Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Nichole Nordeman - Leaning Into the Mystery

  • Updated Feb 01, 2002
Nichole Nordeman - Leaning Into the Mystery

Help me believe / 'Cause I don't want to miss any miracles / Maybe I'd see / Much better by closing my eyes / And I would shed this grownup skin I'm in / To touch an angel's wing / And I would be free / Help me believe

Child-like words from a very grown-up young woman.

These are the thoughts and images portrayed in the newly-released, sophomore project by {{Nichole Nordeman}} entitled ==This Mystery==. A welcome continuation of where Nichole's debut album, ==Wide Eyed==, left off, the new project explores the need to sometimes acknowledge God's constant presence with nothing more than a child-like faith.

"My first record was so much about my journey, about me - my struggles, my doubts and my questions," Nichole shares. "I was really in a place of analysis, sort of intellectualizing my faith and really asking some tough questions. Without meaning to be, this new record was almost a reaction to that. If that first record was about me, then this record is really about letting go of me. It's realizing that faith is not necessarily all about rational reasoning and logic. It's recognizing that there are questions I will always have that may never have answers."

It was her first album that garnered this piano-based singer/songwriter two Dove Award nominations for New Artist of the Year in 1999, and Female Vocalist of the Year in 2000. Her life quickly became a whirlwind of concert cities on a map as Nichole toured extensively with fellow artists {{Avalon}} and {{Anointed}}. She performed more than 90 concerts on that tour, while in the midst of trying to prepare for her latest album. It was a challenge she had not yet had to face as an artist.

"I had to be very creative about finding time to write songs for a new album," Nichole says. "It was worlds away from what it was like to write for the first project. When I was on the road, I had to be really creative about finding ways to be alone. Sometimes that meant, if we were playing at a church, going over to the church a couple of hours early and finding an empty choir room to lock myself up in with a piano. At first, it was just miserable. I thought, 'I cannot possibly try to schedule inspiration for two hours on Tuesday.' It took a while to get used to, but sometimes you have to just make those sacrifices and be creative. I did a lot of praying and a lot of reading on the road."
This Mystery tracks This Mystery reviewNichole's biowide eyed

And it was one book in particular Nichole says became the primary inspiration for the themes represented on ==This Mystery==. The pages of Walking On Water, by noted children's author Madeleine L'Engle (A Wrinkle In Time) struck a chord with Nichole, touching on ideas that had already been swimming around in her head.

"The thought of what it means to return to having the faith of a child," Nichole explains. "I had already been chewing on some of those thoughts, and her book just pushed me right out of the nest into having to really let go of some things and to just look at the mystery of God. So much of what Madeleine is wonderful at - in terms of writing for kids - is still woven into this book. She just applies it to grownups, to grownup religion and grownup faith. She doesn't offer any simple answers, by any means, but she speaks about what it means to be an artist, and what it means to be a Christian artist.

"Her answer to that, very simply, is that we are required to be excellent and make excellent art. God desires excellence from us, and if at some point our goal is to honor God with our art, then it is intrinsically Christian art. How many times it says 'Jesus,' or whether it's a picture of the crucifixion doesn't make it Christian. There have certainly been horribly crafted songs that say 'Jesus' a lot, and I don't know if they're honoring to God at all. That's what drew me in to this book. I really appreciated that response."

Some of that artistic crafting has certainly spilled off the pages of Ms. L'Engle's book and into the musical structure of the songs Nichole has penned for ==This Mystery==. While still maintaining a strong piano base, the project moves in a more musically aggressive direction than ==Wide Eyed==. Under the direction of producer Mark Hammond, Nichole gracefully bounces back and forth between the uptempo "Tremble," "Lookin' At You (Lookin' At Me)," and "As," to the reverent "Small Enough," with {{Fernando Ortega}} and the moving "Every Season."

"The decision to ask Fernando to sing on the album was about nothing other than that he's my favorite voice in Christian music," says Nichole. "I really just wanted him to sing on that song. It was okay by itself, but there's just something really magical that happens when he sings. There's a very real sense of intimacy and vulnerability, and for all of the songs for that to be there - it needed to be 'Small Enough.' When I finally heard his recorded part of the song, it was absolutely everything I thought it would be."

In the midst of tour dates (she takes off again in the summer with {{Clay Crosse}}, and then in the fall with {{Caedmon's Call}}), promoting a new album, and trying to maintain some sort of stability in her life, Nichole says the past two years have truly been a learning experience in many ways.

"I've learned how wonderful it is to finally be doing what you're supposed to be doing. There's so much freedom resting in the fact that I'm doing what God has called me to do. When someone comes up and tells me something like, 'Gosh, I want you to know that I really appreciate that line in that song. I really didn't think that anybody else was asking that question and still calling themselves a Christian.' It's when you make that connection and feel like people are taking something away besides a nice evening of entertainment - that's when I know I am doing what I'm supposed to be doing. Despite its bumps in the road, of which I'm sure there will be many more, God is honoring this on some very subtle level."