It's been 10 years since Natalie LaRue released her last record as 50 percent of LaRue, the popular duo she formed with her singer-songwriter brother, Phillip. Now a wife and mother of three—Noah, 7, Ella, 5, and Viola, 1—Natalie has recently released her first solo EP, Even Now.

Natalie LaRue

Natalie LaRue

CT's Andrew Greer caught up with LaRue to talk about the decade since LaRue disbanded, what's been going on in her life—including a brush with death when Noah was born—and, of course, what she's writing and singing about on the new album.

LaRue was pretty popular when you disbanded in 2003. Why did you and Phillip call it quits?

Ten years ago, while playing a festival in England I met my husband, Rob. He is from South Africa, so he packed up and shipped to America to pursue me. We were engaged five months later. Then he accepted a youth pastor position in San Clemente, California, and we just started living life. I didn't expect to marry or have kids until I was much older, so marriage radically changed my perception of career.

Phillip married the same year and we decided to take a break from LaRue to enjoy being newlyweds. The break felt really good, which was a good thing because I got pregnant with my son about ten months after Rob and I married. I was slightly devastated. [Laughs] I was not planning on becoming a mom that soon. Becoming a wife and mom revolutionized me, a total identity shift. I became content with devoting my services to raising kids at home. Nine years and three kids later, here I am.

You say marriage and family "revolutionized" you. How?

By 19, I had visited over twenty countries and was established in my identity as a musician and a performer. I had my future mapped out and it didn't include marriage and children for another ten years. LaRue was on a European tour and we ended up stuck in Stockholm for a week. God used that time to totally wreck me. I was a stoic, rational girl. I remember thinking, Lord, what are you doing to me? I'm an emotional basket case.

I was on a flight to England with my Dad, who was our road manager, and I told him what the Lord was doing. He said, "I feel like you are going to meet your husband soon, but you're closed off. Do me a favor. The next time you get a good feeling about a guy, open up a little and I promise you, if he's the right kind of guy, he's going to pursue you." A week later I met Rob, and he literally pursued me to the ends of the earth.

I was very independent and self-sustaining. I believe the Lord wanted to break that independent spirit in me, so I could learn what it meant to depend on him, and on people, in a richer way. Meeting Rob was the beginning of that process. The Lord's been breaking me ever since and I don't think he's going to stop. [Laughs]

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Did music continue to play a role all those years? And why a new EP now?

I have always been an artist. I sneak away during the kids' naptime to a piano in our attic and write songs about my experiences. This EP chronologically explains where I've been, how I've been, and who I've become. Those unexpected changes, this great identity shift and what the Lord taught and how he revealed it to me, are the theme in Even Now.

The title feels right. It's a lot harder to record an album when you're picking up kids from school, nursing a nine-month old, and laying her down for a nap in one room while recording in the next. In spite of, and because of these reasons we felt compelled to record this.

Your producer Don Chaffer said, "It's been a beautiful thing to watch her pull these songs up and out of herself." What did that exhuming process look like?

Like pulling teeth. [Laughs] Phillip and I always wrote every song together. Even if I had half an idea, we'd finish the song together. So when it was up to me to finish the song, it was deeply extracting and slightly painful. I'm a perfectionist. If I was hitting a wall, musically or lyrically, I would walk away then slowly come back and carve it out later. It was a push and pull process from the beginning.

Sarah MacIntosh also sang on your record. What's the connection?

When Sarah and her husband moved back to Nashville from California, a mutual musician friend of ours, Brenton Brown, asked Rob and me to help make them feel at home. We got to know them on a deeper friendship level. I can't think of anyone else I would have wanted to sing on the record. I am a massive fan of who she is as an artist.

After years of making music with Phillip, do you miss that collaboration?

Our relationship has shifted musically. I don't think we would mind writing songs together in the future, but he's so well established as a musician, songwriter, and producer. I felt I needed to do this EP on my own, and he is a huge supporter of that. But he's also one of the persons I respect and need to hear opinions from the most, so when it came to picking songs and hearing final mixes, he was the first person I turned to.

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How are these songs different than those you wrote for LaRue as a teenager?

As LaRue we always wanted to be vulnerable and honest. But because we were young and had "something to say," it came from a confident perspective. Now what I have to say comes from a humble place. I realize how weak I am. I have these deep experiences with the Lord I want to share. For example, my labor with my son was very traumatic. I almost died and he almost died. I want to raise these topics, to relate to people that are in the same timeframe as me, and start a conversation about what the Lord taught me, the questions I still have, and see the goodness of the Lord, his truth and his purposes in it all. I want to gently push people, as I'm gently pushing myself.

Wait, you almost died in childbirth?

Noah was one week overdue. I was induced and had a 48-hour labor with nothing to show for it. His heart rate was dropping. I went in for an emergency Caesarean. My epidural didn't fully work and I ended up feeling half of the surgery before they knocked me out with a tranquilizer. Noah came out with the cord tied around his neck twice and half blue, and I came out barely making it. I was on oxygen a week and retained some of the placenta, which produced an infection. I felt like I was in Braveheart. [Laughs] Being my first baby, not expecting to become a parent so young, it was the biggest amount of suffering I had experienced.

The question "why?" came up a lot. We often want a refined answer from the Lord: This is why I allowed you to go through this. But in my experience, there is a lot of gray. As we seek the Lord, our hearts become softer in the gray than the black and white. And that's where he can use even the most painful circumstances to call us unto himself. My dependency on the Lord grew, even though I wasn't experiencing good things.

Did that play into writing "Baby Boy"?

Yes. Having this precious life placed in my arms, no one told me about the instantaneous emotional connection I would have with my child. Nurturing Noah was all I could think about. I didn't expect that. "Baby Boy" talks about the experience of having him, feeling that suffering and identity shift. I can't get through it without crying. I've definitely changed. [Laughs]

So, your first solo record. How does it feel?

I don't think I realized as a teenager what a privilege it was to make music. I really feel that now. I'm going forward realizing each experience I have to sing, to do an interview, to use my creativity to express who I am, is an honor. I feel very blessed.