Clucky says, "I'm eggstatic about CCA!"
NASHVILLE - No one knows the importance of family relationships better than brother and sister Todd and Nicol Smith. Both extraordinary vocalists on their own right, Todd and Nicol grew up in a musical family that lived together, sang together and traveled together through most of their childhood.
Extending that musical heritage, Todd and Nicol have now joined close friend and phenomenal pianist Allan Hall to record their first album together as Selah, which means "to lift up the voice in praise." The trio's chosen name is a perfect fit with their album, "Be Still My Soul", a collection of the group's favorite hymns performed in their own unique and impassioned style.
"We began performing hymns in concerts because we just loved them," Todd explains. "They are so pure, there were no motives to write a song for radio airplay or money. They became therapeutic for us. Music can really help heal people and comfort them. I knew these songs had done the same thing for us, and we wanted them to be able to minister to others who may have needed to hear them."
Allan adds, "Todd and Nicol's voices minister to me so much, and I think others respond to that, too. People can sense the realness when they sing these hymns. Even though they are familiar tunes, I hear them in a way I've never heard them before."
Todd and Nicol grew up with an older sister and younger brother. Their parents were musical evangelists and traveled with all four children in the summers to churches and camps, where the entire family would sing together. When Nicol was eight years old and Todd was only five, their parents became missionaries to Africa, moving the entire family to Zaire. The family lived there for eight years, coming back and forth to Detroit from time to time on furlough.
"I knew people who were hurting for various reasons and although I knew there wasn't anything I could physically do, I wanted a way that I could comfort them."
Allan grew up in east Tennessee and began playing piano at the age of seven. He began playing by ear and picked out songs he heard on the radio, or hymns he sang at the small, country church he attended. His musical influences included everything from old 1950s rock and roll to bluegrass and gospel.
Todd and Nicol both moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 1992 to pursue careers in music. Todd attended Belmont College (where he met Allan), while Nicol found studio work as a backup vocalist and maintained work as a waitress on the side. Within a couple of years, Nicol was able to quit her side job altogether and concentrate completely on music. Her career as a studio singer took off, putting her behind the microphone with artists such as Amy Grant, Cindy Morgan, Bryan Duncan, Margaret Becker, Lisa Bevill and many, many others.
It wasn't long after that when Nicol ws offered a record deal of her own with Curb Records. She is currently in the midst of recording a solo project that will release late this year. In the meantime, she, Todd and Allan became friends and began to perform small concerts together, singing their own renditions of their favorite hymns.
"Coming to Nashville had been an awakening to different things for me," Nicol says. "I began to see a lot of hurt people within families. I knew people who were hurting for various reasons and although I knew there wasn't anything I could physically do, I wanted a way that I could comfort them. For some reason, these hymns have reached people in a new way. They have responded to us so positively."
At the urging of numerous youth groups, Todd, Nicol and Allan decided to go into the studio independently and record some of the hymns so that their concert attendees would have something to take home. To the trio's surprise, when record label president Mike Curb heard the recording, he knew right away that he wanted to be involved with it. He had already signed Nicol to his label as a solo artist, and was equally excited about releasing a hymns project.
Aside from the album's title song (which is Nicol's favorite), "Be Still My Soul" includes such long-standing titles as "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross," "His Eye Is On The Sparrow,", and "Precious Lord," a favorite of Todd and Nicol's father.
"'Precious Lord' is a song our grandma used to sing," Todd explains. "It was written by a black gospel writer named Thomas Dorsey, who received a telegram one day telling him he'd just lost his wife and daughter. He became so angry at God, wondering why He had allowed it to happen. But after spending months in anger, this was the very first song he wrote when he sat back down at the piano again."
The album also includes a soulful rendition of the Andrae Crouch-penned tune, "The Blood," as well as "Sweet, Sweet Song of Salvation," a favorite from the Jesus People movement of the 1970s.
The trio even incorporated some of Todd and Nicol's African-influenced stylings on "Wayfaring Stranger," and on "Bika Mono Ve (It Is Well)," which is sung partly in the African language of Kituba.
"We are really excited to have the opportunity to release this project, especially because we didn't expect it at this time," Todd shares. "It has really shown me how God works in his own timing, and how our faith in Him is what is most important.
With the release of "Be Still My Soul", possible touring opportunities ahead, and Nicol's upcoming solo project, Selah will continue to forge ahead through each new door that is opened on their musical journey. Along the way, they hope to touch a few lives with the same music that has been so inspirational to theirs.
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