We’re all familiar with the almost cliché ²einventions of pop artists — pop artists who strip down their music and go the folksy singer/songwriter route in an attempt to “just be real” and “be respected as a true artist.” But when was the last time you heard about a highly respected singer/songwriter who did just the opposite? And is doing it to be authentic, no less! Ladies and gentlemen, Bebo Norman?
There is a spring in the step of veteran singer/songwriter Bebo Norman, despite his recently broken leg. His sixth album, Between the Dreaming and the Coming True (Essential), releases September 19th; but the enthusiasm emanating from the Georgia native as he hobbles into a Nashville restaurant for his first interview about the new project seems like that of a debut artist. Quoting David Gray, an obvious musical influence who also recently reinvented his style and sound, Norman says with a wink in his voice, “You can’t be the underdog forever.
“While his 2004 release, Try, saw him returning to his troubadour roots, the new collection of songs marks a more expansive sound and a completely new lyrical approach. Less introspective and more inspirational, the songs feel at once deeply personal and profoundly universal. The new attitude coincides with a couple of major turns Norman’s life took over two years ago. A lingering feeling of disquiet and melancholy was disrupted by love as Norman added the title of “husband” to his ré³µmé® The shift in his spiritual life was geological in scope.
The new album’s opening track, “Into the Day,” an epic modern pop showpiece that invites the listener to step out of his or her own darkness just as Norman did three years ago, sets the tone for the entire disc. The resoundingly optimistic song came from that very dark valley Norman had walked through before his marriage. “I was throwing my hands up and asking God some hard questions,” he reveals. “I was tired of feeling like I was putting on a show or becoming a caricature of myself. I thought, ?God, unless You show up, I’m not sure if I’m there anymore.’ That dark night of the soul was pretty tremendous. God was extremely faithful through that time, through my wife and a handful of people that stood around me and picked me up. I like to be so self-sufficient that it was difficult to be picked up by other people, but it changed my life. It changed how I look at what I do and what it means to be a believer and to serve and be served.”
The song serves as the emotional linchpin of the whole disc. Melodically soaring, musically rich and passionately delivered, Norman’s days as a solo songwriter standing in the spotlight with his acoustic guitar and self-deprecating humor seem gone for now. Standing in its place is a newly confident, energized and comfortable pop artist. The change is from the inside out. “The last couple years have been the first time in my life that I’ve gotten some peace,” Norman admits eagerly. “I’ve lived my whole life — playing music, everything — operating out of fear, which is really odd because things have gone my way. But there is a fear of not accomplishing something…and then the fear that, if you do accomplish something, it will go away. Fear was always driving it.”
Shortly before his marriage a couple years back, he emerged from that fog into a much healthier space: “I’ve gotten to this place where I really feel peaceful for the first time.” He credits his marriage for, at least, part of the healing. “I think peace has come through being loved and served by my wife, and loving and serving her in return. Marriage has been a beautiful thing. It sort of transformed everything, and, all of a sudden, I feel comfortable in my own skin for the first time in my life.”
Copyright © 2006 CCM Magazine, Used by Permission
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