Between the Liner Notes
Nichole Nordeman's Legacy
By Jennifer E. Jones
I cannot think of another artist whose music I’ve personally connected to more than Nichole Nordeman. From the first time I heard “To Know You”, a bonus track on WoW 1999, I had to know -- who was this woman who wasn’t afraid to say she loved a God whom she didn’t always understand? Six albums later, I finally got my chance to find out.
The singer/songwriter calls CBNmusic’s Virginia Beach office from her home in Texas and sounds as though she is across the kitchen table from me with a cup of coffee and her feet curled up in a chair. I feel like I can ask her anything. I had to know it all, so I start from the very beginning.
“My memory [of my first concert] was that it was pretty terrifying, because my history had been in the church,” she says. “I had grown up singing and playing the piano being a part of -- not leading -- the music ministry at my home church for so many years... I was just so lacking experience as a performer. It was challenging, and ever since then, I’ve been working on it. Performing is not something that comes naturally to me at all.”
In spite of her longevity in a tough industry, Nordeman’s introduction to music as a career happened faster than most think. She moved to Los Angeles after her college graduation. While waiting tables and playing worship in a church band, a friend presented her with the opportunity of a lifetime.
“A friend of mine sent me a brochure for a GMA [Gospel Music Association]-sponsored writing competition. I didn’t know who GMA was. I wasn’t listening to Christian music. I remember thinking, ‘What if this is some cheesy talent show in the basement of some church?’”
Nordeman figured she had nothing to lose and entered one of her songs into the contest. She recalls, “It turned out to be a really big deal. It really was over-night. It’s amazing how God’s hand moves in all those little things that, adding up together, end up being where you are now.”
Now for Nordeman is a position few Christian female artists can say they’ve experienced. Recollection released in March of 2007, collecting hit songs from all her previous albums and also including two new songs, "Sunrise" and "Finally Free". She’s won nine Dove awards and recently wrote CCM Magazine’s cover story for GMA Week (the biggest issue of the year). Ever the perennial Christian "It" girl, she has grown up spiritually in the ears of her listeners -- from her early angst-ridden Wide Eyed to the sweet surrender of Woven & Spun. Yet with so many songs, one stands out in her mind as being a mass hit.
“If there was one song that has been more universally embraced, it probably is ‘Legacy’,” she explains. “I’ve had lots of people share with me how that song has helped them make a major life decision, leaving a dead-end job and doing something that’s going to have some eternal value. Lots of stories about how the song has been used at memorial services. It’s so humbling. It surprises me when I hear those kinds of stories, because when I was writing the song in my basement on my little keyboard, I had no way of knowing that God would use it to that extent.”
“Best of” or greatest hits albums such as Recollection have often signified the ending or at least the slowing down of one’s career. So is it true that Nordeman will hang up her singing hat in exchange for motherhood and a calmer way of life?
She replied, “It’s not true today, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t wrestled with that question – not as it relates to the ‘best of’ [album], just the juggling act that is required for any working mom. Trying to keep all the balls in the air; trying to keep my priorities right; trying to make sure I’m serving my family first and they’re not getting what’s left of me after a tour... I’m open to just about anything, and if that means that I need to be responding to God’s calling to step back or step away or step out for a little while, [then] I have to be open to that possibility.”
Nordeman says she plans on making a new album in the fall. With no signs of quitting now, she sits pretty with a legacy of music behind her and a bright future ahead.
When asked what she hopes to be remembered for when the final curtain falls, she paused… then said, “It’s just as simple as it was when I started, which is just wanting people to feel permission to be honest about their lives. Tell the truth, the good, bad and the ugly, and hope that somebody out there somewhere is listening to it and feeling a sense of kinship. Then in the middle of all that, that God would bring Himself glory in those moments when we’re broken and honest with each other. At least if Scripture is how I read it, that’s where His strength is perfected.”
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