BWW Interviews: Award-Winning Singer/Songwriter Nichole Nordeman Talks THE STORY TOUR, Playing Patriot Center, 12/10
Nichole Nordeman is an author, recording artist and songwriter with numerous number-one and top ten singles to her credit and cumulative CD sales of over one million. A two-time Gospel Music Association winner for Female Vocalist of the Year, she has won a total of nine Dove Awards, including one recently as the lyricist on the best-selling album, Music Inspired by The Story.
Together with award-winning producer/musical director Bernie Herms who provided the music for The Story, her collection of songs provides insight into the human experience of Biblical characters. The successful album is now the basis for the successful multi-year The Story tour featuring some top names on the Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) scene - including Nordeman herself, very, very recent Grammy Award nominee Natalie Grant, the ever popular Casting Crowns and Steven Curtis Chapman, Matthew West, Selah, and Rawsrvnt. These artists are accompanied by a full orchestra, spectacular multimedia elements, and much more giving way to a unique event that allows the unparalleled stories to unfold and be experienced anew through music and more.
Local appreciators of theatre and music can experience this impressive event on Tuesday, December 10 at the Patriot Center on George Mason University's campus in Fairfax, VA at 7 PM. Tickets can be purchased online or at the venue.
In advance of what promises to be an exciting night of music suitable for the whole family, the musically gifted Nichole Nordeman was gracious enough to answer a few questions from BroadwayWorld DC about how she became involved in the project, what inspires her, how she approaches her songwriting craft and much more.
As a longtime fan of Nichole's intelligent and thought-provoking music and lyrics since she burst onto the music scene while I was in college, I look forward to seeing and hearing firsthand what she - as well as the other artists - bring to the evening. Look for a review of the concert later this week.
Jennifer Perry (JP): How did your involvement in The Story tour come about and what do you want audiences to take away from the experience?
Nichole Nordeman (NN): My involvement on the tour was an extension of my involvement as the lyricist on the original project. After spending over a year writing these songs, it was a thrill to hear a virtual "who's who" cast of Christian artists sign on to record them. The small team of people who gave birth to the idea of the musical recording of The Story, always envisioned a live performance as well and experiencing the power and passion of these same songs on a stage, along with the thoughtful narration and video component is even more compelling. And so humbling.
My hope is that the audience might consider these Biblical characters differently then they have in the past. On the page, it is our tendency to treat them as heroes and icons and less like the deeply flawed and fragile humans they were. Like us.
Our vision was always that these songs would cast them in that light...making Scripture seem more relevant and finding some connective tissue from these ancient lives and our own.
JP: It's a bit of a rarity to see so many CCM artists at work on a single event. How does this experience differ from what you usually have/had on your own concert tours which may not have involved so many creatives at work and as many theatrical elements?
NN: It is, indeed, a rarity for so many CCM artists to collaborate on a project of this size and scope. It was astonishing to me that nearly every artist on our 'dream list' agreed to sing on the project. Given the demanding tour schedule of so many of these artists, not to mention the demands of the holiday season, it's pretty amazing that so many of these gifted performers would commit to this tour as well. This is certainly not a traditional tour with a headliner and supporting act. All the artists are seen multiple times throughout the evening, portraying the roles of various characters in The Story.
JP: Much to my excitement, your impressive and well-honed songwriting skills are on display in the songs presented as part of this production. What was the process involved in creating the songs and how (if at all) did it differ from the process you employ to write other songs - whether for yourself or other artists - which aren't necessarily geared to tell an overall, cohesive story?
NN: Prior to writing the songs performed on The Story tour, my writing experience was, like many singer/songwriters, centered around my own life experience. Typically, after a season of reflection and writing, the end result for me is a collection of songs on a project that represent a certain season in my life, artistically and spiritually.
Writing for The Story was a vastly different experience...in some ways less personal, and in some surprising ways, more. There seems to be a renewed interest in The Bible across our current cultural landscape, for reasons I can only assume are as varied as the readers themselves. For me, the challenging and endearing aspect of this charge as a songwriter, was not to simply retell the events of a certain familiar Biblical narrative (What were the events or highlights and lowlights of the life King David?), but rather to seek to humanize the icons themselves (What must his regrets have been? How did he side step the fear and intimidation of shepherd boy to fully inhabit the role of King?). Less about what these beloved and often revered characters actually did and more about how they felt.
The year-long writing process was both rewarding and intimidating throughout. As a Christian, I wanted to honor these sacred texts and the lives of the characters that have shaped the stories of my faith. But as a writer, it was very important to me that they have an authentic and human voice. There was tension at times, committing to both paths.
JP: What inspires you to share your music - whether on this tour or more broadly - and how would you define the kind of music you make both in terms of the sound and purpose?
NN: Music is such a powerful medium. Often times it creates the emotional and spiritual opportunity for us to journey where the written or spoken word can not take us. There is a certain amount of grace that music extends to our souls - permission to feel and examine interior thoughts and emotions that we have trouble accessing without it. Spiritually speaking, I believe that music is one of God's most extravagant gifts. It allows us to reflect the image and likeness of our Creator. Even in songs of deep sorrow or longing, we are image bearers of God. I've always hoped the music I write and sing would do this, even in some small way. That the listener would hear, if nothing else, a genuine attempt to shine a light on the goodness of God.
JP: You have a long-established career in the music industry, whether as a singer, songwriter, or both. How did your involvement in the music industry come about and what are your expectations for the future? What's next for you?
NN: Music was a second language in our home. My earliest memories are of my mom at the piano. Music was a constant backdrop for our lives. I didn't exactly dream of a career or recognition as an artist, but in high school, I was a member of a singing ensemble called Witness, that really laid the groundwork for what would eventually feel like a "calling" on my life, musically. I dabbled in songwriting throughout college and began to seriously consider it as a career path several years later, when I won a songwriting competition sponsored by the Gospel Music Association. That was 15 years ago, and I still pinch myself that I get to do what I love.
Photo: Courtesy of Southside Entertainment