A GROUP WITH A CLEAR-CUT MISSION, ZOEGIRL looks at its career much differently from most artists. For the Christian-pop trio, the goal isn’t fame and fortune; it’s to spread a message. However, with its self-titled Sparrow Label Group debut holding steady on SoundScan charts and a gig supporting Carman, fame and fortune could easily turn out to be a by-product.

Speaking with POLLSTAR from the road, the group’s Alisa Girard said its main purpose is to make the music God gives her and mates Kristin Swinford and Chrissy Conway. “Our band has such a ministry heart. We’re not about the career; we’re not about the show. We’re really about, hopefully, bringing some change to people’s lives as they hear it.”

Because a big part of its audience is teen-agers, the group’s lyrics gravitate toward issues that affect young people. Its album hits on topics including abstinence, temptation and the search for identity as well as introducing general Christian concepts.

A key factor in spreading the gospel is touring, which is something the ladies have worked on tirelessly. They toured before their album was released with Christian stars Clay Crosse and Nichole Nordeman to get a jump on things. Then they were given a rare opportunity when contemporary Christian luminary Carman, who has never used an opening act before, invited them to join his current tour. That came after the folks at CAA, which represents both acts, brought Carman to ZOEgirl’s very first performance, which was at the Gospel Music Association not an easy debut gig.

Despite first-show jitters, “Somehow, it just really perked his curiosity,” Girard said, adding that after the show, Carman talked with her at length about where the group was spiritually.

“We’re going up there and giving a message. It’s very important to us to give an opportunity for people to respond to that and to give some sort of an invitation. And obviously, that’s the whole reason Carman does the tour to give the invitation where hundreds of people come up every night,” she said.

The Carman tour is putting ZOEgirl in front of audiences 10,000 to 15,000 strong in more than 70 cities no doubt an overwhelming experience for a new act. In the beginning, the ladies were in a “complete daze,” Girard remembered.

“Our first show, I can’t even hardly remember it because it was just like a blaze of lights. It kind of reminded me of our very first performance,” she said. “We were so scared and it was just so overwhelming that you hardly remember it.”

By the time the Carman outing is over, the ladies will likely be seasoned professionals. “I think what you do is when you’re first thrown in front of an audience like that, you kind of block them all out and just do your thing and then as you get more comfortable with it, you find yourself trying to pull them in,” Girard said. “So now, it’s a challenge to try to reach the people at the very top to try to get their attention.”

Chrissy Conway
Kristin Swiford
Alisa Girard

ZOEgirl’s agent, John Huie, commends the ladies on their courage. “They jumped in the fire from the get-go and so I admire the heck out of them,” he told POLLSTAR.

Huie signed the trio before seeing their live show, basing his decision solely on the album. “I was really impressed with the fact that they made a great pop record and wrote it all,” he said. “They were creating the art which, to me, says it’s real.”

Perhaps even more interesting than the creative energy between the ladies is the way they came together. ZOEgirl was the vision of manager Norman Miller and Sparrow Label Group. Miller, a friend of Girard’s family, first approached her with the idea and then introduced her to Swinford, who he had discovered performing in a coffee shop. “I was kind of nervous to meet her but when she walked in the room, it was like we’d known each other our whole lives,” Girard said of the meeting.

It took awhile to find the third member but when a friend suggested Conway, it was déjà vu all over again. “It was industry put together but ultimately, we really believe that God handpicked each one of us and brought us together,” Girard said.

The three immediately began writing side by side and went into the studio. “We would write so fast that we would write a verse and then someone would go in and sing it while the other two were out writing the second verse,” she said. “It’s kind of how we did the album and it was really fun.”

The work ethic ZOEgirl exhibited while recording carries over to touring. “They love working,” Huie said. “I think when you’re a new artist, you really can’t tour too much and if the opportunities are there, you take advantage of them.”

He said Christian acts, in general, have maintained a realistic and reachable touring model. “[Because] Christian radio is not as prevalent as say the country format, to succeed, they need to tour to build an identity.”

Churches largely serve Christian acts as radio would secular acts in providing a congregation to create mass support, he added. “They’ve got a hungry group of people waiting to hear new things that you can get through the system without getting on radio.”

From churches to arenas and beyond, ZOEgirl is keeping the message going and going. After the Carman tour, the group is off to Venezuela for a mission trip and then will return to the U.S. for some festival dates and an outing with Avalon.