Born in Colorado Springs, CO; married; husband's name, Errol; children: one. Addresses: Record company--Sparrow Label Group, P.O. Box 5010, Brentwood, TN 37024-5010. Booking--The Breen Agency, 110 30th Ave. N., Ste. 3, Nashville, TN 37203, phone: (615) 777-2227, fax: (615) 321-4656, website: http://www.thebreenagency.com. Website--Nichole Nordeman Official Website: http://www.nicholenordeman.com.
It's a rare occasion when someone actually starts their career by winning a contest--but Nichole Nordeman managed to do it. Nordeman, a Christian singer and songwriter, began her career after winning a songwriting competition in Los Angeles. The competition jump-started her burgeoning career, and Nordeman has been a staple on the Christian music scene ever since.
Nordeman played piano from a young age in her hometown of Colorado Springs. Her talent was considerable and she often played for family and friends in the local church, where her flair for performing brought her many compliments. But she never really enjoyed being in front of an audience. Putting herself out there for people to judge was difficult for the shy girl. When asked by Mark Fisher in 1340 Mag about her youth, she responded on her official website, "I think ... that songwriters are by nature introverted. I wasn't the kid who was tap dancing at age 6 or the one that was born with a microphone in my hand. I was always just kind of to myself." Still, she continued to perform for friends and family throughout her teenage years, and has often remarked that the welcoming atmosphere in the church was what gave her the confidence to perform in front of an audience.
By the time she was a sophomore in college, Nordeman knew that she wanted a musical career. She showed a knack for writing songs, which complemented her singing talents. She would lock herself into the school's music room with a piano and pound out tunes, using the personal time to hone her songwriting skills. Deciding that music was the best way for her to communicate with the world around her, she did what many young musicians might do--she went to Los Angeles.
Nordeman, an impressionable teen with a strong Christian upbringing, struggled in the cut-throat, competitive atmosphere of Los Angles. Like many young hopefuls, she took job as a waitress in order to pay the bills. At night she got out her pencil and paper and wrote songs. Since she could not afford a piano of her own, she sometimes played at a friend's house. Her world was further changed when her parents divorced, but the event prompted Nordeman to evaluate and strengthen her religious faith.
Nordeman's strong love of poetry was evident in her early compositions, as was her newfound commitment to her faith. Many of the lyrics spoke of feeling lost and trying to remember who you are in the midst of a world that doesn't seem to care. Nordeman was able to use her talent to stay in touch with who she was, as she struggled to succeed in her new life. She managed to muster up the $200 entry fee for a contest held by the Gospel Music Association's Academy of Gospel Music Arts. She entered the songwriting contest with a song called "Why," the tale of a girl who watches the crucifixion of Jesus. She ended up playing her own composition, and the combination of the song's intensity and her honest performance won the award.
In a typical fashion she humbly accepted the award, but not without making it clear that she wanted to be a songwriter, not a performer. However, John Mays, a senior vice president of A&R at Starsong Records, felt that she was uniquely qualified to perform her own compositions and convey their spirit, and he urged her to consider the dual role of singer/songwriter. She soon accepted a record contract from Starsong. She had a lot of songs already written, and Mays felt that her strong voice and talent for finding the right words would go over well in the religious community.
Mays assigned Nordeman to Mark Hammond, an experienced producer who had a reputation for helping new artists find their voice. The result of their first collaboration was 1998's Wide Eyed, a debut album whose title summed up Nordeman's quick emergence onto the music scene. Many of the tracks showed a deep faith and an even deeper innocence and curiosity. Nordeman's thoughtful lyrics in "To Know You" described her faith as a backbone to be depended upon, but the song also explored moments of doubt and pain. Wide Eyed produced many hits, including "Who You Are," "To Know You," "I Wish the Same," and "Wide Eyed." The album sold 130,000 copies and garnered two Dove Award nominations.
The success of Nordeman's first album astounded her. Now she had a chance to make music for a living. She packed her bags and moved from Los Angeles to Nashville, where the songwriting continued to come to her quite easily. Her second album, This Mystery, was produced by Hammond, joined by Charlie Peacock. Reviews in the Christian press were glowing and, supported by a ruthless tour schedule, the album hit the top of the Christian charts.
As she enjoyed the benefits of her hard work, she moved to Dallas, where she got married. But touring, the bane of so many musicians' love lives, presented a challenge to the newlyweds. Nordeman was frequently forced to choose between being home and spending time on the road. The transition was a tough one that appeared to adversely affect the songwriting process. Nordeman's second album had been a smashing success, but her third work hit some serious turbulence. Woven and Spun was harder to create. "I wouldn't even call it 'writer's block,' it was like 'God-block,'" she told CMCentral. "I knew I just had to take that time and soak up the silence, instead of resenting it. I had to listen and wait." Her newly discovered attention to words and the focus on her faith made her take a look at who she was. "I just assumed that because what I really wanted to write about was God's goodness and how that goodness is woven into the everyday moments, that the writing would be easy. Instead, I would just sit and stare at the keys for months at a time."
But the struggle to put an album together finally paid off, with the help of a strong production team. Woven and Spun became a best-seller on the Christian music charts. Her first single, "Holy," shot to number one, and won the Song of the Year prize at the Dove Awards in 2003. The album garnered three more Dove Awards--including Female Vocalist of the Year, Pop Song of the Year, and Songwriter of the Year. The album also marked her emergence in the mainstream press. Michael Paoletta of Billboard wrote of her third album, "[The song] 'Healed' showcases the beautiful poetry that infuses Nordeman's literate, pensive songwriting. 'Legacy' speaks of making a lasting mark beyond what the world sees as success. She has an especially expressive voice that serves her well on these beautiful tunes."
After her son was born she made it clear to her fans that she was going to take it easy for awhile. "I've spent the last five years either in the studio making a record, or on the road touring that record," she wrote on her website. "It has been a very fulfilling experience to get to use music as a vehicle to build the kingdom of God. ... a calling that continues to excite me. But ultimately, I had to acknowledge that the desire of my heart was to do a little kingdom building under my own roof this year."
by Ben Zackheim
Nichole Nordeman's Career
Signed with Starsong, 1998; released debut album Wide Eyed, 1998; released album This Mystery, 2000; released Woven and Spun, 2002; released Live at the Door, 2003; released DVD-single Legacy, 2003.
Nichole Nordeman's Awards
Dove Awards, Female Vocalist of the Year, 2001; Songwriter of the Year, Pop Song of the Year, Female Vocalist of the Year, and Song of the Year for "Holy," 2003.
- Selected discography
- Wide Eyed Starsong, 1998.
- This Mystery Starsong, 2000.
- Woven and Spun Sparrow, 2002.
- Legacy Sparrow, 2003.
- Live at the Door Sparrow, 2003.
- Billboard, May 6, 2000; November 2, 2002; April 19, 2003; June 14, 2003.
- "Nichole Nordeman," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (February 6, 2004).
- "Nichole Nordeman," CMCentral, http://www.cmcentral.com/artists/111.html (February 6, 2004).
- Nichole Nordeman Official Website, http://www.nicolenordeman.com (February 6, 2004).
- "Shelter Me ... But Not Too Much," Christianity Today, http://www.christianitytoday.com (February 6, 2004).
- "The Stress of Success," Christianity Today, http://www.christianitytoday.com/music/interviews/2003/nicholenordeman (February 6, 2004).