Nicole C. Mullen
is a familiar name for anyone who has followed Christian music since her label debut almost 20 years ago. Her hit song "Redeemer" set the tone for an entire career: a career focused on the redemptive power of a Savior, even in our own personal worst moments.
That same theme carries through to Like Never Before
, Nicole's brand new album that will be releasing on January 12 (preorder it here
). I had the chance to talk to Nicole at the launch of the Dinner Conversations
podcast, a series which will also feature the seasoned artist's insights.
Start by introducing some of the themes of your upcoming album, Like Never Before.
The main themes we have in the new album Like Never Before
I would say are love, loss and redemption. It's just that whole thing of, I know what it's like to have loved. I know what it's like to all of a sudden feel as if that love has turned into betrayal, or that same love has turned into hurt, or it's turned into something that you hadn't desired it to turn into and eventually, you lose it.
It's not just my story that I'm writing about, but I think it's other people's stories too. People may not have experienced the same things I have, but it could be they've experienced betrayal in a friendship, or it could have been you thought someone liked you and they pretended and then they went behind your back. Whatever it may be, I think a lot of us can identify with those same emotions. Redemption is the ultimate theme, though--that after those things, after death, there is life. After the night, there is the day. That's what I sing about. That's what I'm celebrating.
Is there a song that really stands out to you personally as encapsulating that theme?
It's hard to pick just one. There is one called "Greater Still." It talks about that though I've gone through hardship, though I've gone through the night seasons, though I've gone through betrayal, the love of God is greater still. Because of that, I will rejoice. That's a choice that we make. It's not something that falls upon you, but it's a daily decision-- not happiness, but to choose joy again. I think that song probably encapsulates most of the theme of the album.
Your musical discography has covered a lot of genre ground, from pop to gospel to worship. Where does this fit in on the spectrum?
All of the above again. You have a little bit of jazz, there's a little bit of R&B, a little bit of pop, a little bit of worship. I think my personality is all on it, but at the end of the day, again it's love, loss and redemption.
It's kind of like the garden. When God created the earth, it was beautiful and everything was right. Then you had the serpent, and you had man messing it up-- you had the loss there. But then you have Christ and He saves the day. There's that redemptive quality. I think that happens, not just on a big scale, but it happens in our own lives on a microscopic level. Again, that's what the album is about, but that's also what the songs are about individually.
So this album tends toward that worship sound again, and we've seen you in that area before. Right now, we're seeing a resurgence of worship music. For you personally, as you've observed over the years and ministered in so many places, do you see any reasons why worship is such a big thing right now? Are there any shifts or trends you see in the body of Christ?
I think the resurgence may be because people are being honest again. I think worship lends itself to authenticity and honesty. I think the essence of it is "I am not, but You are. I'm not the greatest, I'm not the best, I've messed up. But You are good, You are God, You are great, even in the midst of my hiccups in life and the devastation that might be going on." I think true worship speaks to that, and I think it's resonating in people's hearts.
Worship is showing the difference between us and God. He is great, He is grand, He is kind and compassionate. When you start focusing on those different attributes of who He is because of what life has dealt us, it makes you want to worship Him. What better way to do so than in song?
At this point in your career, what are you hoping to communicate most through your ministry and music?
I'm hoping to communicate a lot of what I was just saying, the authenticity of us being able to be real and take off our masks and say that life has not been a fairytale, but that God has been good even in the midst of it all. I know what it's like to hurt. I know what it's like to bleed. I know what it's like to be taken advantage of. I've been beaten on, I've been cheated on. A lot of us have felt the same emotions. We've gone through the same kinds of things, but I think for me, I want people to know that in those seasons, God has shown up. He showed up in a big way, and He has given my heart a reason to live again and to laugh again and to smile again and to sing again.
If He can do that for me, He can do that for other people out there with different details in their stories but the same emotions and the same trials. I want to be able to give hope, and I want my music to be a conduit of God.
So tonight we're here at the Dinner Conversations series, which is a very communal thing. In that spirit, who are some other people who have ministered to you in this process of making music?
Wow, well there's been many people who have encouraged me. Even tonight, Mrs. Patsy Clairmont has been one of those people. We were here on the couch snuggled together, and she's probably twenty or thirty years my senior, but she loves the Lord and she's modeled it well. We met on the Women of Faith tour many years ago. We were both doing that together, and she has just been one of those people who has modeled the realness of life. This is where Christ meets us, not just on Sundays and not just in front of ten thousand women, but He meets us when we're home, He meets us when we're off the stage, He meets us when we're in our bathrooms crying our eyes out. He comes and He steps in, and she modeled that for me. She gave me permission to be real and to be raw, even in front of people, and to be the first to raise my hand and say, "yeah, I get it. I know what it feels like." As a result, other people have been able to do the same. I've been able to do the same because of her. She's one of those people for me.
There are other people in the industry of course that have influenced me, but honestly, my biggest heroes are probably those who have never taken a microphone. Those who have never graced a stage or have never signed an autograph, but they've spoken into my life in ways that I will always treasure beyond me being able to show my gratitude. They're my everyday heroes, and they're names that you may have never heard of.
To wrap this up, how can people be praying for you in this particular season of your music and your ministry?
They can pray that God will continue to give me wisdom and direction, favor and insight. In this new season, there's been a resurgence where I'm meeting a lot of young people, a lot of late teens and early twenties, that grew up listening to me. They come out of the woodworks, like I see them everywhere. To hear their stories is so humbling to me, and they're saying, "you were with me when I was twelve, you were with me when I was fifteen." Then they begin to cry, so I begin to cry. So my point in saying that is pray that the Lord would continue to give me wisdom and favor and anoint my music, not for my sake, but for the sake of those who are listening and for the sake of those whose lives need to be changed, the lives that need to be drawn closer to Him. If that happens, if at the end of the day they forget my name but they remember His, the mission has been accomplished. That's my heart's desire.