Lauren Daigle is from the kind of place where just about everybody plays music.
Zydeco, blues and brass swirled around her in the streets of Lafayette, Louisiana, where she watched with fascination as musicians played together, energetically bouncing solos back and forth.
“You can learn so much in music school, but what is taught on the streets is the soul,” Daigle recently told the Deseret News. “Music is passed from generation to generation and is spread wide — literally everyone from your great-grandfather to your grandfather to the guy down the street.
“And it’s not this one-dimensional music scene — I would see all these different ages and different ethnicities,” she continued. “Everybody was sharing the stage together, and it was this beautiful communal experience, a beautiful exchange of sounds and sentiments.”
That upbringing ties in well with Daigle’s career today. The singer — who is BYUtv’s guest performer for the “Christmas Under the Stars” program airing Dec. 6 — is one of the rare contemporary Christian artists whose music has managed to spread wide into mainstream success.
This year alone, her crossover hit “You Say,” which won a 2019 Grammy Award for best contemporary Christian music performance/song, has been covered by “American Idol” winner Just Sam and a 14-year-old semifinalist on “The Voice” — shows that consistently reach millions of viewers.
Daigle said throughout her career she’s heard stories of radio program directors receiving requests for her music to be played on mainstream stations.
“And because enough radio programmers on the mainstream stations played it, we actually had to go and sign with a mainstream label and get a mainstream radio team,” the singer said with a laugh.
Daigle said her team’s goal has been to “extend the tent pegs and reach as many people as we possibly can.”
“I love the fact that Jesus spent his time in many different places. He was with lots of different types of people, and that’s the light of the gospel for me, is to see it go to so many different areas,” she said. “It is possible to bring the message of Christ in places that maybe one wouldn’t think were possible for it to go.”
Daigle was 17 when she first traveled from the musical melting pot of Louisiana to Hollywood for a shot at making it big on “American Idol.” During that 2010 season, she ended up getting cut before the show’s top 24 reveal (she also got cut from the show fairly early on in 2012).
That rejection makes it a bit ironic that a number of singers have gone on to perform her music on reality competition shows like “Idol,” but it means a lot to the two-time Grammy winner because she knows firsthand how those shows can be grueling. She still remembers how at the end of Hollywood week on “American Idol,” she had a hoarse voice and was running on little to no sleep.
“The intensity of that environment is very honest and very real,” she said with a laugh. “It definitely teaches you about the rigor and the tenacity that it takes in order to kind of sustain this environment. But seeing (my music) resonate enough for someone to sing it in a space where they could be facing a lot of opposition or a lot of scrutiny … that makes me excited because there’s something in that song that gives them the boldness to proclaim that message.
“It’s a profound testament to what music can do.”
On Sunday, Daigle’s love of music — and the Christmas season — will shine through on BYUtv (after the premiere, the concert will be available to watch for free anytime on the BYUtv app). The singer filmed the annual holiday special, which last year featured John Legend, for a socially-distanced audience over a few days in August. While filming, she managed to visit Sundance and Park City, even pulling off to the side of the road from time to time to take in the mountains.
But above all else, during a year when the pandemic put her 72-city tour on hold — she had reached 10 cities in the U.S. leg of a world tour when COVID-19 struck — Daigle said it was nice to be able to perform once again for a live audience.
“How wonderful it was to see the unity on peoples’ faces and to see how this music can bring joy to so many hearts,” she said. “I am eagerly waiting to get back on the road. I love so much getting to perform in front of people, getting to bring messages of hope to people, getting to see people genuinely impacted. That’s something that I want to be a part of forever.”