Whole Notes

Whole Notes

A conversation with Newsboys lead singer Michael Tait

posted by Chad Bonham
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The Newsboys (l-r): Jody Davis, Jeff Frankenstein, Duncan Phillips and Michael Tait. (photo courtesy of The Media Collective)

Watching Michael Tait backstage before a performance with The Newsboys is a fascinating experience. The legendary front man has an infectiously charming habit of engaging nearly everyone in his path. Tait might not always look you in the eye but it’s not because he’s being aloof. On the contrary, the attention-challenged singer is usually on high alert for another opportunity to make someone smile while fully locked in on the person at hand.

Having personally observed his pre-concert routine on numerous occasions dating back to 1991 (when dc Talk opened for Michael W. Smith) and later in 2001 (when he led the band simply known as Tait), it’s quite possible that Tait has the same amount of energy (perhaps more) than when he was breaking down walls within the Christian industry alongside musical partners Tobymac and Kevin Max.

These days, Tait is equally adept at commanding the attention of 20,000 kids of all ages. And with recent hit singles like “We Believe” and the title track to the film God’s Not Dead (in which The Newsboys made a significant cameo), Tait has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.

In this Whole Notes interview, Tait talks about what led to his connection with The Newsboys, how he maintains his energy, and why God’s Not Dead was such an important film for this generation:

Chad Bonham: It still seems a little surreal that you’ve been a part of two of the biggest Christian recording acts. In a nutshell, how did the Newsboys gig come about?

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The Newsboys’ Restart cover art (photo courtesy of The Media Collective)

Tait: I needed the Newsboys desperately and they needed me desperately. (Former lead singer) Peter (Furler) was just worn out. He wanted to stay home for a while. So when I came in, Peter was the one who handed me the baton. He told me to take it and run with it. I’ve loved every second of it. God has blessed this band, in spite of me and in spite of my weaknesses.

Bonham: Where do you get your energy to keep performing at such a high level night after night?

Tait: Good question. I feed off the crowd a lot. I love to see their faces, singing the words. I feed off their emotions. I want to give that back to them. I want God to speak through me to the crowd. I want to get them excited about their faith. I always want to give it my heart and soul.

Bonham: How do you answer the skeptics that say it’s unlikely for a young person to be spiritually impacted in a large concert setting like an arena tour or a Winter Jam event?

Tait: From my vantage point, I know that God uses the band in those settings. There’s a song we do called “Home.” It’s about my mom dying. There are a lot of people that come to our shows who have lost a loved one and they know what I’m feeling when I sing that song. We have another song called “We Believe.” That’s a powerful song. In those moments, we can feel it. I always encourage the crowd to make that song their creed and then we worship together and give glory and honor to the Creator and the master of the universe. I know that song connects with people. I can just feel it. So I think it’s quite possible for people to be impacted in those times.

Bonham: As you got to spend some time getting to know Lecrae during Winter Jam, what are your thoughts on his rise in popularity in both the Christian and general markets?

Tait: Lecrae wants to share his past. He wants to share his heart with people. But trying to reach people on both sides is a very tricky and treacherous trail. I’ve told him that. You’ve got to be careful. At the end of the day, he is human. But he has a solid foundation. He has a very sweet heart.

Bonham: After so many years doing this, are you compelled to reach out to guys like Lecrae and other young artists and give them advice on how to avoid some of the pitfalls that come with being a part of the music industry?

Tait: I enjoy that so much. I really do. I’m proud to be that guy. When a young artist asks me a question, I want to do what I can to give them an answer if I have it within me. I know what I know. I won’t make up stuff. But if it’s something I’ve been through, I’ll share my experiences and tell them the truth.

Bonham: Why is a movie like God’s Not Dead so important for this generation?

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God’s Not Dead took in over $60 million at the U.S. box office (image courtesy of Pure Flix)

Tait: We need to use outlets like this to help people’s lives intersect with Christ. For us, it was an opportunity to take the band out of the arena and out of the church youth group and get into the movie theater where kids can go with their unsaved friends and loved ones. That is powerful. That was the goal of this movie. It’s about a college student fighting for his faith in a pretty dark environment, which isn’t unlike what’s really going on these days. This is the time. We need to shine our lights the brightest in these situations. We’re in that day. It’s getting darker and darker out there. We need to shine brighter and brighter.

Bonham: Before we wrap up, I want to make sure you remember that I didn’t ask you about when dc Talk is getting back together.

Tait: Thank you for that! I’m pleasantly surprised. (laughs)

Bonham: It’s probably the first or last question you usually get.

Tait: Every time! Every time! (laughs) I’ve learned to roll with whatever comes my way. I don’t mind the questions. I’m just blessed to be doing this after all these years.

Keep up with the latest from The Newsboys by visiting the official website HERE.

A conversation with recording artist and The Voice contestant Anthony Evans

posted by Chad Bonham

AEvans1Sustaining an eight-year music career under the radar is quite the impressive feat these days. It’s difficult to last in a cutthroat business where, even within the Christian industry, longevity is always hard to come by. But somehow, Anthony Evans managed to record six albums between 2004 and 2011 without the help of a major breakout hit.

For some, Evans might be known as the son of nationally recognized pastor Dr. Tony Evans. But until his appearance on season two of The Voice in 2012, he was an incredibly gifted singer-songwriter whose time to shine was just over the horizon. When Evans sang “If I Ain’t Got You” in a battle round with Jesse Campbell, not only did it go down as one of the show’s greatest performances, his part in the duet also launched his career into unchartered waters.

Earlier this month, Evans released his seventh album and first project since that fateful national television appearance. According to the soulful vocalist, Real Life, Real Worship is a testimony of God’s work in his life over the past two years.

In this Whole Notes interview, Evans talks about how he landed on The Voice, how a conversation with Grammy-Award winning artist Christina Aguilera changed his perspective and how he hopes both the Church and the general market embrace his latest collection of songs:

Chad Bonham: How has having a well-known minister for a father impacted your music career?

Anthony Evans: To me, he was always just my dad. I had to figure out my own faith. That was something I figured out a while ago when I was 18. But I can always stand on the fact that he’s been a great example for me. Beyond that, building my career hasn’t been attached to my dad. It’s been me figuring things out for myself.

Bonham: What was the process that led you to participate in The Voice?

Evans: Some friends of mine encouraged me to send a video way before the show even debuted. I got a phone call to meet with the production team. At that point, I had people telling me I should try it. I had my own thing going but they encouraged me that I was only going to achieve things if I took chances. I wasn’t trying to do something broader at that time, but there was something in my heart saying, “There’s got to be more.” It’s not like I was discontent with what I was doing, but I felt like God was calling me to step outside of the four church walls and do something different. The Voice was obviously that opportunity for me. I didn’t make it the first season, but then they called me back to do the second season. That’s how the doors were opened to all the opportunities I have right now. Being in LA inspired me to do this new record. I’ve been in sessions with some monster artists that I never thought I’d ever be around. It’s also shown me that you’ve always got to be on it. The best people in the world are in LA. You have to step it up.

Bonham: Did your battle round song with Jesse Campbell feel like a game changer for your career?

Evans: That was a game changer for me. That performance opened up the door for everything I’m doing now. That 90-second song with Jesse did that for me. I’ll be forever grateful to The Voice for giving me the opportunity. They called me after that battle and told me they were having a new thing called “The Steal” or what they called “The Anthony Evans Rule” because they were sorry I wasn’t there anymore. They had rules that they couldn’t change for my situation, but they changed them for the next season.

Bonham: What are you currently doing with the show?

Evans: I’m going on the road with the show. I’m on a team of talent producers and we whittle down this monstrous number of people to the ones that are going to be on the blind auditions. It’s fun to be a part of that. A lot of the contestants recognize me from the show so I get to coach them through the process.

Bonham: It seems like the new album is a combination of songs that reflect your upbringing and songs that convey some of the new things you’ve experienced in the last couple of years. Is that an accurate description?

Evans: That’s a hundred percent accurate.

Bonham: How did you balance the two concepts considering the fact that some people in the Church get nervous when Christian artists delve into topics outside of the traditional messages of faith and worship?

AEvans_CoverEvans: There’s nothing to get nervous about. All I’m doing is being authentic and real and singing about the emotions I go through as a human being. I don’t think we should be nervous about expressing who we really are when it comes to being a believer but also when it comes to being someone who goes through real life. You have to experience real life before you can understand what it means to really worship. That’s it. This whole concept started at Christina Aguilera’s house. She asked what a worship leader was. She wanted me to explain that to her. And I thought, “If I start talking to this girl in church terms, it’s going to freak her out.” If I wasn’t a Christian and I didn’t know about church and I started using worship terminology—if I started talking about “the Lamb that was slain” to Christina, she would think, “You’re in a cult.” It’s a weird thought. So in that moment, I knew I had to connect to her through real life issues. I told her about me going through a broken engagement. Then she talked about how she went through some hard things in her life. That was real life. But then when she started to talk about how I handled it, and I was able to talk about real worship. That’s how this record came together. It’s just me being honest about my emotions and writing songs that people outside of church can connect to. The creative director for the video was Cher’s creative director. I want those kind of people involved. I want them to hear the song and go get the record and hear the worship songs and go, “Oh this is what Anthony is all about.” That is the objective of this whole project. I’m not nervous about the church being anxious. I just want Christians to embrace the fact that music is made not just for the church, but it’s also for the people that need to hear about the love of God.

Bonham: How would you describe the evolution of your music since 2004?

Evans: Over the last 10 years, stylistically I’ve gotten to the point where I want to explore and do things with excellence. I want to write songs that resonate with me and will resonate with a live audience. I’m exploring fresh sounds. This is the first Christian record that my producer (Max Stark) has ever done. He naturally brought sounds that were not normal for Christian music. On the show, Christina Aguilera and Jewel taught me something important. They both told me that I didn’t have to fit into a mold. You make the mold. People can smell a rat. If you’re doing thing for marketing and for a record label, you’re going to set yourself up to be called a phony. As long as it’s true to you, you do it. If you make great music, you can become a mold breaker or a trailblazer. It’s a little scary to do that because you can’t always see what’s in front of you, but you’re clearing out a path for people behind you to follow.

Bonham: Do you feel like your experience on The Voice and the subsequent successes have breathed new life into your career?

Evans: I know artists that have tried for a long time in the Christian industry and then they were on a TV show and all of the sudden the doors swing wide open. Christians want to connect with things that are mainstream. So for me, people see that Christina Aguilera thinks I’ve got something to offer and all of the sudden they think maybe they should give my music a shot. I have a producer friend from the show who came to me and said, “How is it that you’re 28 years old and I’ve never heard of you before?” It made no sense to her that she had didn’t know anything about my music. That changed my mindset. I realized that I had been operating within a box. So now, there is no box. If you want to do it, you can do it.

Stay up on Anthony’s latest news and tour dates by visiting his official website HERE.

Exclusive video interview with Dove Award winning artist Francesca Battistelli

posted by Chad Bonham

On Tuesday, April 22nd, Dove Award winning artist Francesca Battistelli releases her third studio album If We’re Honest. In preparation for the upcoming project, Whole Notes is exclusively premiering a video interview as the Grammy-nominated artist talks about her new music.

Battistelli is fresh off the heels of a hugely successful Son of God tour where she appeared alongside Natalie Grant, Meredith Andrews, Jason Gray, Chris August and Sidewalk Prophets. She also performed the lead single “Write Your Story” on ABC’s “Good Morning America” back in February.

Check out what she has to say about the new music in this video that can only be seen on Whole Notes through Sunday, April 20th:

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Fans can pre-order the new album by visiting her official website HERE.

Fans can also check out If We’re Honest this week via iTunes “First Play” program by clicking HERE.

Documentary to feature American Idol songwriter Regie Hamm

posted by Chad Bonham

new oms cover pixMusic video director and veteran celebrity photographer Devin Pense is embarking on a unique journey as he attempts to tell the story of his good friend Regie Hamm in the documentary One More Song. For the average music fan, Hamm’s name may not be terribly familiar. But to those within the industry, he has been a consistent hit songwriter and at one time was an up-and-coming pop star.

By 2003, Hamm had written over 400 recorded songs including cuts by Christian artists such as Bob Carlisle, Jaci Velasquez and Clay Crosse. He also found his way into the general market with songs recorded by the likes of Kenny Loggins and Maxi Priest. That year, however, turned out to be a trying time for Hamm and his family. Hamm’s solo career stalled out and his wife Yolanda lost her job as a record label executive. To make matters worse, their daughter Isabella (aka Bella), adopted from China, was diagnosed with a rare disorder known as Angelman Syndrome and challenged the family as they never imagined.

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Yolanda and Regie Hamm

During the spring of 2008, Hamm was on the verge of walking away from the music business. But when his wife saw a songwriting contest advertised on American Idol, she encouraged him to write one more song. His decision to take her up on the challenge turned out to be a life-changing one. “Time Of My Life” won the contest and became a huge hit for that year’s American Idol winner David Cook.

Ironically, the song was featured during the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics in Bejiing. Before Bella was diagnosed with Angleman Disorder, Hamm and his wife had planned to take her back to China for the Games. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out, but more importantly, the song Bella inspired reached over a billion people in one night.

According to Pense the documentary “is a story of deep redemption in the midst of great heartbreak and hardship…Our hope is to connect with people all over the world on a heart level and be an inspiration to anyone who may be in the midst of a life crisis, encouraging them to write one more song.”

Pense is currently raising funds for the documentary via Kickstarter. You can check it out by clicking the link below:

One More Song

Previous Posts

A conversation with Newsboys lead singer Michael Tait
Watching Michael Tait backstage before a performance with The Newsboys is a fascinating experience.

posted 5:15:54pm Sep. 20, 2014 | read full post »

A conversation with recording artist and The Voice contestant Anthony Evans
Sustaining an eight-year music career under the radar is quite the impressive feat these days. It’s difficult to last in a cutthroat business where, even within the Christian industry, longevity is always hard to come by. But somehow, Anthony Evans managed to record six albums between 2004 and 201

posted 2:00:55am May. 07, 2014 | read full post »

Exclusive video interview with Dove Award winning artist Francesca Battistelli
On Tuesday, April 22nd, Dove Award winning artist Francesca Battistelli releases her third studio album If We're Honest. In preparation for the upcoming project, Whole Notes is exclusively premiering a video interview as the Grammy-nominated artist talks about her new music. Battistelli is fresh

posted 11:15:09am Apr. 16, 2014 | read full post »

Documentary to feature American Idol songwriter Regie Hamm
Music video director and veteran celebrity photographer Devin Pense is embarking on a unique journey as he attempts to tell the story of his good friend Regie Hamm in the documentary One More Song. For the average music fan, Hamm's name may not be terribly familiar. But to those within the industry,

posted 7:00:49pm Nov. 22, 2013 | read full post »

Shane Barnard talks about songwriting and Shane & Shane's latest album Bring Your Nothing
For Shane Barnard, writing songs isn't just about producing material for a new Shane & Shane album. In fact, that's usually the last on his mind and in his heart. Instead, th

posted 8:00:41am Aug. 30, 2013 | read full post »


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