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"This one is the songwriter's album for sure." Almost as an afterthought, Sara Groves concludes an in-depth conversation about her new recording, Fireflies & Songs, with this innocuous-remark-turned-spit-taker. Imagine Hillsong saying, "This one is our worship album," or U2, "This one is our anthem album."

After all, this is Sara Groves we're talking about. Her renown as a potent singer/songwriter merely begins with her avid fanbase. (Granted, one which gave her previous INO Records release, 2007's Tell Me What You Know, an extended debut as the No. 1 album on iTunes' "Christian & Gospel" chart.) Simply put, when it comes to songwriting, Sara influences the influencers. Her most vocal admirers range from pioneers of Christian worldview music, including Randy Stonehill, Michael Card and Charlie Peacock, to her peers today, Natalie Grant, Jars of Clay, Nichole Nordeman, Point of Grace and Bethany Dillon, among them.

Add to that the fact that Sara has always shied away from hype and spin doctoring, and you have a bonafide headline on your hands. Her "songwriter's album" indeed. As the record's producer, the aforementioned Peacock, attests, "That's what I loved about working on Fireflies & Songs. I got a close-up view of the songwriter at the top of her game. It's so inspiring to work on music that is so focused and alive."

Well put. At the same time, it should be pointed out that Sara's parting descriptor is a testament to how the album was approached and recorded rather than a proclamation of Fireflies' superiority over her other widely-esteemed work. While her albums have tended to explore the stylistically wide terrain bordered by the likes of Patty Griffin and Peter Gabriel, Sara's new offering is 100 percent thoughtful-folk-songwriter fare. "I listen non-stop to Mindy Smith, Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris and Pierce Pettis," she says. "I love that music."

With Fireflies, more than any other album, it shows. "This recording is more me in that sense," says Sara. "Musically, it's what I would do naturally. This entire album was written at the piano when, in the past, I've made an effort to write in different environments. Also, I only had one co-write this time around." And the production? "When I heard Jon Foreman's [Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer] EPs, which Charlie executive produced, I called Charlie and said, 'I want to make a record like these. They're so emotive, and they feel like they're so true to him.'"

Peacock explained how they had approached Foreman's solo work in the beginning. The Switchfoot front man would start by sending Peacock demos. The producer would add tasteful instrumentation to Foreman's original recordings and then send each back to Foreman who would continue envisioning the arrangement. Eventually they met in Nashville for more experimenting. In much the same way, Sara and her touring band--comprised of guitarist Ben Gowell, bassist Aaron Fabbrini and drummer Zach Miller--would record a demo for Peacock to use as a given song's foundation. While he incorporated his own ideas and sometimes had Sara or her band re-record certain instruments, Peacock often kept the demo's original recordings in the mix. "That way, the songs retained that sort of plug-and-play feeling," says Sara, who played all of Fireflies' piano parts. "We took that approach with several tracks on the album, trying to maintain the integrity of the demo if it felt good."

And Sara's lyrics? More than any other impressive thing, they define her craft. As with her two previous INO recordings, Add to the Beauty and Tell Me What You Know, Sara thought she would focus on a theme and write poetic commentary throughout the new album. However, early in the pre-production process, Jeff Moseley, the president of her record label, threw Sara a redemptive curveball. "It's been a long time since we've heard from you," he said. "I want to check in with you. What's happening now in your life? What is life like for you as a wife, mother, daughter and friend?"

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