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2009 Conversations

2008 Conversations

Nancy Gibbs

Bruce Barry

Zollie L. Smith Jr.

Arlyn Pember

Gaylon Wampler

Nichole Nordeman

George O. Wood


David Aikman

Thomas Trask

Charles Crabtree

Russ Taff

Earl Creps

Tri Robinson

Ted Baehr

Thomas A. Grey

Charles Marshall

Steve Pike

Thomas E. Trask

Margaret Becker

Michael G. Spielman

John Ashcroft

Michael Landon, Jr.

Jerry Jenkins

Bear Rinehart

Beverly Lewis

John Rowland

David Barton

David Crowder

Randy Singer

Thomas E. Trask and Juleen Turnage

Chris Rice

Richard Dobbins

Patty Byrd Keating

David Gough

Ed Stetzer

Troy Polamalu

Ron Dicianni

Roundtable: Wilkerson, Smith, Canales

2006 Conversations

CONVERSATION: Nichole Nordeman

Leaving a legacy

Some may know Nichole Nordeman for her hit songs, such as “Holy,” “Legacy” and “Brave.” Since her first album, Wide Eyed, released nearly a decade ago, Nordeman has collected nine Dove Awards — two for female vocalist of the year. Most of her awards were garnered at the 2003 presentation, which was the same year her son, Charlie, was born. Assistant Editor Jennifer McClure recently spoke with Nordeman about the impact motherhood has had on her life as well as pressures within the Christian music industry.

tpe: In 2003 you took a break from music. Was this in conjunction with the birth of your son, Charlie?

NORDEMAN: Yes. It was his first year. It was at the height of when things were taking off for me. I had just finished a successful record and won a bunch of Dove Awards. In many people’s eyes, it was crazy if not a stupid decision to step away when the momentum was really building.

I’ve seen female artists take babies on the road with nannies and make it work. But I felt that wasn’t for me. So I just stopped. I slammed on the brakes. I don’t think I sat down at my piano for a full 12 months. We just got to know Charlie, and he got to know us. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.

tpe: How was your transition back to a music career after not playing the piano for an entire year?

NORDEMAN: It wasn’t like the next day the phone started ringing like crazy again. We just slowly built up. By the time we finished recording Brave, I felt I at least had some semblance of balance in my life. It never again will be as crazy as it was before Charlie in terms of my scheduling — because it can’t be.

tpe: Is there dissonance between your identities of mom and music artist?

NORDEMAN: I could write a book on the tension. It’s really a challenge. I don’t think I’m different from any other working mom out there who’s just trying to correctly prioritize. Some days I really feel like I have things in balance and perspective in a way that honors God — my family does come first and my work second.

Other days, I beat myself up because I made a decision or committed to something I shouldn’t have, and it wasn’t the best choice for my family. But you just have to pick up and move on and try better next time.

tpe: You’ve written about the pressure to look like you’re an artist who’s not a mom. How do you respond to that?

NORDEMAN: It helps that I live in Dallas. I pretty much don’t get recognized. I can just look like a mom most days, and I usually do. Right now, I’m in my sweats with a ball cap on. I took Charlie to school this morning along with the other moms.

So I don’t feel on a regular basis, like maybe I would if I lived in Nashville (Tenn.), I have to leave the house looking done. But those moments still creep in: the photo shoots and the Dove Awards. All those things where I stand in the closet, shake my head, and think, I don’t know this person who I’m about to dress up as.

tpe: You once wrote an article about the danger of idolatry within the Christian music industry — that image does matter. What will it take to bring change?

NORDEMAN: It starts with the individual. In order for me not to care so much about how I look on a CD cover, I have to stop caring about me as much. I think the responsibility doesn’t rely with the industry as a whole, but the industry is comprised of individuals.

I think all artists, all labels, every spoke on the wheel that puts the machine in motion — everybody needs to step back and evaluate on a personal level how much does the role of image and beauty play in my life on and off stage?

tpe: When did you want to have a career in music?

NORDEMAN: It’s funny. I never had aspirations to do what I do now. Songwriting was my way of journaling. If I was struggling with something in my faith, it would come out in a song. If I was in a relationship and having boyfriend trouble, it would come out in a song. I never felt necessarily called into a ministry or into the music industry. I just knew music would always be part of who I was.

tpe: If you never aspired for this, how did you get your big break?

NORDEMAN: After college I moved to Los Angeles and was just a little bit — or actually very — directionless. I entered a songwriting contest sponsored by the Gospel Music Association. I had absolutely no idea of what GMA was or what it did. It turned out to be a big nationwide scouting event for singers and songwriters. That’s how I met the individual who eventually gave me a record deal.

tpe: What do you hope to accomplish through your music?

NORDEMAN: I don’t know that I would use the word accomplish. I’ve never felt I was anything other than a storyteller. I love to talk about what God’s taught me and is teaching me. The places I’ve tripped up, slipped up, and wish I could do over — the good, the bad, and the everything spills out in my songwriting. That’s all I’ve ever felt called to do.

tpe: How do listeners respond to your songs?

NORDEMAN: People like permission to be themselves. I know I do. When I hear music that makes me feel like I don’t have to be perfect, but I can just be myself and come to God just as I am, right where I am no matter how unattractive that particular spot might be, I think people are drawn to that.

I’ve had people say to me after concerts, “Thank you for writing that song. That’s right where I am.” Or even, “For writing that one line in that one song. It’s really relevant to my life right now.” That’s nothing I can take credit for. It’s just kind of where I was when I wrote the song, and God used it to say something bigger to someone else.

tpe: You have a platform to share your faith and talk about God to thousands. But how do you stay active for Christ in your everyday life?

NORDEMAN: Everybody is just so different. I’m a relationship person. The easiest way for me to allow people to see Christ in my life is to create a relationship with them first so I have a jumping-off point. I’ve never been someone who feels like I have the gift or ability to articulate my faith so I could walk up to a stranger on a subway and lay out the basics. Praise God for the people who are gifted like that, because I know people come to Christ that way every day.

tpe: Is there one song that you’ve written that has had the most impact on your life?

NORDEMAN: A life song for me has been “River God.” It was the last song on my first album. It’s a simple ballad about a stone that sits in the river and over time has to endure the different currents, the frigid waters, and all the things that come with being in the bed of a river.

My heart as a person, not just as an artist, is to have the wisdom to just stay in the river, to welcome the different circumstances that in the end are trying to smooth out who I am.

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