The Story Behind the Song: "Cover Me" - Bebo Norman
by John Hillman
Songwriters who create meaningful compositions draw upon personal experiences and emotions, and Bebo Norman rates as one of most skillful at spinning his own story in contemporary Christian circles. With his song, "Cover Me" from the album Big Blue Sky, he artistically expresses the greatness of God compared with the smallness of humanity.
Amazingly, the Georgia native and son of an accountant never considered music a career until graduating from Presbyterian College. An undergraduate biology major, Norman planned to enroll in medical school and train as a doctor.
But while studying for his admission tests, the college student nicknamed "Bebo" by his younger sister questioned his life's calling. Encouraged by dozens of Young Life camps and retreats, the young graduate decided to embark on a one-year musical sabbatical. The success and acceptance he experienced playing and witnessing led to the production of a 1996 independent CD, The Fabric of Verse, which sold almost 50,000 copies.
"I didn't know what to expect," he admitted. "I knew we had made a CD that I was pretty happy with, but I really had no idea what would happen. Because I was traveling, playing small little clubs, colleges and doing Young Life camps, those people ended up being extremely loyal."
Bebo's songs reached the ears and caught the attention of Caedmon's Call founder, Cliff Young. Coincidentally, the rising young artist also played the records of the Second Baptist Church of Houston based group for his own inspiration.
"It was really strange," he said. "I was listening to their music, and they were listening to mine. Eventually, we got together, and I wound up opening for them on two separate tours."
Over the next three years, the pair's relationship grew and developed while Norman added to his repertoire of original songs. In time, Young formed his own record label, Watershed Records, to showcase up-and coming Christian musicians and signed Bebo as an artist.
The resulting nationally distributed CD, Ten Thousand Days, brought the singer/songwriter critical acclaim. It debuted at number three on the Internet Sales Chart, outselling the Backstreet Boys and Sarah MacLachlan. The album totaled more than 125,000 units sold in United States and became Europe's top selling new artist release.
"Norman's matured vocals have you quickly eating out of his hand, and his lyrics will remind you of familiar struggles in your own life," wrote Robin Parrish of christianmusic.about.com. "Yet throughout it all everything always points back to a God who hears the cries of His people."
Ten Thousand Days propelled Norman to the forefront of contemporary Christian music and landed him on the covers of CCM, Release, Believe, and Christian Single. Despite the CD's success and his own popularity, the 27-year-old unmarried singer sought new and broader horizons.
In spring of 2000, the popular musician opened for Jennifer Knapp on the Back Forty Days tour. In an unusual move, the group performed a number of concerts in out-of-the-way and off-the-beaten-track venues, bringing Norman's music to undiscovered locales.
During the summer, Bebo took his solo act across the ocean to Europe and Africa. The cross-cultural musical experience opened the young singer's eyes.
"It was quite an adjustment for me and very intriguing," he said. "In Kenya, I played for 2,000 people, and it just blew me away. I didn't know people even knew me in Kenya and hearing them sing my songs in one voice was overwhelming."
To record his third album, Big Blue Sky, Bebo returned to the North Carolina farmhouse studio of friend and producer Ed Cash. In the setting's quiet and solitude, the singer whose influences include Jonathan Brooks, David Wilcox, and Counting Crows crafted pieces incorporating his signature folk guitar roots but supplemented with a slightly broader sound.
"It definitely feels bigger than my last record," he explained. "While some of the production is still really simple and acoustic, just me and my guitar, quite a bit is more layered and pop-oriented."
The CD's second track, "Cover Me," describes how God supports His children and overcomes their insecurity and inadequacy. Norman admitted he fears losing the good things he has been given, and this fear must be faced or it will create a drain on his spiritual relationship.
"I have so many things to be thankful for, and I don't want to take them for granted by looking past them, to when they might not be there anymore," he said. "That's the perspective that 'Cover Me' was written out of. Don't live in this world where you're worried about what's going to happen, live in the present and be consumed by the moment that we're in right now."
Written as a prayer, the composition's chorus encapsulates the singer's request in these lines, "Cover up my heart, cover up my soul, cover up my heart and everything I know." These words echo the thoughts of Psalm 32:1 which reads, "Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered."
Norman's ever-growing popularity gave rise to his own headlined Big Blue Sky tour in the fall of 2001. Up-and-coming singers Katy Hudson and Shaun Groves served as the ensemble's opening acts. But despite the success and accolades, Bebo remains focused to his calling as a musical minister.
"There are times I wish I had more community and consistency in my life where I could attend the same church every week and do ordinary things like watch football," he admits. "But I enjoy songwriting because it's so fulfilling, and I love seeing how God uses my songs to respond to listeners' needs."