Few artists in any genre of music possess a more diverse resume than Nicole C. Mullen. From her early days as a background vocalist/dancer/choreographer to writing and recording such classic hits as “Redeemer” to mentoring young women through her Baby Girls Club, Mullen’s creativity and compassion have fueled a life of ministry that has had global impact.
Nicole's newest album Crown Him, contains hymns old and new like, "All Hail The Power," "It Is Well," and "Redeemer" along with a new song "Teach Me." Nicole C. Mullen just happens to be one of the most inspirational communicators of our time. Her ability to captivate an audience by telling a story, sharing from the scriptures or singing a song has earned her many awards as well as bringing her into the company of greatness. Nicole’s gifts have allowed her to travel all over the world, and they have brought her many accolades. She has won multiple Dove Awards, for Song of the Year ("Redeemer," and "On My Knees"), Female Vocalist, Contemporary Song of the Year ("Call on Jesus"), and the first African American to win Songwriter of the Year. She has also been nominated for two Grammy awards.
I joined Nicole for a quick minute to catch up on "all things" with her life.
John: Nicole, you have a new record that you are coming out with, with Family Christian. And it is a hymns record.
Nicole: A hymns album, yes, it is.
John: A hymns album. How much, what would you say would hymns be a part of your background? I mean, how much were they a part of your life?
Nicole: Oh, we grew up singing hymns a bit. Not all hymns, because I grew up in an African-American nondenominational church we borrowed from a lot of different styles of worship, so hymns were a part, but not a huge part. I grew up hearing hymns because my parents knew them and my grandparents were singing them at their churches. As a songwriter, one of my goals is to write songs that will not just affect people today, but will affect people in their worship tomorrow and in future generations. Because of that, one of the subtitles is ‘Hymns Old and New’, but the main title is ‘Crown Him’, and it comes from the hymn “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name” because we crown Him Lord of All. I'm very excited about people hearing it!
John: Yeah. You mentioned, Nicole, that you're a songwriter. You certainly have written a lot of songs. Is it easy for you to write a song? Or does it just kind of flow out of you? Because that's what it seems like it would.
Nicole: Ish. I mean, sometimes an idea will come and it flows immediately. Then other times it's kind of laborious. It takes a minute. Redeemer took me a year to write. There are other songs that I've written in an afternoon. So it kind of varies. For me, getting the idea and the melody is normally easier part for me. But the part that really takes work that I'm probably the most anal over, are the lyrics, what's being said. And so I want to make sure that I am conveying the message and the sentiment that I'm going after with the right words. I want to paint the picture correctly. And so that can take time. And so, again it varies. Sometimes it's a short period of time, and sometimes it's forever, it seems. But at the end of the day, for me the litmus test is not, was it a number one single? It's not if it did great on the charts. But really, did it move someone's heart to worship Christ. Did their heart, eyes and focus to turn toward Him? To bow low and worship Him’? If that answer is yes, then I feel as if my mission has been accomplished.
John: When one looks through your discography, your catalog of songs, there are a lot of songs that seem to be very personal to Nicole Mullen. When you set out to write songs, do you have yourself in mind? Are you thinking of your family? Are you thinking of your church? Are you just thinking of a broader audience? Who are you writing songs for?
Nicole: All of the above. Oftentimes, though, when I'm writing, I'm thinking of the wounded, the abused, the hurt, the discouraged. You know, people that I meet often, whether I'm in a grocery store or I'm in an autograph line at the end of the night. These are the people's faces that I see, and that when I'm writing a song I'm thinking of them. Like, how do I convey this message of hope to Angela, to Ellie, to Melissa, to Lisonja. You know, how do I convey this message of hope to them. And so that's where I have to go back and I ask the Lord, "What is it that you want me to say? What is it that you want to convey? What message do you want me to deliver to your people that will heal them, that will lead them to you?" And so then it's a process of listening and writing. And so often I feel like I'm His secretary, or I'm the mailman. I'm called to deliver what He wants to say to them. And so these are the faces that I see when I write.
John: A lot of your songs have literally been . . . Let's see, how do I phrase that question. So many of your lyrics have contained passages of Scripture. The way you talk, when you're live on stage, you incorporate Scripture throughout your entire show. Every single one of your songs has Scripture in there. What do you say? And I'm going to lead you down a road here, and I think I know what you're going to say because I know you. But what would you say to the person who is attempting to walk out their faith in a daily life, and is not a songwriter. They're not a professional singer. They're just a mom, or they're a single dad, or they're in college right now. What do you do to get through life, in a sense?
Nicole: For me it starts with first of all having a personal relationship with Christ, and then being in fellowship with Him by talking to Him, which is prayer, and listening to Him. And then getting to know Him through His Word. In the Bible there are . . . I tell people all the time, if you want the supernatural, it's in there. If you want romance, it's in there. If you want, even like blood and guts, it's in there. The Bible was not rated G, just so you know. It's not rated G. But it is fantastic, and it's for everyone. It's E for everyone. But there's something for everyone. But really this is a formula for life for me. Successes will come and they will go. Good days will come. They will go. And love will come, and it may go. The Word of God, the Person of Jesus Christ will remain steady throughout life, throughout eternity. And so it is Him that we build our hope upon and our lives upon. So when it's all said and done, for me, it's Christ. And it's getting to know Him--not just learning about Him or meeting Him, but getting to know Him. And we get to know Him by inviting Him into our daily life, our every day life, whether we're doing the dishes, driving or having a conversation in Walmart. He is a part of everything that we do. And His Word is our standard. It's our guide for how we live life and how we treat people, and how we worship God. That's what I know. I'm not perfect at it. I haven't mastered it. But I when I fall off, this is the standard for which I get back on track with. In regards to where people are right now in their walk with Christ, whether they are one with Him, my urge would be, get to know Him. Give your life to Him. If you know Him and you've fallen away, or you're kind of doing this, get back on the path. Get back into His Word. Get back into fellowship with Him by talking to Him, and listening. And then do what He says to do. And so that's really the only formula for a successful life that I know and that I've seen that really actually works. So that's what I know. Jesus.
John: As a songwriter, what would you say is the most important song ever sung?
Nicole: Oh, that's a hard one. That's a hard one. And people ask me often, "What's your favorite song that you've written?" I can't pick. It's like picking your favorite child. That could get you in trouble.
John: That's for sure.
Nicole: Not like the songs are going to get me. But it's like on different days, there are different songs that really speak to me differently. Some days it might be “It Is Well,” which I didn't write. Other days it might be “ShooBee,” you know, in which I wrote, I believe in Jesus and I won't apologize. Some days it might be “Redeemer.” Other days it might be “Homemade Love” or “Wholly Captivated.” There are different songs that speak to me in different places and in different times in my life and different seasons. And so for me, the criteria for a song being my favorite for the moment is something that it is one that moved my heart, my attention and focus closer to Christ. And I don't want to sound redundant, but for me, that's the only thing that has any weight. I don't want songs that just entertain; I want to sing songs where, at the end of the day hopefully you didn't just hear a good beat, or weren't just moved emotionally, but my heart is that you'll be moved spiritually toward the One who is worth our worship, and that's Jesus. And so those are the kind of songs I like to listen to as well. And something that's well crafted, I love well crafted songs. Yeah.
John: I agree. What's on your bucket list?
Nicole: Probably to go to Israel. I don't have many things on there, but probably Israel would probably be one of them.
John: Do you have that planned?
Nicole: Not yet.
John: Not yet.
Nicole: Not yet. I mean, I have had it planned.
John: You've been to other countries.
Nicole: I've been all over in the world. Yes, I have.
John: Just Israel was not on there.
Nicole: Not yet, but I would love to go there. And I don't have very many places. I mean, I love going wherever God calls me. So if you hear me speaking and you're from another country, I want to come to your country. But Israel is one of those places that just, ah, I would love to. At the right time and the right season, if it's the Lord's will. And if not, hey, when we come back with a new Jerusalem, I'm going to be there anyway.
John: Are you a coffee drinker? Tea drinker? Red Bull?
Nicole: No, I'm a water drinker.
Nicole: I'm really boring. My daughter works at Starbucks, so she's a, she drinks coffee and tea. My husband's a coffee drinker. H2O people.
Nicole: H2O, yeah, that's la-la.
John: The drink of heaven.
Nicole: Yes, the drink of . . . Ah! I love that you said that.
John: Cool. Well, that's great. Thank you again.
Nicole: Oh, but let me tell you. Wait, wait, wait, wait! Oh, I've got to tell you something else.
John: All right.
Nicole: Okay. Wait, wait, wait. I've got to tell you what I did for real, okay? I know most of you all know me as the singer and all of that.
John: Oh, yes, I'm sorry.
Nicole: Let me tell you how I really feel about what’s important in my life, okay? This is like, I love this season of life, too. I love singing. I love writing. We're in the studio working on albums. I love that. But, let me say this. This is part of my fuel. During the week, about four days a week, we have two mentorship programs, mentorship and discipleship. One is Baby Girls Club, and it's for girls only. And I'll tell you a little bit about that in a second. Then we have Team NCM, which is Nicole C. Mullen. Team NCM is a group of kids that have to audition every year at the beginning of the year. They're between the ages of 8 to 18. They have a bent in singing, dancing, arts, drama. They audition. They have to love Jesus Christ as well. They audition. We get together twice a week after we've chosen them. We practice, practice, practice. We memorize Scripture. We do Bible study. We laugh. We giggle. We eat. We do all kinds of crazy things.
John: This is at your house?
Nicole: No, this is actually at a place called the Clubhouse, up in Tennessee. Because you know, I live out in the boonies. Nobody's coming out there. So we get these kids together, and a lot of them have traveled all over the world with me. A lot of kids from Team NCM, not necessarily currently, but we've had many years. So that's one of the discipleship programs that we have. And we're discipling kids who will, in turn, disciple other kids. And other people, because it could be their elders that they're discipling. Then we have another group called Baby Girls Club, and that's for girls only. And it's more of a whosoever will. You don't have to be a believer to come, but you're going to hear about Christ. We have a wide range of economically influenced kids. Some are from the haves, and some are from the have nots. Probably more from the have nots. We bring kids in from housing projects. We get them after school. We sing. We dance. We do Bible study. We memorize Scripture. We eat. We do conflict resolution, which is that we break up fights. We do all kinds of things. We are, me and some other women, it's not just myself. We're in their lives. It's our way of investing in them with the hope of Christ. And we've seen a lot of these kids give their hearts to Jesus. And as a response, some of their family members, their parents, have given their hearts to Jesus as well. Last year we had some of them get baptized, and it was just really great. So we've seen the Lord work in that. And even now from the Baby Girls Club, we've had people all over the world now who are asking us to help them set up theirs. We've actually started one in the country of Belize, so we have the Baby Girls club there. We have a place in Kenya. They're asking us to help them set up theirs. In South Africa, help them set up theirs there. In Burundi there's a request for us to help them there. Even in our own country, the people are asking throughout the United States. So, we're praying that the Lord will continue to give us wisdom as to how to facilitate this, and to really help them in the right way. I believe right now we have a great opportunity to effect the future of our nation and the future of our world. Because whoever gets the seed, gets the tree, and gets the fruit. So if we can influence the seed of these young lives for Jesus Christ, then He will get their tree and their fruit off the tree. And they're the ones who are going to be affecting nations and generations. So we have a great opportunity. And so we get to do Mondays through Thursdays, and that's where I am, hugging, loving on kids, doing Bible study. Just Stephanie and I, we're like mamas, and we love these kids. These are our babies. Then we have another girl, Karen, she's in Belize helping over there. I'm really excited about that aspect and would love to just have people to pray for us. When they think about us, pray for us. If they want more information, they can go to my website, nicolescmullen.com and they can find out about it there. Or babygirlsclub.com.
John: That is cool.
Nicole: I love it. Yeah.
John: That is so cool. I'm so glad that you shared that as well. That's great.
Nicole: They sing with me, too, so they inspire me. They do.
John: That's so awesome. I love that. This is great. Because it says so much more than just, I'm an artist and that's what I do. This is what I really do.
Nicole: Ministry starts when you get off stage. Ministry's not just about what you do on stage. It's when you take those steps off that stage, the real question is are you going to live it out, or are you just going to talk about it. And we're called to live it out. And Jesus said, "Go and make disciples of all nations." So it's not making coverts that we're after. We're after making disciples, and that's messy. It's time consuming. That costs money. It costs energy. But that's what he called us to do. And so that's our aim. When it's all said and done, we're not looking for pats on the back. We're looking for Him to say, "Well done. You were faithful at what I called you to do." And then we can go forth and say, "Lord, you've given us five talents. We've gone out and we’ve multiplied it. We're bringing back 25, 25 lives," or whatever it might be. So yeah, that's what I do. I love doing that.
Nicole is excited about this new season in her life and sharing the worship songs on “Crown Him.” “My mom told me a long time ago ‘when you sing, never sing to the people, always sing to the audience of One and invite the people to worship along with you,’” Mullen says, “and so that’s my new aim these day is to sing to the ‘Audience of One’ and hopefully it becomes so contagious and the melody becomes so soothing and so inviting that people will want to sing along.”