Capitol CMG/Sparrow Records
Release Date: June 30th 2017
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Every Mile Mattered
‘…I think one of the greatest gifts we offer ourselves, is reflection. Most of us live pretty compartmentalized lives. We close chapters. We dry tears. We square our shoulders and move on. We look toward what is up ahead and not behind us. For me, this has been a season of looking in the rear-view mirror and embracing the miles behind me, however hard that journey may have been in places. I am a better person for each of those miles. My faith feels more sturdy, my eyes more open and these new songs came from those reflections. Acknowledging how even the roads I’d rather erase, are still shaping me and my story…’ Nichole Nordeman made a comeback of sorts in 2015 with her new EP The Unmaking after essentially a 10 year hiatus from music, in favour of motherhood. With her last official album, prior to The Unmaking being 2005’s Brave (between 2005 and 2015, there were single releases from time to time, from “Sunrise”, “Finally Free” and “Turn Your Eyes”, to “Real” and “Beautiful For Me”), it was a welcomed surprise to see Nichole recording and making music again. The Unmaking was actually borne out of a season of doubt and wrestling, after the public knowledge of her split with her husband of 10 years. Nichole started to wrestle, and what resulted were 6 songs full of poignancy, heartfelt moments of grace, hope and encouragement, and songs of honesty and lament, as The Unmaking became my favourite EP of that very year. 2 years or so on, we see Nichole imparting to us another project, this time her first new full-length album in 12 years, Every Mile Mattered. Her first single, and title track, dropped to iTunes a few days ago, and I thought it would be fitting to write my thoughts down about the song (not really a review of sorts, but rather what I’ve learnt from this emotive song). While the album doesn’t come out until a months time, I am quietly hopeful, that if the rest of the songs are similar stylistically and thematically to the title track, then this new offering from Nichole is sure to become not only one of my favourite albums of 2017, but also one of my favourites from Nichole ever!
“Every Mile Mattered” is quite possibly one of the most surprising releases of the year, not because it was good, or bad or anything else by any means. Normally when something is surprising, it’s usually intended in a negative way. Yet when Nichole released her first single from her upcoming album, I didn’t know what to expect from her song…and that was actually a good thing. Usually when I hear songs, there’s usually a snippet on iTunes beforehand, or the artist has been giving us teasers on social media beforehand, yet with this song from Nichole, I had no idea how the song would go- and that is a good thing. Upon hearing ‘Every Mile Mattered’, I was pleased to see how lyrically rich the song was, and how an artist with such a long history like Nichole has been able to stay musically current yet equally timeless in reference to the theme and message- she is in fact in a class of her own both musically, vocally and lyrically. Well, not on her own, I reckon with artists like Sara Groves, Andrew Peterson, Josh Wilson, Bebo Norman etc…but that’s beside the point.
‘Every Mile Mattered’ conveys the poignant truth, that every moment in our lives, be it good or bad, happy or sad, hurtful or healing, matters in our lives, shaping us to the people we are today, but also mattering to the Lord and how He uses everything we experience to His glory and our good, even if He didn’t cause such circumstances and painful memories to occur. Nichole is as passionate as ever in this song, and therefore, a must-listen if you enjoy anything from Nichole in her past, or if you just want to listen to some heartfelt and compelling music, that isn’t the same musically as anything you’d hear on Air1 or K-Love currently. The song is encouraging on two fronts. To the Christian who steadies the course, we hear the message that everything that has been occurring in our lives matters not only in terms of where we end up, but matters to God in how He uses whatever happens to show us more about Himself and ourselves in the process…but it is also encouraging to the seeker, the searcher, the person who may not really believe at that moment. Our lives matter, that what we do and what we say, and what we have to offer, no matter how insignificant we may feel it is, matters to someone out there- that we have the power with our stories, no matter how gritty, raw, real and honest they are, to change the world, encouraging at least one other person through how we live!
‘…there comes a time in your life and in your faith where it makes sense to look back at what’s behind you. Looking over your shoulder at where you’ve been, what you’ve learned, what you thought you knew, but didn’t, what you’d change, and what you wouldn’t. That’s where I’ve been. Taking spiritual inventory. Examining what I thought I understood, but didn’t, what I got right and what I might still be getting wrong. In that moment, the looking back, it is easy for us to judge ourselves. To look at certain decisions or beliefs or experiences and feel regret. Wishing that a certain chapter ended differently. Wishing I’d taken a right instead of a left at that fork in the road. Wishing I could re-write history. Rewind the tape. It’s only natural to glance at the miles in the rear view mirror, and see all the “if onlys.” I’ve been doing a bit of that. I feel like God interrupted those conversations in my head…the “if only” talk. He interrupted with compassion and reassurance to tell me that all of it mattered. All of it…all the pain, the tears, every long night staring at the ceiling, the questions and struggle and confusion, brought me to this place, a place where I could finally be honest before God as I am, not as I wish I was. God reminded me that He uses everything. None of it is wasted as we journey closer to who we were meant to be and who God intends for us be…’ WOW. What a quote. This is what Nichole had to say, not only about her brand new song, but also about the concept behind her new album releasing at the end of the month. And with such a quote like that, what else can I say that I (or Nichole) haven’t said already? The song is indeed encouraging, but hopefully it can be life-changing with the message that everything we experience matters, that nothing is wasted in the eyes of the Lord. It gives us a freedom as we rest knowing that He has everything under His control, that nothing and no experience is overlooked as the Lord utilises often our worst experiences for the most growth in us.
Nichole is a lyrical genius, and it is a great to hear what she has to offer this year, and if it is anything like this new single, or anything like The Unmaking EP a couple of years ago; then Every Mile Mattered is destined to be a favourite of mine in 2017. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing to embrace the reality that every circumstance, and I really mean ‘every’, will be used by the Lord, because honestly, when we’re in the thick of it, we can get bogged down and sometimes not believe this truth- we may not see that God can use whatever mess we’re in and turn it around for His glory. But He can. And He does. And He will. Nichole shows us in this song that everything we experience is shaped by God. Everything. And that and that alone ought to encourage us to appreciate whatever experience we have. With around a 10 year wait for a new full length album from Nichole (The Unmaking was an EP), this is certainly and definitely worth the wait, from an artist that’s certain to leave a wonderful and much-respected mark on not only the CCM industry but on the music industry as a whole whenever she does move onto another area if God calls her to do so. ‘Every Mile Mattered’ is certainly a teaser of what is to come on her new album, and if it is anything like the track in any way, then this maybe, just maybe, will be her most refined, mature, lyrically heartfelt and encouraging album to date! Well done Nichole for this track, can’t wait to the full-length album at the end of July 2017!
3 songs to listen to: Every Mile Mattered x 3, just as good, if not better, than ‘The Unmaking’ from a couple of years ago
RIYL: Brooke Fraser, Sara Groves, JJ Heller, Andrew Peterson, Steven Curtis Chapman