When music is derived from the soul, its genuineness and virtue can often transcend the age of the author. A case-in-point is singer/songwriter Bethany Dillon, who, at just 15 years of age, has captured the ear of the Christian music industry with her self-titled debut [Sparrow].
Her journey writing songs began at age ten, after discovering her father’s ’74 Guild D55 sitting around the house. “That guitar is so incredible,” she says. “It’s very rich sounding, and I couldn’t keep my hands off it.”
Dillon’s influences—both secular and Christian—are eclectic. “Jennifer Knapp is the reason I started playing guitar,” she says. “I would completely devour her records. But I would hear things like U2 and Merle Haggard around our house, and that helped give me a lot of diverse inspiration.”
The diversity paid off, as Dillon’s album is rich with depth and texture. She wrote all or part of ten of the record’s 11 tracks, and the melodies range from hauntingly simple (think Michelle Branch) to complex and layered (think Sarah McLachlan). Dillon used three main acoustics in the studio, opting for a Taylor 714CE on the slower cuts, and either a Larrivee Parlor or a Gibson Advanced Jumbo for the upbeat grooves.
“I tried to match the tones to the moods of the songs,” she explains. “I know that I have a lot of room to grow on the acoustic, but I still put a lot of pressure on myself to get the takes right while keeping the character of my style intact. Thankfully, making this album also gave me the opportunity to watch other people play guitar, and I learned a lot from that.”
This past summer, Dillon performed at several prominent Christian music festivals—often playing solo in front of as many as 25,000 people at a time. “Right now, it’s just me and my Taylor up there, because that’s the cheapest way to tour,” she says. “It’s a lot of pressure but I love it. There’s something about a singer/songwriter with guitar in hand that makes people want to listen. I love the potential in the acoustic guitar. I love the rawness. I love the earthiness. It just screams a story to you.”•