Canyon Worship displays Jasperse's sound skills

Nicole Jasperse, who has three songs on Canyon Worship 2022, is an accomplished musician who performs before live audiences. (Photo by Elizabeth Tinajero)

Fifth in a series

By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau

Many Worship Arts students at Grand Canyon University have a gift for songwriting. That’s why they’re in the program.

But Nicole Jasperse takes it three steps further.

She can write songs that suit her sound … and make them that much better with her instrumental abilities … and then perform them before a live audience.

“She’s gifted. She’s a phenomenal acoustic guitar player and pianist, and her voice just fits the music she writes,” Worship Arts Coordinator Dr. Randall Downs said. “That’s a gift in and of itself, when somebody can write music that fits their voice.”

In Canyon Worship 2022, her gift is most evident in “Most Precious,” one of her three songs on the album but her only solo. She wrote it last fall, during a time when she felt lonely and misunderstood.

“It was a moment of realization that all of the people around me, no matter how loving and caring they are, they’re still human and imperfect and they’ll never be the kind of friend that Jesus is,” she said. “It really just focuses on the way He knows and sees me so individually and so thoroughly and just how special that is and how unique that is – just the preciousness of God.”

It’s a great message, and GCU Recording Studio Manager Eric Johnson also views it as a great example of what makes Jasperse’s music so appealing. The senior-to-be is on Canyon Worship, scheduled to be released in September, for the second consecutive year.

“This is in the style that we’ve come to love from Nicole,” Johnson said. “It’s folksy and invokes feelings of home. I always get a feeling of wanting to go home to the Midwest when I hear her songs. She’s got a sound of nostalgia.

“This song says, ‘This is my God, and I want you to know how special He is to me.’”

Like-minded

Downs knows her sound as well as anyone. It’s his sound, too.

“That’s the music I write, so I gravitate toward this. Give me acoustic instruments, beautiful melodies, and she has such a great folky voice,” he said.

“What a beautiful message, that there’s nothing more precious than Christ. The temptations that we face in the world are to turn to other things to try to satisfy. Maybe that’s safety, security, maybe that’s wants or desires, but nothing will satisfy outside of Jesus. That message is communicated so clearly in the song.”

Jasperse loved what producers Geoff Hunker and Dave Willey added to a simple song that she said conveys a “very gentle and intimate feeling.”

“The production process has been so cool because Geoff and Dave were like, ‘OK, we know we want this song pretty much just a vocal and acoustic, but since it’s so simple we want to get extra creative in how we do that,’” she said.

The creativity included playing a guitar next to an open grand piano to create an interesting reverberation. “That’s been a fun little experiment,” she said. “It’s just been fun to see them brainstorm and see how a really simple song can still be really creative.”

Two other songs

Jasperse also teamed up with Madison Russell, Colter Bonarati and Victoria Gutierrez on “The Real Thing” and with Russell, Gutierrez and Annabelle Butcher on “I’m Yours.”

“The Real Thing” is another one of those “stairwell songs” that are a new part of the Recording Studio Arts culture. The foursome got going on it during Worship Summit class and sought out the privacy and acoustics of the stairwell to continue their work.

“We were just jamming in the stairwell,” Jasperse said. “We started having a couple of ideas. Colter sang a line of thinking we knew what we wanted before we found the Lord, but it didn’t do much to satisfy. We came up with this line of how all that is only counterfeit, and from there we came up with the hook line, ‘The real thing, You’re the real thing.’ God is the only real true satisfaction in life.

“I had started playing a progression on the acoustic. Colter sang the first line, ‘Thought I knew what I was after.’ I sang out, ‘You’re the real thing, the real thing.’ Madison came up with most of the melodies and chord progressions. We each had our little piece of the puzzle.”

Johnson likes the way the song brings in a resonator guitar and a banjo to produce “kind of a shuffle sound.” But, in his mind, it also points to how Jasperse’s talent is the real thing, too.

“It definitely has her influence,” he said. “It’s a real positive song. In the spirit of revelation, it invokes finding a positive solution to a long-lived problem.”

Jasperse wrote “I’m Yours” for a songwriting class in the fall of 2020. She was at home at the time, taking classes online for one semester during the pandemic, but still did virtual songwriting sessions with other students. Much of it was composed, however, via demo recordings they sent back and forth.

“It’s soulful. It’s inviting. It’s a great reminder that we belong to the Lord, that we’re His,” Downs said.

In demand

Jasperse’s music is so inviting, she frequently performs it for audiences near her home in Moorhead, Minnesota. Doing solos nonstop – sometimes on the piano but mostly while playing the guitar – might seem intimidating to some performers, but she’s a pro.

“I’ve been doing this for a while, so that helps,” she said. “It’s kind of fun. Maybe there’s more pressure, but there’s also a lot more freedom. I can play whatever I want, and nobody has to be coordinated with me.

“My style is very suited to playing alone or in a smaller setting. I play a lot of acoustic stuff in singer/songwriter type vibes. Most of my songs talk about pretty personal stuff. Someone once told me that the emotions of my songs are what’s special about them.”

It’s a gift she keeps giving. The message, the voice, the musical skills – it’s a three-way highlight on three songs in Canyon Worship 2022. 

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].

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Canyon Worship 2022 is scheduled to be released Sept. 9 on Spotify, Amazon Music and Apple Music. It will be available in the iTunes Store.

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Related stories:

GCU Today: Canyon Worship 2022 is in step with collaboration

GCU Today: Fearlessness propelled ascent to Canyon Worship

GCU Today: Freshman's talent is the talk of Canyon Worship

GCU Today: Russell leads the way on album, with other students

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