It’s a puzzling fact, because as anyone who’s since heard her belt a high note can attest, the 23-year-old worship leader has a voice that can stop traffic.
But flash back to 15-year-old Caitie, sitting across from her voice teacher, being asked to sing something, anything, paralyzed with fear.
“I just hummed,” she reflects with a laugh. “Hillsong’s ‘Hosanna’—I literally hummed the entire thing. Very, very awkward. I was super insecure about everything back then.”
A Hendersonville, Tennessee native, Hurst grew up in a musical family; her father was part of a touring Christian band. She looked up to female CCM singers and she loved singing, but her audience of choice?
“I would only sing into my pillow. I would never sing in front of anybody.”
But Hurst’s family and friends saw-- and heard-- something special in Caitie she didn’t recognize in herself. Even after she hummed her way through that first session, no one was giving up. It wasn’t long before leaders from her youth group at Long Hollow Church put her name down to lead worship. Hurst tried to get out of it, but found herself up front, leading music ministry for the first time.
One might expect this to be the turning point for Hurst, the breakthrough moment when she shed her fears and let her talent flow freely...But...
“I was horrible, honestly. I just stood there like a stick and barely opened my mouth. But they kept being persistent and had me keep doing it. Even a year into it, it still was so hard for me.”
Surprisingly, though, this wasn’t your classic case of stagefright.
“It’s not that I’m shy. I was just so scared of what people thought of me. I was so ruled by all these stupid little worries and anxieties.”
It took a conversation with her voice teacher and mentor that finally allowed Caitie to see things with different perspective.
“She told me ‘Caitie, this is a gift that God has given you. This isn’t about you. Your job is to point people to God, not to yourself.’”
While that didn’t change her hesitancy overnight, it did impact a change-of-heart for Hurst. She continued to lead worship and grow in her talents throughout high school. She wrote songs and dreamed of pursuing a music career. Then she attended a Passion worship conference. There, she felt direction from the Lord that musical ministry was where she was meant to carry out her gifts.
Caitie went to Liberty University, pursuing a path of worship-leading. After a couple years she found herself interning at a Christian music label back in Nashville, accompanied by another directive tug in her heart: to create and share Christian music as an artist. A pretty significant leap for someone whose performing experience began with humming. With one year left of college, Hurst already had a clearcut, good-looking path for her future. But she felt the possibility of another one, blurred, uncertain, yet important.
“I thought ‘I could never be an artist…’ but I prayed ‘God, if this is of you, what does it look like? If this is it, I’ll do it.’”
Hurst moved back to Hendersonville. She worked on songs; she endured moments of doubt; she trusted a calling that felt crazy. She got a job at Long Hollow leading youth ministry and traveling with the student worship band. This became an incredibly formative experience, the opportunity to mentor and support students the way she had been cared for.
These relationships also inspired Hurst in regards to the music she knew she needed to make. She realized that people, young people especially, could use more music with positive messaging that is also catchy and full of infectious beats.
“I want to bridge the gap between songs that sound like pop radio but contain meaningful lyrics. Music that communicates the Gospel in a way that doesn’t sound cliché, but sounds fun—something someone could jam to in the car.”
With her heart grounded in this mission, Caitie found her sound. She wrote and recorded new songs, often inspired by experiences with the youth she mentored. This includes her first digital single, “Nothing To Hide.”
“This song came from a conversation I had with one of my students, and it’s about this idea that we worry we can never come to God with the mess of who we are and the things we’ve done,” Hurst remembers. “Everything she was saying, I’d been there—the thought that God won’t love me if He really knew my heart. But God already knows my heart, and He loves me more than I can comprehend. Shame makes me want to hide from Him, but I don’t have to.”
She’d battled that shame monster before. She’d surrendered to it time and time again. Now, she was ready to surrender to the One who had already won the fight.
“It’s the same reason I was scared to sing. I wasn’t confident in who God says I am. I was overwhelmed by what people might think of me, if I was cool enough, pretty enough...I remember a couple years ago thinking of how exhausting it was to care what people thought of me all the time. I began asking God ‘What does it mean to be free?’”
“Then I realized all that stuff doesn’t matter. My walk with God- that rules everything I do. He’s given all of us a unique story.”
Hurst’s songs and worship-leading resulted in recording and publishing deals with Centricity Music in fall 2017. Since then, she’s continued to create songs with magnetic melodies and rhythm that come from the journeys she’s walked and how she’s found Christ in all of them. Anxiety; jealousy; insecurity; fear. Journeys all of us can relate to, but too often are afraid to speak about. Caitie Hurst is done hiding. She’s singing loud.