But, this time out, she found the way to move forward was to go back.
After 19 albums, any artist can struggle to move forward. Twila Paris, the contemporary Christian artist who is a 10-time darling of the Dove Awards, found the solution on her current tour by going backwards.
“It really harkens back to the way I started out, so I’m excited about it. When I first started out, I didn’t even have a band with me. I would go up and sing and I would just play the piano,” Paris said.
Over the years, the nature of her shows changed. Less of the responsibility for carrying the musical performance fell on her shoulders, as she hired musicians to back her up.
“In a way, after 27-28 years, whatever it is, it’s the same story. You add a year to it,” she laughed. But sometimes she’d noodle around during shows, just her and the piano and a song for her fans. They loved it.
“That was our favorite part of the concert because it was just so intimate and worshipful,” Paris said. So she began to play with the band again during her House of Worship tour. But despite more than two decades of musicianship, she wasn’t quite up to standard.
“These guys are serious session players,” she laughed. “I was on probation for about half the tour and then they made me an official band member.”
Some modern musicians (listen up, Ashlee Simpson) wouldn’t be able to handle how far Paris has gotten back to basics. They aren’t even playing with loops or synthesizers. Guitarist David Cleveland has a synth pedal and accomplishes effects with his instrument.
Joining her onstage for portions of the show is a 36-voice children’s choir, the World Vision Korean Children’s Choir from South Korea.
“These are serious little singers,” Paris said. The choir is 300 members strong back in their home country, but only the best make the American tour. Despite the highly competitive nature of the group, the members have sweet spirits and that shines through in their stage performances, she said.
This combination of organic arrangements with multiple players, produces a performance somewhere between a coffeehouse and an arena that engages audiences in a totally new way.
“There is a sort of fellowship there that translates to the audience and that they become a part of,” Paris said. “I just sense that people are really enjoying the evening and really feel a part of it.”
Audiences at Paris’ closer shows get the same energy that large corporate gatherings offer, she said, and fans who visit with her on this tour get a little bit more. She and her manager, anxious to get her next album out, pressed a limited number of advance copies of the CD that won’t be released until an undetermined date in the fall.
Recording on the album has been completed — and a couple of songs from the release are included in her live show — but the CD isn’t quite ready. Because usually only industry insiders get copies of an album before it is released, pre-release CDs are hard-to-find collectors’ items. Copies of these CDs are only available at shows on this tour.