Shortly after the release of their third full-length studio album since Michael Tait assumed the role as the band's lead vocalist, Restart, Jesusfreakhideout.com's John DiBiase sat down with Tait during Uprise Festival 2013 to discuss the new album, new songs, and that age-old dc Talk "reunion" question...
This interview took place on: 9/21/13.
Yeah. Well, Born Again was obviously the fact that, it's kind of play on words, we were "born again" as far as believers of course, and the band, of course, were born again in ways because I joined. It's very different than Restart; "Restart" being that, once you are born again, it is a restart of sorts, but it's also a mental thing. It's like "I'm gonna stop, shut down the Mac computer, back to the basics now because now I've been enlightened. And that's how I got enlightenment: I was born again, and now it's time to restart. I feel like, with this new record--the sound, where it's goin'--this kinda outlays the next 20 years, if you will. I've been doing this for a long time, and it kinda outlays where it's goin', which it obviously touches on, from "Abandon" to "Change the World." Who knows going forward, but things are gonna be different from that point, of fresh and new and expansive and daring.
Michael: Restart? No, because we did the song and I like the lyric that I wrote, which is--once again, it's my life, kinda like a "Born Again" lyric--when you're so far down the road, John, and you've done everything you can do and life has become a knockout, a TKO if you will, you fall on the ground of life, man, and you have nowhere to look but up. You can't go any further down! And sometimes you have to go, "Y'know what man? Screw it all! Out the window! Restart." Hit the button. Shut down. Start up again; clears the screen.
Michael: Yeah, I'm a pop man. Pop: sometimes it's meat and potatoes, baby! You're not gonna have beets, you're not gonna have cauliflower; you're gonna have bacon, eggs, potatoes. You're gonna have steak, potatoes, green beans. Y'know? It's not for the Kevin Max fans, so to speak, sometimes.
Michael: Uh-huh. Pop has proven itself. Pop obviously wins all the time. Beatles go. So go the Beatles, so go the pop.
Michael: That's true, that's true.
Michael: Yeah, yeah!
Michael: That's Katy Perry pop. I like Katy Perry. I like Katy Perry a lot. I like Maroon 5 pop! They're not that deep, Maroon 5, but they sound so good! Some of The Beatles' lyrics were cheesy, but it's about the melody, baby. And how it makes you feel, y'know? But other than that, the lyrics are good.
Michael: Every time I approach, I wipe the board clean. I always say you're reapplying for your job. Because we sold good on the last record and we sold good on this record, but people say "How'd you write it?" I say, well, I only wrote on 8 of the songs, but I wrote with the Capital Kings guys (Toby's nephew Cole and his buddy Jon), I wrote with no-namers, some of the best songs I didn't write at all! "Change The World," "We Believe," I had nothing to do with those songs. And I'm from the school of belief that, especially nowadays, I don't want to be that guy who goes, "Oh yeah, I wrote this man, I'm so cool, dude, I got this--" No, man, y'know what? Gimme hits. I'm a singer. I'm a veteran, as you call it. And I want hits. Hit songs, I don't care if my grandmother writes them, my grandmother coming back from the dead, or my mom writes them. I want hit songs. Now, I would like to be a part of that thing. But if I don't get an offer, or I can't go in that territory, then have at it. Cuz I'll definitely show up vocally! I'll show up attitude-wise as far as [contributing] to the song, but if I can't get it there, John, I gotta find somebody who can. Cuz I got people to feed. I got a flock to feed.
It's even different with Christian pop than it is with secular pop because in Christian pop, that "We Believe" song, I took the song off that record because I LOVED "We Believe" on there. But it's so powerful! I had to have it on the record! I'd love to have writing on that song, but I want the flock to be fed because it's powerful. That's where it's different than regular pop music. Christian pop is very important. We have a big agenda.
Michael: Oh, we know that. Yes.
Michael: You bet! Social conscience even, back then. Chris Tomlin changed all that, baby.
Michael: Well, I'd get a call, "Hey Tait, we got a song going" or usually I'd throw the idea out to the guys and base a song on a little bit that I had that spawned everything else, whether I was a part of it or not. And there were sessions on the road where I'd be like, "Hey guys, here's the idea I had in mind, I'd like to write it with you guys but if you finish it before we get home, it's yours." [The song] "Disaster," *loosely mimics melody* and the guys would work and then come back home and have a verse done or half a verse and go back in and write the bridge or the second verse, that kinda thing. That's what it would look like. And in town, they'd come to my house, we'd start from fresh, like with "Restart." Come to my house, me and the Capital Kings guys and Josh [Silverberg], sit there [with a] drum machine, keys, hanging out at my house drinkin' coffee, back and forth, back and forth, and nailed it out until we got the framework of the song "Restart." Some sessions happened without me completely, like with "We Believe" and "Change the World." It just happened like "We got a song for Tait for the Newsboys, what do you think of this thing?" I'd go, "I like that! What if we put another new little section here for the record with this kind of sound?" Cool. And we'd somehow fit it in, y'know?
Michael: Juan Otero, who wrote most of Born Again with us, and co-produced with Seth Mosely, his mom was super abusive--the opposite of my mom. [His mom was a] complete utter failure as a mom. She put him in the closet, tied him to the bed, all that kind of stuff. My mom and Juan bonded. Juan loved my mom. My mom loved Juan. She was the neighborhood mom you read about in storybooks. She's so missed... But that song has everything that I would've said to my mom, because Juan lived vicariously through it to relate to my mom. He put it all together.
Michael: Yeah, that was meat and potatoes.
Michael: Yeah, yeah! I met him through the Nashville system. Chris York said, "Tait, try this kid out, he's really amazing, man." So I said "OK" and we started writing together. Along with him and Capital Kings, I love his sensibilities, as far as musical sounds and how the sounds gave me words and gave me ideas because they're so expansive and so dreamy and so thick and so rich and so ambient at times. It'd be the whole nine, y'know? It was everything I wanted for the record. And going forward, ideas. It was just enough to where it wasn't too much, because we are who we are as Newsboys. We're not trying to be Skrillex. We're not trying to be this band or that band. I'm a lover of music, I'm a freaking singer. I'm a pop singer. I love to sing pop. I love hooks. I love yummy parts. I love ear candy parts. Anything to get the message across at the end of the day that God reigns, God lives. I'm a preacher, at the end of the day. My dad was, I am, my uncle was, my brother is. It's who I am. As long as I can stay relevant, I'll stay relevant. When it's time to move on, I'll move on.
Michael: Oh yes, I had that day yesterday. First day of the tour. Definitely. That's like "God, please give me supernatural strength beyond and beyond." Because I'm physically tired, my brain's tired, my mom's funeral was still a week away, cuz we had to prolong it because of family out of country and stuff and I wish we could have had it last week -- not that I wanted it out of the way, but I need closure, y'know? So with that said, it made everything intensify. Every emotion got bigger, like the show -- not to mention doing the song for the first time in the show last night. That was intense, I'll say that. You can refer to YouTube for that. *chuckles*
Oh yeah, and you mentioned earlier about "That Home" being more personal? I would say there are a few more songs on the record, John, that would be more personal. Like "Enemy" is very personal. And I would say "Disaster," definitely. And "Restart," even in its poppy way, it said stuff like-- I mean, I never felt like committing suicide. I never thought of that. That never crossed my mind, never in my whole life, but I lived in L.A. for awhile and, y'know, I chased my wild oats. And I was finished, game over. I couldn't carry the weight on my shoulders. I physically could not do it anymore. I was knocked down like Mike Tyson. "Oh Lord, I'm a different man. You gave me a second chance." I was lost, I was unraveling at the seams and he came along and gave me a resart. I was born again! True enough! But I needed a restart. Even as a born again believer. Follow me?
Michael: Good, good. So I'm born again, but believers need restarts too.
Michael: Yeah! With that said, those songs are all personal, don't let the melody or the beautiful voice shock ya, or lure you away with candy, homeboy, cuz the songs are there... *laughs*
Michael: You know what it's like? You enjoy somebody else's cooking?
Michael: I'm a good cook, I cook my own food usually, but every now and then-- Jody, our guitarist, makes pork chops better than--I'm really good at pork chops, but way better than I could. And they taste so good, I dream of them sometimes. I smell bacon, I'm like "Pork chops?" Or, on the road, I smell someone cooking behind the bus and I'm hoping it's Jody. I love it. I lovelovelovelove it! So hey, I ain't got no shame. If someone wants to deliver, better than I can deliver on something, guess what? Three words: bring it on.
Michael: No no no no. I don't be that kind of guy who goes "Aw man, well y'know man, I don't know man." No, Michael Tait is a pleasure seeker. Toby and Kevin used to call me "Comfy." I enjoy the finer things. Guess what? If I can't do it? You put in that wooden console for me. Cuz at the end of the day, I had one purpose in mind: gettin' there. If I can't get to that place, I'm gonna find someone who can do it.
Michael: Yeah. *laughter*
Michael: Well, we had 60 songs written for the record. I wrote a lot of them. And we knew we'd have a Deluxe Edition anyway, that was the plan from Capitol. But in my opinion, there are songs that could be b-sides if we did b-sides like in the old days, but I still think even "Man on Fire" should be on the main record! I love "Man on Fire!"
Michael: I know, RIGHT?!
Michael: Right? Right? I know, I know. Dude, John, I don't know why things happen the way they happen and Wall Street or in the government or in homes or in marriages or hospitals or records or labels. I don't know. But believe me, I toiled. But then I had other bands' opinions, I had my label's opinions, my A&R guy's opinions, my manager's opinions, my friends' opinions. And I'm sittin' there thinking "Good God!..." It drives you to drink! And what do you do?
Michael: Y'know what? I didn't want that on the record. That was my least favorite song.
Michael: Everybody's like "it's gotta go, it's gotta go, it's gotta go, Tait!" I was so mad when Wes Campbell OK'ed it, and it was the last day so the vats were locked and there was no more tampering, and I was like "That was a fast one." I got peeved, that was a sneaky one. And my philosophy on covers is this: do it justice; preferably do it better. DC Talk did "In The Light" not justice, but we did it better. Newsboys took "God's Not Dead" done by Crowder and other people, didn't do it justice, we did it better. Want proof in the pudding? It sold! Nat King Cole sung "Chestnuts Roasting..." Nat Cole did it better! It sold better. Songs became famous because of other people. Now "God's Not Dead" is known for Newsboys, "In The Light" is known for DC Talk, not Charlie Peacock.
Michael: It's weird to think that's the way it is. And we didn't write that song! HINT! HINT!
Michael: We didn't write the song. We made it ours. We made it personal. It fit who we were. The man makes the clothes. The band makes the song!
Michael: You actually liked it? OK! Cuz most people do. It must be one of those things where you take a picture and go "I hate this picture" and [someone goes] "I think that picture looks great, Tait!" I go, "Naw, you can have it." But my girl will be like "That's an amazing picture!" and I'll be like "Ehhhhh...."
Michael: It's gonna happen.
Michael: Eventually, TobyMac, Newsboys, Audio Adrenaline, DC Talk set will happen. It'll be a pricey ticket, for sure, but I think it's going to happen. I'm working that end. I have some magical powers with Toby and Kevin.
Michael: I'll say it from the horse's mouth -- the "D" in DC Talk right here -- it's in the works. When it's going to happen? Sooner or later? I'm not sure.
Michael: It's being talked about, yes. Quite fervently at times. *laughs*
Michael: Uh-huh. I know Jesus Freak Hideout will be as happy as a hamster!
Michael: *laughing* Right right right! That's not a bad idea! That, my friend, is not a bad idea. What would that be? 2015?
Michael: Not a bad idea. That makes a lot of sense. 20 years later? You know what's funny, too? I bet you that's what Toby's thinking. Toby and I have been talking, we talk about it pretty in-depth, y'know. We started the thing. We didn't know Kevin once we first started DC Talk. It's all of our baby, but Toby and I definitely have been... the Biden and Obama, if you will. *laughs* Excuse the gross comparison. Black and white, I should say. *John laughs* You know what I'm saying. So 20 years, I'll be shocked if that's not what some of us are thinking in the back of our heads subconsciously.
Michael: Of course. It's just logistically speaking and physically speaking, it's such a big undertaking. It's like undocking the Titanic...
Michael: Awwww! Wow... Let's say the Queen Mary... or what ship didn't sink??
Michael: Yeah, well this one didn't sink. This one went to shore. A shipyard only. In all of its glory, it's put away. But in a few years, if we board it, all of a sudden we go *groan sound* and bring it back to shore.
Michael: *laughs* It could happen.
Michael: I think this is the kind of record that people are going to hear and, like Sour Patch Kids, instantly hits you right away.
Michael: I do too. *laughs* And I love Swedish Fish too!
Michael: It hits you right away and you go "Man, this song's going to translate--" When I work with someone, I tell them it's waiting for the stage. My goal is like -- Ultimate Fighting? UFC? Every fight ends up on the floor, so they teach each you to fight on the floor. Every song ends up on stage, so when I'm working on songs, this song's going to end up in front of people in about 2 months at Uprise Festival. How's it sound, y'know? Is it going to bore them on stage? Is it going to make them want to jump on stage? There's so much to consider when writing a song: the message, the music, the pop, the relevance, the freshness--it's just overwhelming at times. And then the cohesiveness... it's what we do, y'know? I'm not complaining; I've done it for years. Sometimes you miss the mark, and if you're lucky enough, sometimes you hit the mark a lot.
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