Semler, an openly queer artist, is sitting atop the US Christian iTunes charts today with an album named Preacher’s Kid that is marked “explicit” for language.
Semler – the artist name for Grace Baldridge – describes the album as “a project about coming out as a queer person of faith”. “I listed [it] as a Christian record”, she explains, referring to the iTunes category she selected, “because that’s what it is”.
Having been told that there was “no space” for her story in the Christian music industry – by an unknown executive who was voicing widely accepted industry beliefs – Preacher’s Kid has been years in the making. Yet like many musical projects, it is also a child of Covid quarantine when it was written.
Within the album’s lyrics, Baldridge channels the lived experiences of queer people in the wider church. Preacher’s Kid is an album that pulls exactly zero punches. There are songs that both critique the harm that can be done by the church in mission projects and with regards to the commercialisation of “Hollywood” Christianity. And there are songs in which she describes the difficult realities of hanging on to her Christian faith.
Youth group lock-ins are really strange concepts
That youth group leaders seem to really like
It’s like ‘Let’s take some repressed hormonal teenagers
And put em’ in a church and hope they find Jesus overnight’
Baldridge herself comes from a Liberal Christian background, with a father who she has described as an “Episcopal priest who has been a steadfast supporter of the queer community.” In January 2019, she wrote for Refinery29 that “My denomination of Christianity is accepting and affirming, but many other branches of the church feel otherwise about the queer community.”
A comment Baldridge herself made during an interview, right before the pandemic, got her thinking about the need for a Christian album that charted her journey as a queer woman.
“The Lord works in mysterious ways, my friends,” Baldridge told her Instagram followers in a video posted five days ago, when the album launched. She explained that about one year ago in Nashville, she was filming an episode of her documentary series about LGBTIQ inclusion – or the lack thereof – in Christian music.
“Someone said that we can GameStop the Christian music industry and I’m here for it.” – Grace Baldridge / Semler
On the final day of filming, the very last interview – before COVID shut down production – was with the lead singer of Jars of Clay, one of the biggest Christian bands of all time.
“In that interview, at the very end, I said this fact that we don’t have any Christian artists speaking to the powerful journey of coming out – coming into yourself, who God created you to be, that there isn’t that,” Badridge says. “Like, I’ll buy that album. You know, I want to hear that story.”
So during quarantine, Baldridge says she “did exactly that” – with Preacher’s Kid the result.
In a recording posted on TikTok, Baldridge announced that after dropping the album – with a concert live-streamed from her lounge-room – Preacher’s Kid rocketed up the Christian music charts. “We racked in over 100,000 streams without a label, without any playlisting and definitely without any help from Christian radio.”
Semler’s achievement has knocked Christian music heavyweight Lauren Daigle from the top spot she has held for the majority of days since her album’s release in 2018.
“Someone said that we can GameStop the Christian music industry and I’m here for it,” Baldridge says.
“A Christian music exec told me to my face that there was no space for a story like mine in the industry. And I want to prove him wrong and claim it for anyone who has ever been cast out in the name of God.”