Interview: Debra Lynn Rodriguez – Singing the Soundtrack of Our Lives

I first heard Debra Lynn Rodriguez play at an Undiscovered Artist event at MadLife Stage & Studios in Woodstock, Georgia and right away I liked her.  Even more than just liking her music, I felt like I had known her forever.  She has a sweet spirit on stage that comes through to the audience and a genuine smile that lights up the room.  As she sung that evening, I remember thinking that her voice reminded me of Melissa Etheridge’s powerful and soulful voice…but with a big dash of sweetness…like Dolly Parton. Debra Lynn was one of those people that after a show you hope you get a chance to meet and gush about how much you enjoyed their music.  I hate to admit it, but I did just that.  Based on first impressions, she was just as friendly off stage as she was on stage.   It came as no surprise when I learned that she uses her talents and gifts to encourage others and serves as a worship leader for The Gathering Place Atlanta. She describes herself as a “God-worshiper, music-maker, and Jesus-follower… Worship-leader, guitar-picker, coffee-guzzler, and people-lover.”

Debra Lynn says, “I am tattooed, often barefoot, and was raised singing in the hills of Appalachia. I’ve been a church musician nearly my whole life, and I began speaking to faith communities and leading congregational worship at 15 years old.”

A few weeks have passed since seeing Debra Lynn and I recently was able to catch another performance on the patio at MadLife Stage and Studios.  Debra Lynn shared more of her original music as well and a great mix of covers that kept the patio entertained for hours.  Some of my favorite songs that stood out that night were “Jolene” by Dolly Parton, “Bad Moon Rising” by Creedance Clearwater Revival, and “I Will Always Love You”, the Chris Cornell version. Debra Lynn’s version Of “Imagine” brought me to tears.   But even more impressive than her ability to cover songs that gave me goosebumps, Debra Lynn shared many of her original tunes that showcased her songwriting abilities.  Debra Lynn shared her original song “Old Crow” explaining to the audience that it was a song about forgiveness of people that had wronged you.  My eleven year old son commented later that this was his favorite song that he heard that evening because it reminded him of several classmates that he needed to forgive.

Another very powerful song that Debra Lynn has penned is called “Even When It Hurts”. She shares that this song came from a very personal place and is a song that reminds the listener that no matter what hardships life throws at us that Jesus will not leave our side.  My favorite lyric in this song is “He rolls the clouds out like a blanket” because I certainly have faced tragic situations in my life and the visual that Christ wraps us in a comforting blanket when we are hurting is a beautiful reminder of His love.

Debra Lynn works at her traditional day job but her passions lie with sharing music with others.  She describes the music she shares as the “soundtrack to our lives.”  Her typical musical week might consist of celebrating an engagement, playing music at a wedding, visiting with sick friends, or comforting families at a funeral that have lost a loved one.

Debra Lynn released her first album entitled Lĭve Worship on March 11, 2015.  She says, “My first album is a live, acoustic recording of original worship music. Folks can get it in all the usual places – iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, my website. I’m currently cozying up to a batch of folk/soul tunes that I can’t wait to record. I am currently booking house concerts to introduce fans to the vibe of these songs and to get them ready to record.”

You can listen to a preview of Live Worship on her ReverbNation page:

Interview with Debra Lynn Rodriguez

At what age did you begin playing music? Are you self-taught or did you take lessons?                                                                  

My mama had me singing and playing before I could walk or talk. I started playing guitar in 7th grade and singing at various events around the county in 8th grade. I’ve never taken lessons. I’m from a musical family where you just pick up an instrument and play along. That can be good and bad- I faked my way through piano class in college but didn’t learn anything!

What instruments do you know how to play?                                      

Bass, drums, piano, guitar… and I pretend a little mandolin here and there.

When did you write your first song? What was it called and what was it about?                                                                                                   

I was 15 when I wrote my first song that actually had instrumental accompaniment. It was called “Fall in Love” and it was about Jesus. Love me some Jesus.

What were you like in high school? Would you go back and redo high school again if you could?                                                       

Well, I was the prom queen with no clue we had even voted on such a thing, if that tells you anything. I was all over the place in high school- I had 2 jobs, played several school sports, and had 2 bands. I don’t know how my poor Mama kept up- she never missed a beat though! And no way would I go back to high school! I do love seeing my hometown buddies though. I come from a wonderful place full of good people.

Who are your musical influences?

Can I answer “Dolly Parton” to the next several questions? Just kidding. Sort of. By far, I have been most influenced by my own family and community. I was raised in a world where you sing with your whole self- your whole body and heart. It is also a world of folk songs- songs that tell stories. I think I’m probably a soul singer writing folk songs.

When people hear your music, who do you hope it reminds them of?                                                                                                     

 I mean, could I please write like Bob Dylan and sing like Melissa Etheridge?  That’s probably too much to ask, right? I want to write songs and sing notes that move people.

What was the first album that you added to your personal music library?

Dolly Parton – “Heartsongs” recorded live at Dollywood. I got it for my 7th birthday

What was your most recent addition to your personal music library?

Wyatt Espalin’s new EP – “The Last Leaf.” It’s amazing. 

What was your first live music experience?  Which venue and which artist(s)?

Fiddlers’ Convention, the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds, 1993

If you could cover one album in your music library which would it be?

Eek – I don’t know! If it’s an album I love that much, I probably just want to hear the original artist on it. I do really want to make a record of the old gospel tunes I grew up singing.

What artist(s) do you wish more people had in their music library?

 I wish people had more “local” artists in their library. I love to have artists in my library that I can actually hear live in a small venue. Some of my favorite albums are from Sarah Peacock, Keren Leppo, and Holly Williams. I’ve heard each of these artists in super small venues, which makes me enjoy the record so much more.

What do you want people to know about you?

I think I would like to share about my church. It’s called The Gathering Place Atlanta and I’ve been Pastor of Worship/Director of Arts there since 2011. It’s a “come-as-you-are” kind of place that loves all people. The church is a part time, full passion gig.  I work full time for my good friend Cristina Briboneria, who is the best Certified Financial Planner in all the land.

Where do you want your music career to go?

I just want to keep making music and making friends in the meantime. I’ll take any opportunity I can to hone my craft, make good connections, and find my voice. I’d rather sing than eat or sleep, so I would definitely love to make music full time.

Carey Hood Written by: