By Rebecca Haithcoat
September 28, 2018 at 05:24 PM EDT
Music-Q&A-Lauren Daigle, Franklin, USA - 05 Sep 2018
Credit: Mark Humphrey/AP/REX/Shutterstock

When a then-21-year-old Lauren Daigle tagged along to an indie artist retreat on a last-minute invitation from a local band, she had no idea her life was about to change. "All I heard was: ‘Free trip to the mountains,'" says Daigle, now 27, who's been dubbed the "Christian Adele." But when the lead singer of their band was rushed off for an emergency appendectomy on the morning of the showcase, Daigle was asked to step up to the microphone.

"I sang one song, and the label said, ‘Come to Nashville,'" the Lafayette, La., native says over the phone and on a break from her upcoming tour rehearsals. After a week of writing, Daigle was so excited that she announced she was leaving Louisiana State University, where she was studying to practice pro bono law for human trafficking victims, and moving to Nashville — all before any label offers had landed in her hand.

"I dropped my scholarships and said, ‘I wanna do this,'" she says.

Her gamble paid off. This week, the Christian singer's sophomore album, Look Up Child, raced up the Billboard 200 to No. 3, shooting past stars like Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Ariana Grande. Child is also the biggest debut for a Christian pop album since Casting Crowns' 2009 release, Until The Whole World Hears.

Daigle's husky, honeyed voice and meaningful seek-and-find lyrics have found an enthusiastic demographic, one that's vocal with its dollars, if not its radio presence. But Daigle attributes the success of Look Up Child to her home state. Growing up, she listened to classic rock, and her school played Aretha Franklin's "Respect" before the Pledge of Allegiance. "Music is such a part of our culture down there," she says. "It really shaped everything I love musically."

Despite the success of her debut record, 2015's How Can It Be, which went platinum, Daigle felt a disconnect. "I think growing up and hearing the synergy between musicians, hearing them respond to each other — I missed that when the project was so track-heavy and electronically focused," she explains. "Look Up Child allowed me to get back to my roots. I realized it didn't have to be manufactured."

She's not alone in her response — 103,000 of the 115,000 units sold of Look Up Child are traditional album sales.

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