The Honest Side of Bebo Norman
- Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Bebo Norman talks about his new label, his new perspective and his new song about Britney Spears …
If I told you Bebo Norman is a dishonest songwriter, you’d laugh me out of the room. The singer/songwriter has long been known for his honest, poignant lyrical gems of life, love and faith. So to think anything else would seem, well, dishonest.
Yet, that’s exactly how Bebo describes his past songwriting in our interview about his new, self-titled album. After being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, the Georgia native says he’s now more open and vulnerable than ever, and he’s ready to write about anything … including Britney Spears.
CMC: How has the new start with a new label, a new child and some time away affected your songwriting?
Bebo Norman: I think it's really affected it fairly tremendously. The last few years for me have been pretty transforming in a lot of ways. It's kind of strange because I just got married five years ago, and my whole last record was all about peace and living in that and relishing that. That was really happening there, and still is in some ways, but therein lies the irony of it. Right in the middle of this peaceful season is when I realized I was dealing with anxiety—which I didn't know it was that at the time—but it's been clinically diagnosed now. So I was dealing with whether or not I wanted to keep doing music at all, since that's where the struggle or the anxiety was coming from—even though I'd been doing this thing for such a long time.
So that laid the framework for this context of stepping back and saying, “I don't know if I have the energy to do this anymore.” So there was this strange battle, and all that to say, with that as the foundation, signing this new record deal and having a baby, it's been so interesting how it's all shifted my perspective. The realization is that while I love playing music, it can't be where my identity is. It can't be where I draw my life from. I have to draw that from relationships and the context of community, from my wife and my son. It's been a whole rearrangement of things in a profound way. So that's completely affected how I write songs because I've always written them out of my own life.
CMC: When you realize that it's not all about the music, how does that affect the music?
Bebo: I think it freed me up a little bit. I've always written out of my life, so I don't know how to do it otherwise. But it allowed me to step into it knowing that I wasn't going to draw my life from the response to this group of songs. It allowed me to make a record and then let it go. It was more of an internal struggle than an external struggle.
CMC: Internal struggle?
Bebo: Well, whether I admitted it or not, for years I was drawing my identity from how people responded to my music. I always talk about writing honest songs, and I think I do, but in terms of how they are received, it was an intense struggle for identity. I think this battle with anxiety has put me in the right place. I questioned whether I was supposed to do this, and I've learned that I am supposed to, but it can't be about how people like me or how they respond anymore. So now the internal part is that I'm beginning to be in a place where I can say that I'm OK with whatever the response is. This allows me to write songs that might be a little more pointed at culture that I might not have written before. I can take risks with this record that I couldn't in the past.
CMC: Is that weird to be known for being an honest songwriter, and, yet, you're saying you're just now finding the ability to be completely honest?
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