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CBN.com - She was the first African American to win a Dove Award for Song of the Year. Winning three more Doves, she went on to win her first Grammy nomination for Contemporary Gospel Album of the Year. But if you ask singer and songwriter Nicole C. Mullen what really matters to her, you won't hear anything about her many accomplishments.
Scott Ross talked with Nicole recently about her life, her latest album, and the inspiration behind her worship.
SCOTT ROSS: In the world of music, there are singers and then there are SINGERS. With the distinctive sound and songwriting ability that is all her own, Nicole C. Mullen is contemporary Christian music's voice of passion. Her award-winning music transcends color and culture. She writes and performs out of the depths of her spirit and the brokenness of her soul.
This wife and mother of two may be ordinary, as she muses in her lyrics, but when she opens her mouth to sing, there is something extraordinary about Nicole Mullen.
NICOLE C. MULLEN: I have been singing since I was 2. Both my grandparents are Pentecostal preachers, so I can't get away from it. Every Sunday morning, me and my two sisters were up there singing and screaming for the Lord.
ROSS: Did you want to make a career out of that or was that worship?
MULLEN: No, I did. Even as a young girl, I wanted to be a singer. I remember going to the guidance counselor. I think I was in Junior High, and they said, 'So, what do you want to be?' I said, 'I want to be a singer.' The lady said, 'You know that not very many people make a living at that, so let's choose a real career. What do you really want to be?'
ROSS: Nicole's answer was still a singer.
Who is your music talking to? Is it talking to a Christian audience or a non-Christian audience? Is it worship? Can you define it? Do you want to define it?
MULLEN: It is all the above, to be honest, because I normally classify when I see the reflection in the audiences that we have. I have a lot of 14-year-old girls. I have a lot of guys. I have a lot of little bitty kids. I have their parents and their grandparents out there. They all seem to come for different reasons. I have African American. I have white Americans. I have Hispanics. We have everybody from different races, colors, cultures, and speech. They come together and they worship the Lord under the guise of coming to see us do our thing. I see it as a God thing, too. It's 'whosoever will let them come' kind of music. I have a heart for young girls. [Ministering to] young, teenage girls is really my heart. Even from speaking to them, at the same time, the overflow leaks out to a lot of different people, too. Hopefully there is something on there for everybody. I think people have found different songs that they attach themselves to and say, 'This is my favorite.'
ROSS: Do you define it as ministry? Do you define it as entertainment? What is it?
MULLEN: All of the above -- music and entertainment. Hopefully, after you had left, you had been entertained, but if that is all you had gotten from it, I would have failed. If you weren't ministered to, if your heart wasn't touched, then I didn't do my job. I love to be able to get up there and get you laughing and make you forget about everything, and then, right before you know it, hit you with truth so hard that you are up against the wall saying, 'OK, God, what do You want me to do next? I surrender.'
ROSS: Do you write your songs out of life and experience?
MULLEN: I do. Some of it I write out of things I have gone through and some of it from stories I have heard people talk about. Some of it is a conglomeration of a lot of different people.
ROSS: As you listen to the lyrical content of Nicole's music, her passions for life are painted in song. She exudes a joy and confidence in Christ, but her music also takes you to the lonely and desolate places she has journeyed with Him. The marks of her pain are born on each word of her heart-piercing songs. On her self-titled debut album, Nicole recorded 'Redeemer,' which won three Dove Awards for Song, Pop Song, and Songwriter of the Year. The accolades are not the evidence of her artistry. It is the music itself.
MULLEN: When I was writing it, it used to be my comfort song. I would just sing, 'I know my Redeemer lives. I know my Redeemer lives.' I would sit on my bed and play it. It took me a while to get the verses, but I had the chorus right away. I would sing it to remind myself of what was really important, of what I did know. I don't know Einstein's theories. There are certain things that I don't know, that I don't have a clue about, but I do know that He lives, and I am willing to stake my life on it.
ROSS: That's a message for the hour we are living in right now in America.
ROSS: Many people read Bible verses and the little promise boxes, and they are all the positive verses. There is nothing about trials and all of that persecution. But if I understand it correctly, there is something about you and Job and dirt and God and Satan having a conversation about Nicole Mullen. Come on, what is all of that about?
MULLEN: Wow! You know what? There was a time, and I am sure it happens still, where God has conversations about us that we have no clue as to what is going on. Job suffered, and, according to God, he was blameless in all of his ways. He was an upright man. He loved good and shunned evil. Still, he found himself in the midst of disaster. All of his animals were taken away, which meant his wealth was gone. All of a sudden his health was gone. His 10 kids were in a house having a party celebrating and the house fell in on them. All 10 of them are gone. His wife told him to curse God and die. His friends are telling him that he ticked God off. He doesn't know what is going on. He was in the midst of despair, depression, lack of answers. He didn't know how this could happen or would happen to him. But in the midst of it all, he found hope. He found a seed that had been planted in his heart. Out of that, that's where he began to speak. He found something that he did know, and he clung to that and he said, 'I may not know all of this, but I know that my Redeemer lives. And in the Last Days He is going to stand upon the earth. Though my body be destroyed, in my flesh, I am going to see God.' He had hope against hope.
It challenges me and it challenges us to say in the midst of the disaster and despair and in the midst of our lack of answers, we can hope against hope, because our Redeemer lives, and as long as He lives, He will take care of us. The worst thing that can happen to us in this life is death. Death is not so bad because we are going to see Him. We have hope in this life and the next. Job reminds us of that.
When I go out to sing, when I talk to these girls, for the sake of God's people, for the sake of these young girls, these men and women and these kids who are thinking that I have anything of worth to say, they don't need to just hear what I think; they need to hear what God wants to say to them. I am always praying, 'Lord, help me to be invisible, so that You might be seen. Help me to become low, so that You may be exalted. Help me to get out of the way, so that You can show off.'
I am afraid a lot of times that I might get in the way. I want to be excellent in everything I do. I want to strive for it. I want to be as skilled as I can possibly be. But I want to make sure that in the meantime that I don't want try to steal His glory, that I don't try to take it for myself. I wasn't created to handle it, and I'm not worthy of it, so I don't want to perpetrate and act like I am. It's not mine. I don't deserve it. I can't handle it. It is His. It keeps me knowing where I am going and where I come from.
ROSS: I can assure you that you didn't get in the way here.
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