November 1, 2011 Volume 25, Number 11
Newsboys stand for more than music
Iconic pop band releases fifteenth album in 25 years
By Aaron Epp | ChristianWeek Columnist
In the world of Contemporary Christian Music, there are few bands bigger than Newsboys. Last year - 25 years after forming in Australia - the rock band released Born Again, its most popular album yet.
Debuting in between Eminem and Justin Bieber at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 chart, Born Again spawned three number one hit singles and saw the band play to more than 500,000 people on the tour that followed.
Not bad, considering Born Again was the band's first CD after long-time lead singer Peter Furler left the band and was replaced by former DC Talk member Michael Tait.
Now, the quartet - rounded out by guitarist Jody Davis, keyboard player Jeff Frankenstein and drummer Duncan Phillips - is releasing its fifteenth studio album. God's Not Dead arrives in stores November 15.
The disc is a mix of new songs and interpretations of modern worship anthems that have recently topped the Church Copyright Licensing International (CCLI) chart.
During an interview backstage before a concert in Winnipeg this past September, Phillips described the record as "pop praise."
"Some of the songs could go on the radio as a pop song," he says. "The way that we've [recorded] them is very current and very modern, and I'm very proud of that because really, at our core, that's who we are - we're a pop band."
Phillips, the band's last remaining Australian-born member, joined Newsboys in 1993. He says he wants to reach as many people as possible with the band's music.
"I've been doing this for a long time, and for any musician to say that they don't want to reach people, [or] they only want to reach a certain amount of people, they're lying to themselves," he says.
"As an artist, as a musician, I want as many people as possible to hear what we do, like it or not. I'm not telling you…to like it, but I want you to know about what we do and at least give [you] the opportunity to listen to the stuff and either accept it or reject it."
Phillips, who now lives in Nashville with his wife and three children, says that if it weren't for the fact that the band wants to tell people about Jesus Christ through its music, he would have quit years ago.
"For me, it's more than just the music," he says. "Because when I leave my house and my children are crying, 'Daddy, Daddy, don't leave,' there's got to be a little bit something more in the reason I leave than just playing music."
Some bands with a catalogue spanning 25 years might be content just touring and playing the hits, but Phillips says he's already looking forward to the band's next record.
He thinks the band may try to really push the follow-up to God's Not Dead outside of the CCM market in order to reach a wider audience.
"We've never on purpose chased a mainstream single or anything like that," he says. "I don't know why we haven't. Maybe we just felt very secure in our little pond. But I think now with Michael being a part of the band, I think we probably feel a little bit more empowered to be able to do it legitimately."
Phillips says that on one level, he's happy with what the Newsboys have achieved. On another level, though, he wants to reach more people.
"I want the world to know about Newsboys," he says. "I want them to know what we stand for."
Aaron Epp is the managing editor of The Uniter, Winnipeg’s weekly urban journal.