God Is In Control
Quick facts about Twila Paris
PLACE OF ORIGIN
Twila Paris is a contemporary Christian music singer, songwriter, author and pianist who has had a significant impact on the Christian music scene from the very start of her career. Since 1980, Paris has released 22 albums, amassed 33 number one Christian Radio singles, and was named the Gospel Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year three years in a row. Twila Paris is one of modern inspirational music’s most prolific singer-songwriters, and has the reputation of being a “modern day hymn writer.”
Twila Paris' Beginnings with Christian Music
Twila Paris was born in 1958 in Fort Worth, Texas. She was one of four children of Oren Paris II, the founder of Youth With A Mission ministries and Ecclesia College in Springdale, and Rachel Inez Paris, a songwriter. Raised in Elm Springs, Paris was involved in church music all throughout her childhood, composing lyrics and melodies for songs from a very early age and studying piano from the age of six.
By the time she was performing in her high school choir, Paris was determined to become a choral teacher. She began to consider songwriting after attending a Christian discipleship school, where she decided that music would be the ideal way to express her feelings about God.
Paris spent two years working full-time with Youth with a Mission, a project directed by her father and founded by her uncle, Loren Cunningham. “I began to realize how much hollowness and self-righteousness there had been in my Christianity, growing up as a preacher’s kid,” she said in the Wall Street Journal. “It was like God was doing major surgery on my heart. With all that happening so fast, I needed an outlet. As a musician, I very naturally began to write songs.”
And write songs she did. Her career as a singer/songwriter and public figure essentially began in 1981 with the release of her first full-length album, Knowin’ You’re Around. However musical success was not instant for Paris. She needed to take out a bank loan to pay for her first recording and it took her four years of selling cassettes to pay it off.
Following the release of her debut album, she received a string of nominations for the Gospel Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year. The nine nominations she received was a very impressive accomplishment for a debuting musician.
Twila Paris' Music Takes Off
Following the success of her first album, Twila was at the at the forefront of the praise and worship movement among church musicians and Christian artists throughout the 80s and into the 90s.
A high point for Paris came in 1990 with the release of Cry for the Desert. Her first album produced by Brown Bannister, this release on the Star Song label helped to spark new development in her musical creativity. As she told Billboard in 1992, “Things changed with Cry for the Desert. My own musicality was involuntarily awakened. For the first time, I was on the road a lot when I’d usually write. I began to write more than ever, but it was away from the piano…. I began writing things I never would have written at the piano because I’ve been afraid to use the full range of my imagination at the piano – mostly because I’m such a limited pianist!”
Twila was right on the money pointing to Cry for the Desert as being a major step in her career. Immediately after, in 1992, her album Sanctuary won the GMA Praise and Worship Album of the Year. She later received multiple Dove Awards including Female Vocalist of the Year for 1993 and 1994. This success continued into 1995, when Twila Paris won the GMA Song of the Year award for “God Is in Control”. The music video that accompanied the song also proved hugely popular.
In 1994 Paris performed at the White House with Michael English, Steve Green, Carman, Daryl Coley and other Gospel Music Association performers. That same year she released Beyond a Dream, which continued her trend towards modernization.
“Paris spun a few heads with this one, featuring her most contemporary material to date, and a bit of a new and more confident vocal approach to match it,” wrote Granger of the album in the All Music Guide. “This album is very current,” said Paris of Beyond a Dream in a Sparrow Communications press release. “It talks about how to face what’s going on in the world, not from the point of me being some sort of an authority, but from the struggles that I’m going through and writing as I go through them. It was also the biggest stretch for me so far, artistically.”
Many of the album’s songs assure Christians of their security in a world of confusion, emphasize God’s mercy and address other religious themes. Other songs pay homage to Paris’s spiritual, ethnic and geographic roots.
Paris released Where I Stand in 1996, and the album quickly became her best-selling record. After taking time off in 1997, she released Perennial: Songs for the Seasons of Life. The album was a spiritual follow-up to her 1991 release, Sanctuary. Continuing her prolific output, she released True North in 1999.
A New Century and a New Chapter for Twila Paris
In the early 2000s, Twila, who had now reached 40 years of age, had begun to accept the fact that children might not have been part of God’s plan for her. She began recording an album of children’s songs that she’d had in her head for almost a decade. A month into the project, Twila received the news that she was pregnant. Her son, Jack Paris (J.P.) Wright, was born in early 2001, and Twila was filled with joy, ready to embark on a new path as a mother.
However, this change in lifestyle did not mark the end of Twila’s time as a performer, with the children’s album Paris was working on, Bedtime Prayers: Lullabies and Peaceful Worship, released in 2001 to critical acclaim.
Christianity Today praised it as “simple and obvious, yet beautiful and true,” which was exactly what Paris was aiming for. In Christianity Today she referred to the album as “Sanctuary for children,” and hoped that the music would “fill vulnerable minds with foundational truths.”
The songs came to Paris quickly, as many of her biggest hits also did. “I wonder if God didn’t give me the songs because they contain messages I so often need to hear,” she said in Christianity Today. “Usually there is something that is very much in my heart, what God is doing, what He’s saying. I’m just sort of a heart writer, very dependent on that moment of inspiration.”
Another change came in 2003 when Twila, originally associated with Star Song Communications, was switched by parent company EMI to Sparrow Records. Her contract expired in 2003, and she then signed with the praise and worship label Integrity Music. Her first project for Integrity was He Is Exalted: Live Worship, which came out in 2005.
What Comes Next For Twila Paris?
Following the December 2007 release of her album Small Sacrifice, which was made available through her website and Lifeway Christian Stores, Twila’s musical progress has slowed. The album was released to critical acclaim, collecting a number of her own favourite worship standards and presenting them in a more typical style of live worship music, including a version of “He Is Exalted” in Portuguese for her many Christian fans in Brazil. However, since this album no new Twila Paris releases have been announced.
Fans had to wait until 2012 for a new release from Twila, when she released a patriotic-themed project that included two new cuts and ten tracks that Paris had hand-picked from other projects. The purpose of the project was to inspire patriots with themes of God’s protection and love, even in difficult times.
It is still unknown as to whether Twila is retiring her music career to focus on her family or whether she still has new ideas developing for future albums. Regardless, Twila Paris is among modern inspirational music’s most prolific singer-songwriters, and has earned her place among the Christian music greats.