We Interview Semler About The Inspiration Behind Her Chart-Topping EP

grace baldridge semler preacher’s kid

If you haven’t heard of Grace Semler Baldridge already, you’re about to. Grace is a singer/songwriter whose newly released EP, Preacher’s Kid, reached the #1 spot on the Christian music charts within a week of its release, beating out Lauren Daigle’s album “Look Up Child.” 

 
 
 
 
 
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This is a remarkable feat in itself, given Daigle’s popularity and Semler’s (Grace’s artist name) relatively under-the-radar presence in the music industry. But what’s more remarkable is the music that earned Semler the top spot on the charts.

My dad’s never cursed in his life

I asked if he smoked, he said twice

Well by that standard I’m a goddamn failure

I passed blunts the day I married my wife

– Bethlehem

Semler’s music draws heavily from her experience growing up as a queer person in a Christian setting. To say that her EP topping the Christian charts is a historical moment would be an understatement.

I was thrilled to get to sit down with Grace and ask her about her album that’s making waves in the Christian music industry. Check out our interview below — but first, hit “play” on this Spotify album and listen to it as you read!

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Q: So you got your start with a docuseries last summer about “the intersection of human rights, sexuality, and faith.” How did the idea for the docuseries come about and how did it get produced?

A: State of Grace got started about 2 years ago. I had just experienced a sudden rejection from someone very close to me, one of my oldest and best friends. I asked her to be a bridesmaid for my wedding, and that was the time she sort of revealed how she felt. That was wild because I’ve known this person since I was two — it was sudden. 

I was out in my yard venting to a friend who had just started at a digital media company, and was looking to start producing her own type of series. So she and I were talking through what I’d just gone through, and she said, “I feel like there’s more of a story here about how so many people are working through religious trauma and what institutionalized religion has put them through,” and that we could examine that. So I said yeah, let’s do it. So we shot the pilot and kept making episodes from there. And the last episode before COVID shut down all our production was about the Christian music industry — that’s something I grew up with — and I was really interested to check back in. I was pretty disheartened with the state of it.

My best friend found God so we lost touch

I guess a savior beats a friend who thinks you’re good enough 

I hope she finds love and peace 

And if her kid comes out I hope that she calls me.

– Jesus From Texas

We did that episode and went home, and I basically never left my house from that point on. It left me sort of processing everything. There were memories I think I’d protected myself from, and quarantine made time very available for me to start writing about things. I put out Jesus From Texas as a demo on SoundCloud. Some of my friends listened to it and said, “Grace, this is really good.” And I thought that was weird, because I just really had needed to get it out of my system as I was thinking through all these things.

So the docuseries absolutely informed the music. If I hadn’t done the series we never would have done the episode about music, and I never would have started re-exploring my relationship to Christian music. I wouldn’t have known there was an audience for it. I was so embarrassed — I thought there just weren’t that many people for this. Seeing that there are so many people in that audience has been incredible. There’s so many people we were told were never there, and they’re here.

Q: Your music exploded on TikTok initially, and then you hit the top of the Christian music charts, beating out Lauren Daigle! At what point did you think to yourself, “Wait, I think this is getting big?”

A: It might be right now? It might be this moment! I put up a stripped down acoustic of me playing Jesus From Texas after it was released — I think that was one moment when I realized the potential for this type of story, because so many people would say, “Oh that’s so cool, I’ll have to check out your music.”

 
 
 
 
 
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To be honest with you, I think it was this past weekend. Like right now. Because in the back of my mind I always thought, wouldn’t it be cool if a queer artist could make the top 50 of the Christian charts? So that was my goal, I just thought that would be really cool. I never thought it would become this. I have butterflies in my stomach right now. This morning I started thinking, we could really do this — we could really show up and have a seat, and maybe people would finally have to acknowledge us.

There’s been a strange form of gaslighting in the fact that if this was any other Christian artist who was totally independent and recorded this in their home, just an artist with a dream who was this high on the charts, Christian music would be like — this would be their darling. They would be so excited, saying things like “the Gospel is alive.” But because I’m talking about something that’s difficult and because it’s coming from a gay person, so many people are just like, do not address the situation, do not talk about it.

As a queer person, something I’ve done for self-defense is if someone is explicitly Christian, I assume they will not accept me — it’s easier to be proven wrong, because I’ve been so hurt by assuming people would accept me, and then they don’t. So then if I’m surprised, it’s a pleasant surprise rather than a heartbreaking one, and the reception of this album has been such a pleasant surprise.

 
 
 
 
 
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Q: Your music speaks of a deep reverence for God/the Divine while calling out the hypocrisy of the Church. It’s hard when you’re indoctrinated into something to be able to look at it critically — what do you think has enabled/helped you to have that healthily critical view?

A: I think a lot of it is when you face rejection for who you are, for something that is so inherent to you, and someone says “It’s in the Bible, this is what it is, it’s the word of the Lord,” you want to double check their work. That’s where so much of my deconstruction started — in facing direct or passive judgment from people in the name of God. It made me go back to the text and read through different biblical scholars and really ask, What are they talking about? Is this really in here? What is the root of this? And in so doing, you do start deconstructing and you start looking at your faith through a critical lens. And you realize how people in positions of power were able to create a narrative that was exclusionary — but who does that benefit and who does it exclude? And once you start that process, the interesting thing for me is that God becomes more available, because you’re separating out the noise and the mess from what is beautiful and Divine and confusing, and allowing space for doubt and questions.

But I’m a child of God, just in case you forgot

And you cast me out every single chance that you got

And that’s your loss, not mine

I’ll be better than fine

You just missed your shot to meet the unholy divine

– Bethlehem

It doesn’t mean that I’ve arrived at a place of thinking I know all the answers. But it does mean I’ve arrived at a place where I can celebrate the mystery and I can acknowledge pain and hurt. I can get mad at God in a way that just isn’t presented as available to you when you’re in those circles of indoctrination. You’re not allowed to have a complex relationship with God, so because of that God becomes very small and limiting.

I think allowing myself to look at things from a broader lens and look at different scholarship and translations and interpretations of the text has afforded me this peace in mystery. And that’s something I wish for more people to find. Or at least for it to be as public as what I think the harmful teachings are, because that’s pretty prevalent. I just would like to see that same sort of funding and investment in an inclusive unconditionally loving theology, that is rooted in social justice. That’s sort of been the process for me — it starts in a place of heartache and eventually we round the corner to peace. 

 
 
 
 
 
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Q: You talk a lot about sexuality, a HUGE and divisive issue in the Church. What do you wish the Church understood about sexuality?

A: I would like the Christian Church to understand that sexuality is something beautifully human and also Divine, and that it is not something to judge someone for and certainly not something to condemn someone for. All that teaching is rooted in what I think are misinterpretations of what Scripture was trying to hit on. I think they interpreted something very rigid in their definition of Biblical marriage. The 6 clobber verses thrown at LGBTQ+ people are about an abuse of power, and they speak nothing of consenting, loving, queer relationships. It’s a mistranslation. So what I want for the church to understand and where I’m hopeful for them to hold space, is to go back and really look at an inclusive Christian theology. As Christians, shouldn’t we want to be inclusive? All I’m asking is to just do a little more homework.

 
 
 
 
 
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I’ve had to come to peace with the fact that there are people in my life who have chosen an exclusionary doctrine over an inclusive one. They have chosen a doctrine that casts out certain people based on their behavior, because it falls outside of rigid bounds that the Church decided in the 20th century were Biblical. They’ve chosen to believe that. But there are qualified Biblical scholars speaking to something totally different that is inclusive to all people, and they’re not choosing that. I’m hopeful we can start expanding our understanding. Like, people will say that being gay is a choice — well, being judgmental and exclusionary is a choice, and you’re choosing it. I’m hopeful that with more and more of us finding our voices, it’s an invitation to make a different choice. Or at least consider a different choice, to consider truly loving everybody and inviting people into your world. There are all sorts of people we are called to love. Do you want to love them?

Q: If you had to pick one song from Preacher’s Kid to give to the world, which one would it be?

A: I think I would pick Bethlehem, because it’s really kind of my thesis statement for the project. I’m very direct in that song and I don’t really mince any words in it. It came from a place of absolute frustration where I was at my wit’s end. I would want to share that with the world because I want people to hear, this is what’s happening. This is what you’re putting people through. This is what toxic theology is like.

You know the mission trips are scams

They do more harm than good

We got fame hungry pastors

Making bank in Hollywood

– Bethlehem

Q: What advice would you give to the Church of today?

A: To really consider, what is the fruit of your ministry and is it truly inclusive of all people? And are your priorities in loving the world and serving the world? Which to me is inextricable from advocating for social justice, racial justice and equity — is that being preached at your church? I think that’s my main message — is everyone being included and valued here? Is everyone’s dignity being respected? And is the mission of your church to create a more just world, or is it to get as many people into the pews as possible, go viral, and have an app?

 
 
 
 
 
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Q: What advice would you give to young people in the Church today, particularly young people discovering they may not align with the Church’s definition of “normal” sexuality?

A: I think my biggest piece of advice that’s been very helpful to me is to feel free to ask questions. Questions are good. If you’re in a place where questions are being discouraged, that actually tells you a lot about your faith community and what the church values.

Something I really appreciated about my dad’s church was that you could ask questions. It didn’t mean they would always have neat, tidy answers, and that’s something that was frustrating for me. Especially when you’re struggling with identity, you want to know, what’s the Scripture that says this? What’s the answer to this and to that, what do I say to this? Proof texting is really hard. But finding a community where questions and mystery and doubt are welcome is such an important part of having faith and finding belief and the Divine. Find church leaders who aren’t evasive. It’s very dignifying to be able to be honest. And if they give you an answer you don’t like, at least you got a clear answer. I hate being gaslit by churches, like when you ask “is being gay a sin?” and they’ll respond with “well, God loves everyone” — I’m like, that wasn’t what I asked. It’s a yes or no question. So many churches make it abundantly unclear where they stand. It’s so confusing and it’s so disrespectful — it just shows that you don’t really care about them, you just care about their attendance. You don’t really want to honor them as a person.

Q: Are you planning on releasing any more music?

A: Yes. Yes yes yes! I’m always writing. I really would love to write a worship anthem that’s undisputed. I know Christian leaders will say, “Oh, Grace is talking about gay stuff, there’s swearing, this isn’t a Christian record.” But I would love to show that queer artists are just as valid in this industry as any other artist on your roster. So I’m working on an “Oceans”-esque worship anthem right now, and I hope to start recording again in March.

 
 
 
 
 
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Q: Where can we learn more about you, and how can we support you on your journey?

A: My full name is Grace Semler Baldridge and my artist name is Semler. You can find me on all my social media @gracebaldridge, and you can find all my music at Semler. And the best way to support is honestly just to keep streaming and sharing Preacher’s Kid. I’m hopeful that we can show the industry that we’re here for more than just a blip. I would love Preacher’s Kid to stick around for a while just to show that our stories are valid. I was told point blank by a Christian music executive that there was no space and no audience for a story like mine, and I want to show that the opposite is true. That’s something I’m really hopeful for.

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If you haven’t already listened to Preacher’s Kid, it’s a must-hear! What’s your favorite song on the EP? Let us know in the comments below!


grace baldridge

About Grace Semler Baldridge


Grace is a 30 year old singer/songwriter currently living in West Hollywood with her wife and two dogs. She grew up as a pastor’s child, which has given her a unique perspective into all things Christianity. She is incredibly excited for the journey Preacher’s Kid is taking her on and for the reception it’s gotten so far. When Grace isn’t busy writing and recording, she likes to spend her free time by rewatching teen soap operas and playing with her weirdo dogs. 

IG: @gracebaldridge | Twitter: @GraceBaldridge

Merch: spreadshirt.com/semler | Website: semlermusic.com


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