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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.

  • 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 wasnt, that one was all Peter. You (Michael) werent there at all. But one of my staff who lives in New Zealand actually twittered Im reading rumors about Michael Tait joining The Newsboys, so I think it's time to go to bed. 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 dont think its 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, theyll scream it back to you. Im like, "ok cool." The two comments I hear the most at the shows is, We were a little nervous until we heard the first song and after they heard the whole show, they say, Oh man, you fit perfect and to me, Peter, Duncan and the guys, we knew in our heads I would fit perfect, because weve 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, hes Australian, and hes 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 Are you kidding me, it works perfect. Then, best of both worlds, is you have DC Talk and Newsboys, whove 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, its like getting two for the price of one. Thats 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. Im 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, its gonna be different, but its gonna be better. Even Peters 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 Tait, the show is fantastic. But back to your question, there wasnt 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, its 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! Thats 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 weve got something to say.
    Michael: It could easily be karaoke, Well, this guy sings decent Newsboys songs. But its so much more than singing the songs, its becoming a Newsboy. Its becoming a member of the band, its feeling it. And I feel it a million times, and Im not saying the people do. I mean, the people have been way more responsive, promoters too, but I feel it, and youll see it, its not fake. You cant fake the body.
    Duncan: I think most fans are onboard. The 5% that arent tend to be the most vocal.

  • JFH (John): That is so true. Ive seen a lot of that from being on the web, you know. And Id rather just see it for myself. A lot of people are like, Whyd you do it mid tour? Id already bought tickets, Peter is The Newsboys And its 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 controversys sake, but because I knew that when God gave me the pencil, and I felt it, I didnt want to do this thing wide-eyed, like, I gotta have it, I wanna do it, I wanna be a Newsboy. No, its like, DC Talk, OK? We ruled! We had a great time, it was a blast. But with that said, doing this, man, is like - Ill try it. Im nervous about it, but Ill try it. And let me tell you what, man, what Ill 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 whats coming next...

  • JFH (John): Yeah, we like Jesus Freak. *everyone laughs*
    Duncan: Really? *more laughter*
    Michael: For me, thats what I liken it to because, people were like, Well this record's kinda wild this was back in the day in '95/ They're calling Jesus a freak! 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: Weve had promoters writing letters apologizing to Michael saying, We are so sorry that we made you feel [unwelcome], you know, to the point of, Come out to my house, we're gonna put you up, on the water, in this mansion on the beach to show you how sorry! It was amazing. That was from a guy that was so adamant before the show that Peters GOT to be there," If he doesnt show up...! 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. Hes seen like, 5 shows and hes like When are you coming out? When are we gonna hang? 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, Yeeeaah... *Michael kicks back and puts his feet up* thats nice, Ill have a Coke-a-cola please You know? But the other side is, like, it makes sense cause its gonna happen. This is God's will. Its 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 thats not something I say lightly, because it goes far more than just a wanting, because Ive felt this thing before in my gut, Ive 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 Im just like, you know, especially after the last record, I dont 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. Youve got kind of a praise and worship song here and there, youve got a couple of quirky, wacky, Newsboys songs, youve got the rock song, No Grave, which is probably one of my favorite songs on the record, then youve got Upside which is this kind of crazy, Beatle-esque, kind of English, wacky thing.

  • JFH (John): I know for me theres a weird feeling that washes over the record for me, after Peter exiting, and so abruptly. So its kind of weird to listen to that record. It is isnt The Newsboys anymore, You know? I heard Michael's version of "Glorious" two days ago. Its amazing! So much better than the other one, and your voice just sounds perfect for it.
    Duncan: Well Ill make this statement: I dont 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 wed rather have hits though! *laughter*
    Duncan: But what we had is - we didnt 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 Im writing, I run it by Toby[Mac] or Peter, and if they sing it to me over the phone, and it sounds decent, Ive got a hit. *laughter* Seriously. Because I know if they can sing it, I mean I can make *sings I love your shoes, shoes, shoes* sound cool, but it's not a hit, you know? But if they can sing to me *sings Im not ashamed to let you know* Thats 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 Ive 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: Its almost like this record was written for Mike. Its really crazy. I mean, Mike just nails these songs, like he was there writing them.
    Michael: And I dont like the way that I do them. The songs that were put in the set were thought about. Its just that I only want to do the ones that I can do best, as far as until we write new stuff.

  • JFH (John): Thats very wise. So are you helping to write the new stuff?
    Michael: Oh youd 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 well see what happens.
    Duncan: Well, we thought about it, but we thought, "is that just going to rehash whats already been out, or do we just go straight to the studio and start recording a new record?" So its kind of this what do we do? So we wanted "Glorious" to be: "lets 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 theres no great plan, you know? We have a general idea, well, if we do this well do this.

  • JFH (John): I just thought it was kind of weird because, its just like the fans, or the new fans, and even the people that come to the show tonight, cant 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 em dead every night. For each show of the tour, 37 dates, just hit em hard, take names, and keep on moving. We know that it works, we like it, and we know whats 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 itll come quick. It will come quick because Peter has nothing else to do but write songs, you know. He hasnt got the tour.
    Michael: And Ive got material Ive had for years, you know, Ive been waiting and waiting. Toby and I feel with the record for the Newsboys, you know, we shouldnt put the cart before the horse.

  • JFH (John): Wait... so Tobys helping write?
    Michael: Tobys helping with writing songs, yeah, but I dont put the cart before the horse, because Im dying to get that thing out there and find out, but itll be out soon enough.
    Duncan: Its got to be great. Its got to be the best record weve ever done. Because if its not, people are gonna say OK, we knew it, the Newsboys are over. And that's why Im so encouraged by what Im hearing. They're so good. This next record is going to be the biggest pop Newsboys record ever. Its 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. Whats 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, Ive summoned the masters for this one, you know. Im like, Guys? Hits? *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, hes 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 its not, Im coming after you! *laughter* No, Im just kidding.
    Duncan: Im coming after you, and Im gonna TP your house!

  • JFH (John): Im gonna steal you laptop and Im gonna lose it somewhere! *more laughter* So youre 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 dont 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 cant tell you now, but its a project with the boys and I and Ben Moody, which is another whole music project.

  • JFH (John): So its not Newsboys?
    Michael: No, Its 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, weve 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, dont get me wrong, were not gonna bring it out before its ready. But saying that, we're gonna be pouring everything into this record to get it out as soon as possible.

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


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