Nicole Serrano is a Christian singer/songwriter originating from New York. Her exceptional musical and lyrical prowess is showcased in her debut CD, The Way it Should Be. This year she recorded the song “We Are Turning” with 5-time Dove Award winning producer, Bryan Lenox and Chuck Butler, who has worked with artists such as Kelly Clarkson, Miley Cyrus, Nick Lachey, and the Backstreet Boys. Matching her passion for music is her heart for people featured through her humanitarian work as founder of The Kimwanga Project, which aids widows in Uganda, East Africa. That such soul-stirring vocals accompanied by dazzling musical ability and introspective lyrics are coming from such a young person makes Nicole Serrano one to follow.
How did you get started in music?
My dad was the biggest musical influence in my life, growing up. He would sing Stevie Wonder to me at the top of his lungs, by the way, and I would try to “sing” along, but it was more like whining. My mom surprised me one Christmas with a guitar, so I began immediately locking myself in my room for hours on end, teaching myself to play. My parents were, and still are, very active in church and so I started singing and playing guitar in church for solos and with a church band.
Besides being a singer/songwriter, you play several instruments. Which ones do you play and how did you learn to play them?
Well, it started with drums. I would go into the church as a kid and just play until I thought it sounded good. Then, I taught myself piano and guitar and picked up the clarinet and saxophone for middle school band. Somewhere along the way, I learned to play bass and electric guitar.
Have you had any formal musical training?
Not until I went to college. I was self-taught in all of my instruments. I tried taking piano lessons when I was in middle school but quit because my teacher told me I was musically illiterate and would never be a good musician. But I think I ended up alright.
The songs in your debut CD The Way It Should Be take the listener into a sincere, intimate and emotional place that they can relate to. Where did the inspiration for the songs come from?
Well, there’s a story behind every song. Some songs, like “The Way it Should Be” were written for friends in weird relationship situations. Some are from my personal life, like “How I,” which was written as I was dealing with handling a big move during my senior year of high school. I felt a deep sense of loneliness and the song was a result. All of the songs on the album are very real to me and are expressions of some crucial moments in my life.
Which one of your songs on your CD is your favorite and what is the story behind it?
“All Over Again.” That song literally just came out one day. At the time, I was really struggling with some real-life junk. I sat on my bed with my guitar one afternoon and before I realized it, I was writing a song. I just sobbed in between the lines of the lyrics. My heart was heavy and I was tired of dealing with the same struggle time after time. My once-hidden sin was revealed and I was left to face it. I didn’t want to be me anymore; I wanted someone else’s life. I wanted God to just start all over again with me. It brought me to my knees, realizing that I can’t do it right without Him. It’s a song of repentance.
What role does your faith play in your music?
Huge. I write about what’s going on in the inside. My faith is like the lens I use to see the world and how I view truth. For me, I can’t write a song that isn’t true for me. I can start out trying but it turns out pretty lame.
Who or what has influenced your music and who are your favorite musicians?
I’m a huge Colbie Caillat fan. She is the only singer I have never gotten sick of. Her voice is like a piña colada on the beach. Others: Stevie Wonder is a genius. Big Coldplay fan as well as Brooke Fraser, Shane & Shane, Bethany Dillon, Jack Johnson, NeedtoBreathe, Brett Dennen, Phil Wickham. Love reggae as well [Bob Marley]…the list goes on!
What musicians have you shared the stage with or recorded with?
This year has been really amazing for me and I’ve had a lot of unique opportunities. I was in concert with Starfield, Derek Webb, Remedy Drive, Luminate, John Rueben, Group 1 Crew, and Superchick, just in the past year. I got to record with the lovely Jonathan Thulin and sang the duet “My Heart is Ready Now” on his latest album, The Anatomy of a Heartflow. I’ve also got some recording in for Jeff Deyo’s Pure Worship Institute with producers Bryan Lenox and Chuck Butler on the song “Turning Generation.” This summer I got to do a lot of co-writing down in Nashville. It was so neat writing and recording and getting the chance to see how an idea evolved into a fully produced song by the end of the day.
Why is it important for you as a Christian to play for a non-Christian audience?
Well, I can relate this best to someone who’s never travelled. All they know is their country, their customs, their worldview. But there is so much to learn and consider. I think it’s easy for Christians to justify only talking to, hanging out with, or do anything with just Christians, but how are we supposed to show love and hope to people who don’t know of any unless we step outside the walls of the Church? People are people and we all need hope. It just happens to turn out that Jesus is the only constant and everlasting hope. We as Christians have Him and have the responsibility to share Him with the rest of the world, however that looks. I think everyone has their niche and their purpose in life. Some are fit for church ministry and some for careers in the workplace, but if we as Christians only aim to influence other Christians, how will anyone else ever hear or experience the life and light found in God?
Besides your passion for music, you have a heart for the vulnerable. Can you tell us about the causes that you support?
I am the founder of “The Kimwanga Project.” It’s an organization that exists to raise funds and awareness for the widows of the Kimwanga village of Uganda, East Africa. Widows there live in complete poverty and struggle to find means for their most basic needs — food, medicine, shelter. They are often forgotten and not taken care of, as most people there live in poverty and are in great need and cannot provide for their own family needs, never mind the needs of these widows. I am selling bracelets at concerts and events to raise money to support these women. I’m also receiving donations! For more info, check out The Kimwanga Project.
How can people follow you and your music?
Facebook Page: Nicole Serrano