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Dara Maclean is a vocalist and songwriter who is passionate about raising the awareness of, and bringing an end to, the issue of human trafficking.
Over the two years since the release of her debut LP, You Got My Attention, the 26-year-old singer-songwriter’s seen some of her most closely held hopes come to fruition.
Dara’s lifelong dream of ministering broadly through music came to pass, Maclean spending almost two years straight on the road with inspirations-turned-friends like Casting Crowns and NewSong. She traveled to Kampala, Uganda -- a place to which she’d long felt called -- to worship, sing and share. And there, standing in a rainstorm as a transformative trip was coming to an end, Donnie Petty -- the love she’d prayed for -- asked her to be his wife.
If You've Got My Attention showed a young artist praising the value of trusting in God’s plan and in grace, Maclean’s new album, Wanted, beams the heart of someone who’s seen that trust proven out.
“This is the sweetest time I have ever experienced,” Maclean says, “the gift of the right person in my life has been life-changing. And this next record is timely. It’s my journal, of sorts. It’s my journey.”
Maclean’s journey is, in and of itself, a testament to the power God’s faithfulness. She grew up in Ft. Worth, Tex., immersed in music and ministry from age 7, songwriting and pursuing a calling in the music industry since age 13, all the while learning and growing spiritually, as well as developing an appreciation for all things soul/Motown music to worship music, thanks to her supportive musician/pastor parents.
Maclean’s parents encouraged her to trust in God’s divine plan for her, to explore the musical gifts God had given and what He meant for her to do with them. Working part-time jobs and struggling to find a footing in between doing what she had to do and what she felt born to do, she often felt impatient, and like a failure at times, like people often do. She fought against impossible standards she imposed upon herself, and often would feel the need to point out the real enemy, herself.
Maclean found peace by remaining thankful for all the good even when waiting for, what felt like an eternity, to do what was in her heart. She returned her focus to God’s grace, and when her career’s bloom came -- ushered in by an unexpected yet perfectly timed phone call from label/publishing executive Susan Riley at age 22 -- it came with the benefit of valuable lessons learned and tearful prayers of gratitude.
“When I look back, it’s interesting, because I think, ‘Why didn’t I just trust?’” Maclean says. “‘You put it in my heart and then You did it. You’re faithful. And I was the only one that got in the way of it.’ The only thing that I can say is, ‘God, You are a man of Your word, and everything that You said You were gonna do, it has happened to a T, but it has been better. Your timing is always perfect.’”
“It’s that realization that forms the heartbeat of much of Wanted: a reminder that through the gift of God’s grace, you’re truly blessed, forgiven, good enough, that you can stop fighting and find peace, as you rest in the knowledge of God’s opinion of you and letting it be the only one that matters. The fact that He sees you through the sacrifice of His son and that sacrifice was enough to eternally cleanse and redeem, no matter what the story. God’s love is our guarantee and when we allow His thoughts towards us to be the only voice that speaks, daily, it begins to change our lives. Jeremiah 29:11: ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’ The songs hone in on the need for encouragement, the need we all have for the light to shine in and expose any lies we’ve been embracing as truth and the need for rescue, from ourselves, or to empower us, to be the ones that discover wholeness through the cross and then go out and ‘be’ rescue to the world around us. I count this record as a gift to me and a celebration of the transformative power of truly knowing and trusting in God, my Father.”
“You know how you go to church on Sunday morning, and then it’s Monday morning, and you have to go back to work and life’s demands are screaming, you get devastating news, you have one deadline after another and emails and you’re waking up at 4 in the morning to catch a flight and you’re missing home and the ones you love and it doesn’t stop… This is a Monday morning record. When life hits in the hardest of ways, and you need peace and you need an answer, let’s take Him at His word and together learn about truth and the only answer, God."
Musically, Wanted shows Maclean’s musical upbringing -- a love of powerful, personality-fueled and soul-steeped vocalists from Etta James and Stevie Wonder to Lauryn Hill -- filtered through a modern pop lens, with help from producer/songwriter/drummer Paul Mabury and a cast of other talented co-writers, including Jason Ingram, Dave Barnes and Cindy Morgan.
Finding Wanted producer Mabury, Maclean figures, came through as another example of God’s perfect timing.
“He’s honestly like a brother in my life,” she says. “He was deeply immersed in the Australian Hillsong circle, so he knows worship, he knows that heartbeat as well as mine for the church. I grew up as a praise and worship leader, so worship influences such as Hillsong, Passion, CeCe Winans, Jesus Culture, to name a few, in addition to every Lauryn Hill record, were the start of my journey of beginning artistry and songwriting. Paul knew the world of worship, he’s a songwriter, a producer, one of the best drummers that I’ve heard, and -- cherry on the sundae and absolutely necessary – he’s played in funk bands all over the world and is extremely well versed in the type of music old and new, that moves me. He has this backbone of soul and he understands my artistic soul: I have to be able to groove to everything that I do.”
Few songs on Wanted bridge that soul backbone and worship heartbeat as completely as the forthright “Set My People Free,” in which Maclean affirms, “Your faithfulness destroys the doubt/ Your strength is fire to my soul.”
“This song, it charges me,” she says. “It is my mission statement and my battle cry. We’re just gonna dive into the face of darkness, and the only rescue that can ever happen is the light of the gospel.”
“Set My People Free” shows just one sonic side of Maclean and Wanted, though -- she sings of surrender over gentle piano in “Find Rest”; mixes orchestral swells, Broadway pomp and R&B pulse into “Nobody But You”; and pours profound appreciation and adoration into “Made,” a song written for her new husband, and the song she’d walk down the aisle to.
The breadth of sound and mood was purposeful -- as much to echo the emotional arc that Maclean’s own journey has been as to evoke one in those who listen.
“I think music should make you laugh and cry and everything in between,” she says. “I just want it to feel like life.”