Some of my fondest memories with my family is packing everyone one of us in our mini-van and driving to a music festival. Being surrounded by other believers that have the same appreciation for art is always a great thing to do. It was a picture of the Church - or what it will be some day.
There always seemed to be something for our whole family to do. Whether it was checking out the artist's booths, various ministries that were present on the festival, catching a great speaker, listening to music or finding the rock climbing wall. We always had a blast.
One year, on the first day of the festival, a huge rainstorm came rolling in. It basically turned out to be a Christian "mud-fest." Nobody minded though. All of us were muddy and none of us cared.
I thought that I would offer a "play-list" of sorts to help you get ready for your journey to your nearest Christian music festival. Check out these artists today and prepare for some amazing, God-honoring shows when you see them this summer.
Check out the sounds of American Idol contestant, Colton Dixon.
The journey of hard rockers We As Human from one of northern Idaho’s most beloved, bone-crunching indie acts to ink a deal with Atlantic Records is nothing short of extraordinary. After touring throughout the region alongside a soundtrack slot in a national commercial for Xbox 360’s “Section 8” video game, the guys scored an unexpected networking opportunity of a lifetime.
“Our road manager at the time was working a Skillet show as a runner and a couple of the band members ended up in our touring van,” recalls frontman Justin Cordle. “As they were driving around, he said ‘Hey, I know you get CDs all the time, but this one from We As Human is way more awesome than all the others.’ It wound up making its way to the band’s frontman John Cooper, kind of as a joke at first because they really do get demos pitched to them all the time, but he put it in, absolutely loved it and said we were one of the best bands he’s heard in quite a few years.”
The new album from We As Human streets on 6/25. Read below for our recent Q&A with Justin Cordle.
1 - What is your background? Where did you guys grow up? What made you interested in music?
A: We started our band in Sandpoint, ID, if you don’t know where that is, don’t feel bad, nobody else does either! We all come from different places though, Adam & I grew up together in Sandpoint and meet each other when we were kids attending the same church. Forshaw hails from Western Washington, Dave from Eastern Washington and Jake was reared in the lands of Austin, TX & New Mexico.
Music was a passion in each of us from a very young age and as we grew, it became more and more obvious that we were of the musician kind. God gives everyone a very distinct desire and passion to produce something in this world, ours has always been music. From the first time I stepped on stage with my guitar at 8 years old and sang a Don Francisco song -out of key probably-, I was hooked.
My desire to pursue music went into hyper-drive when I was 13, my parents and I were coming back from a conference in our 1989 wood-panel-sided Caravan, and I fell asleep and had the only dream I’ve had in my entire life that I knew was from Christ. In that dream I was standing on a stage singing and playing my guitar, I heard “This is what I have for you”, then I woke up. That was it, but, it was so profound, it altered the entire direction of my life to this very day.
2 - What are your biggest influencers? Musically and spiritually?
Musically, well, that’s where it gets weird! A few artists that have shaped us into the musicians we are would be : Alterbridge, Skillet, Steve Via, John Meyer, Extol, .S.R.V., Alice In Chains. Garth Brooks, Darrell Evans, Hillsong & Keith Urban, just to name a few.
3 - What does your live show look like?
We love playing live, and I think our love for music and our fans comes through in our performances. I don’t know how to explain our show, but I can say, we leave it ALL on the stage every night. We have walked off the stage on more than a few occasions bleeding. There is an excessive amount of guitar-head dodging, accidentally running into each other and guitar shredding on our stage every night to be sure. It’s the epitome of our musical passion and it’s where we feel the most comfortable and alive.
4 - Coffee or Mountain Dew?
This one is easy, Coffee, but not just any coffee, we like coffee served by a spider monkey who is wearing sandals, lemon-yellow-pleated shorts, and a T-shirt that says, “I’m here for the party!”.
For more on We As Human, and to listen to snippets of the latest EP, click here.
It has been announced that GRAMMY-nominated and Dove award-winning band Sanctus Real is featured in this year's National Day of Prayer campaign with their single "Pray," a song from their latest project Run (Sparrow Records). The song is currently being used to further promote The 2013 National Day of Prayer, which is this Thursday, May 2nd.
Explaining the message behind "Pray," Sanctus Real's Matt Hammitt recently shared, "We wrote the song 'Pray' because these are anxious times and the awareness that we’re just one thumb tap away from another shocking headline can be stressful. Sometimes it’s not world news that leaves me anxious, but parts of my own little world that seem to be falling apart. The pressure of holding it all together is daunting when I get to thinking it’s on my own shoulders. Sometimes I find myself tossing my hands up in the air and asking in an exasperated tone, 'What in the world is going on?'"
Hammitt continues, "Every public headline and personal challenge is a reminder, as well as a call, not to lift our hands in despair but rather to continue lifting our hands and voices in prayer. We are longing to see a move of God in our nation, amongst its people and leaders, and we are excited to partner with National Day of Prayer in an effort to urge and inspire people to pray. Will you answer the call?"
A list of videos from the members of Sanctus Real promoting the National Day of Prayer is now available. There is a video already posted of the band sharing about the importance of prayer and in the days to follow, a video from each of the four band members talking about prayer will post.
Sanctus Real - Importance of Prayer
Sanctus Real (Matt) - Importance of Prayer
Sanctus Real (Mark) - Importance of Prayer
Sanctus Real (Pete) - Importance of Prayer
Sanctus Real (Chris) - Importance of Prayer
Sanctus Real - Pray (lyric video)
I bow my head to pray, I don’t know what to say
I’m not sure how to fix the things I’m dealing with
I’m in a desperate place, I need to share the weight
But I just don’t know how to let it all pour out
And though I’m silent, my heart is crying ‘cause I was made to come to You
SO I PRAY GOD, I NEED YOU MORE THAN WORDS CAN SAY
RIGHT HERE IN THIS MOMENT YOU KNOW MY HEART
YOU KNOW MY NEED YOU KNOW EVERY PART OF ME
SO EVEN IF IT’S JUST TO SPEAK YOUR NAME I’M GONNA PRAY
I’ve failed to find the time, but You’ve been calling out
I let the days go by as if I could live without
But it’s gotta be here and now I won’t be pulled away ‘cause it’s just You and I
So let the world around us fade
Father, will You meet me here right now
Father, I surrender, lay it down
Father, and every time I close my eyes
I know that I was made to lift my hands and pray
I lift my hands and pray You know my heart
You know my need You know every single part of me
More than words You want my life
Take it as an offering
Hezekiah Walker has experienced some major developments since the release of his last album nearly 5 years ago. For one, he became Bishop of the Pentecostal Church of Jesus Christ Fellowship, providing leadership to more than 30 churches around the country in addition to the Kunjalo Diocese in Cape Town, South Africa that he oversees – all while remaining Senior Pastor of his thriving Love Fellowship Tabernacle in Brooklyn, New York and Bensalem, Pennsylvania. Secondly, Walker has become a mainstay on New York radio where he hosts a popular mid-day show for WLIB and a Sunday morning show for WBLS. Most recently, he created the Azusa Next Generation conference that brings together the nation’s most prominent pastors, speakers and worship leaders, ultimately revitalizing a defining moment in the Christian faith. The next conference will be held May 19 at the Jacob Javitz Center in New York.
With each of these developments, Walker is motivated by his commitment to Kingdom relevancy. “One must continue to evolve so that the Kingdom can stay fresh, exciting and most of all relevant,” says Walker. He pours this passion for Kingdom relevancy into his upcoming album AZUSA THE NEXT GENERATION, being released June 11 on RCA Inspiration.
“This project honors the legacy of hand clapping, foot stomping Gospel music and also provides a next generation swag that creates a foundation for where Gospel music can go,” says Walker. “It has a variety of styles, and the collaborations really make it stand out. It is a next level project for me and, I think, for Gospel music.”
Azusa is cited as the catalyst for the charismatic movement in the United States, and had two significant phases. It began in 1906 with an unprecedented, powerful revival held on Azusa Street in Southern California then, in the 80s, was introduced as a conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that featured dynamic preaching and a who’s who of Gospel artists. The artists would record together at the conference and, with AZUSA THE NEXT GENERATION, Hezekiah Walker revisits that spirit of collective worship. The album features guest appearances by Timiney Figueroa; Deitrick Haddon; John P. Kee; Donnie McClurkin and Brian Courtney Wilson. Walker’s robust Love Fellowship Choir is also featured prominently, and is expanded here to comprise the 500 voice Azusa Mass Choir.
“With the collaborations, I wanted to let people know there are artists out there who love choir sounding songs and who don’t mind singing choir songs,” says Walker. “Part of my musical mission is reminding people that choir music is not going out of style, ever. When you have vocalists like these who love choir music, it will always thrive.”
The first single EVERY PRAISE is currently a favorite at Gospel radio. The song debuted on the Yolanda Adams Morning Show, and Adams said: “Bishop Hez has done it again!” “’Every Praise’ is the epitome of worship and its proper direction!”
Hezekiah Walker says the song is likely to catch on quickly because it is relatable across genres, nationalities and denominations. “Whether they go to church or not, people have a praise in them that is reserved for God,” says Walker. “This song connects with a feeling of thanksgiving and honor that everyone has at some point. I hope that choirs and praise teams will gravitate to it, and that it crosses boundaries to people outside of the church as well.”
Joel Osteen, one of the nation’s most influential pastors, heard “Every Praise” on the radio in Houston and simply fell in love with it and immediately invited Walker to minister the song at Lakewood, which he did on April 14. “It was my honor to welcome Hezekiah Walker to our church,” says Osteen. “We here at Lakewood love him and were excited that he performed ‘Every Praise’ with our church choir,” says Osteen.
“That was just an incredible experience that I will never forget,” Walker adds. “I did all three services, and there were at least 16,000 members in each one! The church loved the song. I was amazed to see thousands leaving worship singing ‘Every Praise.’ It was an honor to worship with the Lakewood family, and I thank Pastor Joel Osteen for the warm welcome.”
AZUSA THE NEXT GENERATION was co-produced by Hezekiah Walker and produced by Donald Lawrence, who also produced Walker’s last release - SOULED OUT. The two have a winning combination that balances the contemporary and the traditional while amplifying Walker’s straight-to-the-heart worship style.
“The project is about unity, and I feel really good about it,” says Walker. “This is the first time in the history of my career that I’ve done collaborations with so many artists. This is monumental for me. That’s what it’s all about in this season, us coming together and letting the world know that it is possible for us to stand together as one.”
The new album will be in stores June 11. Click here for further information.
Citizen Way was formed in 2004, when two sets of siblings - Josh and Ben Calhoun and David and Ben Blascoe - crossed paths while in college. Their camaraderie made for a foundation that went beyond their biological connection and combined their vision for ministry with their passion for music. The result is Love is the Evidence, an infectious pop-rock project with sensibility.
The music on this album has a driving momentum that will connect to your core as a soundtrack for life. In the end, the guys of Citizen Way really just want to have a conversation with people, sharing stories that reflect Scripture, reveal the heart of God and speak to honest, human struggle. If they can accomplish that while inspiring people to walk with Jesus and find joy in the journey, then the brothers of Citizen Way will have done their job.
1 - What is your background? Where did you guys grow up? What made you interested in music?
We all grew up in Southern Wisconsin. The Blascoe boys are from Racine and the Calhoun boys are from Milton.
Growing up, music was always around the Calhoun family. Our mother, Lannette Calhoun, is an accomplished concert pianist and she paved the way for Josh, our sister Sarah and I to have easy access to all kinds of great music. Our dad is a pastor and we learned how to lead worship and serve at our church.
The Blascoe boys grew up in church and served on the worship teams as well. David started playing drums after watching “That Thing You Do” (our official band movie) and received his first drum set at age 12. Ben Blascoe was inspired to play bass during their first visit to their home church when he was 13 years old.
We all played and sang in the school bands and choirs and we all made lots of noise in church basements with all of our bands growing up. We all love to hang out in the recording studio; it's like a kitchen for band geeks! We formed Citizen Way in college at Judson University, and we still practice at the studio I helped build on campus and are music ambassadors for the school: www.judsonu.edu/citizenway
2 - What are your biggest influencers? Musically and spiritually?
We are so thankful for our youth pastors and parents for leading us to the Lord when we were younger. Each of us came to know Jesus early on and as we grew up, music was how we most naturally connected with the Lord. We want to encourage young artists to walk with Jesus, allowing him to do a work in their hearts as only He, the author of art, can do.
As a band, we will sometimes listen to the great jazz music of Dave Brubeck in the dressing room before a show on Ben B.’s portable record player. As individuals, Davd’s favorite band is P.O.D., Josh is a big Coldplay fan, one of Ben Blascoe’s favorite bands is North Mississippi All-Stars and my favorite band of all time is PfR.
We all grew up on Christian music; it is foundational in who we are. One of our most memorable moments was opening for Audio Adrenaline, and now we're label mates--It's a dream come true!
3 - What does your live show look like? The lights go up. The drums get loud. We definitely have a lot of fun out there – sharing our music and the stories behind the songs. We always love meeting everyone who attended the show and making new friends in each city we go to!
4 - Coffee or Mountain Dew? We all like Starbucks!!!! Gift cards are welcome! ;)
Morning Rises, Aaron Shust’s second album for Centricity Music is scheduled to be released July 16, 2013, with God of Brilliant Lights, the first single from the project, going for adds at radio on April 26th. Acclaimed producer, Ed Cash, helped Shust deliver another very strong and focused project, delivering worship songs that glorify and lift up the name of Christ. The album marks the first time that Shust has used his touring band as the studio musicians, translating into performances that audiences will hear at his concerts across the country. The project is very uplifting, while chronicling some of the tough challenges Shust experienced over the last few months.
“This is an album about how God is faithful. God is steadfast. God is the same,” says Shust. “Whenever our life goes crazy we can say, ‘God is faithful.’ If you believe the verses that we memorized as kids or in our early Christian lives, that He has a plan for us, that He’s never going to leave us, that He’s never going to forsake us, then that rings true. You need those truths in the dark hours. That’s what this album hopefully covers. Morning Rises represents hope. Morning Rises represents promise.”
After experiencing the medical tribulations of his second son, Nicky, last year, Shust once again faced life-threatening medical situations with his son, Michael, who was born in January of this year. Facing a heart surgery shortly after he was born, being diagnosed with Down Syndrome, a second surgery for hearing issues and ongoing health issues, the experiences haven’t defeated Shust but instead renewed his passion for Christ.
Those emotions and feelings are delivered in the album’s eleven songs, with seven being co-written by Shust and the remaining four from other songwriters, which include Hillsong’s Cornerstone, the upbeat God Is For Us, and the beautiful ballad that exalts No One Higher. Shust co-wrote his first single, God of Brilliant Lights, which is a powerful song that extols God’s unconditional love that brings us out of darkness. The God of brilliant lights is shining down over us/Breaking through the darkness covering all the earth/His love is like an ocean forever overflowing/The God of brilliant light is shining over us.
Shust’s previous album, This Is What We Believe, launched one of the biggest songs of his career with My Hope Is In You. The single stayed at the top of the AC Monitor chart for 14 weeks during 2011/2012, and was listed at #8 on Billboard magazine’s year-end Christian Songs Artist category and #9 for Christian AC Songs Artist. Shust continued to have major impact on the charts in 2012 with his single Risen Today reaching #17 on the AC Indicator chart. His last song, We Are Free peaked at #21 on the AC Monitored chart and #25 on the National Audience chart.
Shust is currently on the road with Mark Schultz’s All Things Possible Tour that runs through May 5th. For more updates on Shust please visit www.aaronshust.com
Music lovers worldwide are captivated, swept up in the surging wave of modern folk as heard in the likes of Mumford and Sons, The Avett Brothers, Neon Trees, The Civil Wars and others. Organic, acoustic and packed with live energy and freedom, it’s the unpolished imperfection and open invitation to sing along that has catapulted these artists into the spotlight and up the charts.
Unpolished. Imperfect. Freedom.
For All Sons & Daughters’ Leslie Jordan and David Leonard, these qualities are even more keenly experienced in music that connects broken people with their God. Worship leaders at Journey Church in Franklin, TN, their critically acclaimed EPs, Brokenness Aside, Reason To Sing and The Longing, along with their first full length feature album, Season One, bear witness to the power of worship by the people, for the people and of the people. In the truest sense, the mesmerizing, soul-baring lyrics and acoustic styling of this unlikely duo are beginning to make an impact...inside and outside the church.
Now, with their first-ever live recording, Jordan and Leonard give listeners a chance to experience God in the context of confession and doubt, with an open invitation to be completely transparent and human. Produced by Paul Mabury (Brandon Heath, Hillsong), All Sons & Daughters LIVE, which was recorded with a live studio congregation in one continuous take at Ocean Way Studios in Nashville, captures the spirit and truth of transparent worship.
“We always begin by saying ‘This is a place of freedom,’ Jordan says of their approach to every concert and every Sunday morning service. “We want people to feel complete freedom to worship as they feel called to because Scripture says, ‘What we bring to the Lord is enough for Him.’ And we trust that the Spirit lives in that freedom.”
With a sensitivity and Scriptural grounding beyond their years, All Sons & Daughters’ Jordan—who began leading worship in high school while still wrestling with the idea of church ministry—embraces the tension between worship and real life. “When I came to Journey in 2007, we as a church were in a pretty heavy season of lament. This town is so churched, and this is an artist driven community, and yet so many people here are living with shattered dreams...”
“The demographic here, similar to the people we meet on the road, are broken people, people making their last ditch attempt at church or their first attempt at coming back,” says Leonard, who grew up in church but had never written for worship before meeting Jordan in 2009. “Most of our songs have been written with that healing season in mind. We’ve all thought, ‘Will God leave us if we leave him?’ its just that most of us were never given permission to feel and express those feelings of brokenness in church. That’s the most beautiful part of doing what we do, helping people find that freedom.”
From the opening song of confession, “Brokenness Aside,” to “Oh How I Need You” and “Reason to Sing,” songs for when life doesn’t make sense, All Sons & Daughters LIVE showcases 13 transparent invitations—including the unforgettable “All the Poor and Powerless”—to get real and accept that you are loved. Standards in the making like “Reason to Sing” and “Wake Up” give people hope to cling to when life, even among the faithful, doesn’t make sense.
Nothing hits closer to home for Leonard than “Your Glory,” a song of total surrender. “Being a new father, I’m seeing more than ever how much I need God. When the song says, ‘My life is yours/my hope is in you only, and my heart you hold ‘cause you made this sinner holy...’ it is a constant reminder that I can’t be the best father or the best husband, but there is a God who can help me be the man I need to be. It’s a vulnerable moment for me, every time we sing it.”
The album also introduces two new compositions: “God With Us” and “Great Are You Lord.”
“Both songs came out of writing sessions with Jason Ingram (Chris Tomlin, Brandon Heath),” Jordan says. “For ‘Great Are You Lord,’ Jason had this line, ‘It’s your breath in our lungs so we pour out our praise,’ and we felt such a sweetness and depth in it, we just ran with it. When the duo dropped in on Passion 2013 to hear founder Louie Giglio speak, the song received a sort of punctuation. “‘Worship is when we give God his breath back,’ Giglio said, having never heard the new song. That image has stayed front and center with the duo, a reminder that our acts of worship originate with the One we worship. It is His gift.”
“God With Us,” a song about the power and presence of God... “has an easy melody and felt singable and congregational,” Jordan continues, “which has always been important to us.”
All Sons & Daughters, who take great care to make music that meets people where they are, are equally intent on serving and resourcing musicians and worship leaders. As always, their song charts are free online, and they take advantage of any opportunity to start new conversations about what worship might look like... if approached with an open heart and mind.
“We’ve been given an atmosphere of freedom at Journey,” says Jordan of the All Sons & Daughters’ approach to the people who come to hear their music, many of whom experience something completely outside the worship norm. “We’ve been given the freedom to try new things and fail, to consider how different worship can look from what it has looked like. We really believe that the spirit of the room is based on the spirit of the people in the room, so that’s how we approach what we do, by asking ‘How can we serve that spirit?’”
Duo Appears Live Coast-To-Coast
Following the four critically acclaimed projects All Sons & Daughters release its first live, full-length recording, LIVE, today from Integrity Music. Receiving widespread critical acclaim, the CD/DVD was recorded in the chapel at Oceanway Studios in Nashville and features members Leslie Jordan and David Leonard sharing their best-loved songs, such as “All The Poor and Powerless” and “Reason to Sing,” as well as new songs, all delivered in a congregationally-friendly, organic worship setting.
Debuting the new music for the first time at a packed out DVD screening event at the historic Franklin Theatre in Franklin, TN, the video for All Sons & Daughters’ new song, “Great Are You Lord,” was also premiered online by RELEVANT Magazine as its “Video of the Day.”
"Great Are You Lord" from All Sons and Daughters LIVE
Here is just the latest round of critical acclaim for the duo and LIVE:
“I don’t take it lightly in saying this, but I feel I can truly say that this is the best live worship album I’ve heard in many years. It’s an album for not only worshippers, but for music lovers who want something different to listen and worship along to than the norm…All Sons & Daughters present a gorgeous outing in Live. This talented duo continue to turn out excellent pieces of artful worship and this latest venture is their best yet.” – JesusFreakHideout.com (First 5-Star-rated album of 2013)
“This project is a potential game-changer in the area of live corporate worship. Intimate and deeply personal, it still carries the weight of a heavy-hitting worship album recorded in a packed out church or arena…On the musicianship front, David and Leslie’s vocals are near perfect the entire album, which speaks volumes to their talent as vocalists…a sparklingly rugged piece of worshipful artistry. For those seeking the perfect album for soul soaking moments of praise and seeking God, All Sons & Daughters’ LIVE is just what you’ve been looking for.” – NewReleaseTuesday.com
“With the band redefining and possibly even reinventing the worship genre...the band has taken modern worship music and stretched it, placing it on its head to remind listeners that worship music can still be fun and enjoyable, unique and different, compelling, emotive and encouraging all at once....such a hopeful and inspiring album, one of my favorite in April 2013!” – IndieVisionMusic.com
“There is something about these guys - something pure, something natural, something incredible about the way they write and deliver worship songs. This new LIVE release from All Sons & Daughters made me think two main things: 1) it is one of the most concentrated albums of great worship songs I’ve ever heard; and 2) it is a very natural live album - there is a completeness to the set.” – LouderThanTheMusic.com (5-Star review)
“Comprising of Leslie Ann Jordan (on vocals and guitar) and David Leonard (on vocals and piano), they have much to teach us about bringing an organic diversity (in incorporating elements of folk, jazz, country, Celtic and hymns) in their worship… Of all the copious worship bands out there, there is something different about All Sons & Daughters. They are a gracious duo who not only took time to enrich their worship with nuances of various stripes, but they come across as organic, embracing and so heartfelt.” – Breathecast.com
Beginning today in Cape Girardeau, MO, All Sons & Daughters will bring the music and message of LIVE to audiences across North America in cities like Atlanta, GA; San Francisco, CA; Phoenix, AZ; Toronto, Canada; St. Louis, MO; Rochester, NY; and numerous others. Additional tour dates will be announced soon as the duo readies its first headline tour this fall. For the latest tour detail, go to http://allsonsanddaughters.com/dates/.
The story of All Sons & Daughters begins in 2010 with artist David Leonard (Jackson Waters, NEEDTOBREATHE) wanting to spend less time traveling and more of it in real relationship with his local spiritual community at Journey Church. David connected with Leslie Jordan, part of the creative staff at the church, and the two began writing songs together, including the popular “All the Poor and Powerless.”
Quickly realizing that they shared a similar style of leadership and desire to foster authentic connections in the church through a transparent form of worship, David and Leslie adopted the name All Sons & Daughters in reference to each other and the listeners who are vital to this active fellowship process. As worship leaders at Franklin’s The Journey Church, All Sons & Daughters see their music as an extension of their church. They are known for writing songs that focus squarely on Jesus while embracing the tension of the Christian walk.
Drawing comparisons to The Civil Wars and The Swell Season for their harmonies and organic instrumentation, the duo has been named Worship Leader Magazine’s “most enchanting sound emerging in the worship genre.” They were also recently featured on tours with Chris Tomlin and Kari Jobe.
The brand new record from Josh Wilson, Carry Me, his fourth project with Sparrow Records, finds Wilson opening up his heart more than ever. Sharing about a very personal health issue dealing with anxiety and panic attacks, these new songs ultimately spread the message that through life’s difficult trials, it is only God who can carry us through it all. Released April 9th to much acclaim, numerous reviews and fan comments are pouring in, showing there’s no doubt that people love the music of this multi-talented singer, songwriter, musician and storyteller.
With comments such as "rich with truth," "authentic," and "effortless," the feedback and reviews have only been outstanding when it comes to talking about Carry Me.
"...An engaging, thought-provoking, and ultimately uplifting collection of songs that should, if there's any justice in the world, go great lengths toward earning its talented creator an evening's worth of peaceful, uninterrupted sleep." - Jesus Freak Hideout
"These songs are so rich with truth and full of life and God's grace....One of the best and well-rounded records I have heard in a long time." - Worship Leader
"In a genre where many contemporary Christian music artists recycle hooks and regurgitate lines without any plagiaristic shame, Wilson knows how to pierce through boredom with his ingenuity." - Breathecast
" Josh's poignant song writing is coupled with musical excellence...This album is sure to connect with all listeners who like catchy songs filled with truth and yearning for God. Josh invites you into his life in such an authentic and relatable way, you’ll feel like you are a lifelong friend after you hear this album. - New Release Tuesday
In the midst of writing songs for Carry Me, Wilson began experiencing severe chest and shoulder pain as well as difficulty breathing, believing he was actually having a heart attack. Yet after numerous negative tests, he tried to get back to his normal life but soon began waking up frantic in the middle of the night, even canceling scheduled performances out of fear. Reconciling these unexpected emotions with his long held beliefs defines Wilson’s intentionally joyful and honestly raw new record. Carry Me was produced by Matt Bronleewe (Chris Tomlin).
“Philippians 4 says, ‘Do not be anxious about anything . . . the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus,’” Wilson shares. “I prayed for that and each day would say, ‘God, I can’t make it without you. I need you to carry me.’ And He did, and He still does. He carried me through each day even before I experienced the anxiety, but I just didn't realize it. It took these difficult moments for me to realize how much I need Jesus.”
To support the new album, Josh Wilson is currently touring with Third Day and Colton Dixon on The Miracle Tour through the spring. In the coming weeks the tour is hitting the midwest. For the most recent tour schedule and to connect with Wilson, please visit:
Without a doubt, Stryper is one of the top Christian rock bands of all-time, and certainly the most celebrated Christian metal band of all time. Comprised of Michael Sweet (vocals/guitar), Oz Fox (guitar), Tim Gaines (bass), and Robert Sweet (drums), Stryper has been rocking since 1983, and is responsible for such '80s metal classic albums as 'Soldiers Under Command,' 'To Hell with the Devil,' In God We Trust,' and such MTV hit singles/videos as "Calling on You," "Free," and "Honestly."
After a sabbatical for much of the 1990's, Stryper returned strong in the early 21st century. But it was not until their 2011 covers set, 'The Covering,' that the aforementioned definitive Stryper was reinstated, as the band welcomed Gaines back into the fold.
Recently, I sat down with Michael to talk through what had transpired in the previous months until now. What I heard amazed me. Michael and his band mates have continued to be on a mission for over 30 years. To point people to Christ. In this interview Michael shares what is on his heart. He is honest and real.
John: Michael, just to kind of start… you guys have a new record out now called Second Coming—which certainly brings back a lot of amazing memories, probably for you guys as well as for us as fans. I want to go back to the beginning. When it all began, when it was you and your brother and a couple of other guys with long hair. You guys wanted to change the world. Take us back. When was that? Was it 1983 or ‘82 when you guys formed the band?
Michael: It was 1983 when we officially formed—the four of us: Tim, Oz, Rob and myself. Robert and I had been doing it long before then, of course, but when Tim actually came and joined forces with us, and the four of us decided collectively to pursue the Stryper thing, that was 1983. And it’s been virtually nonstop since then, with just a few detours along the way.
I left the band in 1992, and then we didn’t head out on the road again until 2003. That was over ten years later; and we didn’t officially reunite again until 2005, and that wasn’t even with Tim. Tim did the ‘03 tour, but he didn’t reunite with us when we did it officially in 2005. He wanted to pursue other things, so we wound up going out with a different bass player. But then Tim came back to the band in ‘09 and we’ve been going with him ever since.
It’s been the original line-up since then, and that’s what you get on this record, Second Coming—which is really unique and rare, I think. Most bands that are 30 years old don’t consist of the original line-up, so this feels really good to us as a group. In fact, we’re very proud to be able to say that.
John: I’m sure! I mean it certainly has been a remarkable story, following your career and seeing how you guys, in a sense, went separate ways, but then somehow came back together again.
Michael: Well, you know, I think that’s one of the misconceptions about the band. I think because we are a band that consists of Christian guys (we’re four Christian guys who have deep faith), people expect us to be perfect and to not have any issues, and to get along 100 percent of the time and that’s just not the case. I mean, we wind up going through ups and downs and relationship issues with each other, even to the point where we need breaks from one another. We really do need time away from each other sometimes. That might sound odd to people when they hear it, but those are the facts. It’s just kind of how life is. And the beauty in that, because of our faith, you know, is that God always restores and heals. So with a little bit of time away, we come back restored and revived, and God works through the band again and incredible things happen.
It’s really been quite a unique story and to be a part of it, I’m blessed. I’m so blessed.
John: How does that transpire? Do you guys just kind of call each other on the phone and say, “Hey, I think we have something again?” How did things start moving in that direction, where God orchestrated the four of you to shift toward coming back together again?
Michael: Well, just speaking for myself… I’m sure if you ask that question of us individually, you might get a different answer or a different reaction, maybe similar but different. But, my answer to that is I’ve always wanted God to lead the way. I felt from 1992 to 2003 like it wasn’t time. He didn’t want me to be a part of it. He had other plans for my life and other things that he wanted me to do, and to fulfill that did not mean at the time rejoining Stryper.
I just followed His lead, or at least I felt as though I was following His lead. I know there were some fans who were upset about it, and couldn’t understand why we split up. Even my brother didn’t really understand. When I left the band, he was probably the most hurt out of the bunch, and it didn’t necessarily make sense to him. He always thought brothers would stick together no matter what, through thick-and-thin. Yes, that does apply in the private life—it should apply—but not always in terms of business—and that’s the thing, we’re a ministry, but we’re also a business. So sometimes when you’re in business with family, as you know, if you’ve ever experienced that, it doesn’t always work.
You kind of need to step back and say, “Okay. I’ve got to clear my head here, because (and not a lot of people know this) we went bankrupt.” I mean, we never incorporated the band, and because of that we were just a partnership. And we wound up building up and racking up this incredible debt, basically spending more than we made night after night for years, all to put on this production and what not. We wound up having this huge debt and as individual partners we had to file bankruptcy. There were a lot of things like that, which I’ll talk about in the book I’m working on. It’s an autobiography, and I get into all the details of those things. So there were a lot of reasons why I needed to clear my head and get away from it all; so much so, that I moved from the West coast to the East coast. Not only did I need to get away from it, but I needed to get as far away from it as possible. So, that’s what I did for a while.
John: To say that there’s new life in Stryper is kind of a misnomer though, isn’t it?
Michael: There is new life in Stryper, and that’s because of Christ. I don’t mean to sound cliché, but there really is.
John: That’s not a cliché. That’s the truth.
Michael: It is. It’s the truth, and only God can do that. Only He can restore and heal, and change men’s hearts—only Him—and that’s what happened. After some time away, healing took place and we were able to come together again. Not only come together, but to love each other more than before, and to work together better than we ever did. It’s really incredible. It demonstrates what God can do and is a powerful testament to His love.
John: I can’t remember what year it was, but I saw you guys a few years back. You played the Wild Horse in Nashville TN, and man, it was as if you had not missed a beat. I literally was standing there going, “I feel like these guys have never left.” Like you’d always been playing together, all four of you guys.
How have you honed your craft as a group in all of these years? How have you guys stayed on top of the game? I mean, you guys sound great!
Michael: Well, thank you, first of all. Thank you very much. I think a lot of that comes from, first, the fact that is Robert and I are brothers. There is something that comes with that in terms of meshing, and we just lock. He goes for a cymbal, I know he’s going to go for a cymbal and I’m going to go for a chord and he’s going to hit a kick and I’m going to stop with his kick. We just kind of know what each other’s going to do. I’ve heard this from other brothers in the music business as well: Eddie Van Halen and Alex Van Halen, on and on. There’s something to be said for that connection, and not just with brothers, sisters or siblings, or what have you. There’s just something to be said about that. So that’s the first thing, and then secondly, we all went to high school together. We all grew up together pretty much.
Even prior to high school, we knew each other. Oz and Robert and I, so growing up together in the same time, in the same area, I think, plays a big part in it too. We just know each other so well, and we know what we’re going to do musically, that we could play it in our sleep. There’s a certain chemistry that happens and so a lot of it’s just instinctual.
John: You guys decided to come out with the Second Coming. You do classic songs—is that the right word to use? Do you like that word?
Michael: Yes, I think so. I mean I would call them classic. They’re certainly fan favorites, and they’re old. Some of those songs date back to 1981.
John: How did you go through and pick those songs?
Michael: That was really easy. The reason, or purpose, rather, for this record was solely for our publishing company. We were going to re-record a handful of the songs—as many as we could afford to and that we had time for—so we could retain the rights to the masters so that nobody else would own them. We would own them, and the publishing company would come directly to us and say, “Hey, we got this movie Mark Wahlberg is in, and we want to use ‘Loud and Clear.’” We’d say, “Cool” or something like that, and the deal could be done in one phone call, versus them having to go to Disney and Hollywood and trying to get someone on the phone for two weeks. Because once they do that, then they would have had to go talk to their boss, and get back to them in two weeks. And then when they finally do get back to them after a month has gone by, the deal has either gone south, or they don’t want to do it, or they want too much money or something.
This happened time and time again, and we got fed up with it, and said, “You know what? This is silly. I mean, let’s just go re-record these songs and make it simple and cut out the middleman.” And that’s why we did it. Once we went and started recording, we kept that in mind. We figured we’d do the favorites. So we did the most popular tunes and tackled the first three albums, and then our mentality was we’ll get to the other albums later.
Michael: When we have the time and the money, that’s what we plan on doing. Right now, we don’t have any set time frame. We don’t know when that will take place; maybe in two or three years we’ll do another Second Coming or a re-record. We’ll hit albums like, In God We Trust, Against The Law and maybe even Reborn and Murder by Pride.
John: You were thinking of all the fans, like, “Hey, these are the songs these guys want,” and I love it. I absolutely love it. It’s fantastic!
Michael: Well, I’ll tell you, honestly, we weren’t initially thinking of the fans at all, because we had no plans to release it to the fans. It was only being done for our publishing company.
John: Well, on behalf of your fans, Michael, thank you. Thank you so much.
Michael: You know what, we’re really pleased that it worked out that way, and that we were able to release it to the fans too. We wound up hooking up with a great company, Frontiers, who has a vision for what we’re doing. They had a super high belief level in Second Coming and they got behind. They made it happen, and they released it and God bless them. We couldn’t have done it without them, no way.
John: So is there a tour planned?
Michael: At the moment, believe it or not, no tour is planned. Here’s what’s going on. This year, we’re going to do a handful of select dates across America starting in June and going through September. But first, we’re going to make a new record. We signed a three-album deal with Frontiers, and they put some pretty heavy deadlines on us. We’re okay with that, though. They’re going to release another record this year—coming out in either September or October. It’s going to be an all-new, original 12-song album. You’ll need to put some head gear on, John, and get in the boxing ring, though, because it’s going to punch you in the face about 10 times, or 12 times I should say!
John: I love it.
Michael: It’s going to be real heavy. We’re going back to our roots, which is exactly what people expect from Stryper, I think. I really believe it’s going to be our best album to date. People are going to hear it and hopefully think, “What in the world? How is this possible?” We’re really excited about that.
Then we’ve got those dates that I talked about from June to September, and then we’ll to do another album, probably a live recording of our rehearsals in Nashville in November. That’ll come out early next year, in the first or second quarter of 2014.
John: You certainly are not very busy, is what I’m hearing. (laughs)
Michael: You know what, brother? I’m overwhelmingly busy! I have a solo record coming out, supposedly this year, with a book. I’ve been asked to sing for another band too (which I actually can’t really talk about at the moment), and maybe do some touring with them in October. It’s been kind of crazy, really. I think about it, and I don’t remember a year in the history of Michael Sweet ever being this crammed full of stuff. It’s just ridiculous. I guess that’s a good thing. I’m very, very blessed.
John: Michael, as we’re kind of nearing our conversation here, I just want to touch base on that. Obviously, I was kidding you in saying that you’re not very busy. As a man who pursues Christ, how do you challenge either your peers, or the people at your church, or others you come across—like those reading this blog—in the midst of life’s busyness, to stay focused on Christ? What is your process in going through that, and how can we learn from you?
Michael: Well, not only do I challenge everyone, but I challenge myself more than others, because I’m guilty of not doing this. That is, when you put your feet on the floor in the morning, and when you lay your head on the pillow every night, I’d say thank God. Talk to Him, and develop a relationship with God through a simple prayer, a long prayer, meditation, or even going into a closet or into a room and closing the blinds, if you have time. If you don’t, do whatever you can to make time for Christ. For connecting with Him. I think so many times we visualize God as being somewhere else, being distant in heaven, far away, but the fact is that he’s right here in front of us and around us daily at every moment.
I think if we come to terms with that part, that He is with us all the time and as close to us as anyone can be, it might help us develop a close relationship with Him and talk to him more. I try to include him more and to think of him more. Unfortunately, daily life often robs us of that one-on-one time with not only God, but with anyone else who might be close to us. The people we love, unfortunately, kind of get thrown out the window, and we wind up focusing more on our business and the tasks at hand and what we have to do today. It’s the old To-do list. Then we realize after 30 years passes, how much time we’ve wasted, that we didn’t use to focus on loving God and our family.
I would just share with people to just love God with all your heart. Put Him first, and then put your family second, obviously, above all the other stuff that just truly doesn’t matter.
John: So, here are two slightly random questions coming from a few followers, a few friends of ours here. You did a stint with Boston, the band, is that an ongoing relationship?
Michael: It’s not really. I’m in touch with them, mostly with the co-lead vocalist, Tommy Decarlo, I’d say. He and I are dear friends and have stayed true friends over the years. I’ve kind of lost touch with Tom and Kim, Tom’s wife, for no particular reason. I wound up deciding to leave them almost two years ago because I wanted to focus on Stryper. I felt like there were too many distractions, as we were just talking about, from my priority band, the band that I started building as a kid with my brother. I just wanted to focus on that, instead of working with the inconsistency of not knowing when we were going to do this or that, and being a little more on and off, if you will, with Boston.
I just felt like it wasn’t the ideal way for me to conduct my affairs or scheduling, at that point. So I left that, even though some people might think, “What? Are you crazy? And some might think I was crazy for joining Boston in the first place. I mean, I got some flack for that from the Christian community. Like maybe I wasn’t a Christian or something because I joined a secular band. So, you hear all this kind of stuff, and you just think, “Wow. Okay, I guess that’s what determines your Christianity and your faith to some.”
John: Is there ever a moment, Michael, where you or Stryper will not be under the microscope when it comes to the Church?
Michael: I don’t think so, because we’re just so different. We weren’t raised in the church. We were raised in Hollywood on Sunset Strip, and because of that, I don’t think we’re ever going to really fit in or be a part of “the club.” We love our Christian brothers and sisters, don’t get me wrong. Man! We love them to death, and some of my best friends are into that, but Stryper’s just always done things their own way. In saying that, I don’t mean that we do things our own way in the sense that we don’t listen to God. We absolutely 100 percent listen to God. We pray about everything. We wait on everything, and we do everything according to God’s lead. But it doesn’t always line up with how other Christian artists or people in this industry are doing things. So, because of that, we get a little flack. We’ve taken some beatings over the years and that’s okay. We’ve got tough skin. We’re okay.
John: As we close here, I’m wondering, I’m sure you’ve had some embarrassing moments on the road with the guys? Is there something that comes to mind?
Michael: Most embarrassing moment, let’s see. I talk about this in the book. For me, it goes way back to a time when some guy was banging his head in front of my feet at the bottom of the stage. He was banging his head so hard that his glass eye popped out.
John: Oh, my goodness.
Michael: It was at my foot. I didn’t know it was a glass eye and he kept yelling at me and I bent down and flicked the eye. I didn’t know it was an eye! And it went through the audience, and then he was obviously livid for the rest of the show. It was in Australia, and it’s one of the most surreal, oddball stories I’ve ever told, but it’s real. It’s a true story that actually happened. It was crazy.
John: Oh, my goodness.
Michael: I was very embarrassed and it was difficult, but I had to get through another 45 minutes of the set with this guy yelling at me and wanting to jump on stage, and probably give me a good slap across the face, but hey.
John: Wow. Unbelievable.
After listening to The Second Coming, many times, I have to say that I have pleased. This band still rocks. Michael can still hit those high notes. Both Robert and Tim still have rhythm. Don't get me wrong, these guys are not some grandpas trying to sound relevant. They are a rock band that has stood the test of time. They sound great.
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