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A decade ago, Sarah Macintosh essentially ran away from the Christian music industry, putting as much distance between herself and Nashville as possible—fleeing all the way to California. Her band, Chasing Furies, had been with Sparrow Records, and despite critical acclaim, they never took off. Discouraged and confused, she asked Sparrow to release her from their contract, and the label graciously agreed.

Sarah Macintosh

Sarah Macintosh

Fast forward to the present—or, more precisely, the Current, the title of the new album that Macintosh releases today. And now, catch the irony: She's back in Nashville, and even back on a CCM label—this time, Integrity Music, known for their worship catalogue. Macintosh is the first to grasp the irony: "It's crazy, isn't it?"

We recently chatted with Macintosh, 35, about her journey—what got her from here to there and back again, as Bilbo Baggins might have said—her new album, and some of the inspiration behind it.

When Chasing Furies didn't pan out, that must have been frustrating.

Yeah. When we signed with Sparrow, we didn't know anything about the Christian music industry, so it never even entered our minds that we might not be accepted. I thought as long as you were a Christian, it would totally just be accepted. But after a few months in, we could tell that it wasn't going well. It was hard work, on the road over 250 days out of the year, working and touring and trying to get some kind of traction.

So what happened next?

I was confused, a bit sad and maybe a bit disillusioned. I sat down with [Sparrow chief] Peter York and said, "I feel like I don't belong in Christian music. Would you allow me to leave Sparrow?" And he totally understood. Sparrow was kind of reeling at the time, because they had artists like Luna Halo and Earthsuit, really good bands, that just did not take off like everybody expected them to. He very kindly released me from our contract.

My husband and I put our house on the market in Nashville; we were going to move to California. But a few days later, I got a voicemail from Michael W. Smith asking me to join him on his Worship Again tour, singing and playing acoustic guitar. I jumped on board, and I don't think that there was a better thing I could have done before leaving Nashville, being on tour with him and worshiping. Then we did a Come Together and Worship tour with Third Day and Max Lucado. It was an awesome year that I got to bask in Christian music at its best and get refreshed. It gave me a better perspective on the whole Christian music scene. We ended up moving to San Diego, but it definitely wasn't with a bad taste in my mouth like it had been.

You did a few solo albums while in San Diego. And even your new one, Current, was done solo before Integrity signed you, right?

Yes. I even released it independently last year. But the whole time, Integrity has been speaking with me, wanting to jump on board with this CD, because they love where I'm going with it musically and what I'm trying to say. They didn't come back to me and say, "We want to sign you, but we'd like to drop these three songs, add three more songs that will be radio friendly, and then, oh by the way, we want to have it all remixed and re-mastered." They took it as it is and basically just put their name on the back. That's really encouraging because it shows me that they believe in my vision for this album and they support me as an artist. So I was more than thrilled to be able to lock arms with them and do this together.

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Interview: Why Sarah Macintosh Ran Away from CCM and Went Back