Julianna Zobrist: Crazy? Hardly. Fearless? Definitely.

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Juliana Zobrist

As the bass kicks up, the synthesised techno-pop sounds pile on and the echoing, electronically masked background vocals slide in, the last thing you\'d ever expect the music to be is contemporary Christian. The club-mix sound is only part of the unique output of Julianna Zobrist (wife to Tampa Bay Rays\' right-fielder Ben Zobrist, for those who follow sports more than music), and the message is unapologetically Christian, appealing to the younger market with a mainstream sound. Having taken some time off for a new baby daughter, the Zobrists\' second child, Julianna is back in the studio, with a new EP in the offing, "Say It Now," with a post-modern sound and rare and honest introspection.

Say It Now is a very divergent sound from what one would normally attribute to Contemporary Christian Music. It\'s got a very synth-pop dance-mix thing going for it. Who are your musical influences, because I can\'t imagine they\'re within CCM.

I was actually trained classically, growing up -- classical music and opera, which is hilarious. But I always listened to Michael Jackson and Gloria Estefan and people who would make me dance. The Ting Tings. My taste in music now and through college has always been very eclectic. I love The Black Keys. I love the musical sounds of Lady Gaga. Musically, these people inspire me.

I feel like there\'s an opportunity in Christian music to have a fun new sound out there. It\'s definitely out there in the mainstream market, and it needs to be out there in the Christian world too.

You mentioned you were trained operatically. That makes sense, because as I\'m listening to "Safe" I was thinking there was a very Amy Lee / Evanescence sound going on with this song, a very goth kind of sound -- which is something else you don\'t hear in the CCM market.

Yeah, definitely! A lot of my music that I write, I write on keyboard first. I\'ve played classical piano for twenty years now, so usually my musical influence is stemming from piano. So a lot of the time when I write, I tend to write in more of a poetic format, or a classical format, and then I have to revamp my songs to be "Verse, Chorus. Verse, Chorus. Verse, Chorus, Chorus." (laughs)

The title track, "Say It Now"... What I get out of that is a very "girl empowerment" message. Is that what you were aiming for with that? It seems almost obvious.

Yes. And no. In a way, yes, because there is, I think, a lot of pressure that women put on each other today -- unnecessary pressure -- to fit into a mold if they\'re a Christian. If you\'re a Christian girl, you look a certain way and you act a certain way. You get married young, you have children -- and you home-school your children if you\'re really godly -- and you definitely don\'t dye your hair pink. It\'s like we\'ve made good things that God has given us that we\'ve made idols, essentially, instead of embracing the gifts that God has given us. We need to use those gifts as platforms to bring people to the gospel. Being beautiful and a godly woman, that\'s not the end of the story. The end of the story is sharing Christ with people who don\'t know him.

So I wanted girls to feel less empowered to embrace who they are -- a lot of the Christian market today is pushing "You\'re beautiful, you\'re beautiful, because God made you that way" -- and that\'s true, but if that\'s the end of the story, then we\'re left with just ourselves. And it can\'t be that way. It needs to end with God\'s commission to us -- Jesus\' commission to us to go out and teach the gospel and tell other people about Him. That, in the end, is what we need to be bold about. And to be able to do that, we have to be able to share our weaknesses with each other. We can\'t pretend to be so perfect.

I seemed to hear more of these same themes in "Only You" -- the whole "wrong direction, image-conscious" thing.

I didn\'t really write that song with that in mind. I actually wrote that song when we were on the road. We were playing the Yankees and I was laying on our hotel bed and looking out at everything, and thinking, What if this all ended tomorrow? What if baseball was no more? What would I have, and would I really be able to say that God is all that I wanted in the first place? And the answer at that time was, no, it was going to be heartbreaking for me. God was graciously reminding me of another idol I had in my life. He\'s so patient with me, and was revealing to me that I\'m holding on to the world too tightly. "This is Mine. I\'ve given you this to be a platform for My Name. Don\'t hold onto this, hold onto Me."

Probably the song I\'ve listened to the most from the upcoming EP, after "Say It Now," is "Crazy/Fearless," which really addresses the calling, and to "be bold so the world can hear us." Hasn\'t the world heard it, and isn\'t there already a wall of resistance up against it?

In the wrong way, yes. There\'s a lot of dogmatic people out there that are not emphasizing the true gospel. The true gospel has nothing to do with how great we are, and that\'s what drives a wedge between us and non-believers. I think people look at Christians and think, "Oh, she\'s so perfect, and she\'s got it all together. She has the perfect this..." And we\'re not portraying ourselves correctly, especially if you\'re honest with yourself. When I\'m honest with myself about my heart, I\'m seeing God the way that He is and the fact that He reached down and pulled me out of the darkness and into His light. There is nothing about my own strength that made that happen. We need that humility. I think society is aching for that humility. They\'re not fooled. We\'re kind of saying that we\'ve earned it in some way. Even though our words may not say that, we live that way. And they shouldn\'t see hypocrisy. They should see a humble woman that knows her seat before the Lord and that knows that there\'s not an ounce of me that deserves him. There\'s not an ounce of me that is good or that has pleased God in some way -- it was purely his mercy and graciousness that plucked me out, to save me and to rescue me. I think if we lived with that gospel on our mouths, the world would see us a lot differently.

You\'ve been exposed to a lot of different ideas, and a lot of different options. With that in mind, today, why are you a Christian?

Why am I a Christian? For many of the reasons I just said. I do not claim one tiny bit of my salvation. I know that it\'s not from me, because even on my best of days I still don\'t love the Lord the way that He deserves to be loved, and I don\'t want Him the way that He should be wanted, and I don\'t depend on Him the way that He deserves to be depended on. On our best of days, we\'re far from holy; we\'re far from being pleasing in God\'s eyes. It\'s not until He has chosen us, and saved us. It\'s not until that moment that he covered me with His Grace and with His Son\'s blood that now He sees me as His child. It makes me want to cry every time I talk about it. It just blows my mind.

So why am I a Christian? I guess you\'d have to ask the Lord that. I don\'t know why He\'s given me this. I don\'t. But I\'m so thankful that He did.

With baseball season in full swing, keeping Ben\'s schedule full, are you going to be able to break away and do any touring to promote the new music?

Yes, I am. I\'m working out a lot to get myself in shape after having a baby -- (laughs) -- and get my voice back in shape. we book our shows as much as we can with the baseball schedule. I do a lot of shows in Florida and in the city. But we hold family in very high priority, way above career, so we try to coordinate those as best as we can.