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Genie & Troy Nilsson
NASHVILLE - "I feel that God has given my husband Troy and I a mission to bring comfort and peace through our music," says Genie Nilsson. "For a long time, we tried to push ourselves to sing really loud. But we've come to realize that our gift is for the soft and peaceful. It's like the story of Elijah, who expected God to reveal Himself in a loud and explosive way. Instead, God came to Elijah in a gentle whisper. What a reminder that God often shows Himself in completely unexpected ways.
Whisper is also the name of Genie & Troy Nilsson's new Everland Entertainment release. The couple has been making beautiful music together since 1988, when a mutual friend at North Texas University introduced them. Soon after, Genie and Troy began writing songs together and recorded an independent album. It didn't take long for their friendship to blossom into something more serious. In 1989, through the love and support of Genie and her family, Troy became a Christian. The couple married in 1990 and moved to Nashville to become recording artists.
Later that same year, Troy and Genie founded Nilsson Creative Media, a successful concept development and production company. The couple has worked with Bobby McFerrin, Michael W. Smith, dc Talk, EMI Christian Music Group, Curb Records and the Southern Baptist Convention on various projects. The Nilssons say that working together as husband and wife has been a rich and rewarding experience.
"Writing together is especially good," says Troy. "Genie and I have different training, different backgrounds and different musical tastes, so the combination of our styles is interesting. I tend to lend a bit more of an analytical approach, whereas Genie brings more heart. She lends a beautiful, gentle touch and tends to write things that move people on a deep, instinctual level.
Troy and Genie are perhaps best known for creating the lullaby series Angels All Around (Everland Entertainment). Genie sang on all three albums while Troy added the beautiful instrumentation - including electric guitar swells and synthesizers -- and engineered the projects. The couple was pleasantly surprised to receive letters from many adults who bought the series for their children, but who ended up listening to and enjoying the albums themselves. This feedback inspired the Nilssons to include remixes of several "adult-friendly" selections from the Angels All Around series on Whisper.
Because it has a very ethereal, gentle sound, the Nilsson's music is often compared to what is sometimes called "ambient music." Those comparisons prompted Troy and Genie to dub their music "Heaven Music." "As Christians, Genie and I are careful to steer clear of any association with New Age theology," says Troy. "Our songs are Biblically inspired and evoke a sense of the peace of Heaven. The songs have a quality of rest, security, a sense of comfort and reassurance. They really do feel angelic. A Christian can listen to our music and reflect on the lyrics without worrying about what's being said."
"It's like the saying: 'If you want to get someone's attention, whisper.' Like God's whisper to Elijah, Whisper invites you to listen in a very peaceful, comforting way."
Troy continues, "With Whisper, we wanted to create a space that the listener could drift into. Unlike Celtic or World Music, the space that we aimed for can not be geographically defined. Instead, we wanted to create a feeling of being above the earth, a place where the laws of physics and gravity don't apply. It's a place where you'd feel light as a feather and float weightlessly - kind of like you'd expect to feel like in Heaven."
Achieving that sound presented an unusual challenge. "Because we were striving for a "floating" feeling, the vocals had to be very, very soft," says Genie. "I had to take enormously deep breaths. When you sing that softly, it's hard to stay in tune. I literally had to sing in total silence - we turned the air conditioner off, and I could only wear clothes that wouldn't rustle. But I found myself really enjoying the experience of learning to sing like that."
The couple has an active touring schedule, and recently completed a series of concerts at churches in the western U.S. They've incorporated several peaceful, soothing songs in their set - with favorable, and surprising, results.
"After one of our concerts, we were approached by a college student who admitted that he hadn't been to church or thought about God in years," says Genie. "Then a friend of his gave him a cassette of our "Heaven music." The student said that what he heard moved him so much that he ended up renewing his relationship with the Lord. I think that the music touches a tender place in a lot of people's hearts. It doesn't beat you over the head with a message. It's like the saying: 'If you want to get someone's attention, whisper.' Like God's whisper to Elijah, Whisper invites you to listen in a very peaceful, comforting way."
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