Selah Bio -
Selah Lyrics


Selah -

It certainly wasn't what they expected when they took a week off from their other pursuits to record a few songs for the benefit of their family and friends--sales of 100,000 units, a Dove Award for Inspirational Album of the Year, appearances on shows like the 700 Club. No, when stellar pianist Allan Hall along with gifted sibling vocalists Todd and Nicol Smith produced their simple but stirring collection of hymns and spirituals entitled Be Still My Soul, it was only intended to be a gift of encouragement for those who had long supported and encouraged them. True, they had played a few local gigs together under the name Selah, but their trio venture was just a fun sideline they dabbled in together.

After the front office at Curb Records got a copy of it, signed the group and released the project as it was, things slowly began to shift. At the time, Nicol was still concentrating on her R&B styled solo recording for Curb. Allan and Todd were pursuing their own separate musical ventures as well. So there weren't any great expectations for the Selah record. The project was just tossed into the retail pond where it made a few ripples that somehow and inexplicably seemed to keep spreading.

The reality was that people who were discovering Be Still My Soul couldn't seem to keep it to themselves. Selah's sparse and soulful renditions of familiar, half remembered songs of theologically rich praise and heartfelt worship were striking a chord with a wide cross-section of listeners spanning a broad age range. As one teenage fan explained, "I bought one for myself, one for my mother, and one for my grandmother!" That kind of spontaneous, grassroots, word-of-mouth exposure eventually reached a critical mass, lifting Selah to a level of industry acclaim and commercial success that they had never envisioned. "It even took the record company by surprise," Todd admits.

Their follow-up Curb release, Press On, offers the same unique chemistry as Be Still My Soul, albeit with a bit more octane. Given a recording budget and a free reign artistically, Selah and Jason Kyle produced a project that flows naturally from, while extending the scope of, their earlier effort. The heartbeat of Press On remains centered somewhere in the delicate interplay between Allan's emotive piano phrasings, Todd's strong vocal signatures, and Nicol's hauntingly transcendent and versatile voice. But the addition of a full band on some tracks, background singers elsewhere, and a featured duet with Christian music legend Russ Taff on the song "Were You There," all converge to make this project feel "bigger."

"We didn't want to move too far away from the simplicity that people responded to on the first record," Nicol explains. "We made a conscious choice to produce several of the new songs in the same piano/vocal style, but we were eager to grow as a group too. Recording a few of the songs with a full band makes for a better variety, especially live."

"This is probably what Be Still My Soul would have sounded like anyway," Todd adds, "if we'd had a budget when we first went in to record it."

Ranging from the powerful vocal and string intimacy of "Oh Draw Me Lord" to the pop-tinged gospel of Jesse Dixon's "Hold On;" from the eloquent, understated treatment of "How Great Thou Art" to the all-out soul stirring blues of "Amazing Grace," Press On manages to cover a vast amount of territory without ever losing its central focus: drawing listeners toward God by tapping into their spiritual roots.

"The songs on Be Still My Soul were mostly about comfort and encouragement," says Allan. "Press On seems to be about hope and joy. What I love about Selah is that we've agreed to approach each song individually and try to figure out what's the best way to interpret that particular song. We've never set out to fashion a best-seller or a radio hit. The common denominator is that these are all songs we love."


In a contemporary Christian music world that continues to push further and further away from its inspirational roots, the group Selah stands as a stalwart fortress that refuses to give into the forces that might wish to see it drown in favor of more contemporary sounding acts. Returning with their fourth album, Hiding Place, Selah is out to prove that one can be original and progressive in their sound yet remain firmly entrenched in the inspirational habitation where they originated.

One part nostalgia, one part arresting artistry, and one part invitation to worship, Selah's unique musical blend has again succeeded in breathing new life into previous generations of song. "I think a lot of people are drawn to what we're doing simply because they see how real it is to us," Todd says. "We love these songs and believe in them and that kind of belief is always contagious."

"Older people are glad to see that the hymns that have meant so much to them aren't just going to die out," Nicol adds. "We've had 70-year-old people come up to us after a concert and say, 'My grandmother used to sing me that song when I was a kid.' These songs form a unique and special bridge to the past for a lot of people, and at the same time they can be brand new to a younger generation."

One of the most obviously unique elements in Selah's music is directly attributable to Todd and Nicol's own African roots. Growing up as part of a missionary family stationed in the Congo, they not only learned to speak the local Kituba dialect, but they absorbed the indigenous musical influences as well. In addition to the blatant rhythms and intricate vocal layerings of the straightforward Congolese praise song "Yesu Azali Awa " (Jesus is here with us), Todd and Nicol's African heritage asserts itself more sublimely elsewhere on Press On.

The most fundamentally striking quality that Selah's listeners are likely to discover about the Press On project, is the way so many diverse threads, so many styles, so many heritages and traditions, so many distinct stories are woven together into one seamless project. That, and the fact that the project still somehow manages to retain its aura of simplicity.

"I think we'll always love working with the simple melodies of the hymns," Allan says. "Hymns are so well crafted to begin with, so well written lyrically. Their musical simplicity allows the heart and the emotional honesty to come through. That's why they so effectively communicate joy and hope and comfort and encouragement to people."

"It really is our hope," Todd adds in summation, "that people will see God in a real way through our music. The bottom line is that we want them to see and know His faithfulness, His forgiveness, and His love."

2005 is already shaping up to be an exciting year for Selah. We are blessed by the tremendous response you've given our album Hiding Place and look forward to seeing you out on the road in the next few months. As Nicol and Greg work to establish their ministry, we are thrilled to announce that Melodie Crittenden will be joining us.

Melodie attended Belmont University with Todd and Allan. Allan and Melodie have known each other about 14 years now, and even attended the same church in Nashville for a number of years. As you will discover, Melodie is an exceptionally gifted vocalist; we know you will be blessed by her gift and her sweet spirit. We're very excited for you all to meet her, and she is looking forward to meeting you out on the road!

We are excited for Nicol as she embarks on a new chapter in her life of ministry with her husband, Greg Sponberg. As many of you know, Nicol and Greg were married about a year and a half ago. Greg is a graduate student at Moody Bible Institute and plans to graduate this summer.

"African music is just a part of us," Todd explains. "It's what we grew up with. It's in our blood. We've been singing it since we were 7-years-old. When we perform the African songs live, audiences really respond to it."

Seeking a different sort of response, Selah has recently partnered with Todd and Nicol's parents in an effort to raise $500,000 for a hospital facility in the region of the Congo where they still live and minister.

"There's so much need there," Todd says, "and people die needlessly from so many treatable illnesses. We want to help these people live better lives, physically as well as spiritually. We want them to hear the Gospel, but we want them to experience God's mercy in action too. We're inviting all of our friends to be a part of this lifesaving hospital project with us."


Selah's Hiding Place also features three bonus tracks, featuring a song from each of the trio's upcoming solo projects

The rest of the album alternates between powerful inspirational cuts, African songs, and hymns. "Part the Waters Lord/I Need Thee Every Hour" is a powerhouse showcase of everything that fans of Selah love about the voice of Nicole (Smith) Sponberg - the only negative is that it doesn't go any longer. The jazzy, gospel-tinged "There Is Power In the Blood" is a true showstopper, practically daring you not to get up and clap. "You Are My Hiding Place" is a beautiful take on this worship classic - the vocals over the later part of the song are particularly strong. A cover of the classic Andrae Crouch song, "Through It All," was a welcome surprise - Nicole (Smith) Sponberg may be a white woman but, boy, can she sing a black gospel song with the best of them.

Inspirational music, or adult-oriented pop music, is tricky territory. It's way to easy to slip into middle of the road blandness or go overboard with the big ballads and power vocals. Hiding Place does neither, and though it swings and misses on a few tracks it really stands up as one of the better inspirational projects that I've heard this year. Fans of Selah's earlier works should not be disappointed and, thanks to "You Raise Me Up," a new group of people may find themselves happily exposed to this talented trio.

Comprised of stellar keyboard and vocalist, Allan Hall and sibling vocalists Todd and Nicol Smith, this trio has achieved renowned success within the Christian marketplace. Initially, focused on reinterpreting original hymns into their own harmonious style, Selah, an award winning group sets its sights on continuing a growing sales pattern and winning and influencing music consumers well beyond the Christian marketplace.


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