Bebo Norman on Ministry, Music and being Single
- Matthew Turner Music and Entertainment Editor
- 2001 2 May
By Justin Holton
Bebo Norman has hit a nerve with Generation X. His fascinating stories during his concerts, his simple approach while performing and his personal opinions on life have intrigued small cult followings for years. It was not until the release of his first record company project last year that introduced him and his ideas to the masses. He has become one of the most saught after singer/songwriters to come onto the Christian music scene in years. His new album Big Blue Sky hits stores on May 15th. Crosswalk.com's Justin Holton had a chance to chat with Bebo about his recent tour, ministry and his take on being single.
J Man: How's the "Back Forty Tour" (with Jennifer Knapp) going?
Bebo: It's going really, really well. We're havin' a blast. The shows are great. And everybody on the tour gets along real well.
J Man: So, when did you start doing music?
Bebo: Actually, I started playing guitar when I was about 17, started writing songs around the same time. I graduated from college and started doing music in 1996 really. Did an independent CD, and then I did music for a living individually for about three years. I really wasn't into the label thing, until the right deal came along.
J Man: So, do you like being independent versus label?
Bebo: Not really, I mean I loved being independent, it was really, really cool. Then everything sorta worked itself out to where it was a natural progression. I think things had gone very well independently, but it got to the point to where I was too busy. Managing, booking, filling all my orders, trying to keep up with this other stuff myself. And to be honest with you, I'm terrible at all that junk. So it kinda progressed to the label. Actually, I really love the label deal I've got.
J Man: Do you get to minister to your fans on a personal level the same as when you were out on your own?
Bebo: Sometimes I think there is too much of a focus on, or maybe a different perspective, put on the show itself. Some people put more focus on the show and performance. I think the show is great, and there's no question that God uses performing, and uses it to do whatever He wants to do. Ministry to me, the ministry I want to focus on, is more relational. Being able to talk to someone after shows. Sometimes it gets a little harder, it would be entirely impossible in the time we have after the show to talk to everybody. But, you still get to keep up on the relational end, get to talk to people, get the feel of where they are. I think a lot happens while you're talking to a person and they realize that you're a person that screws up as much as they do, but you still get up on stage and sing.
J Man: Did you expect the success your first album had?
Bebo: No, I really didn't, actually. I didn't know what to expect. I knew we made a CD that I was pretty happy with, but I really had no idea what would happen. Because I was independent for those years, for lack of a better term, there was a good fan base. 'Cause I was traveling, playing small little clubs, colleges and doing Young Life camps, for a couple years. And those people ended up being extremely loyal.
J Man: Where does the inspiration for your lyrics come from?
Bebo: Mostly from everyday life. A lot of people, I think, just get an idea for a song ... You know, like catch phrases and things, and I think there's a real skill to writing a song that way. But mine, there may be catch phrases involved, but it comes from more life experiences. Because they tend to be somewhat emotional, even if they are a lighthearted song, they still have to have some value emotionally to me. So for them to have value to me personally, they have to come from personal experiences.
J Man: So, who inspires you musically?
Bebo: I didn't really grow up listening to Christian music at all. I really haven't had a lot of experience listening to other Christian artists. A lot of the songwriters that have influenced me the most are a lot of folk songwriters. Like Jonatha Brooke, David Wilcox, those are the first people I enjoyed and wanted to create a song like they were creating a song. But in the last few years, musically I love a lot of pop stuff. Counting Crows ... David Grey is another I really like, even [others] like Sarah McLachlan ... and others that write in that songwriter style.
J Man: What do you want people to perceive about you through the new album, Big Blue Sky?
Bebo: I hope it's a little more accessible, I tend to get a little self-absorbed as a songwriter. It's usually from a singer-songwriter feel, my feelings, my emotions. What I was hoping to do when writing songs for this record was for it to be inspired by my thoughts and emotions, but try to make it a little more accessible to people. It's due to the fact that other people will be relating to these songs as well. In general, I think the album's more pop and a little bit lighter. It's just the whole gist of the record, even with the title, is that regardless of our circumstances, God keeps reminding me He's very, very big, and that's actually a good thing.
J Man: The perspective of Perhaps She'll Wait For Me is very unique. What's your take on singleness and dating?
Bebo: Right now, I'm totally glad I'm single. I'm not in a position where I feel a real urgency. Some people may say, "I'm 27, not married, I need to get on with my life ..." and blah, blah, blah. I'm really comfortable being single. I'm sure there are times in my life where I struggle with loneliness, or really wanting the companionship. But, at the same time, I don't have the desire to force anything to happen. My perspective on the whole dating thing is that I had a lot of unhealthy relationships when I was younger. And I decided a while ago that if a relationship came along with the potential to become something permanent, then I'll pursue friendship, and feel the thing out, and pursue the relationship. So, that's my take on it. If the day comes where it knocks me over, then I'll pursue a dating relationship and ultimately marriage. I don't feel a lot of pressure to do the whole married thing. But, I do think down the road it is something I will desire to pursue. On one hand, it would be great, and on the other hand, I don't know how it would fit in the way my life's going right now.
J Man: So, what's the deal about this fascination with kayaking and waterfalls?
Bebo: (Laughs) It's a huge release. It's unbelievable.
J Man: Does it help you write?
Bebo: I don't know if it helps me write. I've always kinda been an outdoor freak a little bit. It's hard when I'm on tour to take a backpack and do it for four or five days. But, I fell in love this past year with kayaking. I just went yesterday, cause we're in Boulder [Colorado]. Honestly, it's an escape. I don't think of anything else, I love it! You can go up to a river, and in an hour or two feel like you're going nowhere. My road manager taught me how to kayak. He travels with me all the time, so any day we have off we find a river and float downstream. There's nothing like it.
Look for Bebo Norman in chat on Tuesday May 8th at 9:00pm EST. Click here for more information.