Folk Meets Rock Head-On

Carolyn Arends used to be too shy to look you in the eye. So what's she doing now in front of thousands of fans?
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Pop singer Carolyn Arends wants to tell shy people everywhere:

"I'm shy too!"

Just how shy?

"Back in school, I remember going to a youth-group party with a friend," says Carolyn, who grew up in the Vancouver suburbs. "I wanted so bad to tell a joke to a group of my friends. But I was just too shy. So I simply looked down, turned my head toward my friend and whispered it to her.

"She laughed, then repeated it to the group. They thought it was funny, too. And she got all the credit for it! I was just too self-conscious to talk out in a group."

Carolyn also remembers often turning red from embarrassment because of her shyness. She recalls avoiding eye contact with people in a crowd, staring at the floor, shuffling her feet. She remembers crying alone in her bedroom.

Of course, she's come a long ways since those days. In fact, Carolyn's clocked in tons of time standing in front of cheering crowds, and singing with her head held high. And if you've checked out her new album, Feel Free (Reunion), you'll realize she's cranking out tunes with a bit of a rock edge. Hardly the music of a timid person.

"If you listen to my first album," says Carolyn, "you get the feeling I'm a solo artist who sits in her apartment and writes quiet, reflective songs.

"But since then, I've had the chance to tour with a band and do a lot of festivals. I just found out how much fun it is to rock!"

This doesn't mean Carolyn's new album is all-out rock 'n' roll. Feel Free still offers its share of softer pop songs, such as her radio-friendly single, "New Year's Day."

About this album, Carolyn says, rather tongue-in-cheek, "Folk meets rock head-on, and nobody gets hurt!"

Carolyn's rocked-up music also doesn't mean she's become a life-of-the-party extrovert. She's still a self-professed shy person.

"I've just learned to embrace the person God has made me to be," explains Carolyn. "I now accept my shyness. I know I'll never be real outgoing."

Even so, Carolyn doesn't want her shyness to get the best of her.

"I can't let it make me so self-conscious that I withdraw," she says. "As a Christian, I'm called to love other people. It's hard to do that if I'm always pulling away, always avoiding eye contact. …

"Earlier in my career, a performance consultant said something that really helped me deal with my shyness. He said that we artists think people come to a concert to see a great light show, to hear great music, and to see how cool you look on stage. And while that's all part of it, he stressed that people come to a concert to feel a 'connection'—to feel loved.

"That really hit me hard. So often, I've worried about how I look, how I'm singing, how I'm performing. But my 'job' out there is to stop worrying about all the superficial things and love the audience. His words completely changed the way I view performing."

It also changed the way she deals with people she meets every day. Like when she's shopping.

"In the past, I'd avoid looking a cashier in the eye. I'd certainly never start a conversation. But now I work real hard at not focusing on my own self-consciousness. Instead, I try to show people across the counter I care about them. This can start with a little eye contact and a simple hello."

For Carolyn, getting a grip on her shyness has made her feel, well, kinda free.

"I want Feel Free to help show how free we Christians really are. I want it to say, 'Take the pressure off yourself, learn to laugh, learn to have fun.'"

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