Jesus and He commands me to love you. So I’m going to love and if you’re doing stuff that’s stupid that you shouldn’t be, I’m just going to hope that He deals with you because He deals with me. I’m just going to love you.

I think in the darkest times in my life the most influential things were when somebody had grace for me, where I was doing or saying or being something I shouldn’t, and they invited me to their table anyway. That humbled me that they would invite me into their presence and into their life and wrap their arms around me even though I was not necessarily living the way that I should have been. That made me want to change because I felt humbled by that. That’s a lot more powerful than and a lot more concrete and a lot more permanent in the response than someone shoving a finger in your face and saying “what you’re doing is wrong” instead of just saying “Come sit at my table.”

So I’m very passionate about that now and I’m thankful for what I’ve learned and just hope that God can continue to use it for good.

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“Drifting” was one of the first songs I heard from the new album. I know you worked with Dan Haseltine before. It seems like you guys work well together and the song is great, so do you have plans to work with him in the future?

Yes, as long as he and I are breathing we have plans to stay friends and write and collaborate together as often as we can. We just are lifetime friends and when I was first signed and had my very first shot in the industry he was one of the people that was in my first tour with and one of the first people I co-wrote with and worked with professionally. So we have just stayed good friends and I’ve sort of named myself as the kid sister to Jars of Clay because they were my label mates and they were basically the only artists signed and I was kind of the new kid on the block at the label.

We shared a manager, we shared tour and we shared a business manager. He helped work on my first record and write with me. Just as both of us changed managers, changed labels, changed all kinds of things in our lives, we have remained friends and had a real genuine respect for each other. So I don’t see that going away anytime soon.

So yeah, we do have plans. In fact we said we were going to write in April and I think it was my responsibility to schedule the actual date. So he’s probably waiting on me to find out what day this month we’re going to write. I would love to, because I think of what I’ve been through, my heart as much of writer of all genres when I need to be, my heart I put into my records. I had a lullaby record come out because that was really truly where I was at cause I was pregnant with my second baby and I had a baby.

All three of my kids are very close in age so I was just crazy for motherhood, and a lullaby record was the most authentic thing I could do. I think because of what I’ve been through, I feel like a worship record is probably my next feat. I’ve had people ask about a Christmas record and you know those, you make one of those every so often and I’ve never done that and it’s especially on my bucket list. But I think my heart is just so full of what God is still doing and what He can do and what He will do and how real in our lives He is at present with us that. So it would probably be worship songs that I would write.

I read a few years ago in one of your early interviews where you said that Christian music, on average were not very well produced. Do you think that has changed?

Yes, it’s exponentially better. The digital age did a lot because I think there’s an incredible amount of creativity in this world but I do think that since Christian music did not have the budget that mainstream had, when you were tracking strings and you were tracking drums and bass and guitar and programming it there was just so much that you need to rent out. All these things that did get done but because budgets were sometimes less, you’d have less time to do it or you had to use different musicians that were maybe not necessarily the number one guys, so maybe the number two or three guy.

I think because in the world of digital you can make a record in your closet with Pro Tools and it can sound fabulous. So I just think that the digital age kind of opened up things for all these people in Christian music that are unbelievably talented. It kind of took the budget issue away. I mean there still has to be a budget, you still have to pay to make records, there’s mixing and mastering and all of that. But I think that the digital age has really just opened it up for a lot more creativity and you can do things that you may not have been able to do yourself.

Maybe you’re not a bass player but you can program bass. I just think the digital age, and I don’t want to make it sound like all Christian music is programmed, it’s not, but I’m just saying that particular tool made budgets less of an issue and I think that in the past with that industry not having as big of a budget as the mainstream industry limited it sometimes. I want to make it doesn’t sound like I’m saying Christian music is better because they didn’t have money before but in a nutshell it’s kind of that way. It’s not because of a lack of creativity or ability, it’s because Christian music has generally not had the budgets that mainstream music has had.

When you have to do something faster and you don’t have the time to take to make it better or you don’t have the best of the best to pay to do it, it does suffer, the music does suffer a little bit. I just think that Pro Tools and a lot of things have just made music easier to make in less time and for less money but still just as creative. I think you’re seeing the true creative nature of Christian music that’s been there without the budget restrictions because it’s digital.

What is on your iPod right now?

Right now it’s Florence and the Machine, The Killers, a new song by Pink called “Try” that my husband just upload because he said it had a great bass line and Phil Wickham and Gary Roberts’ new record that just came out.

Is there any particular mission or outreach that you’re passionate about right now?

I am very passionate about hopeless people and whatever state they are in. Because there is always hope and sometimes you cannot find it. I think because of what I’ve been through more recently as a wife, as a mother, I’m very passionate about moms and marriages more than ever.

I think that there is a culture that we find ourselves in that gives us every reason to walk away and go on and try a new pair of shoes. I’ve decided that I like living in shoes that have walked hundreds and hundreds of steps with me. I don’t want to get new blisters over and over again. I would rather do whatever it takes to make it work and I don’t want to compare marriage to shoes, that’s just the first thing that came to my mind right now.

I think so often the grass is greener on the other side, but it’s got weeds of its own. I am not the biggest Justin Bieber fan in the world but he has a song called “As Long as You Love Me” that has a rap in it that says “we’ve got issues baby, true, true, true, but I’d rather work on this with you than to go ahead and start with someone new”.

In that rap, I never thought I would quote a Justin Bieber song in an interview, but when I heard that when I was going through what I was going through with my husband, that hit me in the face. There’s something very valuable in history together and so often couples walk away from this history that they’ve built together that they cannot replace, they cannot redo. They don’t see the value and the romance in the familiar and the value in the history, and that God can use that to make their present into an amazing, beautiful future.

That’s what He’s done for us, He’s taken those ashes and made it into something beautiful. So I’m just very passionate about marriages, learning to love the way Jesus did. He was on the cross and He had the power to leave and in so many marriages people have Biblical grounds or they have justification for leaving. In so many situations, similar to that of Christ, being in very painful situations, He had the power to go, but He stayed because of love.

I want to love like that, so my husband and I chose to stay and we didn’t just make the good choice for our children, we made a good choice for the Kingdom of God and He has blessed us for that. We just don’t have a marriage that stayed together and our kids are lucky to have mom and dad still together, we have a marriage that’s better than it’s ever been.

God has blessed us beyond our wildest imagination, and in James where He says “He will turn your weeping into dance”, He WILL turn your weeping into dance, if you will let Him. If you will let the fire that you’re walking through refine you and not kill you. If you will hand Him those dirty, stinking ashes and let Him breathe something beautiful into them that you could have never imagined. You will look at your life and say “Thank God I trusted You and not myself”.

So it’s not to say when people do divorce and they do separate that God is not redemptive there, He is redemptive. God’s instantly redemptive, but I think if there’s someone reading this interview and they’re thinking twice about their marriage, I’m such an advocate of marriage that marrying someone else is not usually going to fix the problem. So often the problem is us and I mean that for myself as well.

If we are both willing to do whatever God asks of us and clean up our messes and let Him forgive our mistakes and heal our wounds and make us more into the people He died for us to be, I think we’re going to look at each other with different eyes.

We have a very wonderful couple that we’ve loved for a long time who are going through a really, really dark valley right now and the husband is contemplating divorcing the wife and my husband is so quick to tell him that leaving this marriage and trying to find another one is not necessarily going to fix the problem. So often the problem lies within the two of you and when you can work on you what a beautiful thing that God can do. It’s not necessarily a new wife that’s going to fix the problem, or a new husband. That’s harsh to hear. It’s painful to hear for some people. It’s convicting to hear, but it’s very true.

God is pro-marriage and if you really do commit the relationship that you’re in to Him and be willing to do whatever it takes which means WHATEVER IT TAKES. God may ask some really hard things of you.

There’s a book out there called “Sacred Marriage” that talks about how what if God created marriage not to make us happy but to make us holy. It kind of dissects how happiness is not a character trait, it’s a circumstantial thing, it’s an ice cream cone, it’s a moment. But joy is being able to grieve at the funeral of a loved one and still have peace and still have a confidence that God is in control. So often when we’re quote/unquote unhappy in our marriage, we go and look for another one. But that marriage is going to get unhappy too, so you have to think “wait a minute, if that’s going to be unhappy too, then this isn’t about happiness, this isn’t about feelings, this isn’t about emotion, it’s about decisions and about character and about faithfulness”. It’s about trusting in a God that says if you choose Me, and you honor Me with your life, I will honor that back.

It doesn’t happen instantaneously the way we think it should. I serve a very good God. What He has done in my life is a miracle, I mean my home is a miracle.

I’m that girl that’s kind of overflowing with things. Without giving you all of the nasty details, I had every reason to in my marriage for it to be a divorce. We had every reason in our marriage for it to not be beautiful and to be divided and broken. We have every reason in the world to say “OK, here’s a checklist of things that are good reasons for not staying married”.

God redeemed that. God forgave it.
He reconciled it and made it new and better than it was before.

So take that Satan!

Really whatever conflict you’re going through, even it’s not your marriage, whatever it is in your life, it is an opportunity to know Jesus deeper and let Him be glorified through that situation which really ticks the enemy off. I think I’m more passionate than ever about sticking it to Satan, and just saying “you know what, bring it on”. Because everything you throw at me, I’m going to give God all the glory for. I’m going to let Him have it and you will be wasting your time here. Make the enemy sorry he ever messed with you.
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