Natalie Cromwell is a songwriter, worship leader and a singer. She has recently released her new EP "River." this new project presents 5 powerful songs written for the church to sing.
Cromwell has shared the stage with many anointed singers and leaders, including Gordon Mote, Wes Hampton (Gaither Vocal Band), and Doug Anderson (Signature Sound). She also is no stranger to the studio, as she does a lot of recording with some of the top names in the industry.
Q: Natalie, thanks for doing this interview with us. Let start with yourself, tell us a little about yourself.
A: Thanks for having me! I'm a full-time worship leader at a great church in the southwest metro of Minneapolis called Grace Church. I've been here for almost 3 years, and I'm right in my sweet spot. I love this place! I also write songs fairly "full-time", and feel like God has started to stir in me this desire to write more songs for the church, and less "singer-songwriter" content like I used to.
Q: I am really excited about your new record "River." How and when was this album birthed?
A: This album was birthed out of an unsettled feeling about what types of music I was writing. I used to write a lot of southern gospel (and I still write it quite a bit when I get the chance), but I started feeling like God was calling me to write bigger songs for MY church and my community. I've been given a huge platform at Grace and I wasn't really doing much with it. I felt like I had a big responsibility that I wasn't quite fulfilling in some way. So, I went to my friend Michael Farren, knowing he was a southern writer AND a worship leader who writes songs for corporate worship, and we started dreaming!
Q: Did you set out to make a worship record? Why a worship record?
A: Yes, we set out to write songs FOR the church, that people (specifically in my church congregation) would relate with, and could sing in a corporate setting. It felt important to be singing songs that have been birthed out of our stories, our testimonies, and the ways we've seen God be faithful to our community specifically. I think people start engaging in worship more when they are able to sing songs and words they truly MEAN when the words leave their lips. I think we often start singing songs at church because they're familiar and on the radio, but they don't often come from a place we can relate to.
Q: You also have some fabulous co-writers such as Tony Wood and Michael Farren. How did you get to meet them? What was it like writing with them?
A: I've known Michael for a few years, and we've done some cowriting together at various writing retreats/conferences, so I knew I would approach him first about producing a worship record. Once we started dreaming about this project, he set up several co-writing sessions with some of my FAVORITE songwriters (and I almost dropped dead when I found out! Haha! ) I made a few trips to Nashville to write these songs, and the songwriting sessions were my favorite part of the process. I've known Tony for awhile before we got to write together, and I have to say, all of these amazing writers are just as great inside a writing room as they are outside. You can tell their love for the Lord oozes out of them in conversations, writing, and just hanging together. The best part about all of them: they treated me as an equal in the writing room, like all of my ideas were important and valid, and most of all, they are friends!
Q: One of the songs I raved about in my review is "Like Jericho." Tell us what inspired you to write this song.
A: "Like Jericho" was one of those songs inspired by the community I live and lead in. Grace Church is located in a very affluent, educated community of people who seem to "have it all together". Lots of big homes, nice cars, beautiful families that seem to have nothing wrong. But one thing I started to notice over and over again when I talk to people is that they all have the same replies: "It's all good! I'm fine! Doing better than ever!" And it got me thinking... we're all human, and SURELY not every one of these 10,000 people is "fine". So I started digging deeper, getting to know people in a different way. Sure enough, I find out that there is SO much heart ache, depression, relationship issues, financial crisis, etc. The list of "unseens" goes on and on. Just because we don't have many issues with "visible" needs like homelessness, disease, etc., doesn't mean that our people aren't hurting on the inside! But there is SO much pressure in this community to put on a good face and look like we have it all together. That's where "Like Jericho" started.
Q: What about "Look What You have Done"?
A: This song came out of my desire to write a song about the cross from a fresh perspective. Sometimes it's hard as a "christian" writer to write new songs about a story that's been around for thousands of years and never changes! Countless songs have been written about the cross, so it's tough to find a "fresh" take on it. But Michael and I sat down around the piano one day, and I just started talking. I talked about what God was teaching me through a sermon series we were going through at church, and as I was talking, he started playing and we sort of latched on to this phrase "look what God has done"... which morphed into "look what you've done". And it basically wrote itself from there!
Q: With only 5 songs on this record, are you going to follow this up with another 5-song EP soon?
A: Currently I don't have plans for another EP right away. We have some exciting prospects with this project, so I'm sort of waiting to see what doors the Lord opens. I'm also writing a book right now, so I think my plan is to finish the book before releasing another music project!
Q: How has this record changed or enriched your understanding of worship?
A: This project has definitely changed my understanding of worship in a HUGE way. I used to think of worship from a high-level, 50,000 feet perspective. But through writing songs for this project, I have come to understand how PERSONAL songs can truly change the culture of worship at my church. I've begun to learn the importance of knowing your congregation, and choosing/writing songs from that understanding. If most of the people in my congregation are hurting, I should probably consider choosing songs about finding hope through the valleys, rather than "happy go-lucky" praise songs. Through this process, I feel like I have gained a deeper understanding of how to lead, and that leading effectively doesn't always equal singing the top 10 CCLI songs! God has a unique plan and a unique map for each of His congregations, and I'm starting to understand that following HIM is a far greater reward than following the popular choices.