Sara Groves: 'Music is My Medicine'

How this 'technically non-proficient' artist overcame defeat to create music—and a marriage that endures

I have been doing what I'm doing since, my mom says, I was four. I've been processing my life by writing songs at the piano since I was very little. I have tapes and books full of songs from junior high, through high school, through college. In college I decided I was going to teach music, or do something in the field of music. So I took music theory, and I failed the course because I'm not very technically proficient. I was devastated. I couldn't believe it. I was embarrassed and felt shot down. I remember thinking, Well, that's that. I'm not technically proficient, so I can't go into music for a living. I felt I was losing my best friend.

A little while later, I had a teacher that came to me and asked why she hadn't seen me around the music department anymore. She told me I was not the most technically proficient student she'd ever had, but that it's possible to be musical without being technically proficient. She sowed a seed in me that I could still be creative. I got quiet and God asked me a question: Could you write music even if it wasn't what you were doing for a living? I said, okay, I see—this is a hobby I'll do until I'm old.

So I continued to pursue songwriting. It's always been more emotionally born for me, like I've got something in my gut, and if I don't get it out, it's haunting me. Then I sit down to cry it out, and to work through it. When I need some courage, I write a song about courage. It's my own little pill—it's my own medicine.

The reason I've been able to sustain being an artist for a living for this long is because my husband does what he does. He's my manager and percussionist. I know a ton of great songwriters who don't have a Troy Groves. Definitely 50, if not 75 percent of why I did what I did, and am doing what I'm doing, goes to him.

Being married to my bandmate

It isn't always easy to balance business with our marriage—everyone has their ruts and ways of communicating that are healthy and unhealthy. We highly recommend marriage counseling because sometimes you don't even know why you're stuck, but when you start working that out in front of someone, you find yourself changing the way you say things or the way you think about things. Get yourself to a marriage counselor, even if you just need to tune up. Talking things through with somebody that's coming from a solid Christian worldview is invaluable. We'd be in real trouble if we hadn't gone through counseling along the way. The greatest miracles I've ever seen have been in people's marriages when you think there's just no way. I've seen some pretty radical and fruitful recoveries, including between me and Troy. So I believe in that.

Sharpening my character

We also have three great kids. They're amazing. They jump on board and make their own sacrifices. Balancing work, life, and family for us is hashed out imperfectly, but I have nothing to say on that front other than "help." My three best friends are a stay-at-home mom, a high school counselor, and a teacher, and I'm an artist/songwriter. We meet on a regular basis, and our complaints, needs, and desperations are all the same. I have yet to meet anybody who has really completely figured out the work-life balance. Not just work-life, but sports too. With kids' activities, our culture of busyness is pretty intense.

All in all, marriage and family are sharpening things—things God uses in my life more than anything to grow my character.

Watch a music video from Sara on TCW, "Painting Pictures of Egypt," and read a feature article about her and husband Troy's Art House North in St. Paul, Minnesota, in TCW's Creativity issue.

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Sara Groves is a Grammy-award winning recording artist. Connect with her online on her website.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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