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Music: How Naomi Striemer’s wrestle with ‘success” led to finding a new sense of purpose in God

DAVID ADAMS speaks with Canadian singer Naomi Striemer about her challenging – and inspirational – walk with God…

Life had been something of a rollercoaster ride for singer Naomi Striemer when God presented her with a choice. Twice on the cusp of  ‘making it’ in the music industry – including signing a million dollar record contract with Sony/Epic at the age of just 18 – she had come away disappointed both times.

Ms Striemer was in New York, chasing up an invitation to collaborate with one of the hip-hop industry’s best known names, when she was approached by a stranger – the chauffeur who had been driving her around the city – in the hallway of a studio. He told her about a dream he’d had in which an angel had come to him with a message for her from God: she could either keep pursuing her dreams her way and face more disappointment or could surrender all to God and watch them come true. It was to prove a pivotal moment in her life.

Naomi Striemer


“I really thought God was just allowing the Devil to take control and not let me succeed…(N)ow I look back and go ‘Wow!, it really was God holding everything back so I could get to the good stuff’.”

“I just realised how intimately involved God is with each of our lives,” Ms Striemer, now 30, recalls. “And I remember just getting back to my hotel room and bursting into tears and really having a heart-to-heart with God, so humbled and so taken aback that it had happened.”

In Australia for the first time earlier this year on a month-long tour of churches in New South Wales and Queensland, Ms Striemer took time out to speak to Sight about her inspirational story, told in her recently released autobiography, Backstage Pass.

“It really is a very detailed account of my story and kind of the process of how this girl from the farm, who grew up in real isolation, ended up signing this big million dollar recording contract and all the little stuff that it took to get me to that point and then from that point on…”

She says the book tells of how God was “leading her through all these times when I really thought God was just allowing the Devil to take control and not let me succeed”. “(N)ow I look back and go ‘Wow!, it really was God holding everything back so I could get to the good stuff’.”

But first, back to the beginning. Born in the US, Ms Striemer had what she calls quite a “strict” upbringing in rural Nova Scotia in Canada.  

“We were extraordinarily sheltered,” she says. “Home-schooled and we were the only farm within nine miles of a main road. And no television, no radio, no magazines. So we didn’t have any influences from media and, you know, school kids usually share things and we didn’t have any of that. So what we really knew was farm life and we knew the Bible stories and that was pretty much it until I was quite older.”

While her attraction to music meant she sang with her parents in churches from a very young age (in fact, she told a friend at the age of six that she was going to “sing for her whole life”), Ms Striemer says it wasn’t until she was in her teenage years that, having heard a radio playing in a car outside church, she discovered singing could be a career.

“I was just so fascinated and just so absorbed with the fact that there were young people who were professionally singing. So I pursued it – instead of hanging out with friends, I would be researching how I could get further ahead in my career – and that was my teenage years until I ended up with Sony at 18.”

Signing with Sony/Epic in New York was supposed to be her big break but it didn’t turn out that way for Ms Striemer. She had already been challenged by her mother about how her sudden rise in the industry was affecting her when, just before her debut album was released, the team of people she had worked with at Sony all lost their jobs, effectively scuppering plans for the album.

“It was just such a strange thing because literally everybody in my life was expecting this record to come out and I didn’t know how to answer anybody,” Ms Striemer recalls. 

“I was feeling such confusion and I went into extreme seclusion where I wouldn’t talk to anybody because I didn’t know what to say to them. And, of course, this led the whole family to move back to Canada and that’s where I fell into a very, very deep depression. You build yourself up and you’re anticipating something and you’re waiting for it and then when literally the floor comes out, it was such a shock…I literally went from being on top of the world to literally having nothing. And everything I’d worked for my whole life was gone. I didn’t know what to do with myself because I’d never thought of a plan B; I’d never thought of an option two.”

With no other avenues open to her, Ms Striemer eventually took up playing in bookstores and it was while doing so that her second record deal literally walked into her life. The man behind the deal was Steven Nowack, a hedge fund manager, who, after hearing Ms Striemer, decided to “basically on the spot…decided to go from being a hedge fund owner to starting a record company to launch my singing career”.

This time she found herself working alongside Carlos Santana, who performed a guitar solo on her debut single, ‘Cars’. The comparisons started flowing thick and fast and Ms Striemer was at one stage being touted as the next Celine Dion.

But even in the midst of her success – the single ‘Cars’ went to number one in Canada – Ms Striemer, who had by now moved to LA, says “I knew that the wheels were falling off”. 

Once again, her hoped for success never really eventuated and once again Ms Striemer was left devastated. “I was really starting to get down because I was referring to myself as the biggest disappointment who ever lived.”

But God was still working in her life and after a year-and-a-half of waiting, she took a phone call from the production team of hip-hop artist Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs who asked her to fly to New York to discuss a project. 

She did so and it was on her second night in New York – already knowing that this world “wasn’t for me” – that she met the driver who told her about his dream.

“He proceeded to tell me my whole life…and initially all I could think of was who has he talked to, how can he know this?…” she recalls. “And then it went past him telling me my life and went to my prayers. I had really struggled with God in (my) moments of just utter failure and so he starts telling me, ‘You keep asking why this happening, you keep asking if this is going to happen again?….

“(And then) he basically proclaimed to me that I was at a crossroads right then and there in my life. And he said you can make a decision tonight where you are going to either continue pursuing your dreams, chasing after what you want and watching them fail – watching them crumble into dust at your feet – or you can choose to walk away and turn in a different direction and give it all up for Jesus. Stop chasing what you want and just follow Him and what He wants for you. And then all your dreams will come true.”

She returned to LA still struggling to make sense of what she had been told – “to walk away from your dreams and they all come true? That just makes no sense whatsoever” – and immediately walked into another project, this time with Randy Jackson from American Idol.

But all she could think about what her conversation with the driver (she later found out he was the nephew of Christian singer CeCe Winans).

“And all I could think was which road am I on, which path did I choose?” she recalls. “And no matter which way I wanted to twist it…and try to convince myself that I’d chosen the God path, it just kept coming back to me that I was doing exactly what I’d always done.

“(A)ll I could think was which road am I on, which path did I choose?” she recalls. “And no matter which way I wanted to twist it…and try to convince myself that I’d chosen the God path, it just kept coming back to me that I was doing exactly what I’d always done.” 

“And I knew, even if it wasn’t going to be that year or that month, that it would crumble…And I thought, you know, God’s only going to give me so many opportunities before I get so lost and consumed by this that I won’t want to turn away. So that was the moment when I said, ‘How about I stop trying my way and let’s see what’s God way is’.”

Many thought she was mad to pass up yet another opportunity for stardom but Ms Striemer went forward anyway, knowing “I wasn’t going to devote just a portion of my life to God anymore”. “It was going to be everything that I did, that I said…Everything that I could do for God, it was going to be that.”

As she closed one door, God opened another. Almost immediately following her decision not to go ahead with the project, Ms Striemer received an email inviting her to speak to young people at a camp she had attended as a child. She took up the offer, despite having only preached once in her life, and hasn’t looked back since.

“It was almost like coming home…I almost felt like the prodigal son coming through those doors,” she recalls. 

From that point on, everything changed. Not only did she meet her future husband, Jordan Bannister, at the camp but for “the first time I was literally sitting there saying, ‘I have no idea what’s coming next’.”

“And that’s kind of how I have been since that moment and God has just opened the door and He’s brought in opportunities.

As well as continuing to speak to youth, she has since made a handful of albums including her latest Hope That Breaks The Dark, and now hosts her nationally syndicated radio program in Canada – “That was something I wouldn’t have never ever dreamt of” – as well as making TV appearances and writing for various publications.

Ms Striemer, who recently moved with her husband to Franklin, Tennessee, says her life now is more fulfilling than it ever could have been had she continued to walk in her own direction. She says she now “can’t see myself other than where I am”.

Her experience has taught her there is nothing that the world can offer which is the equivalent of doing what it is God has for you in life,” she says. “Nothing in this world is equivalent.”



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