Sharing Light in the Darkness
“When I was about sixteen years old I went fishing with my dad, which wasn't unusual, but that day I caught an eighty-pound king salmon . . . only twelve pounds off of the world record at the time.” Almost 35 years after catching that salmon, Hilary Weeks (BA '93), now a renowned Christian singer-songwriter, catches the attention of listeners all over the world. Her path in life has not been simple, and has taken many unexpected turns along the way. She says, “I still have to go through the process of thinking ‘where does Heavenly Father want me now?’ and ‘what should I be doing at this stage?’”
Weeks’ Alaskan childhood, in many ways, sparked her music career. “I started singing when I was little just because I loved it, not because I had any career intentions,” says Weeks. Her parents gave her freedom to choose the things she wanted to pursue. “I remember at eight years old asking my mom if I could take piano lessons. What child does that?” she says. As a teenager, she recalls sitting on the porch watching the ocean. As she sat, unsure of what lie ahead, she would ponder, pray, and contemplate her life “as much as you can when you’re a teenager,” Weeks says. She continued piano lessons through high school and wrote her first song at the age of fourteen.
While attending BYU from 1988 to 1993, when she wasn’t enjoying milkshakes at Cosmo Connection or dancing in Smith Fieldhouse aerobics classes, she was learning key principles in music theory classes to further her passion. She emphasizes, “It was just really important to understand and to learn those things at that age, so that moving forward I could be a better songwriter.”
Near the end of her time at BYU, Weeks heard that EFY was taking song submissions from outside writers for their 1993 album. Weeks’ song “He Hears Me” was chosen to be part of the album, and while recording her song she was discovered by Deseret Book. Over the next three years she worked with Deseret Book to publish her first CD. This album, also entitled He Hears Me, quickly earned praise in the LDS market and was named inspirational album of the year by the Faith-Centered Music Association. She continued to earn acclaim with her second, third, and fourth albums, which led to a new record deal with the Shadow Mountain Records label in 2004. Her new label allowed her to touch a larger audience, including non-LDS Christian listeners. In 2011, she made the Top Ten on the Christian Albums chart and continued to achieve similar rankings in her subsequent two albums.
Weeks’ resilience has guided the writing and release of eleven CDs, but although she has a thriving music career, she chooses to focus on the non-monetary impact of her work. She feels, at times, that her music bridges the gap many imagine between Mormons and other Christians. “I do . . . hear from people of other Christian faiths who have found the music and really love it. The music that I write is . . . not necessarily only for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,” Weeks explains. In her mind, the ability to relate to others “stems from love,” which is how non-LDS listeners have come to appreciate Weeks’ music, and how she has found so much success in the Christian market.
She draws inspiration mainly from the experiences other people have shared with her. “I think I listen really well,” Weeks says. “And when I want to be in a writing mindset I make sure that every single day I’m at the piano, that I’m listening for ideas and writing them down.” Writing a song requires a lot of discipline. When Weeks isn’t “spending enough time at the piano” she finds it difficult to be creative. Still, as a mother of four daughters she strives to find balance between family and music by taking time to “go on walks, study the scriptures, and have fun,” she explains. “Anywhere with my family is my favorite place to be.”
When someone tells Weeks that “[her] music got [them] through [their] darkest hour,” she knows the time commitment was worth it. Weeks says, “We know that there are going to be times when we struggle because we are growing. I'm really grateful that the type of music I like to write can be a message in those dark hours.” In her early twenties, Weeks went through a dark time of her own. “I didn't feel like other people appreciated me, I didn't feel like I was cool, and I was so worried about what other people thought of me,” she says. While crying in the car one day, she struggled to make sense of her emotions when a whispering came to her heart that said: “Don’t worry about what other people think of you. Worry about what they think of themselves when they’re with you.” This spiritual witness stuck with her. Years later, struggling with severe stage fright and fear, she wondered, “Why did Heavenly Father make me a singer/songwriter . . . but then allow me to have this fear of being on stage in front of people?” It took a while, but she has learned that she can turn to Heavenly Father and rely on Him instead of her own efforts. "Maybe the songs can lift someone and be a strength, or bring someone peace. That would be worth it," Weeks says. "I'm really grateful God made me a songwriter."