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Newsboys

Well, it's been a whilrwind for Newsboys this year as longtime front man Peter Furler bowed out in the Spring for former DC Talk vocalist Michael Tait to replace him. Without having previously seen the new version of the Newsboys-with-Tait live yet, we sat down with Michael and Newsboys drummer Duncan Phillips before their show at Uprise Festival in Shippensburg, PA to discuss the singer switch and their upcoming album with Tait at the helm...
This interview took place on: 8/1/09.

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  • Jesus freak Hideout (John DiBiase): So we saw the Bethlehem show earlier this year at Stabler Arena, and then about a week later is when the murmurs of Michael Tait joining the Newsboys started going around.
    Duncan Phillips: Oh yeah, Michael was guesting on that one right?

  • JFH (John): No he wasnít, that one was all Peter. You (Michael) werenít there at all. But one of my staff who lives in New Zealand actually twittered ďIím reading rumors about Michael Tait joining The Newsboys, so I think it's time to go to bed.Ē I was like, whatever dude, that's unheard of!
    Duncan: Oh, no way! You know what, I bet I know how that got to New Zealand... Phil Joel.
    Michael Tait: Oh, guaranteed, guaranteed. Yeah.

  • JFH (John): So what has been the most difficult thing about the shift over to Michael from Peter?
    Michael: I donít think itís been difficult at all. In my mind, there's been fear, because of course you want to be accepted. Newsboys fans are very particular, you get a lyric wrong to a song, theyíll scream it back to you. Iím like, "ok cool." The two comments I hear the most at the shows is, ďWe were a little nervous until we heard the first songĒ and after they heard the whole show, they say, ďOh man, you fit perfectĒ and to me, Peter, Duncan and the guys, we knew in our heads I would fit perfect, because weíve been best friends forever - A. And B, Peters voice is not so far away from mine, as far as our abilities and our ranges, and stuff.

  • JFH (John): Right, just the accent is a little different.
    Michael: Exactly, so with the accent and the haircut, they think, it has to be different. This guy is white, heís Australian, and heís bald. Then you have this black guy who should be playing basketball or singing R&B or hip hop, and they get it all wrong. Then they hear me sing and they say ďAre you kidding me, it works perfect.Ē Then, best of both worlds, is you have DC Talk and Newsboys, whoíve been friends forever. Back in the day, if you were a DC Talk fan you were probably a Newsboys fan too, so when you mix the two, itís like getting two for the price of one. Thatís probably the comment we hear the most, I mean, all the time.

  • JFH (John): When I got saved, I started getting into Christian music with Audio Adrenaline, and stuff like that, and then I got into Newsboys' Going Public and dc Talk's Free At Last, so it was around the same time. Then I went backwards in the Newsboys' catalog to Not Ashamed.
    Michael: Man, Not Ashamed was the bomb. That was one of my favorites, no doubt about it.
    Duncan: When Not Ashamed hit, the few records we had before that sold around 15,000 or 20,000. When Not Ashamed hit, it just went boom! We sold 250,000, and back then, for us, it was huge! We saw such a huge shift, and it was quite different back then - Not Ashamed from say, Boys Will Be Boyz or Hell Is For Wimps, it was quite different. Iím feeling the same thing is going to happen here, as different as Not Ashamed was from the first three records, you know. But we're going to keep the essence of who we are because Peter is still going to be very involved with the song writing. But I think what Michael brings, you know, itís gonna be different, but itís gonna be better. Even Peterís saying that.
    Michael: Peter was at the show last night in New York City, and his jaw was like this *drops his jaw* He said ďTait, the show is fantastic.Ē But back to your question, there wasnít any, I think, fear. It was more like just me learning the songs. It was so difficult, because Peter writes from a drummer's standpoint, the rhythm was so different like I said earlier, that even for a brother, itís kinda hard finding that groove ya know, but I got that down and I felt a peace in my heart, man, I knew it. I did the DC Talk thing, the Tait solo thing, I did !Hero, but nothing even comes close to this. And every day, I tremble at the power of God, the power of God is awesome, and the mystery that unfolds is unfolding right now in this place. All these years, all these things, and The Newsboys... What? The Newsboys?! What are the chances, you know? Our (DC Talk) rivals! Thatís why it works! It either had too, or it was going to be a mess.

  • JFH (John): It really is weird to remember...
    Duncan: It was either going to work a thousand percent, or it was going to be a complete catastrophe, and that was the gamble we had to take, because really, we had two options. One was to quit, the other was to go on ahead in a different manner. No one wanted to quit, because we really still believe weíve got something to say.
    Michael: It could easily be karaoke, ďWell, this guy sings decent Newsboys songs.Ē But itís so much more than singing the songs, itís becoming a Newsboy. Itís becoming a member of the band, itís feeling it. And I feel it a million times, and Iím not saying the people do. I mean, the people have been way more responsive, promoters too, but I feel it, and youíll see it, itís not fake. You canít fake the body.
    Duncan: I think most fans are onboard. The 5% that arenít tend to be the most vocal.

  • JFH (John): That is so true. Iíve seen a lot of that from being on the web, you know. And Iíd rather just see it for myself. A lot of people are like, ďWhyíd you do it mid tour? Iíd already bought tickets, Peter is The NewsboysĒ And itís like, well, we already lost John James, and that was weird...
    Duncan: Yeah!

  • JFH (John): ...but that was going from one Australian to another, and they have similar voices.
    Duncan: Yeah, I guess I could see that. Yeah.
    Michael: I welcomed it, I still do. I enjoy the controversy, not for controversyís sake, but because I knew that when God gave me the pencil, and I felt it, I didnít want to do this thing wide-eyed, like, I gotta have it, I wanna do it, I wanna be a Newsboy. No, itís like, DC Talk, OK? We ruled! We had a great time, it was a blast. But with that said, doing this, man, is like - Iíll try it. Iím nervous about it, but Iíll try it. And let me tell you what, man, what Iíll liken it to is the days in and around and the aura and the smell of Jesus Freak. Just the moment and the excitement of whatís coming next...

  • JFH (John): Yeah, we like Jesus Freak. *everyone laughs*
    Duncan: Really? *more laughter*
    Michael: For me, thatís what I liken it to because, people were like, ĒWell this record's kinda wildĒ this was back in the day in '95/ ďThey're calling Jesus a freak!Ē and all this stuff, and I love and welcome the controversy, because I want people to come see the show. They watch it and pretty much every person has been like - Boom! [They make an] about-face. Are you kidding me?
    Duncan: Weíve had promoters writing letters apologizing to Michael saying, ďWe are so sorry that we made you feel [unwelcome],Ē you know, to the point of, ďCome out to my house, we're gonna put you up, on the water, in this mansion on the beach to show you how sorry!Ē It was amazing. That was from a guy that was so adamant before the show that ďPeterís GOT to be there," ďIf he doesnít show up...!Ē and just really nasty. And we're like, "OK. OK." And he just went off the wall. Apologized to our whole crew, staff, all the fans.
    Michael: And then he comes off like a fan. Heís seen like, 5 shows and heís like ďWhen are you coming out? When are we gonna hang?Ē and what about this or what about this? And that's after people see the show. And part of that is: success is a sweet revenge. Part of me goes, ďYeeeaah...Ē *Michael kicks back and puts his feet up* ďthats nice, Iíll have a Coke-a-cola pleaseĒ You know? But the other side is, like, it makes sense cause itís gonna happen. This is God's will. Itís out of my hands.
    Duncan: See that's the confidence I had, because you get these people saying these things and you get this flak, but I am just so convinced that this is the will of God for this band. I almost feel like the last 20 years of our career is for this point in time. I really do. And thatís not something I say lightly, because it goes far more than just a wanting, because Iíve felt this thing before in my gut, Iíve felt it a couple of times in my life.
    Michael: Me too: Jesus Freak.
    Duncan: Well you sang that. It was Not Ashamed for me, cause I knew, I just knew that it was something big.

  • JFH (John): And that blew you guys up!
    Duncan: It blew us up, and I have the same feeling right now. I just know. The demos we're writing now, blow your mind! Absolutely mind-blowing. And Iím just like, you know, especially after the last record, I donít know if you liked In The Hands Of God, but that's my favorite Newsboys record.

  • JFH (John): Really? My favorite is still Take Me To Your Leader.
    Duncan: Yeah, well, Take Me To Your Leader probably epitomizes Newsboys for their sound. I think a lot of people were waiting for In The Hands Of God because it kind of has that classic mix of Newsboys. Youíve got kind of a praise and worship song here and there, youíve got a couple of quirky, wacky, Newsboys songs, youíve got the rock song, ďNo Grave,Ē which is probably one of my favorite songs on the record, then youíve got ĒUpsideĒ which is this kind of crazy, Beatle-esque, kind of English, wacky thing.

  • JFH (John): I know for me thereís a weird feeling that washes over the record for me, after Peter exiting, and so abruptly. So itís kind of weird to listen to that record. It is isnít The Newsboys anymore, You know? I heard Michael's version of "Glorious" two days ago. Itís amazing! So much better than the other one, and your voice just sounds perfect for it.
    Duncan: Well Iíll make this statement: I donít believe that people before Newsboys have actually heard Michael Tait. And this is the reason why: back in DC Talk days, he was battling another two guys for whatever. They had Kevin [Max] Smith there.

  • JFH (John): Yeah but we listened to Tait, the band.
    Duncan: I know, but not too many people got to do that. With !Hero, he got to sing a song here and there. It was a different thing. Now, we never had a great vocalist. When I say that - we wrote songs that suited Peter's voice, and he did an awesome job at it, but we had to write great songs. I mean, this guy (Michael) can sing a phone book and people would buy it, you know what I mean? Kevin [Max] Smith, the same thing, he can sing and people will buy it.
    Michael: But weíd rather have hits though! *laughter*
    Duncan: But what we had is - we didnít have that level of singer so we had to write great songs. So for us it was all about the songs.
    Michael: And, this is wild, whenever I have a song Iím writing, I run it by Toby[Mac] or Peter, and if they sing it to me over the phone, and it sounds decent, Iíve got a hit. *laughter* Seriously. Because I know if they can sing it, I mean I can make *sings ďI love your shoes, shoes, shoesĒ* sound cool, but it's not a hit, you know? But if they can sing to me *sings ďIím not ashamed to let you knowĒ* Thatís a hit!
    Duncan: To finish my point though...
    Michael: My bad! *everyone laughs*
    Duncan: I think with the Newsboys having the hit songs, but then having this world class singer over top of the great, hit songs - it's over!
    Michael: And that was the whole idea, you know. We get Tait in there and have him sing these songs at that level. Because the songs are Peter's. I had this little English thing going on with my solo band kind of a pop English thing we had going. And Iíve always enjoyed the Seal and the Euro kind of feel and stuff, so it just made sense with "Something Beautiful," I love singing "...Beautiful." I love singing "He Reigns" for sure.
    Duncan: Itís almost like this record was written for Mike. Itís really crazy. I mean, Mike just nails these songs, like he was there writing them.
    Michael: And I donít like the way that I do them. The songs that were put in the set were thought about. Itís just that I only want to do the ones that I can do best, as far as until we write new stuff.

  • JFH (John): Thatís very wise. So are you helping to write the new stuff?
    Michael: Oh youíd better believe it!
    Duncan: The demos will blow your mind!
    Michael: Yeah, the demos are sick!

  • JFH (John): So you re-recorded "Glorious." Have you thought about doing anything else like that for the rest of the record (In The Hands Of God)?
    Michael: We thought about it but weíll see what happens.
    Duncan: Well, we thought about it, but we thought, "is that just going to rehash whatís already been out, or do we just go straight to the studio and start recording a new record?" So itís kind of this ďwhat do we do?Ē So we wanted "Glorious" to be: "letís get Mike on something," you know what I mean? So we did that and then we thought, "well, should we do this or that?" And we might still, you know what I mean?

  • JFH (John): I think it would be awesome to remix it a little bit and put his vocals to the new record, and then just do a digital release or something like that.
    Duncan: We thought about that but then it's like, "should we try to rehash this record, or should we just let this be Peter's record?" Let this be Peter's 'Swan Song.' So we're still feeling that way, because thereís no great plan, you know? We have a general idea, well, if we do this weíll do this.

  • JFH (John): I just thought it was kind of weird because, itís just like the fans, or the new fans, and even the people that come to the show tonight, canít get a Newsboys record, or anything, with Michael's voice on it. I mean, I guess you could do another live thing possibly...
    Michael: We might be doing like an EP thing too.
    Duncan: Yeah, we're considering that, doing like a 4 or 5 song thing.
    Michael: And we have to take it one step at a time. My goal is, every night, like a traveling basketball team, to go show by show, and knock Ďem dead every night. For each show of the tour, 37 dates, just hit Ďem hard, take names, and keep on moving. We know that it works, we like it, and we know whatís coming next: our record. I mean, in a perfect world, we loved to have a poster out there with me on it, you know, but it takes time. Right now, the most important thing is getting the show out there to the people, and showing them that we can do this.
    Duncan: Yeah, right now the most important thing is getting our show, the new Newsboys show, tight. Then the record will come, and itíll come quick. It will come quick because Peter has nothing else to do but write songs, you know. He hasnít got the tour.
    Michael: And Iíve got material Iíve had for years, you know, Iíve been waiting and waiting. Toby and I feel with the record for the Newsboys, you know, we shouldnít put the cart before the horse.

  • JFH (John): Wait... so Tobyís helping write?
    Michael: Tobyís helping with writing songs, yeah, but I donít put the cart before the horse, because Iím dying to get that thing out there and find out, but itíll be out soon enough.
    Duncan: Itís got to be great. Itís got to be the best record weíve ever done. Because if itís not, people are gonna say ďOK, we knew it, the Newsboys are over.Ē And that's why Iím so encouraged by what Iím hearing. They're so good. This next record is going to be the biggest pop Newsboys record ever. Itís very pop, I mean, pop, pop, pop, and we love that!

  • JFH (John): What other songs in the Newsboys arsenal can you liken it to?
    Michael: DC Talk and Newsboys! Imagine DC Talk and the Newsboys had a kid, and this kid is the lead singer.
    Duncan: Yeah, imagine Jesus Freak and Take Me To Your Leader coming together.

  • JFH (John): So kind of like a pop/rock vibe?
    Duncan: Yeah, but probably more pop. But really, just really good.
    Michael: Professional hooks, and solid, cool lyrics.
    Duncan: Yeah, you name it. Whatís making this collaboration is, actually gonna make this thing stronger because instead of DC Talk and Newsboys, or Michael and Kevin and Toby, what we have now is this collaboration with Michael and Toby, and everyone they know in their camp, a great bunch of song writers.
    Michael: Yeah, Iíve summoned the masters for this one, you know. Iím like, ďGuys? Hits?Ē *laughter*
    Duncan: So we're not only within the little Newsboys camp, but we're talking everyone. We're talking world class songwriters on this one. I mean, Ben Moody from Evanescence, heís written for everybody, hits, hits, hits, the guy's amazing. So the guy can write a hit song. So we're pulling from that camp, we're pulling from more Toby and Michael's camp, pulling from Newsboys camp, so this record is gonna be phenomenal, it is gonna blow your mind.

  • JFH (John): If itís not, Iím coming after you! *laughter* No, Iím just kidding.
    Duncan: ďIím coming after you, and Iím gonna TP your house!Ē

  • JFH (John): Iím gonna steal you laptop and Iím gonna lose it somewhere! *more laughter* So youíre doing some DC Talk songs tonight?
    Duncan: Yes! We are doing 8 new songs from when Peter left, so Peter left about six months ago, so we're doing 8 new songs since then, so it's quite a different show.

  • JFH (John): You mean 8 off the last record?
    Duncan: 8 period, brand new songs. I just want you to see the show. I donít want to give away too much.

  • JFH (John): So at this point Loveology is on hold?
    Michael: Loveology is going to become something we're going to be writing about very soon. I canít tell you now, but itís a project with the boys and I and Ben Moody, which is another whole music project.

  • JFH (John): So itís not Newsboys?
    Michael: No, Itís gonna be different.

  • JFH (John): So what time of next year are you thinking, to release the new Newsboys album?
    Duncan: You know what, we're talking about maybe the end of this year.

  • JFH (John): The end of this year? Wow, that would be awesome!
    Duncan: Yeah, weíve been working hard here, and we really feel we need to get something out as quickly as possible here.

  • JFH (John): I mean, if you feel like taking more time would help you perfect it, definitely.
    Duncan: Yeah, donít get me wrong, were not gonna bring it out before itís ready. But saying that, we're gonna be pouring everything into this record to get it out as soon as possible.

  • JFH (John): Yeah. Thatís a good idea. Cool! All right, thanks guys, we really appreciate it!

     

    Newsboys' latest project, In The Hands Of God, is in stores now!

     

     

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