Francesca Battistelli sounds slightly frazzled. Residing just outside of the venue of a tour stop in Decatur, Texas, the 29 year old brunette’s tour bus is filled to the brim with her family, band, nanny and a never-ending stack of paperwork she still needs to read through. Her husband Matt, who also serves as her manager and drummer, is talking on the phone with someone from her label. Her children Matthew and Audrey are complaining that it’s a bit too chilly this morning to play outside. There are even a few band members vying to talk to her about the show they will play later tonight. And at this very moment, the talented beauty’s tour bus and brain are at capacity.
"I’m more apt to lay the law down with my kids than people who work with us,” she begins. “It’s a unique situation living with your employees. When I was 16 years old and dreaming of a career in music, I never thought about this aspect of the business. This job means making tough decisions and leading by example. But I admit…I fail sometimes.”
She takes a deep breath, and her sigh seems to give us a glimpse into the moments when the GRAMMY® nominee and “Artist of the Year” Dove Award winner just might not feel at her best. But at those moments, as infrequent as they might be, Battistelli says she can focus her gaze across the current hustle and bustle of the tour bus to find the one thing that has seen her through her life and career – her Bible.
“I strive to always focus on the ministry,” Battistelli says quietly. “I want to live with grace and lead the team with grace. The Lord shows us grace even when we don’t deserve it.”
A beautiful face with an even more beautiful soul and voice, Battistelli currently finds herself as Christian Music’s best-selling new artist in 10 years, making an impression on millions of fans with her truthful lyrics and God-given sound. Her work has earned
her a GRAMMY® nomination for Best Gospel Performance, six Dove Awards and 22 Dove Award nominations. And while fame has definitely found her, the mother of two admits that she is still trying to find a way to do it all.
“I’m still trying to figure it all out,” admits Battistelli, who now makes her home in Nashville. “I take it day by day. I ask the Lord to give me the wisdom and strength I need today. Tomorrow can worry about itself, which is something that I’m not always good at, but that’s my goal at least. It can get overwhelming, whether it’s all of the daily things on the road or at home. Being a mom and worrying about getting the laundry done and the meals made are hard enough, but then also being expected to make these massive decisions on career…it’s a never ending juggling act.”
To keep it all straight, she tries her best to learn a lesson from her mom. “My mom is one of those people that takes pencil to paper every day and writes up these lists of what she has to do,” laughs Battistelli, whose debut album, My Paper Heart (certified Gold in 2012), and her 2011 sophomore release, Hundred More Years, took the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Christian Album chart. “I try that and I end up losing the list. (Laughs) Then I try to put together a list on my phone, and I get irritated that I can’t cross things out on my phone, which is the best part of making a list in the first place. I must come up with some sort of system to keep everything that’s going on in my life straight.”
Growing Up in the Music Business
It was indeed her parents who supported Battistelli through the early stages of her career, which began in 2004 as an independent artist. Both coming from a musical theatre background in New York, Battistelli’s parents have undoubtedly been her biggest fans since the very beginning. “They were the ones who drove me all over Florida when I was just getting started, and they were the ones who were always there to listen to me in all of those coffee shops, and they were the ones who paid for my first album…which you will never hear, praise the Lord,” she chuckles. “They have always been protective and supportive. I owe a lot to them.”
Produced by GRAMMY®-nominated and Dove Award-winning producer and her longtime collaborator Ian Eskelin, Battistelli’s third studio album If We’re Honest has been revered by critics as one of her “most intimate and accomplished musical statements yet.” Infused with her trademark pop and soulful vocals, the album quickly rose to the number one spot shortly after its April 2014 release and become her third consecutive album to gather the top position on the SoundScan Christian Albums chart. Battistelli says the album gives her the needed outlet to continue to lead by example through the life changing lyrics of her music.
“’If We’re Honest’ is the title track on the new record and my personal favorite,” she remarks. “It talks about authenticity and not being afraid of being real with each other."
"The biggest lie we tell ourselves is that we have to keep things secret, because people might stop loving us if we tell the truth. The healing comes when you are real and strip down the walls." Francesca Battistelli
"I’m not talking about airing your junk on Twitter. It’s just about being real and knowing that God will love you no matter what.”
With over a million albums sold to date and nearly 2 million single downloads, Battistelli says she has much to keep her busy. Besides a number of performances on the Grand Ole Opry stage, Battistelli plans to fill her summer with more concerts and a much-anticipated headlining tour in the fall. And while in recent years, Battistelli says she has gotten more comfortable
with the so-called fame that has found her, there are many times where she relies on her strong foundation of faith to know which direction to turn.
“There are times when things happen, and situations arise, and you want to say something, because someone took advantage of us,” she recalls. Her lead single “Write Your Story” gained much exposure after being on ABC’s Good Morning America. “But then, you look at the situation and think about if that reaction is going to be the right thing. It is exemplifying God’s best. We go back to our goal to live with integrity and make decisions to honor God.”
Serving as an example of these ideals is Battistelli’s father-inlaw, who actually has been a prominent member of the Christian music industry for over 30 years. “He is one of the most peaceful, godly men I know,” reflects Battistelli, whose video for the single “When the Crazy Kicks In,” was filmed in Nashville. “Whenever my husband and I are faced with a tough decision, we always go back to the question ‘what would your dad do?’."
"Having someone in the industry to look to for guidance...there is just nothing like it. Those mentors are priceless. What we are doing is still a business, but there must be some sort of balance. You must still be wise. It’s all about not majoring on the minors.” Francesca Battistelli
To remind her of this simple, yet often complex, fact, Battistelli also turns to a bevy of accountability partners, including everyone from her husband to her nanny. “I am surrounded by people who can notice when I am down and need encouragement,” she says. “Sometimes, they have to literally remind me…‘Did you talk to the Lord today?’”
And during the frazzled times, Battistelli says she can always receive limitless encouragement from the people who made her who she is today–her growing legion of fans. “Something will happen in concert when I look out into the crowd and will notice everyone singing along to my songs,” she concludes. “It’s a very humbling experience. It serves as quite a strong reminder that this is why I am doing this–even on the hard days.”
By: Tricia Despres
Tricia Despres is a Chicago-based entertainment writer whose work has appeared in publications such as the Chicago Sun-Times, Advertising Age and Country Weekly magazine. From making story deadlines to making dinner for husband Paul and girls Taylor and Amanda, Tricia leads a busy life....but is never too busy to listen to the whispers of God.Read More Articles by Tricia Despres