Artist: Liz Vice
Song: “Refugee King”
In Their Words: “I don’t write very often. Songwriting often feels like a miracle and when I’m in a space to write there is an hour of wrestling myself to just chill, surrender, and let the music come to me.
“‘Refugee King’ was written during a songwriting retreat at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Five of us were put into a group together. We could either write an original song or rewrite a well-known carol. We decided to rewrite ‘Away in a Manger.’ One thought that came to mind was, ‘How does a crying baby change this whole image we tend to celebrate around Christmas?’ The arrival of Jesus wasn’t pretty and a lot of babies died during this time.
“The story of Christmas is less about gifts under a tree, but about Jesus coming to this hot mess of a world to invite us to indulge in what heaven has to offer on earth (now).
“I thought about this song often and as time went on, I knew the song was begging to be released to reach the people it was supposed to reach. I didn’t release the song to be a voice for anything other than the story of Jesus. Humans just tend to repeat history.
“I first performed the song when I opened for the Blind Boys of Alabama. While we waited to hit the stage, the band that I had hired sat in the lobby. To kill a little time, I decided to record a live take. After that short tour, while visiting family in Portland, I reached out to some people I knew and recorded the song. It was a pretty quick turnaround. I knew what I wanted and I wanted it to be simple and that’s how I produced it. Vocals, guitar, cello, and had my friend in Virginia, Orlando Palmer, add some of his sweet piano playing on it. Had my friend Danny mix and a woman who did the mastering for my vinyl master this track.
“Turned out great and I’m hoping that this song just causes people to pause and re-evaluate the real story of the birth of Jesus.” — Liz Vice