The Story of BarlowGirlAugust 25th, 2010 by WTM.org Community
BarlowGirl is one of the most inspirational and beloved bands in the Christian Rock industry (stay with me, atheist readers), and they are as famous for their great music as they are for their controversial “no dating” philosophy.
BarlowGirl songs are nearly all classics in the Christian music world, and are adopted by youth groups and tribute bands all over the world. If you are at all open to Christian rock music, you can buy a BarlowGirl CD and love pretty much every track (it’s all killer, no filler).
Meet the Barlow Girls
BarlowGirl is comprised of three sisters: Rebecca “Becca” Barlow, Alyssa Barlow, and Lauren Barlow. Becca plays guitar, Alyssa rocks the keyboard, and Lauren bangs the drums. Each of the sisters are 2-3 years apart in age. Becca is about to turn 31, the Alyssa is 28, and Lauren is 25.
As children, the Barlow sisters sang background vocals for their father (a talented and accomplished musician) who wrote and performed worship music specifically for the children’s youth groups (the Barlow sisters sang the kid’s voices as needed in his songs). As they grew older and wanted to be more involved in the music, they all learned piano, then drifted to their own instruments, toured with their father, and then stepped to the forefront in 2001 to unofficially establish themselves as BarlowGirl, the band. Their dad, Vince Barlow, gracefully demoted himself to band manager.
Despite spending most of their adult lives writing, performing, and appearing as a group, the Barlow sisters are still highly independent women, each with their own battles won and lessons learned (more on that to come in future posts).
About Their “No Dating” Philosophy
Apart from their music, the Barlow sisters are well known for their unique stance on dating and sex: Namely, they do not date, and they do not have sex.
Back when the Barlow sisters were in their early teens, the Barlow Family had a house rule: No dating until you turn 16. Naturally, the girls eagerly awaited their 16th birthdays. But just as Becca and Alyssa were surpassing and approaching their 16th birthdays (each sister is 3 years apart in age), the Barlow parents MaryAnn and Vince Barlow sat the girls down and through them a curve ball….
Facing the reality that their daughters would soon begin to date, MaryAnn and Vince Barlow began to reflect on the dating relationships they had engaged in before they found each other. They both felt that those pre-marriage dating relationships were painful, stressful wastes of time.
So they posed a challenge to their daughters: “What if you didn’t date at all? What if you just focused on yourself until the right person comes along?”, they asked.
Note that they didn’t demand that their daughters not date. They simply posed the idea, and let the Barlow sisters decide for themselves. Although initially appalled, young Becca, Alyssa, and Lauren reflected on the idea and couldn’t get over how right it felt.
So they made the tough decision: they committed their lives to on their music with the hopes that some day marriage and love would find them at the appropriate time, and that they’ll recognize it when it does. In their own words (from their song “Average Girl”): “No more dating, I’m just waiting…my prince will come for me.”
And the rest is Christian Rock history. Through their own personal decision not to date, and the music they’ve penned in defense of their ideals, the Barlow sisters have inspired millions of people.
1980’s: Musician Vince Barlow decides, after the birth of his three daughters, that he’s meant for a higher calling. His wife MaryAnn supports him has he returns to school to pursue a graduate degree that will make him an in-demand new minister.
1990’s: The young Barlow sisters start getting musical
- Vince Barlow is now as worship leader for childern’s ministry program at the Willow Creek mega church in Chicago. He notices a problem: They’re singing the same songs to the children that they sing to the adults, and the kids are getting bored and spacing out.
- Ever the visionary, Vince begins to write songs specifically for children ages 0-12. He tests them out on this three daughters.
- Rebecca, Alyssa, and Lauren are starting to get interested in music. Vince sets down a hard rule: You will learn piano first as a foundation, and then you can choose and instrument you like. So the Barlow sisters begin learning piano.
- Vinces songs are a huge hit. The kids at the church go home and sing them around the house. The parentschurch start asking for CDs.
- As he’s recording the CD’s, Vince decides that he wants some kid’s voices on a couple of the tracks. So he taps the talents of his three beautiful daughters.
- When playing at his church, Vince will bring little Becca, Alyssa, and Lauren up on stage to dance and sing the “kid parts”. The Barlow sisters begin to learn important lessons about how to control an audience (e.g., when they zone out, start jumping around to get their attention back).
- Eventually, Vince’s “worship songs for kids” spreads to other churches. Pretty soon Vince is traveling all around the country.
- Vince has a problem: He’s singing to other people’s kids about family values, but his own kids are back at home.
- Vince Barlow asks his three daughters if they’d like to be his full-time backup band, since they have each moved on piano to their own instrument (Becca to guitar, Alyssa to the keyboard, Lauren to drums).
1997-1998: Vince Barlow and “the Barlow girls” tour the country playing their unique worship songs for children at various church events.
Early 1999: After making a name for themselves at their church performances, Vince Barlow (and daughters) start get calls from Christian Music festival promoters.
July 1999: Vince Barlow and the Barlow girls perform at LifeFest ’99, their first festival performance. At the concert, Vince runs into old friend and Superchic[k] founder Max Hsu. The Barlow sisters hang out with Superchic[k]. After noticing the rings on the Barlow girls’ fingers, Superchic[k] asks “Are you married”. The Barlow sisters explain that the rings represent their commitment not to date until marriage.
Inspired by their commitment not to date, Superchic[k] writes a new song called “BarlowGirl” (lyrics here).
2000: The Barlow sisters start feeling the urge to stop playing background for their dad and perform on their own, as a new band. Vince Barlow steps down gracefully and lets his girls take the spotlight.
2001: BarlowGirl (the band) is officially formed, as the girls set aside their focus on children’s music and step out on their own. Their father, Vince Barlow, gracefully steps into the background, becoming band manager.
January 8th, 2002: The song “Barlow Girls” is released as the first track on Superchic[k]’s Karaoke Superstars CD. It becomes huge radio hit, drawing attention to the cause of not dating. Some teens even refer to themselves as “BarlowGirls” because they’ve chosen to wait on sex. Also, this creates instant name recognition for the newly-formed “BarlowGirl”.
Summer 2002: Somewhat insecure about their ability to play on their own, the Barlow girls start looking for opportunities to hone their skills. Through Superchic[k] founder Max Hsu, they find out about the Music in the Rockies seminar, where bands can come and hone their skills (in a healthy competition with professional judges on hand). BarlowGirl makes it to the finals, proving to themselves that they have what it take to “hang with the boys”.
Fall & Winter 2002 (the dark time): A contact at a big record label tell the Barlow girls that he’s interested in signing them to a record contract. Overjoyed and ready to start their future as a signed band, Lauren and Alyssa drop out of college, and Becca quits her job. Six months later, the same guy calls them and says that he’s leaving the label and oh, by the way, nobody else is really interested.
Devastated, and unable to return to their previous lives (Becca had already quit, and it was too late to go back to school for the semester), the girls write the song that would become their most beloved hit: Never Alone.
Early 2003: Another record industry contact has the Barlow girls play a quick private concert for him in a church basement. He likes their sound, and invites them to Nashville to record a Demo.
May 2003: The Barlow girls meet Otto Price, the amazing man who would become their permanent and much-loved producer.
After helping the girls record their first demo, Otto Price introduces them to Susan Riley, the founder of Fervent Records. After hearing their demo (and another private concert), Susan offers BarlowGril a record contract. They take time to think about it, then sign it.
Otto Price also encourages Lauren to take formal drum lessons, makes Alyssa comfortable with being a bassist, and pushes Becca to try more solos.
February 24th, 2004: BarlowGirl’s first album (“BarlowGirl”) is released to rave reviews and massive response from fans.