Ashley Cleveland is a little bit Rock, a little bit Blues, a little bit Country, but always Soulful.
Underline Soulful twice, since she’s usually singing about the Lord and how awesome He is.
Since her debut on Atlantic Records in 1991, Cleveland has made quite a name for herself, performing with a Who’s Who of musicians –everyone from Steve Winwood and Rich Mullins to Patty Smyth and Amy Grant– and racking up Grammy, Dove and Nashville Music awards for her stellar efforts.
In addition to making critically acclaimed music, Cleveland also writes. She is an essayist and author.
Her latest book, a memoir, is called “Little Black Sheep.” In this soul-stirring autobiography, Cleveland travels in uncharted territory, baring her soul in the process.
Readers get a glimpse into the struggles, the pain, the highs, the lows and the God who made Cleveland who she is today.
Recently, I spoke to Cleveland about her memoir. Keep reading to see what she had to say:
You are pretty well known in the CCM world. Why bare it all now in a memoir?
Actually I think I’m mostly off the radar in the CCM world. I have felt (mostly) welcome there, but never felt that I really belonged. I am also not a particularly private person. I am candid about my life if I feel that it might be useful to someone else.
Have you always been a Christian? What led you to the Cross?
I have believed in Jesus and His gospel ever since I first heard it, but, for many years, really had no idea who He was. The book is, in essence about an encounter with The Living God—who was very, very different from the God I thought I knew.
Those who read your memoir will find out that you came from a dysfunctional family, you were a single mother and you’ve struggled with substance abuse. A lot of Christians live in ivory towers and don’t know what that’s like. How are you using your music and your book to help them see how others live?
I think that our experiences in life will differ wildly, but there are always similar threads and, frankly, those ivory towers are often made of denial and a refusal to look at ourselves and our own lives. I want to live a life that is founded on truth and, for me, the truth is that I am a broken person and that is the best thing about me.
If I live with an awareness of my brokenness then I stay close to the Lord, I have compassion for others, I am teachable and gazing outwardly.
When did you realize that music was your ticket to success? A lot of musicians dream of making it big and end up lowed by the realities of the music industry. How were you able to navigate those heady waters and become successful?
I discovered music as a teenager, and from that day on I was single-minded about it. It was the one thing that I cared about doing in my life and I couldn’t “not” do it. The business is brutal. Most musicians will never realize a career in it. But music itself is life-sustaining and a way to speak the language of the soul. My attitude today is to play with all my heart and stay off the results committee.
Why did you decide to call your book, “Little Black Sheep?”
I heard a sermon several years ago where the pastor cited a rhyme he had heard as a child about a little black sheep. I immediately identified with it and went home and wrote a song with the same title.
When I started the book, “Little Black Sheep” was the title that appealed most to me and seemed to capture the essence of the story.
Theologians and World-famous musicians have endorsed you and your book. That says a lot about you and the circles you run in. Is there anybody you were awestruck by?
I am impressed by many people in the world—by their abilities and understanding, by their smarts, even by their beauty.
But the thing that leaves me awestruck is the freely extended kindness and generosity of others. When someone does something for me for no gain—not even a feather in their reputation—and for no good reason–that is the image of the living God.
Who should people run out and buy your memoir?
The people who should buy the book are the following:
Christians who feel far from the Lord for any reason or feel that their failures have caused the Lord to be far from them.
- Those whose lives have been touched in any way by alcoholism or drug addiction.
- People who feel like they are outsiders or don’t feel like a good fit anywhere in the world.
- Women– Single women, married woman, mothers or any combination of those.
- People with an interest in southern culture.
- People with an interest in music.
- Readers who like a good story or readers who like memoirs.
I usually point people to the first chapter in the book–which they can read at my web site, ashleycleveland.com. A couple of pages are worth a thousand reasons why someone should buy the book.
Ashley Cleveland’s Little Black Sheep is available everywhere Christian books are sold including Amazon.