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Songwriter finally comes out of her Schell

Troutdale resident Kristina Schell, 31, has been pregnant with expectation of a music career for some time.

In the fall of 2004, as a married student at Portland State University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in music performance, she discovered she was expecting her first son.

“I was the girl in the music department waddling around to all her classes,” she says.

Becoming a mother changed her schooling plans a bit — indeed, she wound up having two more sons and still has to finish some of her studies — but she says she’s “really in a place now where I’m getting to do what I’ve always wanted to do with music.”

A 1999 graduate of Centennial High School, Schell has attended Mt. Hood Community College, Multnomah Bible College and PSU. She plays guitar, and began studying classical piano at age 11. A relative newcomer to guitar, she nonetheless has taken to it like a baby to a bottle.

“It’s so much easier carrying a guitar to places, rather than lugging a big keyboard around when you want to sing,” she says. “I’ve found playing the guitar gives me more freedom in that way, and is really a beautiful instrument to sing to.”

And sing she does on her eponymously titled debut album, which she hopes will catch on with fans of contemporary Christian music as well as other genres.

“It had always been a dream of mine to record an album of my own songs, but I just never thought it was possible,” she says. “I was so focused on having babies and changing diapers that I couldn’t seem to think beyond that. It wasn’t until after my third son was born that I began writing songs again and rediscovering something that I’d put aside for so long.”

Fans of Jewel, ‘80s dance pop and midtempo rock should enjoy her approach, which is somewhat eclectic. She recorded the album in Oklahoma and in Portland at Falcon Recording Studio, and has promoted it through live performances at such venues as Book & Bible in Hillsboro.

She considers such pop singers as Sarah McLachlan, Fiona Apple and Paula Cole inspiring, as well as Christian artist Beckah Shae and New Zealand Christian folk pop artist Brooke Fraser.

“Her songs resonate with me in so many ways,” Schell says. “The things she writes about are things I have gone through. For example, she talks about how she doesn’t feel that God is near, but believes that God is near, and that builds up her faith.”

Schell, who works with her husband in children’s ministry at Gresham Bible Church, says the songs on her debut deal with issues she’s wrestled with, including fear, insecurity, death of a loved one and a desire to change.

“Who hasn’t wrestled with these issues?” she says.

Schell says she tries to approach her songs without any preconceptions.

“I usually sit down at the piano and play different chord progressions,” she says. “Depending on my mood at the time, it will either be slow or fast, major or minor key.”

The lyrics can be a challenge, she adds.

“Sometimes after I play a few chords, I will get an idea for the first lyric and from there I will just build on the words,” she says. “A lot of times the words just won’t work, and I’ll have to start from scratch again.

“And then there are those rare moments when I’m at the piano, and the words and music will just flow,” she says. “It’s like the feeling you get when a puzzle piece fits, so satisfying.”




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