Celia Whitler's Web site doesn't read like the typical musician's list of CD release advertisements and merchandise sales. Instead, she starts by admitting that she likes Starbucks.
She always orders a soy chai. She likes Starbucks, she writes, because the counter person repeats her name when she calls out her order, "Soy chai for Celia."
The story winds around her coffee shop experience, explaining how good it feels to have someone know you. But the next day, the counterperson hands the "Soy chai for Celia" across the counter and doesn't look her in the eye. The connection was imagined.
"They don't really know me," she said. "They just want me to buy their coffee."
The story that began at the counter of Starbucks ends with a Bible verse, an approach that Whitler uses in most of her songs. Her music is half story telling, half spiritual lesson.
In her last album, "In Plain View" she muses about her father's death in the song "Only you."
"It's about how in life we struggle to connect with other folks, but it's only God that sees us and knows us completely," Whitler said. "That song really resonates with folks."
Whitler left her life as an elementary school teacher in Plano, Texas, to pursue her dream of becoming a Christian singer.
She moved to Nashville and began the long process of sifting through thousands of songs to find her signature sound.
"The beginning of the artist is the song and what stories do they have to tell," she said. "I discovered that if I wanted songs that connected with people, I had to write them myself."
One of her new songs, written with Billy Montana, is called "Many Years from Now." The narrator is praying for her children.
"They are praying that their children will find someone, that they will be in love and that person will stay with them," Whitler said.
When Whitler first stepped out on her own as a musician she took gigs set up by her friends, who were youth directors. From there, she started playing at Methodist retreats and conference events and began building her fan base.
"I never worried about where I played," she said. "My goal is to be myself, offer my gifts and encourage other people to do the same."
At the beginning of her career, she kept in touch with fans through a newsletter. The numbers grew until she was mailing to more than 10,000 people.
It became unmanageable, and she transferred her mailing list to the Internet.
"I read other artists' newsletters, and it was all about sales," she said. "I decided to make mine about more than that. I want it to be about my life and who God is in my life."
-- To reach Autumn Phillips call 871-4210 or e-maill firstname.lastname@example.org