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Ask people to describe Mandisa and you’ll hear words like talented, gracious, beautiful, strong, loving and joyful, but the title of her new album offers an especially apt description of the artist—Overcomer. However, Mandisa sees it as more than her song, but an anthem for all believers and she’s happy to launch the battle cry.
“I’m in a new place and I want to proclaim some things to my listeners and one of them is that they are overcomers,” says Mandisa. ”Whether or not you feel it, it’s a fact. It’s what God says in His word. In John 16:33 Jesus said that He overcame the world. By His Holy Spirit, Jesus lives inside of all who have asked Him to be their Lord and Savior. Because His spirit lives inside of you, 1 John 5:4-5 says that you are born of God and overcome the world by faith. That is what makes you an overcomer.”
Overcomer brings a lump to Mandisa’s throat as she speaks of her friend Kisha fighting breast cancer during her recent pregnancy and surviving. It reminds her of Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts, whose journey encouraged Mandisa in hers. Mandisa herself is an overcomer. It’s only natural that she sings about the experience. Since finishing in the top ten of American Idol’s fifth season, Mandisa has forged a successful recording career and has lost over 100 lbs, inspiring women everywhere to strive for a healthy lifestyle and to reach for their dreams.
Penned by Ben Glover, Chris Stevens, and David Garcia the album’s title track – “Overcomer” – anchors Mandisa’s fourth studio album, a stunning collection of songs that celebrate God’s faithfulness and enthusiastically share the perpetual love and awe Mandisa feels for her Heavenly Father. “I came in really knowing exactly what I wanted to say,” she states. “The difference with this album is just where I am with the Lord. I’ve never been better. I feel like I’m definitely walking in a new level of freedom, deliverance and intimacy with the Lord. I’m walking with more authority and because all of my albums reflect what He’s doing in my life, that is reflected in this album.”
Mandisa’s newfound confidence in her relationship with God manifested itself in her songwriting, and she penned seven of the 12 songs on the Overcomer iTunes Deluxe album. “I feel like I’m in a new place,” she says. “There are several songs that are just about rejoicing and worshipping the Lord just for who He is, not asking Him for things. A lot of my songs in the past were like ‘Lord help me. I need you. I can’t do this without you’ and a lot of the songs on this album are like ‘God you’re great! I trust you. I believe you. I’m walking out my faith just because you’re good’ so I have three songs that are just purely worship songs, all about just wanting to love the Lord because of how He loves me—‘Back To You,’ ‘At All Times’ and ‘Joy Unspeakable.’ Those songs are purely worship just because of who He is.”
Overcomer is the latest in a string of impressive albums from the native Californian. A graduate of Nashville’s Fisk University, she performed as part of the legendary Fisk Jubilee Singers, but gained national acclaim when she placed ninth on the fifth season of American Idol. She signed a deal with Sparrow Records and released her debut, True Beauty in 2007, which earned her the first of three GRAMMY® nominations. She followed with a stellar sophomore effort, 2009’s Freedom. This year The Hollywood Reporter listed Mandisa in the Top 5 of Idol finalists with the most Billboard No. 1s. In 2011, Mandisa released What If We Were Real, an engaging collection of tunes that included the effervescent “Good Morning,” which she performed with tobyMac on Good Morning America. This third studio album saw a breakthrough in Mandisa’s career, leading her to unprecedented record sales, radio spins and tour audiences. What If We Were Real also produced the hit single “Stronger,” which topped the charts for five weeks and was the song Mandisa sang on Good Morning America the day Robin Roberts returned to the show after being on medical leave.
With a strong, supple voice that is equally commanding on an up tempo anthem or a tender ballad, Mandisa has earned a devoted legion of fans who appreciate not only her vocal gift but the heart that fuels her ministry.
On Overcomer, Mandisa again serves up a musically inventive, lyrically potent collection of songs that are all drawn from a deep emotional well. “Press On” is among the most personal tunes. “I’m proclaiming I’m going to press on no matter what comes my way,” she says with a smile. “For me, in that song specifically I’m speaking about my weight loss journey. I’ve come a long way. I’ve lost over 100 lbs. but I still have some work to do. I’m going to press on through this. I’m going to make it and I’m going to get to the finish line. I love ‘Press On’ because it’s a great work out song. On the remix version, which will be on the deluxe edition on iTunes, I formatted that to be perfect for my runners, the people who jog and run. We put the beat to it and we looped certain phrases over and over again that will inspire them in their run. That’s the song that I put on when I’m on my treadmill to help me keep putting one foot in front of the other.”
The funky, upbeat “Face to Face” is another powerful moment on Mandisa’s new album. “I like to refer to that song as ‘Only The World part II,’” she says referencing her previous hit, “because ‘Only The World’ is all about heaven and so is ‘Face To Face.’ It’s all about the fact that one day we’ll see Jesus face to face. I dedicate that song to my grandma who went to be with the Lord in January. I imagine her worshipping God face to face and I cannot wait to be up there with her worshipping Him together. For now, I know that God has called me to be here, so that song is just proclaiming that we’re all going to see Him face to face if we have asked Him to be our Lord and Savior. It’s going to be so great. I want the body of Christ to know that it’s real and it’s something to look forward to so that’s why ‘Face To Face’ is a real special song to me.”
Produced primarily by Chris Stevens and David Garcia, Overcomer is a vibrant album that finds Mandisa collaborating with some of her beloved peers. “‘At All Times’ is a worship song that I wrote with Israel Houghton and he’s one of my favorite worship leaders. The fact that I got to write that with him was such an honor and such a joy,” Mandisa says of the track, which was co-produced by her keyboard player Ronald Rawls and Chuck Butler. ”’At All Times’ is a congregational worship song because it’s a call and response; I sing a part and the choir sings in response. Everybody in the choir was part of my band or from my church. I love that I got to worship with them. That song is really important to me because I’ve learned the importance of worship.”
Mandisa wrote “The Distance” with Stevens and Matthew West. “I wrote on Facebook on Sept. 26th that when I sin I just feel so far away from the Lord. I don’t want to pray. I just feel so ashamed and I pull away from Him,” she says. “When I sin, I just feel so distant from the Lord and it’s not that he’s pulling away from me, it’s my sin that causes me to pull away from Him. I told that to Matthew when we got together to write and his heart just linked up with that so we wrote it together with one of my producers, Chris Stevens. It’s an important lesson for the body of Christ to remember that God is never drawing away from us. We are covered in His blood. He is always pursuing us, even in our sin.”
Each song on the album is intensely personal to Mandisa. “Praying for You” is a song she co-wrote with Chris August that is directed to her future husband. “It’s a song proclaiming, ‘I know you’re out there. I’m praying for you and in the meantime, I’m trying to honor you by living purely,” she shares. “Dear John” is a song she co-wrote with Plumb and Sam Tinnesz that is directed to someone very close to her, her brother. “If I were to write a letter to John about my desire for him to live the abundant life that Jesus died for him to have, and then put that letter to music, the result would be ‘Dear John’.”
Talented and transparent, loving and bold, Mandisa is the kind of person everyone wants in their life and her music has taken root in the hearts of people around the world. As she shares this new collection of songs, she’s grateful for the platform God has given her and aware of the responsibility it brings. “What I have learned after so many albums is to just keep seeking the Lord and keep letting Him mold me into who He wants me to be,” Mandisa says. “I’m going to keep seeking Him because if my music is just entertaining and not inspiring, giving hope, convicting and speaking life, then that’s just not good enough for me. I need it to do all of those things and the only way that can happen is by the Holy Spirit. That’s why my relationship with Him is more than important than anything. Any time my public exuberance for the Lord outweighs my private devotion to the Lord, I’ll know that I’ve gone in the wrong direction. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to always tend to my relationship with Jesus.”
It’s that attitude that has made Mandisa an overcomer and she revels in the opportunity to remind others that they are overcomers too.