Lindsay McCaul has always been keenly aware of words and their value. From her teen years pouring over the lyrics of her favorite Christian music to her college days majoring in linguistics at Moody Bible Institute to the vibrant, insightful songs she’s penned for her Reunion Records debut, If It Leads Me Back, McCaul knows the power of words.
Rarely has an artist wielded that power with more thoughtful precision. Blessed with a caring heart and a deep intellect, McCaul has a gift for writing songs that strengthen and encourage by reminding us of God’s grace and faithfulness. “I don’t technically use my translation degree skills,” says McCaul, who earned her degree in applied linguistics intending to translate the Bible, “but music is another way of translating the Bible into our lives. The stories and the truths in the Word can be applied in a different way into people’s hearts.”
Born in Abilene, Texas, McCaul moved to Florida when she was nine and lived so close to the Space Center that she remembers hearing the Shuttle rattle her windows when it launched. She has a twin sister and recalls her family listening primarily to oldies music, but that wasn’t her passion. “I would lay awake at night when we were supposed to be asleep, and I would turn on my radio and listen to Christian music,” she recalls. “I thought ‘this is amazing!’ I remember one time my mom came in and they had just played Mark Schultz’s ‘He’s My Son.’ It was the first time I’d ever heard it and I was sitting in my bed bawling. I was so moved and overwhelmed by this music. I can’t tell you how much Christian music has impacted my life. I truly would not be the person I am or where I am without the way the Lord has impacted my life through Christian music.”
McCaul was drawn to music as a form of self-expression and began writing songs at an early age. “I started writing when I was 11 or 12,” she says. “I would write what I was thinking about or processing or about how the Lord was revealing himself to me. At a young age, the Lord let me do that. Writing songs was my way of figuring out ‘what does God say about this in His word?’ and ‘what is He saying about this to me?’ or ‘what is He doing in people’s lives that I am close with?’”
Songwriting became the filter through which McCaul explored her relationship with God and expressed what He was revealing to her. She continued to write after she moved to Chicago to attend Moody Bible Institute. Initially, she had no intention of sharing her compositions with the world, so she was surprised when the girl who was vacating her post as worship leader suggested Lindsay take her place. “She said, ‘hey, have you ever thought about leading worship?’ and I was like ‘no, no, I really don’t play in front of people,’” McCaul recalls the panic she felt. “She said ‘I’ve already signed you up for two weeks from now, so start practicing!’”
So above Lindsay’s protests, she began leading worship at Moody and as she flourished in the role, God began speaking her calling clearly to her and, while still in college, opened the doors for her to begin leading worship at Chicago’s Harvest Bible Chapel, a 14,000-member church. Her original songs became favorites with the congregation and began to attract notice outside the church. McCaul’s music came to the attention of industry titans Mark Hall, frontman for Christian music’s best-selling band Casting Crowns, who invited her on tour this fall; and Jason Ingram, five-time SESAC Christian Songwriter of the Year and winner of the Gospel Music Association’s 2010 Producer of the Year, who helped McCaul craft If It Leads Me Back. The resulting collection showcases McCaul’s warm, expressive vocals and compelling songs.
Unafraid to share her most personal struggles in song, McCaul penned the poignant ballad “Let Go” about dealing with an eating disorder, and seeing a friend in college wrestling with the same issue. “I really feel like Satan was trying to get a hold of me, keep me from fully giving my life to the Lord,” she says. “It’s a control thing. You want to control an area in your life. The Lord had to really break me of that and show me that He’s in control of my life.”
McCaul admits the healing didn’t happen overnight and her experience left her with a burden for young girls and what they face in today’s society. “It took years for the Lord to get that deep and let the Word wash over me and scrub off the influence of the world,” she says. “The Lord showed me that the root of all of that for me was that I was so desperate for people’s approval. I can see that back in high school. I can see that back in college, even getting into the music industry. You can’t please all the people all the time. You can’t even please most of the people all the time and why would you even want to? The world says it matters who you look like, but what matters is what the Lord says about us and that is the only thing that lasts - who we are in Him and the identity that we have in Jesus.”
McCaul’s compelling “Say My Name” – the radio single hitting airwaves as she joins Casting Crowns on its 40-city fall tour – showcases not only her gifts as a songwriter, but her shimmering, emotion-laden voice.
“I was at a location in Israel and our tour guide pointed to the place where Lot and his wife would have been walking away from Sodom and Gomorrah. It’s where, in Genesis 19, she turned back and looked for one last glimpse of something that she held dear and precious, and she turned to a pillar of salt. I kept thinking about the things that I hold onto that keep me from walking forward into what the Lord has for me, whether it’s regrets or things I wish I could have changed in my life, whether it’s decisions I’ve made, or whether it’s actually sin or something that’s holding me back. Through all of that, God is calling us to freedom. Jeremiah 29:11 says that He has plans for us and He promises that He can make beautiful things out of ashes -He uses us even though we’re fallen people. But we have to walk away from things of the past and move forward into what He is calling us to.
McCaul co-wrote the title track, “If It Leads Me Back,” with one of her songwriting heroes, Cindy Morgan. “We were talking about Job and the incredible man that he was and how he demonstrated his faith in the Lord just by saying that whatever comes at me, I bless the Lord,” says McCaul. “We were just talking through how we want to be people that would say that, and that whatever comes at us, we would let it lead us back to the Lord.
We had been talking through a couple of title options and felt this song really sums it all up. All the different songs are different glimpses of seasons in life, and the thing He is doing through all of it is leading us back to Him. With everything that He allows - whether it’s good or difficult, valleys or mountains- He leads us back to Him.”
Though McCaul isn’t translating the Bible into other languages as she planned while earning her degree, she’s come to realize that she is still a translator of sorts and songs are her vehicle for conveying God’s truth. “I can’t believe that I get to still translate in a different way,” McCaul says with a smile. “In listening to these songs, I hope people take away a sense that God pursues us and longs for fellowship with us. He loves us and wants to be close to us and I think that’s something that God has graciously showed me over my 26 years on earth. The Lord has pursued me, even when I’m unlovable and don’t want to be pursued, He still does it. I think that’s the biggest theme…I hope it’s encouraging.”