Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Nichole Nordeman

  • 2000 1 Jan
Nichole Nordeman
by Dan MacIntosh for Crosswalk Music

{{Nichole Nordeman}} stands out among today's female vocalists, because she makes music that is both intelligent and beautiful. She applies her pure singing voice to songs that explore deep truths of God, without ever resorting to cliche'. She's both an outstanding singer, and a literate writer-a rare combination, indeed.

Her debut album for Star Song Records is called ==Wide Eyed==, and wide-eyed is an apt way to describe her approach to making music.

Nordeman seems to always be in perpetual motion. She grew up in
Colorado, got some schooling in San Diego, was discovered after moving to Los Angeles, and now calls Nashville home.

When she moved to L.A. after college, one might have assumed that this relocation was for the purpose of entering the secular music business.

Such was not the case, though.

"I just had finished school in Colorado," recalls Nordeman, "and I just wanted to get out of my home town. I knew I wanted to pursue music in some direction, and it was kind of either L.A., Nashville or New York, and L.A. just felt like an obvious choice because of my familiarity with the area." Unlike Nashville and New York, Nordeman had family in the Southern California area.

Although she had her geographical plans down, Nordeman was still a long way from mapping out her career aspirations. "I didn't really have a goal or a vision at that point," admits Nordeman. "It was more like an adventure or exploration. Unfortunately, it was not something I spent a lot of time praying about. I just kind of hopped in the car on a whim."

Nevertheless, it was in Los Angeles that a Star Song representative discovered her. "Somehow through my own agenda, God still had His hand on that decision."

While in Los Angeles, Nordeman spent a good part of her time waiting on tables, instead of waiting backstage to perform. "That is my true spiritual gift--waiting tables," she laughs.

It may not have been glamorous, but such an occupation turned out to be a blessing in disguise. "It's such a great way to make decent money," says Nordeman. "You could still have a schedule that will allow you to write during the day."

She calls her restaurant experiences humbling ones; ones that taught patience, as well as how to be a better servant. She may no longer be a waitress, but she certainly appreciates what waitresses do. She's a good tipper to a fault. "I'm always over tipping," she admits.

Her daytime writing routine eventually produced a song that won Nordeman a Gospel Music Association songwriter competition. "It was a song I had written that didn't end up on the record," recalls Nordeman. "It was a song about the crucifixion of Christ from three different perspectives."

Believe it or not, Nordeman had good reason not to include this award-winning song on her debut album. "It was a song I'd written probably three or four years ago now. I just felt like my writing was growing and stretching in new directions, and I was kind of exploring new musical identities. It sounded like my older writing, instead of the directions I was moving towards."

When asked about her musical influences, Nordeman points to everything from singer/songwriters, to lighthearted ear candy. "I'm just all over the map, in terms of what I like to listen to," she says. "I respect songwriters tremendously, just because I can relate to the craft. People like James Taylor, Carol King and the Billy Joel all have my respect. But I can also listen to bubble-gum pop, and be just as happy."

As any aspiring songwriter will tell you, matching the skill level of the Taylor's and Joel's of the world doesn't happen overnight. When Nordeman recalls the first time she ever sang one of her songs in public, she remembers this with more than a slight degree of embarrassment. "I was in the 7th grade. My girlfriend and I wrote a song about our school's new gymnasium. Gosh darn it, it was pretty moving."

Although this may have been one special gym dedication song, chances are it's also a song that will never be heard by human ears again. "I've totally blocked the song out," admits Nordeman. "Somewhere there's probably some scary blackmail copy running around."

While songs on her album, such as the title cut "Wide Eyed," often reflect the detailed eye of a fiction writer, Nordeman herself is really not much of a fiction reader. "When I sit down to read for pleasure, it tends to be a lot of theological or philosophical writings."

Surprisingly, Nordeman did not major in the arts in college. Instead, she received a degree in psychology, which might help to explain why she prefers these heavier types of writings. "I think I've always been a pretty analytical person," says Nordeman, when asked how her educational background has impacted her art. "I think I spend a lot of time pouring over who I am, and who I'd like to be, and who I wish I wasn't so much of." She continues, "I don't know if that's been affected by studying psychology, or if that is just kind of my make up as a person."

While the study of human behavior was front and center in her thoughts at college, making music was always in the back of her mind. "I could not ignore what my passion was, and that was music. When I graduated, and finally got that piece of paper, I felt like 'Now I've jumped through that hoop. Now I'm free to do what I want to do,' which was pursue music at any cost."

For Nordeman, music was always on the horizon. Ministry also seemed to be a part of that landscape--even though she can't recall ever having been "called" into "the ministry." "Ministry is such a hard word for me to define," admits Nordeman. "I think even when we don't mean it--or even if we know we are doing it--we minister to people. I think it's become such a buzz-word for validating your package, your deal--whatever it is you want to do."

"I don't think I know at what point it became a ministry for me. It was probably the moment I had the courage to sit behind a piano at my church and take what had been so personal-in terms of me and a piano in my bedroom writing a song at two in the morning--and taking that and offering it to the Lord in front of other people."

This same wide-eyed wonder that gave {{Nichole Nordeman}} the courage to get up in front of her church way back when, is still with her today. It's also this courage that allows her to continue offering up her many unique musical gifts. Using her talents and abilities to ask honest questions about life and how faith and God intersect with the real world, Nordeman points people to the truth in a way that challenges and encourages at the same time-a rare combination, indeed.