Christian Living


Bebo Norman's "Ocean" Experience

CBN.com - Bebo Norman goes deeper than ever before with his new album, Ocean. A musical expression of very personal struggles, this new project took the Dove Award winner to another level of identity in Christ. Songs such as "The Middle" and "Here Goes" mark his spiritual growth on a record he hopes will encourage listeners to go deeper with God.

Recently, CBN.com spoke with the singer/songwriter about Ocean and how he managed to put his heart and soul into it.

We’ve heard that you call your pre-recording process “an extended therapy session”. What do you mean by that?

Bebo Norman: I don’t know how to write songs unless I’m writing them out of my own personal experience. I go into songwriting mode where ideas happen over the course of a couple of years. But these days, because of the nature of the busyness of life, I usually don’t have time to finish the songs until I get ready to sit down and make the record. This one is no exception.

How is that personal message seen in Ocean?

Norman: The thing that seemed to jump out to me about every song was this idea of where I find my identity. I've spent so many years being in front of people, in front of strangers, talking about my life and playing music and being identified as a musician. I’ve always struggled with that as an identity, because I feel like I’m an accidental musician anyway. It just happened rather than it being something that I planned.

I’ve been struggling with where I find my identity, not just in songwriting, but even as a father and a husband in a community of believers here in Nashville. The title of the record speaks to this. The song “Ocean” is a prayer that says, “You are an ocean that I can get lost in.”

I feel a desperate need to hide myself in the identity of Christ. I will draw my identity in my life from being a father, a husband, and a musician instead of drawing my identity and my life from being a child of God.

Is there one particular song that has a special meaning to you?

Norman: There’s a song called “The Middle” that was an interesting song to write. I had been talking to a friend of mine about his family. We were having lunch and I asked about his wife. And he said she was struggling with the fact that their kids were growing up, starting school, and becoming their own people. She had spent all of her time as a stay-at-home mom, investing in their lives. All of a sudden, they were separating themselves from her. She started asking those same questions that I was mentioning earlier. "Now all of a sudden, I’m not sure that that’s who I’m going to be moving forward. And at the very least, it’s changing. My role in their life is changing."

"The Middle" became a cornerstone song for me. When I talked about the middle, I was talking about in the middle of life. I realized we’ll always wrestle with this a little bit, because we’re in the middle until either Jesus comes back or calls us home. We’re always stuck between our flesh and our spirit while we’re living on this earth. There’s always going to be a battle for identity between those two things. As believers, that’s a beautiful struggle, and it’s not something that we need to be ashamed of or even afraid of, but it’s something that we can embrace and dive headlong into.

The lyrics on “Here Goes” speak to the struggle between faith and fear. How personal is that song?

Norman: I’ve always struggled with that idea. I feel like I’ve failed a lot of times in my life when I’ve been faced with difficult decisions. I have tended towards fear rather than faith. Even when I’ve moved forward into something that was difficult, I have allowed the fear to control me.

"Here Goes" was written with a good friend of mine who is also a musician, a guy named Brandon Heath. He and I have been friends for 10 or 12 years and we’ve had that conversation about fear versus faith about 50,000 times. When we sat down to write together that day, we didn’t talk about fear versus faith. It’s what came out as we wrote.

It hit me in this past year that I’ve been playing music for a living for 15 years now. In a way, it makes me feel old. But in a way, it blows my mind that I’ve had the privilege of getting to do this for such a long time. It is a testimony I think in a lot of ways to the idea of stepping into things even when you’re afraid of them and stepping into life and trusting. At some point or another, Brandon and I both made the decision that we were going to step into things that were frightening to us and not give in to the intimidation of fear. Watching our lives lived out, at least on a musical level, is this small picture of how stepping into things that are fearful but doing them in a way that trusts that there is a God who is good and a God who is in control. It’s been a beautiful picture for me.

What is your hope for this new album?

Norman: I hope that it would cause them to look internally… at where they draw their own identity from. It’s worth wrestling with who we are, where we draw our value from, and where we draw our life from and .... refocusing on the source of whatever season of life we are in rather than focusing on the season itself.

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