Bebo Norman learns to simplify
By Brandy Campbell
HLG Public Relations
November 23, 2004
Hannibal —Taking the stage in a green t-shirt and jeans, Bebo Norman is about as unassuming as they come. His soft drawl and southern charm draw you in, but it’s the music that makes you stay. With his fourth national release, “Try,” Bebo embraces the married life, the 30-somethings, and simplicity with style and grace.
Born and raised in Columbus, Georgia, Bebo (a nickname given by a little sister who couldn’t say “big brother”) began touring independently soon after college, where he earned a biology degree.
“I went to college planning on becoming a doctor and going to medical school,” says Norman. “But I had a lot of friends who were encouraging me to share my music. So I planned on taking a year off between college and medical school to just travel and do music.” That “year off” has since turned into nine years, four CDs, and several top ten hits. But don’t let the accolades fool you.
“I am really just not cool at all,” laughs Norman. “If the lights and the special effects make me look cool, it’s a mistake.” That down-to-earth attitude is what draws people of all ages to Norman. Audiences run the gamut from college students to grandparents.
“When I started writing songs in college, I didn’t know that anybody else would hear them; they were basically just therapy sessions,” says Norman. “I think the reason that so many different kinds of people relate to them is because, although our stories are different, we have so many common circumstances in our lives…circumstances that point at who God is. When I write a song, I’m not trying to make a point, I’m just writing out of my life. God will make the point.”
One of those points that God has been making in Bebo’s own life is that of figuring out what defines him as a Christian.
“I love what I do, I love making music, but music is not what defines me…it’s not even what I would call my ministry,” says Norman. “God definitely uses music, but in reality it’s become clear to me as I’ve gotten older that what our ministry comes down to is our handful of people. Every single one of us has a handful of people who we know and who know us. There’s definitely a place for the crowds, but if you look at the Bible, Jesus spent the majority of His time with a small group of people, and that changed the world. It’s pretty simple; I don’t think we need to come up with a new system for that.”
That simplicity is a recurring theme in Bebo’s latest studio offering, “Try.” While the writing is still poetic, it has lost some of the ambiguity of Norman’s earlier CDs to be replaced by more straightforward lyrics.
“This record just feels simple to me in a lot of ways…not just production, but the songs themselves,” says Norman. “I think that has a lot to do with the season that I’m in right now where things seem a little easier to understand. In the past, my songs have been a little bit ambiguous because that’s exactly what I felt. I didn’t understand and couldn’t see God. God has now given me a season of simple, peaceful clarity.”
Despite being in a season that he calls “peaceful,” Norman is up front about the struggles that Christians deal with. In the song “Drifting” he paints a picture of absolute dependence on a God that we don’t always understand.
“’Drifting’ is one of my favorite songs on the album because it speaks to me about trusting God,” says Norman. “I don’t look at drifting or confusion as a bad thing, it’s just part of the process. My first seven years on the road I spent a lot of time trying to figure out a whole lot of things, and just over the past two years I’ve really been aware of God bending down and lifting me up out of that confusion and reminding me what we’re called to do.”
And one of those callings for Bebo has been to his wife of nearly a year. After being the unofficial poster child for singles throughout his 20s, Norman says marriage has “simplified my frame of mind.” The strain of touring is not without its own unique challenges, but Norman maintains that he and his wife are in a “beautiful season.”
“Marriage has of course changed things in a big way, but my wife and I were friends while I was touring, dated while I was touring, were engaged while I was touring, and are now married while I tour. It’s all we’ve ever known! But now I’m very deliberate about how I tour, and I try to tour more effectively but less.”
After nine years on the road, Bebo says he most looks forward to the time he is able to spend “loving people in my own little corner.”
“That is our ultimate call, loving the people to our right and our left. I just want to make sure that I’m doing that well.”
Norman is currently on tour with Jason Morant and Bethany Dillon. For more information on Bebo Norman and to find a show near you, visit www.bebonorman.com.