Few artists in any genre of music possess a more compelling voice than Nicol Sponberg. Warm and rich with a husky texture that imbues any lyric with an extra measure of emotional intensity, Nicol has always been a “singer’s singer” who has distinguished herself both as a solo artist and as a founding member of the award-winning trio Selah.
Truly great artists, however, are more than great voices. They have a way of incorporating life’s experience into their work in a way that profoundly impacts others. As she heads into the next phase of her life and career, Nicol is drawing from a rich palette of experience. The singer-songwriter-wife added another hyphenate last year when she became a mother to daughter Summer. It was a busy year that also saw Nicol climb the mainstream AC charts with the hit “Crazy In Love.”
“It’s the most amazing thing because I was just being a mom, that’s what I was focusing on and then ‘Crazy In Love’ hit mainstream radio,” says Nicol. “We would hear about it going up the charts and I couldn’t have been more shocked, because usually you break your back to go out and do the promo and radio tour, and I wasn’t doing any of that.”
“It’s just a fun song, the kind you roll down the windows and play really loud in your car,” she says. “I think everybody can relate to that feeling when you are just so nuts about the person you love. Greg and I met in February of 2003 and got married nine-and-a-half weeks later. So we had this whirlwind courtship. It was the most intense and exciting time in my life. The song captures that feeling.”
In the music industry, where hit songs are usually carefully massaged up the charts by promotion people, it’s nice to see that a hit can still happen organically. There are some songs that rise on their own merit and “Crazy In Love” was one of those records. To Nicol, the chart success was especially meaningful. “It was so wonderful because it felt like it was a confirmation that things were going in the right direction,” she says of leaving Selah to focus on a ministry with her husband. “It felt like we’d taken the right step as a family and God was taking care of this other stuff.”
“Crazy In Love” was culled from Nicol’s 2004 Curb Records album Resurrection, and in light of the single’s reception, Curb has reissued this gem. In addition to the powerful title tune and such engaging songs as “Jacob’s Well” and “The Spirit in Me,” the re-released project features two new bonus tracks—an upbeat remix of “Resurrection” and the lovely piano/vocal “Love Will Bring You Home.”
“Chris Eaton is an amazing songwriter and he wrote it with Brian White and Don Poythress,” Nicol says of “Love Will Bring You Home.” “When you hear a song as just piano and vocal, and it stands on its own, that’s a pretty good song. It just touched me. That song reminded me of how when you feel God come over you with His love, that’s what brings you home; that’s what brings you back to the Truth.”
Nicol co-wrote the title track after running into an old friend. “She was an amazing Christian girl and really a mentor to me during college,” says Nicol. “I saw her 10 years after school at the wedding of a friend and you wouldn’t have even recognized her; there was an edge to her. She was distraught because things had happened in her life that were totally out of her control. Some of her friends asked, ‘Why can’t you be cheerful?’ She said, ‘I can’t.’
“She was at a point where she was devastated; she was in the place where you can’t make yourself feel joy. God has to come and resurrect you because you have nothing left to give. That’s what was going through my mind when I was co-writing the lyrics, just being in that place of emotional lifelessness, where you know you have hope only because of God. He can resurrect it.”
Resurrection is filled with songs that reverberate with life experience—the highs and lows, the times of confidence and the quaking moments of doubt. Soothing tracks such as “Anything And Everything” remind listeners where to turn in times of turmoil. “It’s got kind of a relaxed groove,” says Nicol, “But the lyric makes me think of when you are in a time of transition. You have your choice to run away or run to God and find out He is anything and everything.”
For Nicol, God has always been her compass. Growing up in Africa in a missionary family, she saw God’s grace and provision early in life. After moving to Nashville to pursue a career in music, she landed a record deal in what might seem like a music business cliché. She was waiting tables at a popular Music City restaurant frequented by Mike Curb and his family. She got to know the music mogul and his daughters as good customers, not knowing what he did for a living. Someone tipped cousin Benson Curb to the fact that their favorite waitress was an aspiring singer. He loved Nicol’s tape and soon after, she was shocked to get a call from Mike offering her a deal.
Since then she’s released two acclaimed solo projects and spent eight years performing with her brother Todd Smith and Allan Hall as Selah. Marriage and motherhood provided a transition back to solo status, and these days Nicol is reveling in her new direction. “Being a mom is the most important thing,” she says. “You see life through a different lens.”
In addition to performing select dates this summer, Nicol is also working on her next project, a worship album. “There’s nothing wrong with singing pop songs or a love song and I’ll continue to do that, too,” she says, “but the main focus is going to be having ministry together with my husband.”
Musically, she’s looking forward to sharing some of her favorite worship songs on the next record. “This worship record means a lot me,” she says. “After I left the group I’d been with for eight years and got married to someone I’d known for nine-and-a-half weeks, that was a huge transition. Sometimes it felt like I was going to sit in a chair and the legs were missing. These songs meant so much to me. They were like a lifeline for me during that time. So I hope in the future to be able to continue to sing songs that will bring comfort to people who are going through times of uncertainty or distress.”
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