Unique Voice and Vision | Image of Musician Calvin Nowell
Episode 72

A Conversation with Calvin Nowell

Intentionally Diverse

Calvin Nowell’s Musical Journey: Embracing Diversity and Authentic Worship

In the latest episode of “Conversations on the Walk,” host Joshua Swanson welcomed the multifaceted talent Calvin Nowell. A figure synonymous with diversity and authenticity in Christian music, Nowell shared insights from his personal journey, reflecting on a career that includes collaborations with icons like Stevie Wonder and Michael W. Smith.

Intention In Worship

Nowell’s narrative is a testament to unexpected beginnings and the transformative power of intention in worship. He began singing in college, not from a cultivated talent but through a desire for community and connection. His voice was first recognized not in a church or a studio, but during a talent segment of a personality contest. This revelation of his singing ability not only surprised his family but also set him on a path of spiritual and musical exploration.

Authenticity in Worship

The crux of Nowell’s approach to worship is rooted in authenticity. He advocates for a heartfelt expression over technical prowess, influenced early on by a colleague at a telemarketing firm whose soul-stirring voice taught him to “concentrate” – to fully inhabit the message of the song. This philosophy has evidently resonated with others, distinguishing Nowell in recording sessions and worship settings alike.

Michael W. Smith The Mentor

Interestingly, Nowell’s growth as a worship leader was self-navigated, as he didn’t have a direct mentor. Instead, he observed and learned from the likes of Michael W. Smith, who demonstrated the art of leading worship by stepping aside to let the spirit lead. Nowell imbibed the subtlety of letting the heart lead more than the voice, which has become a signature of his ministry.

Looking back, Nowell wishes he had known the importance of relaxation and self-acceptance at the beginning of his career. He acknowledges the pressure to attain perfection and compete, but emphasizes the significance of recognizing one’s inherent value and unique contributions to worship.

Global Worship Movements

In terms of the global movement of the Holy Spirit, Nowell noted a focus on learning and collecting experiences to understand God’s work in the world. He emphasized the need for mental health awareness, prayer for nations, and quality time with family – all dots that the Holy Spirit helps us collect to understand our life’s narrative.

He’s passionate about the evolution of church worship, particularly the trend towards diversity in music and congregations. Nowell sees this as a response to a divine call for variety and a reflection of the multifaceted nature of God. He encourages churches to pursue intentional diversity, to seek out what and who is missing in their communities, and to learn from other cultures.

Diversity in Worship

Regarding tradition, Nowell shared his journey from predominantly black churches to predominantly white ones, advocating for a worship space that embraces both expressiveness and reflectiveness. Post George Floyd, he observes progress towards diversity but acknowledges there’s much work to be done.

Nowell sees today’s churches creating their own music as a thrilling development. He believes in the power of individual stories shaping unique worship songs and the importance of capturing a true expression of God for impact.

The Worship Music “Industry”

Navigating the intersection of worship and the music industry, Nowell has found balance in compartmentalization, separating business and ministry to maintain the sacredness of worship. His ultimate focus is creating environments where everyone wins, particularly God.

Calvin Nowell’s story, shared on “Conversations on the Walk,” is a compelling narrative of discovery, diversity, and dedication, offering a mirror to the evolving landscape of Christian worship where the heart’s authenticity reigns supreme.

Please subscribe to our social channels for more information and great content surrounding building a lifestyle of worship. This podcast is brought to you by Authentic Media and Worship Leader Magazine. Our host is Joshua Swanson and the show’s co-producer and editor is Matt McCartie. More episodes can be found here.

Read the transcript here


Who is Calvin Nowell?

Calvin Nowell’s tapestry of talents is as rich as it is varied, painting him as a Renaissance man of the modern music industry. With a resume that sings as harmoniously as he does, Calvin has graced stages and studio sessions alongside Grammy-winning luminaries such as Stevie Wonder, Michael McDonald, and Michael W. Smith, to name-drop just a few. He’s lent his branding brilliance and vocal virtuosity to these icons, all while shaping the sounds and spirits of congregations across America with his heartfelt worship leadership and songwriting prowess.

Yet, Calvin’s artistry extends beyond the microphone and the sanctuary. He is a maestro of marketing, a speaker who captivates, and an influencer with the charm and acumen to elevate the most innovative of ideas. At the helm of Cmon Creative, his advertising agency, he orchestrates campaigns for both Fortune 500 companies and top-tier entertainers, turning visions into visual and visceral victories.

Based in the vibrant town of Franklin, TN, Calvin’s life is a symphony of service, creativity, and leadership. Whether it’s through a soul-stirring melody or a groundbreaking marketing strategy, his true passion is in ushering others toward their fullest potential, making the intangible tangible, the silent sing, and the unseen seen.

Music by Calvin Nowell

What Is Planning Center?

Planning Center is a set of software tools to help you organize information, coordinate events, communicate with your team, and connect with your congregation.

More from Calvin Nowell

Keep Listening

A Conversation with Sarah Kroger
A Conversation with Sarah Kroger on “A New Reality”

Exploring the Depths of Worship with Sarah Kroger In a recent episode of The Walk…

Kim Walker-Smith Devotional
Kim Walker-Smith Devotional: Mama

Kim Walker-Smith’s story is a testament to the transformative power of embracing one’s role as a parent. Kim discussed the ongoing commitment required to connect with her children’s hearts, a task that varies in difficulty as they grow but is always worth the effort

Meredith Andrews Devotional: Worship Is Warfare

Andrews’ experiences on the worship platform illustrate the dual nature of worship—it is both a personal encounter with God and a communal experience that strengthens and unifies the body of Christ.

All Episodes