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Nicole C. Mullen  Nicole C. Mullen

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.Whether working to help free the Trokosi slaves in Ghana or penning signature songs for other artists—such as the Jaci Velasquez hit “On My Knees”—Mullen has long channeled her considerable energy into not just sharing the gospel, but living it. Her passion for God has never burned brighter than on “Captivated,” a new collection of worship songs produced by Ed Cash.It’s been three years since Mullen’s last studio album and when she began working on new songs, her original intent was to do a project that was “Funkabilly By Nature,” but she soon discovered God had other plans. “I kept getting these different ideas and songs that were more worshipful by nature,” Mullen says. “Often I write songs that are more horizontal instead of vertical where I’m talking to the people about the Lord, but in this case I found that I kept writing more vertical songs. Before I knew it, I had a body of work and as I looked back I saw that I had a
worship album here.”Mullen admits people had been asking her for years about recording a worship project, but it never felt like the right time. “Never being one to jump on a band wagon, I didn’t feel that it was time to do something of that nature,” she says. “I would say ‘Nah, that’s not me,’ but this time I had this body of work that I’d written that wasn’t something contrived.  I didn’t pray and fast to get it. After I had written those songs, I started praying and asking the Lord: ‘What’s the right avenue? How do I deliver these gifts that you have given me?”The answer came as Mullen entered a new partnership with Maranatha Music to release “Captivated.” “Randy Alward, the president of Maranatha, and I got together and had great
conversation,” Mullen recalls. “He is a man of integrity, a man of the Lord and he has a passion for the church.  I felt these songs would be a good fit there, and that was the door the Lord opened for this particular project.”  “Captivated” is filled with songs that celebrate God’s majesty such as the powerful “Kingdom Come,” a duet with longtime friend Michael O’Brien. “Every other day there is a tornado or an earthquake or a tsunami or oil spill or whatever it is,” says Mullen. “Even nature is  crying out for the return of Christ, for His kingdom, but His kingdom actually is already here. The kingdom of God is among us. God is already the king. We’re not going to make Him king at the end of time. In the song, it is asking ‘let your kingdom be revealed among us. Let your kingdom be seen by all. Let your kingdom be acknowledged by all. May your justice rein and rule.’ I’ve seen the audience stand up and sing it. It is the heart’s cry of many people, not just myself.”On “Captivated,” Mullen has penned songs that tap into every Christian’s desire to draw
closer to God. “I Need You (As the Deer)” is a prime example. “It’s about how my
heart, how my heart longs for Him,” she sighs. “I can do nothing without Him. I’m
desperate for His vision. I’m desperate for His love, His grace, His mercy, His truth,
the oxygen that He gives me, I’m desperate for Him.”Mullen has long been known as an artist who is unafraid to be vulnerable and transparent with her audience. That sincerity and artistic integrity have been recognized with seven Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, including two Female Vocalist of the Year honors, Song of Year in 2001 for “Redeemer,” Songwriter of the Year and the 2005 Urban Album of the Year for “Everyday People.” She has toured all over the globe, becoming a highly sought after speaker and singer, and has frequently graced the stage at Women of Faith events.On “Captivated,” Mullen collaborates for the first time with acclaimed producer Ed Cash, well known for his work with Amy Grant, Chris Tomlin, and Chris August among others. “Ed has stretched me in many ways. His approach to things has broadened my creativity, making me go beyond what I thought I could do,” Mullen says. “He has become a great brother to me. He really has. He has a heart for the Lord.  Every session we would open up in prayer; from the background  singers to the band to the strings. The whole thing has been bathed in prayer.”Cash lends his voice to “Forgive Me,” one of the album’s key tracks. Mullen also welcomes other special guests on the project. Longtime friends the Katinas join Mullen on “Lead Me” and Papa San lends a distinctive flair to “My Shepherd” while newcomer Chris August sings on “I Need You.” Mullen says her daughter, Jasmine, introduced her to August’s CD and she couldn’t stop listening to it—even taking it with her on her most recent trip to Africa.

One of the most powerful moments on “Captivated” is Mullen’s take on the Andrae’ Crouch classic “My Tribute.” She credits Cash with suggesting she cover the song but admits she was initially  reluctant. “I said, ‘No way in the world! You don’t do THAT song. There are certain songs that are just off limits.  You don’t cover them. You just respect them for what they are,’” she recalls telling Cash, “and he said, ‘you really need to go home and pray about it.’ So I went home and I prayed about it, but my prayer was more in the vein ‘of course you don’t want me to do this song right?’ and all of a sudden, as soon as I asked, I had an idea of like how it could be.”

Mullen’s beautiful voice has never sounded more compelling than on this worshipful collection and fusing “My Tribute” with her classic “Redeemer” creates one of the highlights on the album. When she recorded “My Tribute,” Nicole didn’t know she already had a history with the song. During Thanksgiving dinner at her family farm in Tennessee, Mullen’s aunts began reminiscing about her childhood. “They were talking about me being called Bubbles. My aunt said, ‘Bubbles used to get up to the mic when she was about four or five and sing the same song over and over again. Anytime Papa (her grandfather) would give her the mic, she kept singing ‘To God The Glory,’” her aunt said referencing the chorus of “My Tribute.

“I told her I had just recorded that song and said ‘I don’t remember ever singing it publicly.’ I remember singing it privately a lot of times because we grew up on Andrae’. We were huge Andrae’ fans.  I learned songwriting from my dad and from listening to Andrae’ Crouch.”

Songwriting has always been one of Mullen’s most treasured gifts and she’s used it as a vehicle to  encourage, inspire and to teach as she’s mentored youngsters in her Baby Girls Club and Team NCM, the talented troupe that travels and performs with Mullen. “P413/I Can Do” is a song Mullen wrote specifically for her young friends. “I wrote it for the Baby Girls Club,” she says. “That was one of their little dance songs and my way of helping them memorize scripture.  Most of the songs we do for worship at Baby Girls Club are scripture put to some kind of a garage band beat, so we would dance around to it and they would end up singing it and before you know it, they’d  memorize scripture. I played it for Ed and it became one of his favorites. So everybody dances to it and we have fun.”

Mullen began developing her craft as a songwriter at a young age and “Captivated” includes a special bonus track, “Praise Your Holy Name,” the first song she ever wrote. “When my parents moved here from Ohio, Mom brought me a bunch of my old stuff and there was a sheet of paper that I had gotten copy written of the first song that I’d ever written at age of 12,” she says. “It was hand written and I was just amazed to see how God has plans for us regardless of our age or stage and how He had a plan for me.”God’s plan has taken Nicole C. Mullen down many interesting roads and encompassed a variety of roles. She’s a wife, mother, singer, songwriter, speaker, and a successful businesswoman as well as a minister and mentor. “He set his love upon me at an early age and it was something that I could not have earned. I didn’t deserve,” Mullen says of God’s favor. “I was not talented enough to merit His gaze, but He gave it and to me it just reminds me of his love towards us.  Like the Bible says, ‘while we were yet sinners, He died for us.’ He loved us. He knew us, so I worship  him. My first song was actually a worship song and the lyric says, ‘If I could write melodies and tell you how much I love you, it would be endless/It would be priceless/If I could buy you rubies or if I could buy you gold/what would it profit if your story went untold/but I’d much rather give you praise and your banner forever I’ ll raise as long as I live/I’ll praise your holy name.’“It was my first offering,” Mullen says of the heartfelt worship song. “I remember when I would go out to the lamp pole across the street from our home and that’s where we would catch the city bus to go to school. It would be dark, a pre-dawn sky, and I would stand there at the lamp post with my sisters and I would sing all these different worship songs to the Lord. I remember just having an open-hearted conversation with God every morning and most of the time it included a song. Even now I look back and think of how He heard me, how He listened, how He took me seriously. It’s the fuel that keeps me working with kids and doing my best to convince them that God knows them. He sees them and that He has a plan for them. I’m living proof that it’s true.”Mullen is excited about this new season in her life and sharing the worship songs on “Captivated.”  “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.”

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