TORI HARPER’s bedroom in her hometown of Franklin, Tenn., is like a glimpse into the singer/songwriter’s soul. Morning light streams in through an arched cathedral window—a daily visual of God’s presence. Plants grow freely from their individual perches around the room—green reminders that life is in full bloom. Handwritten Scripture fills up every square inch of her mirror. It’s a cozy, vibrant environment where songs can be birthed and a heart can be nurtured along the way.
“I love those reminders for myself,” Tori says. “You look at the mirror every day, so I write the truth on my mirror; but also, I put it in my songs. That’s something really key to who I am.”
While her bedroom is often the backdrop for her creativity, Tori says the key ingredient in her songwriting—and in life—is intentionally replacing the lies in her head with God’s truth. “It can be difficult for someone who’s not in the Word every day to remember what God promises us about our circumstances,” she offers. “Through the good and through the bad, He’s with us… He’s not promising that we’re not going to have trials or we’re not going to have issues, but He does promise that He’s going to be with us right through those things; and in the end, He’s going to use that somehow for good and for His glory.”
Tori experienced this firsthand when God rescued her from a season of depression. “I just felt alone, like no one saw me—but, especially, I felt like God didn’t see me,” she admits. “I knew He existed, and I believed He was working in other people’s lives. I just felt like I’d come to this place where He didn’t really want to have anything to do with my life.”
On what Tori thought would be her last Sunday at church, during worship, the woman sitting beside her leaned over and whispered, “I just felt like God wanted me to tell you that He sees you.” Unbeknownst to the woman, it was a direct answer to prayer for Tori and the lifeline she needed. That day, Tori recommitted her life to Christ.
“It wasn’t until that turning point that I really started to understand who God was,” she reflects. “He’s all-powerful and He’s holy, but He’s also intimate and He’s kind and He’s compassionate and He’s in the details.”
As Tori began to see herself the way God sees her, she also became more aware of how other people see themselves and how it often conflicts with God’s view of His children. As God began to reveal more of Himself to Tori, and she began to firmly root her identity in Christ, she began to more acutely notice other people’s heartache. “I started to understand that a lot more people were struggling than I realized,” she says. For Tori, songwriting has become a way to respond to people’s hurt from a place of deep authenticity and relatability and to remind listeners—and herself—what God says about certain situations, despite how we may feel.
Growing up right outside of Nashville has afforded her the opportunity to co-write with well-respected songwriters and artists like Cindy Morgan, Mia Fieldes and All Sons & Daughters, among others. As a vocalist, she’s contributed background vocals to songs recorded by Chris Tomlin and Tenth Avenue North. She’s currently working on her first full-length album.
However, despite all of the experiences Music City has gifted, Tori originally started writing songs as a way to see in the dark and help her friends do the same. Her debut radio single, “After Dark,” was penned for the sister of a friend who was battling bulimia. The song’s lyrics tumbled out as she struggled to find the right words of hope-filled empathy to extend to the girl, whom she had long admired. And in a sense, that’s what all of Tori’s songs seek to do. Like a familiar conversation with a trusted friend who knows you best, Tori’s music wraps its way around your heart, feeling more and more like home with every note. Listening to Tori’s music is a bit like stepping out of the darkness and into the light.
As God has led her out of her own period of darkness, Tori has come to discover the beauty found in community. The faces of the friends that fill her songs are the same faces that fill her everyday life. “I think a lot of times when you’re going through some kind of struggle or pain, you tend to pull away from people. Obviously, there’s some people you don’t want to surround yourself with, but I think one of the worst things you can do is separate yourself from the people who care about you the most,” she offers. “God created us for community. God Himself is community. He’s three in one. It’s part of His nature. It’s part of our DNA.”
She notes the significance of filling your life with people who will consistently lead you back to God’s Word. “It’s really important who you surround yourself with because they will influence you the most,” she asserts. “When you are struggling and you’ve got a friend who’s deeply rooted in Christ, they can help you see the truth even when you can’t see it yourself.”
Ultimately, this is the type of artist Tori hopes to be—a friend who points her fellow sojourners to the truth of God’s Word with every song.