Inspiration for one of the songs on Hilary Weeks’ recently released CD “Every Step," came while she was doing the dishes. Another song was written with the weight-loss show “Biggest Loser” in mind. And the last one composed was an effort of three people who ended up having time the night before the last day of recording.
“Every Step” also made it onto five different Billboard charts last week, including No. 6 on Top Current Contemporary Christian and No. 102 on the Top Albums – Billboard Top 200. It was also No. 8 on the Current Christian Overall and No. 1 on both Top New Artist Albums – Indie Chart and New Artist Albums – Mountain. Also, two days after the album's Oct. 25 release, it was the No. 2-selling album on iTunes in the Christian/gospel category.
It’s the first time a Mormon has cracked the Top 10 on Billboard’s Christian Albums list, according to Billboard.com, and it’s also a first for a solo artist with the Shadow Mountain Records label.
Pianist Josh Wright has been on the top of the Classical Traditional chart and pianist Paul Cardall has been on the top of the New Age chart, said Bob Ahlander, director of music and film at Deseret Book.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which is produced under its own label, has frequently been on and at the top of the Classical Traditional chart. “Glad Christmas Tidings” with David Archuleta and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is No. 7 on the Classical Traditional chart.
“I was in shock,” Weeks said of when she heard the news. “We’re just thrilled.”
It was in a meeting last summer when Laurel Christensen, vice president of product development, said that she would like to crack the Christian charts, Ahlander said.
Weeks’ music is inspirational and faith-based without pointing to any one specific religion, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which she is a member and was recently called as a Relief Society teacher. Weeks also regularly performs at Deseret Book’s Time Out for Women events.
“That’s who Hilary is,” Ahlander said of her music. “Her material is really strong.”
Even with her growing fan base, it also had the potential to reach a broader audience.
“You’ve got some heavy hitters who do well,” Ahlander said, on the Christian charts, like Casting Crowns, who had the No. 1 and No. 3 spots this week.
“It would be a feat to get into the Top 10,” he said of how competitive the Christian charts are. “And we did.”
The CD was recorded in both Nashville, Tenn., and Salt Lake City during the last week in July and the first part of August.
“The players that played on the CD, they are in touch with Christian music, country music and current music,” Weeks said of recording in Nashville. “They hadn’t heard of Hilary Weeks.”
She was curious how they would interpret the music: “They interpreted it perfect every single time,” Weeks said.
“There was a fresh group of people around this project and it feels different,” Alhander said. “It was mastered by the same guy who did Lady Antebellum’s new album.”
“Dancing in the Rain” was the first song Weeks wrote. The idea for the lyrics and the music came while she was doing dishes in her kitchen.
“I dropped the pan I was washing and went to the piano,” she said. “I love the message of the song. ... We can choose to find something good and there is always something good.”
She wrote “That’s Who I Am” after noticing a song on “The Biggest Loser” – the one that accompanies clips of the journey the final constants been on through the show – was written by a Christian songwriter.
As a fellow Christian songwriter, she figured why not.
She has sent “That’s Who I Am” to “The Biggest Loser” producers, Weeks said.
The idea for “Living Proof” came when she was listening to a Christian radio station and the deejay was asking for people to write in about how they were living proof of God’s blessings.
“I tried to write it on my own 87-and-half times and couldn’t,” Weeks said.
The last night before the last day of recording, time opened up for Weeks, producer and songwriter Tyler Castleton and Lowell Alexander, a Nashville songwriter, to meet to write.
“The song needed all three of us,” Weeks said.
Within two hours they had finished the song and recorded it the next day.
“It’s another sign of God’s hand in my life,” Weeks said. “He didn’t forget me or forget the song.”
And it’s one of her favorites.
A music video was shot for “Beautiful Heartbreak,” featuring blogger Stephanie Nielson, who was burned on 80 percent of her body during a plane crash, and speaker Mariama Kallon, who grew up during a war in Sierra Leone and lost many of her family members. One of the times she escaped with only her scriptures and a hygiene kit.
“(A beautiful heartbreak) is something that happens in life and you came out better and stronger for it,” Weeks said. They are experiences that although can be painful, “you would never trade them.”
The end of the video shows many other women holding up signs of their own “beautiful heartbreak.”
The invite was to come and be part of a music video of one of Weeks’ songs. When they got there, they were asked to write their beautiful heartbreak on posters and hold them up. And many of these heartbreaks wouldn’t be obvious unless they were holding the poster, Weeks said, adding that there was such a diversity of what people have experienced.
“There they were in the field holding their posters and we just came apart,” Weeks said. “We were just crying.”
With her music she hopes to help people “confirm what they already know and help them find the truth that they have a Heavenly Father,” Weeks said.
From here, Ahlander hopes “that it will open some doors to (the Christian music) market” for artists under the Shadow Mountain label.
They are also planning to take the music from “Every Step” to Christian radio stations.
Top Current Contemporary Christian (album)
1. "Come to the Well," Casting Crowns
2. "WOW Hits 2010," various artists
3. "Until the Whole World Hears," Casting Crowns
4. "Vice Verses," Switchfood
5. "What If We Were Real," Mandisa
6. "Every Step," Hilary Weeks
7. "Empty Hands And Heavy Hearts," Close Your Eyes
8. "WOW Christmas: 32 Christian Artists and Holiday Songs," Various Artists1 comment on this story
9. "The Reckoning," Needtobreathe
10. "Awake," Skillet