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Erin O'Donnell Bibliography: (click on each album cover to view tracks and Erin O'Donnell lyrics)
Erin O'Donnell Biography
Butterflies surround Erin O'Donnell and her three-year-old daughter, Quinn. It's a sun-lit summer afternoon, and Quinn has just discovered butterflies for the first time in her budding life. Erin has spent a lot of time lately reflecting on the beauty in everyday objects as she follows her young daughter around on her first steps in this wide, wide world.
"It's almost like you start your life completely over when you have a kid," Erin laughs. "There are so many things that she's fascinated by because she's seeing them for the first time, and it makes me realize how many things I walk by everyday that I don't even see anymore."
The joy of watching her daughter begin her own journey of discovery has given Erin much cause for gratefulness, which colors every word and song on her first project for InPop Records, Wide Wide World. Once again on this, her fourth album to date, Erin displays her rare gift for capturing the passion and profound beauty in life's simplest moments-her husband and daughter walking down the stairs in their sock feet, sharing coffee with a girlfriend in the afternoon, and late-night ice cream sundaes. Coupled with her evocative, capable voice, her music reminds each of us that life, while filled with difficulty and questions, is meant to be treasured.
Not that Erin's been sitting around in reverie, by any means. In addition to keeping up with Quinn's growing repertoire of movie lines (she can quote several entire videos by heart, with emotion and gestures), there's the less than delightful challenge of potty training her daughter, answering an ongoing barrage of questions, and getting her to Mother's Day Out so that Erin could complete songwriting for Wide Wide World. In fact, Erin nearly lost herself in the strain of raising a daughter and preparing an album.
"Perhaps every first-time mom goes through something like I did, but I had a season where I felt like nothing I was going through had any value at all. When your child is very young, she can't really respond, and you're exhausted from constantly cleaning up, changing diapers. You start wondering if this is really going anywhere," Erin recalls. "Before I became a mom, I defined myself by what I did, like most people in our society; but after I had a child, I found myself pausing when someone asked me what I did and trying to come up with something great to say. As women, we need more to hang our hats on than just being a secretary or a lawyer or even a mom, as great as that is. We were created by an amazing, creative God, and we are all of the good things that He is-faith, hope, love-because He made us like Himself. That was something I really needed to remember."
That experience led to the first song from an exciting new pairing of Erin and Dove Award-winning songwriter Cindy Morgan, "And So I Am." While Wide Wide World features several other impressive songwriting collaborators, including Pete Kipley, Mark Hammond, Tyler Bieck and Greg Bieck, the bulk of writing still comes from Erin's husband of ten years, Brad O'Donnell. Brad wrote or co-wrote all of the songs on Erin's last three releases, A Scrapbook of Sorts (1996), Scratching the Surface (1998) and No Place So Far (2001), including all ten of her "Top Ten" radio hits like the #1 songs "Be Still and Know," one of the Top 50 Christian Songs of the Year in 1996, and "No Better Place," the same year's #2 AC Song of the Year. The couple's decade together has helped them write almost as one person, sharing the same journey together that shapes their songcrafting.
While preparing one of the album's signature songs, "Thank You," Erin found herself reflecting one night on God's goodness in her life. "I remember putting Quinn to bed, and as I brushed my teeth, I thought about how very grateful I am for everything God's done for us. I wrote Brad an email telling him I'd like to write a song about being overwhelmed with gratitude for how blessed we are."
Brad was away at a convention that weekend, and long-distance connection problems kept him from receiving the note. However, the next morning, Brad called Erin and told her that he'd just begun a song called "Thank You." The song's opening lines reveal the couple's uncanny oneness of mind: "Watching you come down the stairs tonight, our daughter in your arms, it hits me like a freight train, it startles me into a songThank you, thank you for giving me this life."
This sentiment is echoed in a song Erin chose for Wide Wide World from outside the family. Cindy Morgan's gentle blessing "This Is My Prayer," co-written with Jeremy Bose and Joe Beck, instantly hit home with Erin. "This song marks the first time I've ever recorded anything that neither Brad nor I was somehow involved with," Erin reveals. "The first time I heard it, I pictured standing over Quinn's bed like Brad and I do at night sometimes, and praying for her. The lyrics are every mother's wish for her child."
Watching her daughter grow and discover the strength of her mother's love, Erin has learned so much about the depth of God's love for her. Raised in one of Massachusetts' devout Irish-Catholic families, Erin didn't understand the personal and intentional quality of God's love for her until she left for college in Florida.
"I loved going to Mass and definitely believed in God, but there was always a mediator. When I got to college and heard Christian music, it was the first time I'd heard anyone approach God that way. For anyone to just pray directly to God themselves, even in a song, was amazing to me." After several months, Erin came to have a personal faith in Christ through the efforts of her college roommate and her future husband, Brad.
Today, that personal, intimate approach to God shapes so many of her songs as Erin and Brad continue their journey into God's purpose for their lives. Wide Wide World''s title song was born while they read Rick Warren's best-selling book Forty Days to a Purposeful Life together. "That book reminds you how short and fleeting life is, and how much you want to get it right," Erin explains. "It's good to get some perspective and realize that so much of what we stress out about doesn't really matter. I've been reminded of that over the whole process of recording this record these last six months, as well as how grateful I am to see that I have so much of what really matters."
A fitting response to that realization is found in "Overcome," a pop cut written by Brad, Pete Kipley and co-producer Mark Hammond (Nichole Nordeman, Cindy Morgan, Jump 5), who contributed his production talents to Wide Wide World along with Alain Mallet (Jonatha Brooke, Scratching the Surface). "There are moments when you know without a doubt-with every fiber of your being-that God is sitting next to you," Erin describes. "They're few and far between, but they are almost indescribable. In moments like that, I'm overcome by how blessed we are to have a God who loves us so much."
"Overcome" also reveals Erin's expanded vocal display on Wide Wide World, one she feels may be the best of her remarkable career. "I've always loved Mark's work, because I feel like every artist he's ever worked with gave the best vocal performance of their career. He challenged me to do things with my voice I'd never done before, and it was great to be stretched like that." The inaugural pairing is in keeping with Erin's new professional affiliations with Inpop Records and Chaffee Management. "I've had the opportunity to work with Jim [Chaffee] and several members of the Inpop team in the past," Erin says of her new label and manager, "so it doesn't seem like a big change at all to be involved with them again."
All in all, despite changes and challenges, Erin is grateful to have the chance once again to give thanks to God through her songs for continuing to carry her on this journey through life. The words of the album's quiet, hymn-like close, "You Give," aptly sum up Wide Wide World: "Praise to You, O God, Honor to Your Name, For You've seen fit to love me, I'm astounded and amazed."