"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself." -C.S. Lewis
Twenty-three years ago, Noel McLeary was born into a music-loving Christian family in a small town just east of Pittsburgh, PA. To start, her name-sake has nothing to do with Christmas (her grandfather's name was "Leon"- hers is Leon spelled backwards), her small stature deceives most about her age and her vocals, and though you've probably never heard of her hometown (Ligonier, PA), growing up in a small town has never stopped her from dreaming big.
Noel McLeary began wowing crowds as the "little girl with the big voice" from the first time she stepped onstage to sing in her second grade Christmas concert. Recognizing the potential in her voice, Noel's elementary school music teacher quickly got her involved with a local children's choir. Being a part of the children's choir allowed Noel the opportunity to perform on local TV and radio stations, in large venues such as Pittsburgh's Benedum Center and PPG Place, and her first experience in a recording studio (to record a benefit song for Children's Hospital)⎯ all by the young age of ten.
With a powerful voice that has an easier time sticking out than blending in, Noel quickly fell in love with performing and began to step out on her own, taking the lead in several school concerts, performing special music in churches, and singing the national anthem at local sporting events.
At the age of 15, Noel decided that it was time to own her own faith, instead of resting on her family's influence, and began to intentionally seek and develop her own personal relationship with Christ. As a result of God's calling and the love of music that had been instilled in her from a young age, by the age of 16 she had decided to forego college plans and pursue a career in Christian music.
It was then that she made her first trip to Music City⎯Nashville, Tennessee, and began working on her first recording. After releasing an independent EP, Noel started traveling to perform as a solo artist at various venues and events throughout the country including Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Creation West, and expanded her journey to international stages when she traveled to Honduras to perform to support El Hogar de Niños Emanuel (a children's home in San Pedro Sula).
Noel's career began to pick up steady momentum as her schedule filled. The next chapter though, was one that she never would've guessed would be written into her life's story.
"By the summer of 2009, I was playing at least 2, sometimes 3, shows a weekend, had never experienced any real family issues or personal tragedy, and was happily engaged. I never would have pictured God's stretching me to look quite like it did… and I never would have expected that by January of 2010 I would be in the complete opposite position. Within a few short weeks of each other my fiance left me, my grandmother had an unexpected stroke (leaving my family preoccupied and unable to support me through the broken engagement), and booking had slowed to a near stop (in hindsight, a God-built-in protection). I was at what felt like a stand-still in every area of my life in what seemed like within only moments. Even though deep down I knew that God was faithful, I really struggled to pick myself up out of bed every day. I wondered if it was really true, that God would never leave me, because a lot of days it felt like He already had. I just couldn't see any way out of the helplessness that I felt. The amazing part though, is that God is always writing His story in our lives, even if we can't see it in the moment."
Through these struggles, Noel began to question the depths of her faith in a way that she never had before, and as a result has grown into a young woman with a strong heart for mentoring young girls and sharing authenticity through music⎯ both things that she had felt called to before, but had never felt equipped for.
"God has stretched me in so many ways that I never would've expected that it's incredible. I can honestly say that I'm thankful for even the most horrifically painful days of my life, because in some way or another they have drawn me closer to the heart that God has for me and the love that He has for me. I'm a totally different person now, in so many ways. I feel like God has reinvented who I am. And I'm so excited to be able to have a chance to share what God has done in my life with the world through my heart and my music."
In 2011, Noel teamed up with Dove Award- winning producer, Rusty Varenkamp and began writing songs that explore this new side of her heart. The result so far is her Can't Escape Your Love EP, consisting of 3 songs that speak volumes to where Noel has traveled both spiritually and musically.
"I feel like my new music is more mature and a much stronger reflection of who I am and where I stand in my relationship with God than anything I've done before. I'm very proud to have created something that I would listen to and I'm very excited that God has continued to call me on this journey of discovering Him and sharing what I find. I've always strived to live my life in a way that when God says ‘go' I'm able to jump on board and follow. I feel like in music, that time is now. And I can't wait to enjoy the ride!"