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Fervent Records’ artist and Dove Awards’ “Artist of the Year,” Francesca Battistelli, received a surprise onstage Friday night when Word Entertainment President and CEO, Rod Riley, presented her with a gold album for her debut release My Paper Heart. This marks the first debut album from a CCM artist in nearly a decade to receive RIAA-certified Gold status for sales in excess of 500,000 units. Casting Crowns’ release in 2003 was the last debut album to receive RIAA Gold certification.

On Friday, September 7, just prior to her performance at Disney World’s “Night of Joy” at the Magic Kingdom, Riley and Word Entertainment Senior VP of A&R, Josh Bailey, stepped onstage with a surprise gold record for the singer. "I was totally overcome with emotion. As soon as Josh walked onstage with the plaque, all this emotion hit me at once. This has been a dream of mine, and to be honored and surprised this way at Disney World in front of my wonderful fans, my family, and my record truly couldn't haven been more special. I feel so incredibly blessed and will remember this night forever!"

Battistelli’s 2008 debut album features the No. 1 single, “Free To Be Me,” and Top 10 hits, “I’m Letting Go,” “It’s Your Life” and “Beautiful, Beautiful.” The release topped Billboard’s Christian Albums chart in August of 2010 and earned her a Grammy nod for “Best Gospel Performance.” In 2011, she received the Dove Awards for “Artist of the Year,” “Female Vocalist of the Year” and “Pop/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year.”

On October 16, the singer is set to release her first solo Christmas album, Christmas, which includes classics and newly-penned tunes. She also has songs showcased on two additional holiday albums due out the same day: Word Record’s A Very Special Christmas: Bringing Peace on Earth and A Very Special Christmas 25th Anniversary benefitting the Special Olympics.

Since her debut in 2008, Francesca Battistelli has earned a Grammy nomination (Best Gospel Performance), six Dove Awards including 2011 “Artist of the Year” and 19 Dove Award nominations. Both her debut album, My Paper Heart, and her 2011 sophomore release, Hundred More Years, took the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Christian Album chart. With over 700,000 in album sales to date, she is the best-selling new artist in the genre in the past eight years. Her music has also been featured on TLC's Jon & Kate Plus 8, ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, NBC’s The Biggest Loser, Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance, and several other television and movie outlets. For more information on Francesca Battistelli, please visit

Left to Right: Rod Riley (President & CEO, Word Entertainment), Francesca Battistelli and Josh Bailey (Sr. VP of A&R, Word Entertainment)

Left to Right: Nick Barre (Manager, Proper Management), Rod Riley (President & CEO, Word Entertainment), Josh Bailey (Sr. VP of A&R, Word Entertainment), Ian Eskelin (Producer), Francesca Battistelli, Kellyn Bailey (Director Of Brand Management, Word Entertainment), Leigh Holt (VP Of Strategic Partnerships, Warner Music Nashville), Tim Marshall (SVP, Sales & Brand Management, Word Entertainment)

Left to Right: Matthew Goodwin, Audrey Goodwin, Francesca Battistelli, Kate Battistelli, Mike Battistelli, and Eli Goodwin