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Shortly after the release of their third full-length studio album since Michael Tait assumed the role as the band's lead vocalist, Restart,'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.

  • JFH (John DiBiase): Why choose the name "Restart" for your new album? Because it's kind of an interesting title considering the Newsboys have technically "restarted" a couple of times...

    Michael Tait: 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.

  • JFH (John): Were you ever concerned about that title?

    Album Cover

    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.

  • JFH (John): Cool. I like the new record, by the way. I think it's especially fitting for your voice.

    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.

  • JFH (John): True, but with Audio Adrenaline being more pop now, with him. That's definitely new territory for him.

    Michael: Uh-huh. Pop has proven itself. Pop obviously wins all the time. Beatles go. So go the Beatles, so go the pop.

  • JFH (John): Yeah, but y'know, there's good pop and there's bad pop.

    Michael: That's true, that's true.

  • JFH (John): Newsboys have--and even dc Talk was pop! "Schizophrenic pop," is that what you guys called it?

    Michael: Yeah, yeah!

  • JFH (John): But it was a different kind of pop, a different brand of pop. There's sugar pop, there's empty pop, and then there's pop with meat.

    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.

  • JFH (John): Did you approach this album any differently than the previous ones?

    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.

  • JFH (John): It's true. But I prefer the days when there wasn't specifically "worship" and then "rock and pop."

    Michael: Oh, we know that. Yes.

  • JFH (John): Because a lot of the artists in the 90's, the message was in the music without it being "OK, it has to be 'worship.'" I can still get a lot out listening to, say, PFR or old school Newsboys or even DC Talk, y'know, it's stuff that the message was there but it wasn't specifically "worship," y'know what I mean? It was about "the Christian life," I guess you could say.

    Michael: You bet! Social conscience even, back then. Chris Tomlin changed all that, baby.

  • JFH (John): What did a given writing session look like (for a song on Restart), since there were so many writers?

    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?

  • JFH (John): Now, you don't have to talk about this if you don't want to, but I was wondering about "That Home." Is that about your mom? [Editor's Note: Michael told John before the interview that his mom had just passed away a few days earlier]

    Michael: Yeah.

  • JFH (John): Did you write on that one?

    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.

  • JFH (John): Thanks, sorry... I thought that was an amazing song from the first time I heard it because most of the songs the band has sung so far haven't been really personal, and I could tell that was really personal. It was goood, it was really meat and potatoes.

    Michael: Yeah, that was meat and potatoes.

  • JFH (John): How did you hook up with Josh Silverberg for this album? Because I know he used to be in [the band] Edison Glass, and he cowrote and produced the song "Restart"?

    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.

  • JFH (John): Do you have days where you just don't know how you're going to get on stage to do a show?

    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*

  • JFH (John): Do you feel that some of the songs you guys pick end up speaking to you on a personal level?

    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?

  • JFH (John): Yeah! I totally got ya.

    Michael: Good, good. So I'm born again, but believers need restarts too.

  • JFH (John): Oh yeah, I have days where I'm like "I don't even know... how I'm gonna keep going."

    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*

  • JFH (John): No, I know. I guess it's just different when maybe not all the songs were written or co-written by you. I don't know what it's like to sing someone else's words [as a vocalist], y'know what I mean?

    Michael: You know what it's like? You enjoy somebody else's cooking?

  • JFH (John): Mmhmm, yeah. Makes sense.

    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.

  • JFH (John): Yeah. I wasn't trying to offend, I was just curious!

    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.

  • JFH (John): Yeah, I know. I have a "man cave" at home, too. I understand.

    Michael: Yeah. *laughter*

  • JFH (John): At the end of the day, it's like, "OK, I gotta retreat. I need my comfort zone." Yeah, that's me, man. Oh yeah, I wanted to ask -- about the Deluxe Editions. Do you usually have b-sides that end up being on the Deluxe Editions, or do you think ahead of time like "Well, we have too many songs, so these will be on the Deluxe Edition..."?

    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!"

  • JFH (John): That's how I feel. And I like "God Is Movin'" too!

    Michael: I know, RIGHT?!

  • JFH (John): I love it a lot. And I'm like "How is this not on the [main] record?" So that's why I wanted to talk about it.

    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?

  • JFH (John): Yeah. And what'd you think of covering "The Living Years"?

    Michael: Y'know what? I didn't want that on the record. That was my least favorite song.

  • JFH (John): Really?! It's a classic!

    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.

  • JFH (John): It's true. I know, right?

    Michael: It's weird to think that's the way it is. And we didn't write that song! HINT! HINT!

  • JFH (John): It's true.

    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!

  • JFH (John): It's true. I actually liked your cover [of "The Living Years"]. I did.

    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...."

  • JFH (John): I understand. Speaking of DC Talk, earlier this year, I'd heard through the grape vine that there would possibly be a DC Talk tour, but then that kind of fizzled. Do you think anything will ever happen?

    Michael: It's gonna happen.

  • JFH (John): ...eventually.

    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.

  • JFH (John): Yeah, I'd heard it from a good source that it was happening for the fall and then I didn't hear anything else about it...

    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.

  • JFH (John): So it's actually being worked on/talked about?

    Michael: It's being talked about, yes. Quite fervently at times. *laughs*

  • JFH (John): I bet! I think it only makes sense that it would eventually come together. Whether you guys want it to or not. *laughs*

    Michael: Uh-huh. I know Jesus Freak Hideout will be as happy as a hamster!

  • JFH (John): Yeah, man. 17 years now. And that means Jesus Freak was 18 years ago. Maybe in time for the 20th anniversary or something...

    Michael: *laughing* Right right right! That's not a bad idea! That, my friend, is not a bad idea. What would that be? 2015?

  • JFH (John): Yeah.

    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.

  • JFH (John): Gives you plenty of time. Do you have any desire to see something like that happen (a dc Talk reunion)?

    Michael: Of course. It's just logistically speaking and physically speaking, it's such a big undertaking. It's like undocking the Titanic...

  • JFH (John): After it sunk or before? *laughter*

    Michael: Awwww! Wow... Let's say the Queen Mary... or what ship didn't sink??

  • JFH (John): I can only think of ones that sunk!

    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.

  • JFH (John): That'd be cool. A whole new generation of DC Talk fans. "Imagine if the lead singers of Audio Adrenaline, Newsboys and TobyMac got together!" *laughs*

    Michael: *laughs* It could happen.

  • JFH (John): Any last thoughts?

    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.

  • JFH (John): I love Sour Patch Kids. *laughs*

    Michael: I do too. *laughs* And I love Swedish Fish too!

  • JFH (John): Yes! Yes!

    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.

    Newsboys's latest album, Restart is available now wherever music is sold!

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