She is a long-time member of tobyMac’s band. He has recorded and toured with Kirk Franklin. Together, they are husband and wife.
Widely-known for contributing to the immense success of these Grammy Award winning artists, Seth & Nirva have stepped forward and into the spotlight with the release of their debut album, Never Alone.
I recently sat down with the duo discuss how a Billy Graham Crusade changed their lives forever, how their music inspires people to live with confidence, and why they hope one of their songs will help people to understand the love and forgiveness required to provide racial healing in our nation.
You both have established careers lending vocals to many well-known Christian music acts. Why the decision to break away from that and strike out on your own so to speak?
Nirva: I think God is more brilliant at planning our lives than we are. We had traveled with other artists for years and had moved to Florida to start a new season of life. Seth took a job at a college and then I was going to look into starting school again. But then Toby (tobyMac) offered to fly me from Florida to various shows that he/we had. So, that took care of that but honestly, we were ok with letting music go for a minute. Then we met a producer in the town we were living who helped us to work on some songs. Integrity Records called us because he heard about what we were doing and talked with us. He won over our hearts. That was not something we expected. We love singing together but we didn’t know that a label would be in our future.
Seth: We didn’t sit down to have a conversation about this. We were moving on. We were moving away from music for a little bit to do college ministry and young adult ministry at a church. In the meantime, we just loved doing music together so we worked on an independent EP and performed these songs we had done over the years. We just thought, why not? Let’s put this out there and see what happens. So, we kind of stumbled into it. As we went we were like, ‘Oh man, there’s something about this that is really right. We felt like God was in this. He’s steering this thing.’ We just kind of wanted to walk with Him. As we began walking this road I feel like He gave us more and more of a desire to do it. At first, we really didn’t feel that strongly about doing it but as we went we began to feel that this was the next assignment God put in our lives.
You are husband and wife team. How did the two of you meet and eventually find yourselves at the altar together?
Nirva: There are two versions of the story but I will let Seth tell his first. (laughs)
Seth: We actually met while we were out traveling on the road doing background singing. She was with tobyMac and I was with Kirk Franklin. The first time we met was backstage at a Billy Graham Crusade in San Diego. Later on, Toby and Kirk did a tour together. I didn’t go on the tour but I came to one of the shows and I met her then. It’s funny because she doesn’t remember meeting me either one of those times so I always like to say I made a big impression on her. (laughs) And so you know how that goes. It was a good does of humility. But a friend of ours hired us to sing background vocals for him so that’s how we got to know each other. We just developed a good friendship over time. For me, I think I wanted things to move a little quicker than they did in the romance department but she just wanted to be friends. After a while she kind of gave in or I wore her down. We finally got married and it she has been a huge blessing from God. We have been married nearly 10 years.
Nirva: My version of the story is that guys make fun when girls put them in the “friend zone”. That usually means I don’t like you at all. But honestly, I truly treasured the friendship we had. Our friendship was so awesome that I didn’t want to ruin it with potentially taking the relationship further.
With both of you being musicians and traveling musicians to complicate matters; that must have been very hard during the dating process because you are frequently here, there, and everywhere.
Nirva: In some ways that made things easier because we lived in each other’s worlds. That made us compatible because he understood touring and being on the road.
Seth: As soon as we got married I was gone for two months. That was hard because there is a lot of disconnecting for four or five days. And then you come back home and you ask yourself who is this person? It takes a couple of days to get reacquainted with each other. Then you leave again. Honestly, that was one of the reasons why we decided that if we could do this together it would make things so much better overall.
We know the tobyMac sound. We know the Kirk Franklin sound. But what about the Seth & Nirva sound? How would you describe your music to someone?
Seth: We simplify things but we call it urban contemporary worship. What’s different about it from Toby and Kirk is we try, at least on most of the songs, is to do songs that church congregations could sing on their own on a Sunday morning during worship. Musically, it is a bit of a mesh of the two worlds. It has a bit of that Gospel, soulful flavor mixed with pop rock. We kind of mush those together and Seth & Nirva is what comes out.
A song of yours that is getting a fair amount of attention is “Brother”. It is obviously a highly personal song for you. As an interracial couple I am sure you may have encountered acts of racism at times. Beyond that, it is very timely in that it seems to provide a unique commentary on the current state of race relations here in America. What can you tell me about this song?
Nirva: The song was first brought to us by a publishing company. It was originally recorded by a group called The Brilliance. They are our label mates on Integrity. I first heard the song and I thought it was such a haunting, convicting, reminder of what we are supposed to be doing. The song is scripture-based and I was blown away by its message. We were drawn to it yet were saying, ‘Yikes, are we ready for it?’ It is beautiful and haunting because we sometimes forget that if Jesus recommends something we should probably do it. We need to pray for those who persecute you and love our enemies. The song to me is timely and relevant. It’s a good daily reminder for me. There is another way. You don’t need to lash out at someone that attacks you. Jesus shows us another way and that is to be filled with God’s love and have respect for people that you disagree with and those who lash out at you on Facebook. People who are not the most kind at work or give you a hard time. You can love them. It doesn’t mean you necessarily agree with where they stand but sadly our culture says if you love me you have to love my ideas. You have to love everything I say. But there is a different way. That is what the song “Brother” is all about.
We’ve received some interesting feedback from the non-Christian genre. It has been mixed — rough and good. Those who have a Christian worldview understand it but those who don’t are sort of angry.
Seth: They don’t understand the heart behind it. It’s good for us to have opportunities like this to explain it. I think some people automatically read it in terms of like saying, “Oh, are you saying we are supposed to be pacifists and just let terrorists come and do anything they want?” Some people kind of go to these places. But it’s about how to approach people in general. It doesn’t answer those questions necessarily but it does give us a view of how we even look at people from other faiths and how we see them. The Apostle Paul describes a war with flesh and blood. It’s those ideas and the principalities behind them, where we can see them as captive and pray for them and work so that they might come to know the Lord.
After people have listened to Never Alone what do you want people to get out of the experience?
Nirva: Living with confidence. We want people to realize that they can have confidence in God for their lives.
Seth: I think that confidence is the great definition of biblical faith. We want to encourage people to have God inspired confidence these days. He is on the move. We want people to know that God is moving. In a book by J.P. Moreland called Kingdom Triangle, he says that Aslan is not dead in reference to The Chronicles of Narnia. I just think that is a beautiful picture of life. This is not some stagnant thing that will pass away like progressive thinkers sometime imagine. God’s kingdom is alive and is on the move. We can just join in and be confident that God is going to bring this thing to fruition and it’s going to be beautiful even if it hurts and is hard. It will be well worth it.
Watch the music video of “Brother” featuring Seth & Nirva with Gabe Real: