When I first was introduced to singer-songwriter Christie Huff’s music, I felt a bit overwhelmed by the depth and wisdom that streamed from not only her voice, but also the lyrics, of such a young talent. Barely out of her teens, Huff’s voice is well beyond her years. There is a maturity, depth, and richness to her a voice that drives each note. With equal doses of blues and folk, she finds a perfect spot in the genre of country music, but in truth her style and sound manages to lend itself to a much wider audience. Though some might consider her “country-pop” there is a soul to her work and words that feels leaps and bounds away from today’s repetitive pop music. Christie Huff is an artist. Her voice and lyrics combined are reminiscent of the greats such as Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, or maybe even Dolly Parton. As I said, Huff does not neatly fit into a particular category. The more I listened to Huff’s music I found myself turning to my mother’s old Linda Ronstadt records. Something about the depth and power of these two women’s voices seemed to echo a similar desire to sing, to express, and to pull at an audience’s heart - much more than many other musicians. Too, there is an ease and an easiness to Huff’s voice that implies she was indeed born to sing.
Initially, Huff’s voice seems rather contradictory to her friendly, light, and bubbly personality. Raised mostly in Mesa, Arizona Huff is the third child of Terry and Lisa Huff. Along with her three sisters, Christie Huff enjoyed a simple and wholesome upbringing. Her parents were both exceptionally supportive from the start and nurtured each of their four daughters’ various gifts and talents. Throughout her early school years Huff struggled to keep up with her older sisters who excelled academically. As they excelled, Christie struggled. After learning that she was dyslexic, Huff searched for solace from the widening gap between herself and her school-mates. As she watched her oldest sister excel and attend Duke University, Huff took a hard look at her own talents and wondered where she could excel. She had a deep desire to be known as something other than “the girl with a learning disability” when music came into her life and quickly began to change her destiny. Finding confidence and acceptance through music, Huff and others, began to recognize her gifts as a musician and a songwriter. Now Huff looks at her learning disability as something that has help her to excel rather than preventing her success. “Dyslexia has kind of driven me in the direction of music and why I do it,” she now states. When school was challenging, the drive to succeed remained intact. In times of struggle and stress Huff continued to find her solace in music, and as she did her musical ability seemed to grow along with the desire to pursue it.
During her junior year of high school Huff’s vocal coach encouraged her to begin to write her own music noting the importance of songwriting and musicianship that is required in today’s market. As the end of her high school career neared, Huff took that advice to heart and began to take guitar lessons. Soon after, she wrote her first song entitled, “Soldier Song.” This first song hit a nerve almost immediately, as the timely song was inspired by a story told to Huff about a young wife saying goodbye to her husband just before he left for a tour of duty in Afghanistan. The music video associated with “Soldier Song,” was an official selection at the 2014 GI Film Festival in Washington DC. The lyrics to “Soldier Song” are inspired and would seem to be written by one far older and wiser in years. As I interviewed Christie Huff I was eager to find out from where the root of such depth came. Certainly struggling with a learning disability can make a person grow in character and compassion beyond their peers, but perhaps there was something more to Huff’s story. Indeed, there was. Songwriters, musicians, and artists often by nature have a hint of sadness, sorrow, or tragedy somewhere in their past that seems to ignite the fire of creativity and a drive to express feelings, whether they recognize or not. In Huff’s case, when she was nine years old Christie and her family found themselves in the midst of a battle all too familiar in our world and yet completely new to them. Though it happened over a decade ago, Christie Huff now remembers quite clearly the day she learned her mother was battling breast cancer. “My Dad picked us up from school and they were like, well we have something to tell you. You know, something was off…so okay, we knew something was going on. And they said mom felt a lump in her breast, we went to the doctor and got it checked out and she has breast cancer. Whenever I heard cancer I thought, oh gosh my mom’s going to die. I didn’t know what to expect, I was so young I don’t think I really comprehended the effects.”
Looking back Huff is rightfully stunned by how well she and her younger sister dealt with the transformation of their mother as she underwent treatment and chemotherapy. Huff, her mother, and her younger sister traveled with a caretaker to California while her mother received treatment. For any child watching her mother battle cancer is a life-altering experience. Some children when faced with the possibility of death of a parent and the recognition of the uncertain nature of life live in great fear. Others appear to become rather fearless. It seems that, for Huff, fearlessness was ignited. Watching what her mother struggled through as she desired to be there for her family, watching her fight for her life, and watching her recover instilled the truth in Huff that one can overcome. In fact, at times the impossible is very possible.
Currently, Christie Huff is living out an impossible dream which is turning out to be quite possible. Huff hopes her music inspires people to love and to live in the knowledge that one can overcome, even when they feel "they are only hanging on by a thread." It does indeed get better. To date, Huff has recorded two albums in Nashville and is now in the middle of recording a third in Los Angeles.
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