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CHRISTIAN MUSIC

Nicole C. Mullen is Everyday People

Compiled by Jennifer E. Jones
CBN.com Associate Producer

CBN.comNicole C. Mullen is not shy about her accomplishments. After writing "Redeemer," she and her husband became an unstoppable pop-producing duo in the CCM industry. Numerous nominations and six Dove awards later, Mullen releases her fourth studio album, Everyday People.

"I am everyday people when it comes down to it," she says thoughtfully. "We all get to do different things, but when we take everything else off -- we take off the titles, job descriptions, the salaries -- we're all everyday people that hurt, that bleed, that cry, regardless of the skin color."

Mullen is not an everyday talent. Everyday People showcases the depth and flexibility of her abilities. She playfully covers the Sly & The Family Stone pop classic as her title track. She's soft and reassuring above the Memphis soul guitar licks in "I Am," sassy in the hip-hop melodies and harmonies of "This This," and slyly conversational in "Deity."

Her songs demonstrate a variety of influences, with "It's About Us" using ragged pop-rock guitar riffs, "Gon' Be Free" capturing tribal rhythms, and "Every Nation" mixing a disco backbeat with hick harmonica, hillbilly banjo, and a soul-based brass section.

Mullen is gifted at incorporating disparate ideas with a drive for excellence. Still, she plays down any hint that her talents make her special.

"Sometimes we think we are what we do," she explains. "We are not. I am not a singer. I sing -- that is what I do. But I am Nicole: the mother, the wife, the friend, the daughter, the mentor, the mentee. That's who I am."

Indeed, Mullen makes a point of prioritizing her family and her home life over her career. She routinely tours only Thursday through Saturday to maximize her time at home with her three children during the school week. Her family often hits the road with her and at times, the children have been known to join her on stage mid-concert. Her husband, David Mullen, co-produces her albums, and she adds her vocal tracks at a home studio in the coziest of circumstances.

"When I'm doing a scratch vocal, sometimes my one-year-old son is sitting right on my lap," she says. "It's real. It's like, 'This is my life, you know. This is everyday living.'"

In many ways, music has been everyday living since the very beginning. From the age of two, Nicole had a microphone in her hand, singing with several different family groups in the Cincinnati area. She began writing songs at age 12, partially as a means of working out some of her own very typical feelings of inadequacy as a teenager.

A high school guidance counselor, however, told her that singers don't usually make enough to earn a living and that Nicole needed to find another line of work as an adult. "OK," she responded, "I guess I want to be a lawyer."

The counselor helped her shadow an attorney for a week. It was an important step in establishing Nicole's vocational steps though not in the manner that her advisor had planned.

"At the end of the week," Mullen remembers, "the attorney said, 'So, kid, what do you really want to be?' I guess he figured I wouldn't be any good as a lawyer. I said I wanted to sing and he knew I was really passionate about it so he said, 'This is not the life that you really want. Go home and sing.'"

She's been doing that ever since. A man at her church gave her work as a $6-an-hour background singer at his recording studio and helped her land her first recording contract with a now-defunct independent label.

During her tenure with the label, she was recommended to work with David Mullen on a recording project. He was impressed by her abilities, enough so that he helped her secure a job as a background singer for Amy Grant during the 1991 Baby, Baby Tour. Even when her label went under, Mullen was still able to work touring as a supporting musician for such acts as Michael W. Smith and the Newsboys.

Meanwhile, the working friendship with David became something more. They married three years after they met, adopted one child, had two more, and have two dogs and a pack of cats at their home in rural Franklin, Tennessee.

Her songwriting helped Nicole re-build her recording career. Jaci Velasquez, in particular, brought Nicole her first Dove Award, as the songwriter of "On My Knees," and it helped rekindle interest in her as a recording artist. Later, she signed with Word Records.

Mullen does not take her success for granted. She views it not as a vehicle for self-glorification but as a chance to connect with everyday people from other walks of life.

In fact, the songs on Everyday People are doggedly upbeat, even when the inspiration for the material comes from difficult situations. "Bye Bye Brianna" was inspired by a blind girl who drowned but its parting sorrow is couched in a funky tribute. "Dancin' In The Rain" responds to the death of a friend's spouse with a reminder that sunny days are yet ahead. And "Valorie" keys off the story of a fellow church member who maintained strength in the face of poverty, welfare, and a handicapped child.

"I sing to a hurting audience," Mullen suggests, "because I live in a hurting world so I feel like it's part of my job to present hope.

"My goal in life is to encourage those that are out there listening. How can I make the next four minutes of this song worth more than just four minutes? How can I leave somebody with hope? That's my goal and if I accomplish that then it's worth more than a Grammy, worth more than a Dove, worth more than any of them."

Mullen has put her words into action. She's active with International Needs Network Ghana, working to free Trokosi slaves.

"We in America are outraged at the thought of slavery in our country, how it existed back in the day, but now in our generation we have a chance to free other slaves," Nicole says.

"International Needs Network Ghana is giving these slaves freedom. They're teaching them new trades, they're teaching them how to sew, how to do their hair, how to economically provide for themselves and their families. They're putting them through school, working them back into society. Some of these women are in their 50s, and they've not known anything but slavery for all their lives."

Nicole C. Mullen's passion for reaching out guides her work and her life. Whether she's tending to her own children, empathizing with a friend in emotional upheaval, or working on behalf of the afflicted on the other side of the world, her stage is only a platform to communicate her relentless message of hope.

"My life is probably a lot more like yours than you think," she suggests. "The same struggles that you may have, I have sometimes, and the same joys that you experience, I can experience them, too. At the same time, I am allowed to do extraordinary things in my career. But that's what I do, not who I am. I am everyday people."

Order your copy of Everyday People today.

Check out Nicole's Web site.

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