It's around noon in Atlanta, but Nicole C. Mullen's still feeling drowsy. "I'm sleepy, but I'm good," she says over the phone, feeling the effects of working late nights to mix "Everyday People," her third studio album for Word Records. "We've been working on it for the past six months ... nine ... a year, maybe more – who knows? You lose track of time after a while. But it's all good."

The album released Sept. 14. But, as Mullen chats away, it's mid-July; and she's fighting the battles that go with giving birth to a new recording: nailing down songs and lyrics, handling publicity, missing sleep. (Later in the month, she'll dispatch an e-mail to this writer, sending it at 1 a.m.) To say there's extra interest in this album is like saying fish think water's an "OK" place to live. Mullen put out a Christmas album in 2002 and a live CD/DVD in 2003, but "Everyday People" is her first all-new studio recording since 2001's "Talk About It"– an album that sold more than 220,000 copies, according to SoundScan. High-profile producers are onboard, it's being mixed at the Atlanta studio owned by platinum rappers OutKast, and Word Records is planning to give it an extra push, possibly into the general market.

And that's not all that's keeping Mullen busy. Life at home has taken on new complexity. Son Josiah, the third child for Mullen and her husband,  artist and producer David Mullen (They also have a daughter, Jasmine, 10, and another son, Max, 7.) – turned 1 in February.

A lot's happening. And it is, she says, "all good." Spend any length of time talking to her, and you'll hear that phrase pop up often: "It's all good." She drops it into conversation with the same smooth, supple voice that fueled hits "Redeemer" and "Call on Jesus." And with six Dove Awards, a GRAMMY nomination, a loyal fan base and a growing family behind her, there's every reason to believe life is good for this singer/songwriter.

But the more Nicole talks, the more it becomes clear: What's good isn't so much the success. What's good is the process of working through the challenges along the way – and playing a part in helping others do the same.

"Often, when I'm writing, the people I'm seeing in my head are the people I've seen at my concerts – people who have e-mailed me or sent me letters afterward," she says. "And it definitely lets me know that I'm singing for a hurting audience – vulnerable people who are crying out to God, people who are going through circumstances, people who are 'everyday.' These are the people I see; these are the voices I hear when I'm putting pen to the paper."

If there's a story that reveals Nicole's heart for people-and the heart of "Everyday People" – it is the story of Brianna Nelson. She met the girl, the subject of her new song "Brianna," in 2002. "One of my favorite things after I sing is to go out and meet the people, hug their necks and ask, 'What's your name, and what do you want to be when you grow up?' I love that; it's my favorite part of the night. And I remember somebody telling me that there was a little girl who wanted to meet me, and she was blind," Nicole says. "And my whole thing is, 'OK, the world is going to stop.' If you've come and you're in a wheelchair or you're deaf or blind or if you look like you need a little extra love, the world's going to stop for you when you're around me."

So, Nicole walked across the lawn with her own daughter, Jasmine, and struck up a conversation. "She was with her mom, and we were talking about how cute she looked," Nicole recalls. "I said, 'Girl, your mom has your hair looking good; your clothes are stylin',' and she was laughing." Nicole asked her what she liked to do. Brianna talked about reading and playing and her little sister.