At first, my assignment for Inside Edition seemed like the ultimate fantasy: Record a song and then shoot a music video. How hard could that be? I'd be letting the stylist for Destiny's Child, the makeup artist fresh from Erykah Badu's latest CD cover and the biggest dance-hit mixer in the business work their magic on me. (Our point wasn't to launch my music career, but to show that the real talents are the people behind the scenes who make the stars look and sound so incredible.)
Only one problem: Before I could sing the song, I had to write the lyrics.
Producer Junior Vasquez played the music he'd created and asked, "What does this say to you?" The music was fast-paced and upbeat. Listening, I felt empowered. Jazzed. Ready to tackle the world. "Then write lyrics that say that," Junior ordered.
Everything on the radio seemed to rhyme, so I sat there playing with words: power, sour, flower. "I'll find my power and then I'll really flower." Gag!
I can't do this, I thought. I can't write a song. And I can't humiliate myself on TV with this dreck I'm coming up with.
But the music wouldn't let me quit. It continued to speak to me. It followed me to the shower. It haunted me on my way to work. "You can do it," the music said. "Believe in yourself. It will set you free." The words started to flow: Every time I feel I've made some ground / Seems somebody's there to put me down / But I know my time will come around / If I just keep on movin' on.
The cadence of the verses matched the beat of the music. And the message resonated deep in my soul. Just keep going! How many times had I chanted that mantra to myself, as I struggled to rebuild my career after that disastrous time at the Todayshow? The whole world had written me off back then. But just as I kept hammering away, rebuilding my career, I kept pounding out words. With the finished lyrics in hand, I went into the recording studio and gave it my best shot. A few weeks later some friends came over and my husband put on the CD.
"Who's that?" they asked when the song cycled through.
"Some new singer," Karl said casually.
"Not bad," one said. "That's a cool song!" said another. I felt like I'd just been handed a Grammy!
Deborah Norville...pop diva? It was a Cinderella moment to play rock star. But today, long after the clock struck 12 on my singer/songwriter days, the strength from meeting that challenge is still with me. I now understand why middle-aged women take up mountain climbing. It's the boost you get from accomplishing something you never dreamed you could do. It's the "Hooray for me, I did that!" I felt when I first heard my song.
Deborah Norville is an anchor on Inside Edition and author of I Can Fly! (Golden Books)