Bebo Norman's final tour comes to Columbus on Nov. 15

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comNovember 2, 2013 

Bebo Norman's career in music has only two months remaining, and one of his final shows will be in Columbus.

"It is time for me to enter the small world for a while," said the award-winning contemporary Christian singer and songwriter who has announced his retirement.

Though he is thankful for his success and the good times he has had, Norman, 40, said the life of a professional musician is not one for which he was geared.

In a telephone interview this week, the popular artist repeated the message he gave to fans on his website.

"I have struggled for years now with all of the things that surround and are part of what it means to be a professional musician. The touring, publicity, lack of consistency, anxiety and time away from home have been a struggle for me in different ways for pretty much the entirety of my nearly 20 years playing music," Norman said.

The singer, raised in Columbus, said he has never felt comfortable being in the spotlight and performing in front of large audiences.

He is ready to spend time at home in Franklin, Tenn., with his wife of 10 years, Roshare, and their two young sons, Smith and Miller.

Norman is in the middle of a farewell tour that officially ends here on Nov. 15 at the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts, though he still has a Christmas show he is obligated to do in New York.

The official tour has included stops in cities such as Greenville, S.C., Chattanooga, Tenn., Lincoln, Neb., and Houston.

It is fitting for the tour to end here, since Columbus is where Norman first began performing.

A graduate of Hardaway High School, Norman still has family and friends here and recently enjoyed getting in his kayak on the whitewater course.

"Great fun," he said.

As a teen, he was involved with two youth organizations, Young Life and Teen Advisors. Proceeds from his Columbus show, after expenses, will go to benefit those two groups.

He said both were "pretty instrumental" in shaping the person he has become.

The mission of Young Life Ministries is to introduce adolescents to Jesus Christ and help them grow in their faith.

Teen Advisors is about using positive peer pressure to keep kids from alcohol, drugs and sex. It is about living a life with integrity.

He said his first performances were singing with a band formed of members of Teen Advisors.

"I was nervous to death," he recalled.

That was before he even began playing the guitar.

It was never a dream of his to make music a career and has always thought of himself as an "accidental musician."

He got a biology degree in college and was contemplating going to medical school.

"Playing music professionally was a one-year experiment that lasted a lot longer," he said.

He said he did not grow up listening to Christian music and the songs he began writing were about his struggles with love and faith.

The career began in small clubs.

"I probably played as many bars as I did churches in those early days," he said.

However, it was on Christian radio that his songs became popular.

His first album, "Fabric of Verse," was an independent production in 1996. He said his final album released last year, "Lights of Distant Cities," features some of his best material.

He has had many hit singles including "Nothing Without You," "I Will Lift My Eyes" and "Disappear."

His work has been nominated several times for the Dove Award presented by the Gospel Music Association.

Dove wins came in 2003 when "City on the Hill-Sing Alleluia" won for special event album of the year and in 2010 when "The Only Hope" won for inspirational recorded song of the year.

Norman said his career has been fulfilling, but he always looked at music as something that would come to an end.

"I never saw myself as a lifer," he said. "I never could have imagined this story for myself. It has far exceeded anything I could have planned on my own."

He said he is amazed that people are still coming to hear him sing after all these years. He does feel he is one of the luckiest men in the world to have the career he has had.

So what will he do now with his solitude?

He said he has been fortunate to make some real estate investments. He wants to buy some old houses and fix them up. He has done renovations before.

"I love the idea of doing that. I love working with my hands," he said.

Norman lives near Nashville, but he said he will not feel the lure to go back into music.

"I want to become a music fan again," he said. "When you are making a living in music, you don't get to see many other people perform. That's what I want to do."

Norman's show on Nov. 15 is at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $25 and $15 and may be purchased at the RiverCenter box office or by visiting www.rivercenter.org.

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