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User Archives: Dan Hubka

  • Paving the Way - Duncan Phillips, Newsboys

    Posted on June 11, 2014 by Dan Hubka

    With a worldwide gross of over $61 million, the movie, God’s Not Dead has taken the film industry by storm. The movie featured Newsboys singing their hit single, “God’s Not Dead.” As a result, the single has been certified GOLD by the RIAA, selling more than 140,000 tracks in the past 5 months.

    We sat down with Duncan Phillips, Newsboys drummer, for an inside look at the band, the music, and the film’s success.

    Dan: Duncan, talk to me about some of the influence that you're seeing from the movie, God's Not Dead and the amazing success that's been having.

    Duncan: About a year and a half ago, Pure Flix came to us ... maybe even longer than that now. They said, "Look, we love that song. We love the theme of the song. We're doing a movie right now. We'd like to bring the two together and make a movie called, God's Not Dead." We're like, "Yeah, fine. No problem." We get things thrown at us all the time, as you might expect.

    About a year and a half ago, we were in the middle of a tour somewhere in Texas and we've been kind of learning our lines… but not really. I thought there was going to be [only] a couple of red cameras. We get through the door of the tour bus, 7 a.m. is the call [time] which is early for us, and they have 50 people on deck. They've got their own catering. There's vehicles everywhere. There's cameras in the air. I'm like, "Oh my gosh guys… we're in trouble. We better go back and brush up on our lines!"

    It started out in about 800 theaters nationwide. I think it's up to about 2,000 theaters now, but the impact has been great and varied. I think one of the reasons why is [because] it's a subject that a lot of kids in high school or college can really relate to. It's a very liberal culture out there. It's very hedonistic. It's humanistic and 20 [or] 30 years ago, [they started] taking God out of school. Now, of course, they don't even acknowledge that there is a God. Well, we're smarter than that. We've got science, but science tells us that there is no God. [That] couldn't be further from the truth.

    It really is quite wicked when you look into it, but I think a lot of Christian kids [are] going to college and they're dealing with it on a daily basis. I think what [the movie has] done more than anything, is [that it has] really helped to empower kids who are in those situations to be able to come back with a legitimate answer and a response to the atheist agenda.

    There [are] a lot of intelligent people. I don't say they're necessarily smart, but there [are] a lot of very intelligent people that have decided to become atheists… maybe because of a past hurt or [they know] if they recognized that there is someone greater than themselves, then they [would] have to wrestle with that… The agenda is basically [that] we have evolved [and] we've come so far as human beings… that we [have become] our own god. That's a very fallible position, because then you're answerable to no one. Basically, you can do what you want to do. [There is] a spirit that goes along with it… a very anti-Christ spirit with the whole agenda. It's a very interesting time we live in, that's for sure.

    Dan: Yeah, it's interesting. I think part of the appeal of your song is the overt nature of the title, the song, and the movie, God's Not Dead. You're not tap dancing around anything. That leads me into the success of your current single that's out, the song, “We Believe.” Can you tell me a little bit about where that song came from and how it got to be where it is now?

    Duncan: Well, we love the song, “We Believe.” Michael Tait always says that if Billy Graham was to sing a song, it probably would have been a song very much like “We Believe,” because it's very short. It's sharp. It's to the point… My feeling [is] that you can be direct in what you say, but you can say it in a way of love, and I think that's what [the song] “We Believe” does. It's not [pointing] the finger, saying “You are going to hell if you don't act like this.” It's saying “This is what we believe. We believe we found the answer, and this is the way.”

    At the rehearsal space, I'd well up every time, because when you hear those songs and lyrics go over the crowd, over microphones and over [the] PA, it's a very powerful, sobering moment. We're playing [“We Believe”] live in the set every night. It's just this incredibly poignant moment in the set [when] people stand up, raise their hands, and just sing to the heavens, “This is what I believe.” Even at interviews, I'll well up… talking about the song, simply because it goes so deep for me.

    Dan: You've also now set a challenge out for me to try to make you cry at some point in this interview.

    Duncan: That can happen. I'm definitely a crier for sure.

    Dan: Obviously, it's resonating with people. Sometimes these things are cyclical and I think we're in a season now of wanting to stand up and be accountable for our faith. I think that's the power of “God's Not Dead” and “We Believe.”

    You guys are in a really unique position right now… the movie has brought life back to the God's Not Dead record and then you have your current single on the radio. Has your band ever experienced anything like this before?

    Duncan: We've had moments like this, but I don't think there's ever been a moment in the band's history where we've had a prior record stomping all over the latest.

    Dan: (Laughs)

    Duncan: I was just talking to someone earlier today [about] their impressions. I'm a numbers guy. I love numbers. We just got off Winter Jam… and over a three-month period of time, we [were] playing for nearly 600,000 people, which is amazing. The biggest, most attended tour in the first quarter, four years in a row. But [the first] two or three weekends of the movie, 5.5 million people [saw the] movie. If you're talking about clout, or impressions, or the perfection of the branding, it can take a band five [or] 10 years to have that many impressions, but we put in a 12 [to] 16-hour day, one and a half years ago. It's almost like the inertia has caught up and the weight is pushing the notoriety and the perception of the band to greater heights than it's ever been before.

    We've had 26 number one hits. We've had a lot of number one hits over the years but [the God’s Not Dead single] has been the quickest advancing [song] in Newsboys history to date, because it's a creed. It's an anthem. It's something that when people sing it, it resonates deep within their soul and their spirit. That's the power of a wonderful song. That's the power of a great song. That's why we decided to take our hands off and allow [other] songwriters [to work on it]. Just because you're in a band doesn't mean you're a great songwriter.

    I know we want to own everything. We want to write our own songs, and that's great if you're an amazing songwriter, but we were average songwriters. We definitely had our moments writing a great song, but I think we came to the realization that we were better at being a band. We're better at getting out there [and] playing a live show. That's where Newsboys shine. There [are] people out there [whose] craft is to write songs. We realize that and recognize that.

    Dan: Can you tell me a little bit about that process that changed from writing songs to finding songs? Do you have somebody who brings songs to you? Are you guys actively looking yourself? What's that moment when you go yeah, that's a Newsboys song?

    Duncan: Well, I think it's everything. It's a process, man. I think for the Restart record, we looked at about 70 or 80 songs, a lot of them great songs. They just [were not] “Newsboys.” There's a definite theme [for] Newsboys. There's definitely a sound. We have grown that sound.

    Although we've dabbled in songs like “We Believe,” “It is You,” “He Reigns”… I think Newsboys really [does] shine as a pop band.  I grew up loving the music of the 80s and I think you just want to go back to your first love in music. I love pop music. I love the three and a half minute pop song. I think the Restart record [is] probably the best pop record Newsboys has ever made. I'm very, very proud of that record.

    Dan: You're one of the most entertaining drummers to watch. I think that you somehow bring the audience to you and we feel the music. Can you explain what happens?

    Duncan: I never thought, as a drummer, that I should be invisible. I always told [the band] “I'm in this band, so why not perform just as much as the lead singer?” I wanted people to feel that they could do it. I wanted people to go, “Man, that guy is having the best time of his life.”

    A part of it really has come out of this feeling of thank you, Jesus that I still can do this. Literally, it's a joy of the Lord when you get something taken away or nearly taken away that's precious to you, or something that you believe is God-given and he gives it back to you tenfold, the joy and the appreciation and the gratitude that comes out of that is unspeakable. You look at some video footage of five years ago [and] I probably wasn't quite as energetic because I was [thinking] “Well, maybe this is winding down.”

    Sometimes change is painful, but when you come out the other side you can look back and then you go, “Oh, now I get it.” I think the change with Michael was necessary. I think it was a Godsend. At the time, it didn't feel like it though.

    I think when [most people are] in the middle of something, they [ask] “Where [are you] God? You turned your back from me.” No, he hasn't. He's just building your backbone. He's just taking you somewhere. A lot of times we pray, “God, take me further, take me to the next level.” You know what? The next level is painful. It hurts.

    Birthing is painful and somehow as we look at that we think God can't be in [it]. I've never believed that. Whenever we've had problems, I've always tried to [ask], “Where is God in this whole thing?” When Peter left and Michael came on, as bleak as it looked, I knew down deep that this is a God moment and the best was yet to come. [It] was a little faith statement at that time because we hadn't recorded Born Again. We hadn't recorded God's Not Dead. We hadn't recorded Restart. We've been with [the band] for a couple of decades. [I was thinking], “I have a wife and a young family. I've got a mortgage to pay.” All the practical things that people forget sometimes. It's not just [my] career-- it's my livelihood. It's how I put food on the table. When it was looking like it was going to go belly up, my whole world on every level-- physically, financially, spiritually… was absolutely drained, and so was the band. We were spent, but I think sometimes that's where God needs us to be to really turn [it] around.

    It gives me great confidence, saying that I really believe the best is yet to come. It's more than a wish. [When I] look [at] what he's done over the last five years, [I think], “Oh my gosh, what can He do in the next five years? Where can He [take] this thing in the next five years?” The sky is the limit. I really believe that.

    Hopefully, that encourages every other person, every other band that's come up behind us, because they see Newsboys do it. That's one of my biggest hopes in the industry… to encourage all those bands, all those artists coming up behind us, that it can be done. You can have a long, fruitful career in Christian music.

    To purchase Duncan's latest record with his band, The Newsboys, click here.


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews and was tagged with Featured, Newsboys, Duncan Phillips

  • Michael W. Smith - Behind the New Album

    Posted on March 26, 2014 by Dan Hubka


    “Sometimes you’ve just got to shake things up,” Michael W. Smith says with a smile. After selling more than 15 million albums, scoring 28 No. 1 hits, earning three GRAMMYs and more than 40 Dove Awards, no one would blame the Christian music icon if he decided to coast just a little bit, but that’s just not in his nature.

    On Sovereign, Michael’s first worship album since 2008 and his first project since signing with Capitol Christian Music Group in 2013, he deliberately steps into a new creative chapter to craft a vibrant collection of vertically focused songs with a fresh sense of musical innovation.

    I sat down with "Smitty" to how he shook things up on his new album, Sovereign.

    Dan:                            And you’re with a brand new record label. What's that been like? Has it been different from what you've done in the past in terms of how things have progressed? Could give me some insight onto how things are different?

    Michael:                    Well, it's honestly a bit of fresh air. I mean, it was hard to leave when you've been with a record company for that long—for 29 years. But sometimes you just need to shake things up a little bit. I've always been impressed by Capitol and BMG and the kind of stuff that they're doing. And I’ve always wanted to work with Bill Hearn. So, through a series of many meetings with just about every record label there was, I felt like this was the right move. And they're knocking it out of the park. They're all in. It's been a real team effort to create this project and I'm really excited about it. I think it's my best work yet. We’ll have to see if everybody else feels the same way.

    Dan:                            Has the process itself been different from what you've done in previous records?

    Michael:                    Very different. Big faith steps for me. Going to territories I've never been to before on the creative side. Working with all these kids—I'm old enough to be their dad. That’s been a challenge and mostly fun. Working with producers I've never worked with before. It's been one of those times you jump out there with a lot of faith and it's really proved to be a great thing.

    Dan:                            The first single is "You Won't Let Go.” Can you tell us a little about that song?

    Michael:                    I wrote it with a guy named Seth Mosley, one of the producers and writers that I've never worked with before. We were hanging out in his studio working on another song called "Miracle.” It’s one of my favorite songs on the record. We kind of made that the bar, saying, “If the song doesn’t top this guy then it's not going to make the record.” We went through 120 songs.

    Dan:                            Wow.

    Michael:                    So I said to Seth, “Just play me something.” He started playing this track and I picked up an acoustic guitar started playing the melody you hear on "You Won't Let Go.” We got to the verse and chorus and I thought, “Oh my gosh, I need to get my iPhone out and hit record so I don't forget this melody.” Thirty minutes later we felt like we really had something solid musically.

    The verses from Romans that say, "Nothing can separate us from the love of God” really propelled the first idea for the lyric. Then we pulled a girl named Mia Fields in, who's a great writer. We all got in the room and we tackled the lyric and before you know it we had a song. And at the end of the day everybody felt like that was the first single. I'm very, very happy with it.

    Dan:                            I love the way that the song ends, with repeat of the simple word “always” at the end. It’s a powerful reminder to the strength of that Scripture.

    Michael:                    Yeah, I agree. It's fun to hear it on the radio. It's been awhile since I've had something on the radio. We've been doing a Christmas record and the Glory record—all these little specialty records that just I love doing. It didn't seem like anything from the Wonder record really connected for some reason.

    I can't predict what radio will play. I've never written for radio my whole life. I've never specifically said, "I'm going to try to write a pop song for radio." With Sovereign, it looks like we have a lot of songs that have potential for radio. It's very commercial but it's very authentic and worshipful.

    Dan:                            I see that you've written on several of the songs but other ones are songs that you found. Can you share with us how you found some of those other songs to round out the record?

    Michael:                    I said, "Look, I don't have to write in on every song. If we can find some songs that are really great then I'm up for that." I mean, I love to write as much as possible, but this is not about me trying to write all the songs on the album.

    So the word got out and all these people start sending me songs. I got a couple from a guy named Dustin Smith who leads worship in a church in Kansas City. "You Are the Fire" is one of his songs. I started doing it live in the fall even before I started working on the album. It seemed to really connect. "Sovereign Over Us” is just unbelievable. It’s written by Aaron Keys from Atlanta. Actually, my son-in-law, Jack Mooring from Leeland, was co-writer on that song. It might be the best song on the album musically and especially lyrically.

    That's just to name a few. Chris Stevens is a guy I've worked with. He's worked with TobyMac and Mandisa for years and was a fan growing up in Eugene, Oregon. Now he's producing three of the cuts and he's mixing the whole record.

    Dan:                            I had the privilege of attending the taping of the deluxe edition at your barn.

    Michael:                    Oh, that's awesome!

    Dan:                            Can you share some of those moments from that night that stuck out to you?

    Michael:                    I thought it was awesome. I mean, we had a lot of stuff to overcome. The weather – it was 14 degrees outside.

    Dan:                            It was cold.

    Michael:                    We kept all the folks in Franklin that sell propane in business. I think from so much that could have gone wrong, everything just worked. I think the challenge was having all of these people come—400 people—to sing these songs. And they’re songs that these people had never heard before.

    There were some wonderful moments. I thought the Leeland moment was incredible. The Kari Jobe moment was amazing. We prayed, “Can we just have a fresh encounter with the Lord this night? Forget about the cameras, forget that we're taping this thing for DVD and audio.” So we forgot all about that. And we felt something. I sensed the beautiful presence of God in that barn.

    Dan:                            As somebody in the audience, I agree there was something about the night. The presence of the Spirit was there. You hit on a couple moments that I thought were really special too. The song with Kari Jobe, “The One That Really Matters,” was a fantastic song and watching the two of you perform that in that moment was really good.

    Michael:                    It’s a Dustin Smith song. We found that song at the last minute. Actually Jack, my son-in-law, mentioned it to me. Jack says, "Hey, you've heard that song, ‘The One that Really Matters,’” and I go, "You know I need to go back and listen to it again." We were still trying to find one last song that possibly could end the record. I went back to listen to it and thought, "Wow. Maybe this is what I'm supposed to do."

    Dan:                            Leeland was at the barn that night as well.

    Michael:                    Leeland and Jack, along with David and Leslie from All Sons & Daughters wrote "Christ Be All Around Me.” I went to Jack because he had cut that song at the barn three weeks earlier and said, "Would you all mind if I cut it?" Everybody was cool with it. That song turned out really amazing not only live, but on the studio version as well.

    Dan:                            I heard that your son Ryan filmed the night at the barn. Is that correct?

    Michael:                    Yes. He's amazing. He's just so good. I'm so proud of him. There were a lot of people in line for that job to do that deal. Ryan had never shot a live DVD. He's made tons of videos. He's written and directed a movie called After, but he had never done this. I said, "Guys I'm staying out of it. You guys hire whoever you think needs the job. There's a conflict of interest here for me.” They all fell in love with Ryan at Capitol.

    It looks amazing. You're not going to believe it. It's so incredibly well done.

    Dan:                            How cool to have your son be part of that. That's pretty awesome.

    Michael:                    Yup. Kind of fun working with your kids.

    Dan:                            Last thoughts on the record. Can you give us some insight as to how you landed on Sovereign as the title track and an overall theme to the record? What made you land on that particular title and song?

    Michael:                    Well, second or third in terms of importance, I think the title pops. But really, first and foremost, I just think we're all just so in love with “Sovereign Over Us” and feel like this song is going to have longevity for a long, long time, mainly for what it says: What the enemy means for evil, He turns it for the good. Even in the valley, He's faithful. He's working it for the good. I think this is something so many people just need to hear.

    I think it's the right title for the record. It encompasses everything that's on the album for sure.

    Dan:                            Going back to that night at the barn, you mentioned something that night that really stuck out to me and I'd like to get some additional thoughts. You mentioned that you believed that 2014 was potentially a big year for the church. What do you mean from that standpoint in terms of what are you seeing and feeling out there?

    Michael:                    I just sense in my spirit that there's something stirring, you know? I feel like there's this—to borrow from Jim Cymbala’s book—Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire. There seems to be a real hunger and passion in this next generation. I think that's going to pay off. When I say pay off, I think that's going to usher in something very, very beautiful. I think there’s something about to explode.

    That's just me. I could be wrong. But if you're a true believer and you look at the Word, man, we're in battle. It's a fight. We have an enemy that's very real and trying to take us down. And I'm feeling like there are a lot of victories coming in 2014.


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews, Dan Hubka and was tagged with Featured, TobyMac, Kari Jobe, Michael W. Smith, All Sons & Daughters, Jim Cymbala, Leeland, Mandi

  • Peter Furler - Bringing 3-Piece Rock Back

    Posted on March 10, 2014 by Dan Hubka

    After 22 years as the main creative force behind Newsboys, followed by his 2011 solo success On Fire, Peter Furler could be excused if he'd decided to mellow out a bit or rest on his laurels. Instead, the writer behind 27 #1 radio singles has come back with one of the strongest albums of his career, Sun and Shield. Reteaming with longtime producer/lyricist Steve Taylor for the first time since Newsboys gold-certified Adoration album,Sun and Shield finds Furler & Band — featuring Dave Ghazarian (Superchick, Audio Adrenaline) on bass and Jeff Irizarry on drums — combining an ambitious collection of new songs with a more muscular, band-driven sound that harkens back to the glory days of Take Me To Your Leader. Sun and Shield is the sound of an artist at the peak of his creative powers.

    I recently had a one-on-one interview with Peter to discuss his new album, his family and what he's excited for.

    Dan:                Peter. New album, Sun and Sheild. Can you tell me a little about it?

    Peter:              Yeah, it's called Sun and Shield. It comes out March 11. Of course, you can get it at Family Christian. Dan's already had a little preview of it so we were talking about that earlier and really happy with it. I kind of went in to make a record that was three-piece rock. We set some limitations. These days you can go into a studio and you can fix a good performance or an average performance. We were just hoping to capture a great performance, as opposed to... Everyone's got their Instagram accounts and they can capture a good photo and put some filter on it. Or someone goes out and hunts for that right shot. So we were hunting for the right shot on this record, just trying to capture the moment, what happened there on the day and not having to embellish it with a lot of tracks and repairs and such, with software. I'm really happy with it. It's kind of a photo album for me when I hear certain tracks. I remember the day and the time recording it.

    Dan:                So the title is Sun and Shield and that's also the first single.  Can you tell us what that means to you and what the title and the track is about?


    Peter:              Well, it comes from the Psalm 84. It talks about God bestowing honor and glory, and that he doesn't withhold favor from us. And He is... There's times we need the sun. We need... It was actually talking about the times of battle, back when David was fighting battles. There was a time where they needed the sun, and there's obviously another time where they need the shield.  It's really just that.  That's what that was about. It's about hanging in there in our faith and moving forward, and getting rid of the clutter that holds us back, and traveling light, so to speak. The whole record is again, just another piece of the journey of our faith. And as a singer and a songwriter, just trying to express that, how I've experienced it.

    Dan:                Very cool. There are some familiar faces on the cover.  It isn't just Peter Furler.  It's Peter Furler and Band. Can you tell us about the new lineup?

    Peter:              When I finished up with the Newsboys I never really, at first I didn't know if I was going to make music again, but then the songs kept coming. So I put out a solo record which I never thought I would do. I never had any aspirations to be a solo guy. In fact, that scared me. When I did make that record, I put it out, and then I'd gone on tour with that record. As I was touring that record, I began to put together a band. Dave Ghazarian, formerly of Superchick and Audio Adrenaline, has been a great friend of mine for a long time, and he was playing in that band, and Jeff Irizarry who's been playing drums for me since I left the Newsboys.

    It just seemed natural. It was one of those natural things. It wasn't like a strategic marketing plan. It was like, we were just on the road touring, and I'd come to this record. It was like, man, I want to do this as a band, I want to do it as a three-piece. I want to keep it just simple and go back to reintroduce three-piece rock into CCM. We haven't seen or heard of that for a while. And again, uncluttered without the performance tracks and all that stuff. I didn't even plan that. It's not that there's anything wrong with that. That's up to somebody if they want to do that. But for us, it was like, man, this new generation of crew that are coming through, we need to show them that it can be done live and you can make a lot of sound with just three guys.

    Dan:                There's another familiar name on the album - Steve Taylor.  Can you talk a bit about the mystery there?

    Peter:              Steve and I, we obviously co-wrote all of the Newsboys songs, or most of them, together. He's been a collaborator with me for many years, a great friend. I just got off the phone from him. He says, "Hi." He's somebody that I've just always looked up to and admired his integrity. He was somebody that when I was making this record I knew I would need help and the right kind of help. I was working on a project with him. I'm also playing drums in Steve's band. We had been working on a record for a few years which is coming out later. It had John Painter and Jimmy Abegg in that band. I was the drummer in that band. We kind of moved from making that record to making the Peter Furler Band record. It was just natural, just cool things were happening, and we were making music just for the love of it. No record deal. No management. No anything, except just kind of wild ambition and just loving music. It's been a really cool time. I don't know what happens after this but that's not for me to worry about.

    Dan:                I saw Mylon LeFevre's name on the song “Yeshua.” How did you get to having him on the record and the connection there?

    Peter:              That took about 23 years, that one, because I married his daughter 23 years ago. Mylon, for those that don't know, should know, he's one of the pioneers of contemporary Christian music. He's been my father-in-law for 23 years. We've talked about making music together and doing things through the years. That was a song that actually my wife and I wrote together. It might have even been her idea. She might have said towards the end... We'd actually tracked most of the music on it, and I'd sung it, and it did feel like something wasn't quite finished. I had Phil Joel come in and sing some BGBs, and I'm like, we're still not where it should be yet. My wife might have suggested or I might have thought this is the ones to get Mylon on. So he came in. We sent the tracks down to Texas. He lives in Texas. And he sang on them there. And he really took it to a new place.  It's awesome to be able to sing with your father-in-law.

    Dan:                So what's the process like for you working on music?

    Peter:              Well, it's changed so much. It's kind of gone full circle in some ways. When we first started out, we had no budget. We were making records on probably the budget that mainstream acts had for catering. For us it was a, you had to really hone your chops, you had to really know all your tunes, and you'd have to go into the studio. I think our first record we made in 24 hours. We cut the ten songs; we mixed it; we did everything. And as time went on, technology helped us a little bit where you could track some stuff at home. Budgets got bigger for us as a band and as a group. But it did cost a lot to make records. Now, it's coming down to... we're sitting here chatting to each other, and people are watching in different parts of America. And it's like, I could be sitting here now recording a record on this laptop because that's where it's come. There's good and bad to that. I think the good for us is that we still want to limit ourselves. There's something really cool when artists have a limitation. The Beatles were a group that only had four tracks, or a couple tracks to record with when they first started so the song had to be great. We live in a day and age now where you can put a lot of lipstick on that piggy, you know what I mean?

    Dan:                Right.

    Peter:              So for us, we still want to keep within the limitations of working with not a ton of gear, but just the right gear and making sure the part is the right thing and the song is the right thing. I think in the future for us, I'd like to go back to that time of, not go back to the time, but go back to that process of writing the song in the change room and getting the lyric where you're satisfied, and getting the tune where you're satisfied, and the arrangement, and going in the studio and just knocking the song out in a day, and then releasing it, or something, doing something with it. You could do a record in 24 hours or something. It'd be fun to get back to that, put that challenge back.

    Dan:                When you are not hanging out in the bus and doing an interview with us, what keeps you busy?

    Peter:              I drive a lot. My wife and I bought an RV. People think I'm a bit crazy, but I do a lot of the driving. I enjoy that. Today I'm in a tour bus, because we had the weather up here so I just jumped on the bus. I kind of like it. It's different. That keeps me pretty occupied. I sleep at a lot of KOA campgrounds and Walmart Supercenters. But there's something about that that I like, in its season. Otherwise, you have  walk and have a look at the city you're in. I took a walk today down in Grand Rapids, had a look around and grabbed a coffee, and chat with friends, and maybe grab a guitar and practice; write some songs.

    Dan:                Are there any RV experiences of people getting mad or experience that you've had?

    Peter:              There's always -- the RV community is this huge subculture in America. In Australia, they call them skiers and that's they're spending their kids' inheritance. Here there's like a real... What I love about it is when you're in these communities, and I've had many experiences. People are really friendly. And they don't know who you are which is really cool. They don't know what you do. You're just some Aussie guy who happens to be in the RV next to them. They're more curious how much water can your RV hold or where did you get your LP gas from? What's the best stop up here?

    The other thing too is the simplicity of living, traveling light. When you're living in that environment, you're in a small space. You have to conserve your water, you have to conserve things, you have to be aware of the road ahead, or surviving that way. And these people are all kind of like that. Some of them have sold their houses. It's a real marriage connector because they're all these married couples and they're always, they’re really united. A lot of them have sold their houses and they're living in this RV and they're just traveling. They'll spend two months, when it's cold, down South, and then they'll head up North. They're continually on the move. They're very nomadic. There's something about that, they remind me maybe of some of the early Bible stories of people just looking for a home.

    Dan:                How did you make that transition to trying out that RV style, going from the lead of the Newsboys to driving around an RV?

    Peter:              I started the RV thing when I was in the Newsboys. We had done every form of travel. We started out in a beat-up old Dodge van, sleeping in that, no air conditioning, no heating, through Death Valley, CA, 110 degrees; to New York City- freezing. Then as you get more successful as a band, we moved to an RV then, and we'd all drive it ourselves. Then we moved up to a bus. Then we moved to several buses with drivers. Then we moved to our own plane. We kind of traveled just about every way you could as far as touring goes. For me, after doing it for so long so many ways, I just had this idea... I don't know really where it came from... but just to spend more time really with my wife. I just saw the future and I saw that someday the Newsboys will pass. But my relationship with my wife and building memories with her, that's what's going to have to last and last well.

    So while I was sitting on a tour bus, I was online and looking at RV traders and trying to find an RV.  We got back after one tour and I bought an RV. Everyone thought I was just crazy. The band thought I was crazy. The management thought I was crazy. I am crazy. So I bought this RV and I drove it. I did about 40,000 miles in that one. And we just loved it. We were having the greatest time. Then I bought another one and did about 70,000, so I did about 110,000 miles. And in that time, that's really probably where I began to learn to simplify. My wife and I, here we are, we're living in this RV, in this little space, conserving water, living just kind of day to day. You can't store a lot of things on it. And it really changed our lives. So we went back from that and we began - we really felt the Lord telling us to simplify. So we did. We began to pull out everything out of our lives that was pulling us, as opposed to... We want to be led by spirit of God but we were getting pulled in directions. And sometimes we're pulled in directions because of finances or because of ambition, or ideas we get where we were pulled in directions because of the culture. So for me, it was, we just wanted to cut some ties. It's not that they were all bad ties or all bad things. There were some great times and great memories. No regrets. But for us, now that's how we live. I have one pair of shoes, man, and I like it. That's all I have to take care of.

    Dan:                That sounds good.

    Peter:              It is good. It might not be for... I don't know if it's for everybody. I'm not anybody's judge. You know, I look at people... That's one thing the Lord's really showed me lately. Judge not lest you be judged. I've seen that happen in my life. I've seen it in others. You see people that are really critical of other people. They judge them. Something... There's just a law that operates where something happens that all of a sudden the judgment gets turned on them and so I think that's a good Scripture as one of your life scriptures. For me it is. I'm not saying what we do is for everybody. Every household has to work out its own gig.

    Dan:                Absolutely. And Peter, in closing, I want to thank you for your time. We absolutely love the new album and we can't wait for more people to hear is. So before we close, is there anything that you would like to say about the record or anything before we say goodbye?

    Peter:              Just thanks to Family Christian, thanks for taking my music and getting it to people and fair enough, I encourage people to support you guys. It's awesome. It’s work. I'm so thankful for my life that I get to do what I love to do. And I hope that for everybody, watching and listening, that you're doing what you love to do. So that's it. Best wishes to everybody. And Family Christian, thank you. I don't take it lightly. It's a big deal that you take my music and you get it to the people. That's a message that I feel to encourage people to lift them up.  And when they hear music, they feel inspired. And you pour your heart into this music. It's so funny. You can go and buy a cup of coffee and a bran muffin, it costs you $7 now, and a CD that costs... that bran muffin and coffee probably cost $.50 to make and some dude made it in 30 minutes. Where a record you pour your heart and your life into it and it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and you sell that for 10 bucks. That's a good deal. So I do appreciate you getting the music out. It means a lot to us. Thank you.

    Dan:                We're glad to do it. So thanks for taking the time today.

    Peter:              Cheers, mate, you're a good man.

    Check out Peter's new album by clicking here.


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews, Dan Hubka and was tagged with Featured, Peter Furler, Newsboys, Audio Adrenaline, Superchick, Steve Taylor, Mylon LeFevre, Phil Joel

  • Francesca Battistelli - A Girl. A Voice. A Mission.

    Posted on January 6, 2014 by Dan Hubka



    "The more you walk in relationship with the Lord, the more you learn to trust him. I'm learning not to focus so much on the issues I think are so big right now—our bus has broken down, or someone said something that frustrated me. I'm learning to slowly let things roll off my back, to say, 'Hey, God knew about this before it happened and He's got a way out or a plan better than mine.' I've learned to stop freaking out and just trust that God knows what he's doing. He's not going to leave me in a bad place because He never has before."

    Such it is with Francesca Battistelli. Honest. Simple. Beautiful. Intentional.

    We have all been exposed to her music. Starting with "I'm Letting Go," or "Free to Be Me." "This is the Stuff" or "Strangely Dim." It doesn't matter. For every time that "Franny" opens her mouth to sing, she is opening her heart.

    There is a vulnerable side to this young lady. And if you didn't know it already, you will be able to hear it by reading the interview below. Franny came to our corporate Christmas party to bring encouragement and holiday greetings. After I sat down with her, I was reminded again about her passion.

    Dan:                Is there anything you can tell us about the new album?

    Francesca:     Yes. It will be out April 22nd hopefully, and it's called If We're Honest. It's going to be amazing. I'm so excited about it. It's my favorite one yet. I think that's probably normal, but I really feel like these songs are just right and the timing is right for them. There's just a lot of energy on this record which I feel like the last one lacked even though I love it. I think it's going to be really good and a whole new season.

    Dan:                If we're honest.  What does that mean?  At least on this particular record.

    Francesca:     Well, it's the title of my favorite song on the record which is just a very honest song about really just that.  If we were truly authentic with each other and honest with each other all the time and kind of not tried to hide behind the facade of everything's fine and I'm perfect and life is great.  I feel like that is sort of what the enemy wants us to do to isolate ourselves and keep us from true community and truly being the body of Christ.

    It just came from some experiences where I felt like the song is personal because I really feel like that's just all too prevalent not just in this industry but in Christianity especially in America of just everything's fine, and I'm not really going to be myself with you.  I'm not going to let you know really any of my junk, but you can't get healed of anything unless you confess and kind of are out there.  It's sort of a heavy song on a very lighter record, but it's needed I think in it's truths.

    Dan:                Absolutely.  I've found that it can be a very scary thing to reveal those things, but what evil wants us to believe is that we're alone and that nobody is going to relate to those things if we're honest so a very relevant topic.

    Francesca:     Totally, because I think when you are honest that's when you are sort of just real with whatever is going on in your life.  That's when grace comes in.  We naturally want to give grace and support and encouragement to someone who says, "This is the truth.  This is what I'm going through."  But, yeah, you're right.  The enemy tries to tell us the opposite.  "They're going to hate you." Which is not true.

    Dan:                You said something that I didn't think any artist was allowed to say which was, "My favorite song on this record is ..."  I thought people weren't allowed to say their favorite songs, but you actually have favorites.

    Francesca:     I do.  I always have favorites.  Yeah.  I love every song on this record.  I'm so excited about it, but this one from the moment we started writing it, I just knew this was going to be the one that was my favorite and it is.

    Dan:                Was the recording process different for you at all this time around?

    Francesca:     Yeah, it actually was. The last two records if you do count Christmas, we lived in Atlanta instead of Nashville and I was pregnant for both of those recording processes. It was just a lot more stressful and I felt a lot more pressure to sort of get it right and get it done quickly especially with Hundred More Years. That was a follow-up to a record that sort of exceeded everyone's expectations so I thought I got to do it again. I think you can sort of sabotage yourself by getting too inside your head.

    This time I just didn't feel any of that. We had just moved back to Nashville. It was the summertime. I had plenty of time and I just wrote three or four days a week which again has just not been the truth for the past couple of records. It's been really just fun and relaxing and for me it's always been my favorite part of the process, of the creative process because I'm sort of an introvert and artsy type. This was the first time since I think the first record that I really felt like this is fun again. Like this isn't just busyness and work. This is actually really awesome. I'm excited to share.

    Dan:                Have you noticed your audience transition at all?  From my perspective, those first couple records your audience was younger girls and now you're transitioning into a new stage in your life with the role of being a mom.  What I've heard from your music, it relates at different levels now and different areas.  Are you experiencing that transition of a wider audience because I think that your music still does speak to a younger demographic, but now you're capturing the hearts of moms and more.

    Francesca:     For sure.

    Dan:                Are you noticing that now?

    Francesca:     Yeah. It really is. It's interesting and every tour is a little bit different. I feel like that's where I see that the most. There's definitely still so many young girls, and I love that. There is something cool whenever I'm at the table and a girl comes up to me and she goes, "I love your music," and I sign her thing and her mom says, "I really love it too." It's like their little secret. I think that that's awesome. I love to be something that a mom and a daughter can listen to together and older sister can too. Hopefully, that audience is growing. I think this record will do that for them.

    Dan:                Is there a time that you can come to where you have seen your faith in action?  Or a time where you've felt a call that you needed to respond to?

    Francesca:     Is this the stories that you ... Yeah. Okay. Yeah. I have a great story to answer that question. Funny you should ask. Back this past summer we got an email from a little girl who, she is 13 now, but when she was 11 she started an organization called Project Jesus that ministers to girls and women in Uganda. She wrote this email and said basically, "Everyone's telling me that I'm crazy for writing you that you're too busy and you'll never write back, but I have this organization," kind of laid it all out and said, "And I'm hosting a benefit concert, or I'd like it to be a concert. It's a benefit luncheon on Orphan Sunday and I would love Francesca to be there. I totally understand if she can't. You'll probably not write me back, but maybe she could just send a signed CD or something."

    I remember just reading these words or I think my husband was reading them to me, and I was just so struck by her faith because she said, "Even though everyone's telling me that I'm crazy, the one thing I've learned over these past two years," I mean she's 13 years old, "Is that when we step out in faith, God does fix things." I was just so blown away by that because how many of us say that, but to actually believe it and act on it and sort of live that crazy faith life that she was living at 13 years old just blew me away. I kind of wanted to tell those naysayers that they were crazy and they were wrong. We just really felt like we needed to ... I felt like I needed to say yes.

    Actually I had a couple of other things that week that I just said, "We need to put these off. I want to be there for this girl." What ended up happening is a couple of days after I got that email, I was in the studio writing with a couple of friends and I was telling them that story and then they said, "What do you want to write about today?" I said, "I want to write about that. I want to write about Mallory." We wrote this song called Giant's Fall which is a song about Mallory. It's really just a song about don't be afraid of giants in your way. That whatever obstacles are facing you, God is with you and it doesn't matter if what you have seems like a little, he can turn it into a lot.

    I wrote this song for her, but didn't tell her. We've since recorded it and it's going to be on the record and back a couple months ago when we went to sing at the benefit we were nearing the end of the afternoon and I started explaining that I wrote this song, I just saw her mom crying, and she's crying and I'm crying. I got to play the song for this roomful of people the first time I ever played it. It was just a really powerful moment and just reminded me that when we're obedient, God does amazing things. That goes for Mallory. That goes for me writing the song. Being there, I think that if nothing else, I think she'll be able to look back and say, "That was one thing that I asked God for that He did." He's done many things like that for her, but how cool to be just like a tangible answer to prayer for someone even though it was little and I just showed up and sang a couple songs. It was cool.

    Dan:                The last time we talked, your label was circling in on trying to figure out which one of nine songs may be the first one to release to radio. Do you know which one has been selected for that?

    Francesca:     We do.  Yes.

    Dan:                Can you share it?

    Francesca:     Yes. It is called Write Your Story. They have already ... It doesn't go officially out for us until January where it's already been picked up by a couple of networks. It's amazing to see just the response to it. I think somebody up at The Fish heard it over the phone and said, "Okay, we're going to add it." That's just amazing to me and just sort of that affirmation that, "Okay, I think you picked the right song, and you're going in the right direction." I'm just so excited and people are already hearing it, but I haven't really announced it so I don't know what to say on Twitter except, "Thanks. I'm glad you like it," when people hear it. I can't wait for January and it's official.

    Dan:                Can you give us an idea what the song is about or what was behind it?

    Francesca:     Yeah, absolutely. It's funny because I didn't even realize it until somebody said something in passing after we had written the song that it was sort of like a follow-up to My Paper Heart which is "I've never been the same since you wrote your name on my paper heart." This song is just about basically saying, "God, I am an open book. I am just here, willing, available to do whatever it is that you call me to do. I want you to write your story on my heart." I think it will speak to so many different people I think to the girl who is waiting for her husband and saying, "God, write your love story for me." To the people who are just saying, "Okay, God, I know that you have something for my life and I don't know what it is, but I want to be open to whatever."

    Even for me, doing what I'm doing, it looks like you've got this path laid in front of you, but if God says, "No, I want you to stop all that and go do something else," I want to be able to hear His voice. I want His story at the end of my life to look back and say, "God, you wrote it. I just was there for the ride." It's a really fun song, but that's sort of the message or the story.

    Dan:                You're on your fourth record. You've established a career. I was talking to a co-worker of mine of what does it feel like as you transition from a place where you're an artist and you're trying to make it and you go from wanting people to hear your music and doing everything you can to get people to hear your music, to the place where now you're requested to come play music for them?  But they're now asking you instead of you asking them.  What is that journey like?

    Francesca:     Yeah.  It has been so interesting for me because at the beginning there it was like, "Okay, I don't know what this is going to look like."  Like you said, just playing for everybody, and then for even me it just all sort of took off really fast and I didn't know what to do and was just sort of saying yes to everything and then sort of slowed down again and I'm sort of I feel like just now finding my feet and like, "Okay, those past five, six years have been a little bit of a blur.  Now what do we really want to do?"  God has made it so that my husband is able to play drums for me and manage me and just be very focused and very intentional.

    I feel like for the first time this year it's like we're finding our legs.  But, yeah, it is amazing.  Anytime someone asks it's still like, "Oh, really?  We didn't have to call them to play a concert like they want us to come?"  It's always scary still.  It's just an honor and crazy when I think about it because there were so many years that were goodness gracious it was a very a awkward time.

    Dan:                Can you say who you're touring with yet?

    Francesca:     I think so.  Yeah.    We're doing the Hands of God tour with Sanctus Real in early spring and Hands of God is a song that I wrote with Matt Hammitt from Sanctus.  We're excited to take them out and do that tour.  I love those guys.  Then like five days after that ends, we go out on "The Bible: Son of God" tour, which we're really excited about and that is basically The Bible Miniseries was seen by millions of people.  It was mind-blowing.

    So Mark Burnett and his company have sort of said, "We want to take this experience into churches and venues around the country and sort of turn it into this interactive experience with the film, and with the artists, and with sets and all sorts of things that I'm not really even sure what the scale is like yet because it's the first year, but I'm really excited about that.  That will run up until, I guess, right before Easter, right before the record comes out.  We're really excited and it's going to be a busy year, but I'm ready for it.

    Dan:                Did you write that song?

    Francesca:     I didn't write it.  No.  I just sang on it and it's very beautiful.  So they've talked about things I know they're doing like an inspired by project, but beyond that, who knows?  Maybe it will make it to the live show.

    Dan:                Thank you so much for your time.

    Francesca:     Yeah.  Thank you.  It was fun.

    So, about her new album? Well, as stated above, Francesca returns with her brand new release, If We’re Honest.  Featuring the radio hit “Write Your Story,” this new CD perfects the soulful pop sound that began with her gold-certified debut, My Paper Heart, and its best-selling follow-up, Hundred More Years.  If We’re Honest is full of bright, upbeat songs and personal, thought-provoking ballads that will inspire, encourage and challenge you in your daily walk with God, and ultimately point you toward the hope that’s only found in Him.


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews and was tagged with Featured, Francesca Battistelli, Sanctus Real, Bible MiniSeries, The Bible, Mark Burnett

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