“Cristabelle Braden‘s life has irrevocably changed twice. First, an accident while playing a game at youth group left her with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that changed her personality, her ability to have conversations and do everyday tasks, and her memory.
Then, God intervened, giving Braden a desire to write songs and a musical inclination she never had before. These Christ-centered songs served as a catalyst for a new life and a new mission for Braden, now expressed in her career as a full-time singer-songwriter and her organization, Hope After Head Injury.
Braden answered 13 questions about her journey and her brand-new album, Hope Survives. Most of all, she shares about how God has used something that began as traumatic and has turned it into a triumph for His glory.”
“Music is quite possibly the most powerful way of communicating the rhythms of life: the pain, the joy, the despair, the hope, etc. Indie artist Cristabelle Braden clearly knows this and is taking her opportunity to share the pain she has experienced and the hope given to her in Jesus with her latest release, Hope Survives. Beginning the album is the welcoming and encouraging “We’re Gonna Make It,” as Cristabelle calls listeners to press on and to see the beauty found in the scars of life. That positivity beautifully sets the tone of the album, encouraging listeners to see the struggles of life used for God’s glory and our good. Echoing that sentiment is “Let the Sun In,” with a lighter tone and more upbeat tempo; while some of the song feels slightly sonically unbalanced, it sounds like it could be easily heard on the radio. Introducing a melancholier sound is the title track. Braden addresses that pain is real, but even a tiny bit of hope is what helps people to persevere. What gives the song some serious weight is to know Braden’s testimony as a survivor of brain injury — and undoubtedly not just a survivor, but someone who is thriving in the life that she has been given. “More to Me” and “One of Those Days” are both introspective tracks that look at Cristabelle’s soul as she acknowledges her faults but recognizes that she is still a work in progress and cannot be defined by her circumstances. “Fight for Me” shows a more transparent side to the artist as it reveals those heartfelt but painful prayers to the Lord. While she pleads to know where God is in her circumstances, she reminds herself of His ever-present love and His purpose for her life. Concluding the album in a way similar to how it began, Braden encourages her listeners with “It’s Not Over.” She reminds us to not give up but to press on through the struggles of life. Her words are extremely uplifting as she sings, “There’s more to this story, it’s not over today. No matter your journey, God’s making a way. It’s not over.” Overall, this is a strong effort from someone who has incredible potential in the CCM scene. Cristabelle’s vocals are strong without being overwhelming, her melodies are extremely catchy and the music is comparable to many contemporary artists. The only hiccups are some of the production decisions that seem to be a little heavyhanded and end up becoming distractions: overly loud background vocals, occasional lead vocals being drowned out by the instruments, and an overabundance of vocal accents. Nevertheless, Hope Survives is a clear example of an indie artist that shows true promise. Well done, Cristabelle! Thank you for sharing your story with us. We will, no doubt, be seeing and hearing your name again.”
“For Cristabelle Braden, Hope Survives isn’t just the title of her new album: it’s a truth that has kept her going through some of her darkest days. After a traumatic brain injury radically changed her life in 2007, Cristabelle turned to music and began to write songs out of her difficulties. While she wasn’t interested in music before the injury, in the first month of her recovery her passion for writing and singing flourished, and it was obvious that the songs pouring out of her needed to be shared with the world.
Now with her latest release, a collection of songs that inspire and encourage people in the hard seasons of life, Cristabelle has set out to tell the story of her journey thus far–a journey summarized by the title Hope Survives.
Resilient “We’re Gonna Make It” opens with the peppy display of bold faith and unfailing hope that listeners will hear much more of throughout the rest of the album. The perfect example of a song that sonically matches its title, “Let The Sun In” is a vibrant reminder that each day is a new chance for redemption. The title track follows, a slower piano-led moment that highlights the inspiring truths Cristabelle has learned on her journey: “Through your darkest night, hope survives.”
Another downtempo piece that Cristabelle’s sweet and sincere voice shines on, “More To Me” is a deeply personal look into the fears she struggled with after her injury. A reminder that our bad days don’t define us, “One Of Those Days” takes the album back up to an energetic tone. Honestly-written “Fight For Me” encourages listeners that no matter what happens, the Lord is always on our side. Album closer “It’s Not Over Yet” is in a similar vein, promising that our story is nowhere near the end: “No matter your journey, God’s making a way / it’s not over / it feels like it’s ending but something’s beginning.”
The Bottom Line: The lyrics in the seven songs on Hope Survives are powerful enough on their own, but coupled with Cristabelle’s inspirational story of surviving a tragedy and coming out the other side stronger, they become powerful anthems of faith and hope for anyone walking through a difficult situation. Cristabelle’s passion to encourage others with her life shines through in every track as her voice beautifully carries melodies that will get stuck in your head while reminding you of Scriptural truth. A musical journey that has the potential to impact many hearts, Hope Survives is an album filled with the promise of redemption.”
“At her regular youth group meeting in December 2007, Cristabelle was participating in a running game when she hit her head against a cement wall and then also on the floor. Swelling in her brain caused a traumatic brain injury (TBI), and her life was forever changed in an instant. While other teens were hanging out at the mall and learning to drive, she was spending her days in rehab centers trying to overcome her memory loss, headaches, overstimulation, fatigue, and much more.
It was during her recovery that she turned to music as an outlet, writing songs as a means to cope with what she was going through—and something she had not done before. She wasn’t able to hold conversations, yet was able to express herself through music, it was an unexpected surprise to her and those around her. Doctors told her she might not graduate from high school, but she persevered and graduated from college with a double major in music and religion.
Through her journey of recovery, Cristabelle grew more and more passionate about TBI support and awareness, and now has become very active as an advocate for brain injury. The goal of her organization “Hope After Head Injury” is to provide a support system which focuses on the emotional aspect on healing from brain injury. Cristabelle effectively uses social media to reach out to brain injury survivors and caregivers through an active online support group, weekly live video chats, and posts encouraging the community to keep going through the daily struggles of brain injury.
Hope Survives, her fourth album, is music that she wrote about her recovery, and includes a brand new version of the song “Hope Survives.” This album was entirely written by Cristabelle, and tells her story of finding hope through the darkest times, never giving up, and continuing to fight despite the most difficult of circumstances.
The album’s release on February 24th is a kick-off to Brain Injury Awareness Month (March) and she will be spending the entire month on tour. Her concerts are completely free of charge, and are held mostly at support groups, clubhouses, and churches. You can find her tour dates and cities: www.cristabellebraden.com
I recently had the opportunity to have a Q&A session with Cristabelle.
Q:. What prompted you to start writing music … particularly in regards to TBI (“Hope Survives”) ?
C: Well, I never wrote a song before the brain injury! While I was in the early stages of rehab therapy, I began to write my struggles into music and lyrics. It’s just grown from there. My brain injury created a lot of difficulties in daily living, so my doctors and family encouraged me to focus on what I could do, not on what I couldn’t. The first time someone asked me for a CD, I thought it was the craziest thing I’d ever heard. Why would I make a CD? Now, 9 years later, I’m a nationally touring singer/songwriter and speaker on brain injury—and I’m so grateful for this path.
Q: What do you hope your music evokes in others?”
C: I wrote these songs about my journey of living with brain injury. There are good days, and there are bad days. Some days I feel I can take on the world. Other days, I can’t even get out of bed. These songs were written through all of it.
This is a very positive album. It’s an album to go to for inspiration when you’re having a really bad day, but it’s also an album to listen to when you’re feeling good. I’ve been told that this album impacts more than just brain injury survivors – everybody has a story, and this music is for everyone. It’s meant to lift your spirits, to encourage you to keep going, and to remind you that there is ALWAYS hope! You are worth so much more than you realize, and your story matters.
Q: Who has been your biggest musical inspiration?
C: The first CD I remember listening to after my brain injury was “Lifesong” by Casting Crowns. They have a song called “Praise You In This Storm” that spoke so deeply into my heart… my entire life was upside down, I couldn’t even take a shower or get dressed without assistance, and that album helped me to keep going. I hope that my songs can inspire others in their journey the way that the Casting Crowns have inspired me!
Jimmy Needham is another artist who has been an inspiration. His music really spoke to me during my journey of healing, and I would listen to it in the car on the way to and from my daily therapies. In 2012 I had the honor of opening for him at a concert at my college, and it was really incredible to finally meet someone whose music had been such a big part of my life and journey.
Q: How excited are you for your tour? What does it signify for you??
C: I can’t wait to get on the road for the Hope Survives Tour. My favorite part of what I do is getting to meet people and hear their stories, especially other brain injury survivors and caregivers. This tour will be a combination of concerts and speaking events, through my organization, Hope After Head Injury. It’s the best way I could think of to celebrate National Brain Injury Awareness Month this year!”
December 2016 – abc27 Good Day PA! Sounds of the Season
Thursday, November 8 2012: Music Review of Cristabelle’s concert at the Solid Rock Cafe in Lebanon, PA in the Lebanon Daily News
Crowd mesmerized by talented LVC singer
by Roger Van Scyoc
“I’m going to head over to the piano,” Cristabelle Adeline Braden whispered into the microphone after finishing her third song Saturday night. That humble comment may have been the précis of the college sophomore’s message during her concert at The Solid Rock Café at Mt. Zion Road Church of the Brethren.
But Braden, 19, had much more to share once she picked up her guitar.
Though inside a spacious room, the performance was distinctly intimate – a vanilla-wafer acoustic guitar, a small keyboard, quaint and warm lighting. Braden crooned for more than two hours with a brief intermission, but didn’t tire.
Once the strumming began, the demulcent-voiced singer became a bold chanteuse, falling head-first into each lilting measure, immersing herself into something lyrical for at least a few minutes. The audience listened carefully, onlookers to a private moment.
The Coopersburg, Lehigh County, native and Lebanon Valley College student is a prolific songwriter, with more than 200 songs to her credit.
Her opening song Saturday, “Harmony,” is from the eponymously named EP released in May 2011.
“I will lift my voice, I will lift my soul, I will lift my light to you,” she sang during “Harmony.” Braden, whose Christian roots are a strong component for much of the music she writes, was impassioned but introspective during the concert, a little nervous when speaking and anything but when performing.
This was something more than music for the sake of music. Her performance was something beyond faith put to a few melodies and a pretty face. It wove and dove, soaring through space, perhaps to a place where gravity is suspended for just a moment and spirits can float freely.
Whatever Braden was feeling poured out unabashedly; some who were sitting close were swept up, but not aside. And those in the back of the room gripped whatever they were holding tightly, knowing they would soon be caught in the approaching wave.
Braden was quietly elegant in a patterned turquoise dress that skimmed her elbows and knees, her long hair trying to hide the passionate performer’s profile. And she was also effectual, showing her vocal range in “Coming Back to You,” and her poise and precision in the reflective “Unbreakable,” a flowing missive by piano about broken promises and resilience found in faith.
To close out her eight-song first set, she covered topics as diverse as the definition of beauty (in the song “Beautiful”) and the hope found in altruism (“Every Single Moment”). But the crescendo occurred in the set’s penultimate song, one Braden has worked on for her forthcoming album.
Told by her producers that the album needed a love song, Braden said she was at a crossroads: she was not in love with a significant other at the time. So Braden tinkered with the lyrics and her dreams. The end result is a creative track about her future sweetheart, beginning with the radio playing a love song and the rest being left up to her imagination.
“Someday I’ll be wearing a long white dress, I’ll be looking at you, I’ll be saying ‘I do,'” she sang earnestly to the crowd. It was sweet and, besides a few dewy eyes, it drew the biggest applause up to that point.
Currently studying both music and religion at LVC, Braden touched on both passions throughout much of her second set. By then, every emotion had been affixed to her guitar; she only needed to pluck the right strings.
She became a storyteller, intimating her ordeal with a traumatic brain injury suffered in 2007. The effects were life-changing. She grappled with memory loss and fluency in communicating, which resulted in being spurned by old friends and having to relearn simple tasks like brushing her teeth.
Her post-traumatic flashbacks led to “My Way Out,” a song that could represent a diary entry. In it, she struggles with recovering her old identity. And perhaps realizing its Sisyphean manner, she instead discovers a new one in the song.
There were lighter moments during the show. Braden performed a spirited Christmas medley, including a contemporary twist on “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Deck the Halls,” among others. Each rendition was reminiscent yet unique, like a snowflake of a tune tumbling gently from one to the next.
Braden was crisp in her version of “Amazing Grace.” It was no surprise that it was in a hymn that she seemed most comfortable. Though not her most confessional piece, it was her most professional.
Roger Van Scyoc is a senior English/communications major at Lebanon Valley College.
Sunday, November 4, 2012:
Coverage of Cristabelle opening for Talain Rayne in the Lebanon Daily News:
Coverage of Cristabelle opening for Jimmy Needham in the Lebanon Daily News:
The article reads:
Catch a Rising Star – LVC Student will open for Christian musician
Christian artist Jimmy Needham released his first major studio album, “Speak,” in 2006, followed by “Not Without Love” in 2008 and “Nightlights” in 2010. On Saturday, April 14, at 7 p.m. – just two weeks after the release of his fourth full-length album, “Clear the Stage” – Needham will perform at Lebanon Valley College’s Miller Chapel as part of the Chapel Concert Series.
Tickets are $11 in advance; $15 at the door. The event is free for LVC students.
Needham’s fourth album will be released under the Inpop Records label, which also carries well-known Christian artists Newsboys and Superchick.
Inspired by his love for classic soul artists like Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, Needham creates a sound that has become much loved by fans across the United States and beyond, according to a promotional release. Certain selections on the new album also explore new sounds, like the funk-infused, “I Will Find You,” featuring guest vocals from Lecrae. Needham’s music is helping him gain a committed following of fans and the respect of the Christian music industry. It has been described as jazz-inflected, acoustic pop in the style of artists such as Jason Mraz and John Mayer.
“There’s a nuance I try to capture in every record, but this one was a lot more eclectic, thematically,” Needham said in the release. “All of the facets of my personal life keep leading me to an expanding view of Christ; marriage to my wife, Kelly, our daughter’s birth, and the miscarriages we experienced before our daughter’s birth. I’ve come to understand obedience as more than simply not doing bad things, but running to God to drink deeply in Him so that I don’t want to run to any other source.
“My hope is that people would be both challenged and impacted by the truth in these songs,” he added. “That’s all I can ask for.”
The April 14 concert will also feature up-and-coming independent Christian artist and LVC student Cristabelle Braden as the opening act. To see Braden
perform her music is to be captivated by her sincerity, strength and beautiful music, according to the release. As a result, her music career is expanding.”Harmony,” her first EP, was released last May, and she will release a new single later this year. She regularly plays music at coffeehouses, youth groups, church services and community festivals.
Concert tickets can be ordered online at iTickets.com or by calling (717) 867-6135.
Sunday, November 13, 2011:
Coverage of Cristabelle’s headlining concert in the Lebanon Daily News:
The article reads:
Cristabelle Braden caps a week of college music, cultural events
Fresh off the heels of releasing her first extended-play disc, musician and LVC freshman Cristabelle Braden is scheduled to perform at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, at Lebanon Valley College’s Miller Chapel as part of the Chapel Concert Series.
LVC students will be admitted free with their college ID. Tickets for non-students are $6 in advance, $10 at the door. Advance orders for groups of 10 people or more are $4 per person.
Braden offers her songs and a rather amazing personal story, according to a news release. Four years ago, she suffered a serious traumatic brain injury that significantly reduced her capacity to function. While other teenagers were learning to drive and going out on the weekends, Braden was in neuro-trauma rehabilitation therapy learning how to once again navigate her world, according to the release. Life became very difficult for her, and this is when she began to write music.
Her Christian faith has sustained and guided her through her ongoing process of recovery, and her songs reflect her deeply felt gratitude and devotion, she said in the release. Now a lively, passionate, successful college freshman, she has a remarkable history and a promising future.
To see her perform is to be captivated by her sincerity, charm and beautiful music, the release states. As a result, her music career is expanding. “Harmony,” her first EP, was released in May, and she plans to release a single early next year. She regularly plays music at coffeehouses, youth groups, church services and community festivals.
Braden offers more than good music; she offers inspiration, hope and sincerity.
The concert at LVC will feature Braden on vocals, acoustic guitar and piano; Jeff Yorgey on electric guitar, bass and keyboards; and Matt Ramage on drums. Yorgey is a junior music-composition and physics double major at LVC who has been playing guitar for 12 years. Ramage is a sophomore music-education major at LVC who has been playing piano since age 4 and, through the years, has branched out to other instruments.
Tickets can be ordered by calling 867-6135 or by emailing [email protected] For more information, visit www.cristabellebraden.com.