Gotee Records signed the south-Georgia band, Finding Favour. On their new ep, they collaborated with acclaimed producers Rob Hawkins (Building 429), Christopher Stevens (tobyMac, Sanctus Real, Mandisa) and Dustin Burnett (Kingsfoil) to produce the six-track release.
1 - What is your background? Where did you guys grow up? What made you interested in music?
My background is similar to what I do right now actually. I'm from a place called Vidalia, GA (the sweet onion capital of the world!) and I grew up singing in the church with my family. We traveled almost every weekend singing southern gospel music and that's where my love for music and ministry started.
2 - What are your biggest influencers? Musically and spiritually?
Spiritually some of our biggest influencers have been our families and pastors. We're actually pretty careful about letting any and everyone point us in a thousand different directions. In all things we try to be led by the Holy Spirit for our decisions and actions. Musically our influences range from Collective Soul to Chris Tomlin with everything else thrown in the middle!
3 - What does your live show look like?
Our live show are always a work in progress. We try to bring energy and honesty to the platform every single night with stories, songs and a corny joke here and there.
After five years away, Audio Adrenaline is back - by popular demand and with a renewed mission. The faces may look a little different, but the heart and passion of this GRAMMY-winning band remains unchanged. Yes, that's Kevin Max of dcTalk and solo fame at the mic and founding member Will McGinniss on bass. The new lineup is rounded out by CCM vets Dave Ghazorian (Superchick), Jared Byers (Bleach), and singer-songwriter Jason Walker. Former front man and co-founder Mark Stuart remains very involved and contributed to many of the songs for the new album.
This talented group of like- minded musicians share a common goal: to be the voice for orphans in Haiti and around the world. Lead single, "Kings & Queens" is an orphan anthem that celebrates the transformation God can bring about.
I had the opportunity to have a phone conversation with both Will and Kevin one late afternoon. What follows is a real and honest conversation about where these guys have been and where they are going.
All within and by the grace of God.
John van der Veen (FC):
First of all, I did send out a couple of tweets to the people that follow us on Family here, and there’s a few questions that came back to us, and I’m going to throw those out to you first and then we can kind of just build on those.
First question is: Did you guys ever think about bringing Bob Herdman or Tyler Burkhum back to the band when Audio A was basically trying to rejoin back together again?
Will McGinniss: Uh, yeah, I’ll take that—this is Will. I mean, basically, Bob has been out of the band for a number of years. He came off the road in the 90s actually to start a record label. He ran that for a number of years and then he also, of course, helped us start hands and feet and then worked for H&F for a few of years as well. He‘s on the board of H&F too, still permanently. So, Bob’s obviously in ministry with Mark and I and has been through the years and will continue helping us with Hands & Feet.
He really probably wouldn’t have been one that would have been one of the core band guys. After he came off the road, the band kind of took on a whole new kinda shape and format and just kept on going. And so we did go back to the band members that we had on the road in 2007 when Mark’s voice went out and we shut it down. And we went back to Ben (Cissell) and Tyler and we asked them if they’d like to redo this thing with Kevin singing and they’re just at different places in their lives right now. Ben’s more in a corporate setting. And Tyler’s got his own band and is traveling around playing guitar for other groups as well, so he just wasn’t able to make it work. But both of them were very amicable, both of them love what we’re doing and that we’re getting back together, especially with the connection to Hands & Feet, which both of them helped start. So, very amicable and very excited for us and they wish us well.
FC: Will Mark (Stuart) join you guys when you go on tour. I mean, how involved is Mark in all things Audio A right now?
Will: Well, you know, he’s super instrumental. He was the heart of Audio A. He was the lead singer and kind of the main speaker for H&F, if you will. He and I spoke a lot on stage. He’s been writing a lot on this new record. He’s got writing credits on almost every song. He is the exec dir of H&F. He and I had plugged into H&F and were doing ministry outside of Audio A in Haiti. So, he and I are still in ministry together. I’m on the board and it was for that reason that Audio even got back together. I mean when Wes Campbell, who is our manager, came to us with the idea of putting Audio back out there, you know with this idea of putting Kevin at lead singer, you know, we didn’t go for it at first because just to go back out there and play our instruments again or to rock out or whatever for no reason just wasn’t that exciting to us.
And personally I’ve gotten some great family rhythms and all that with my family and it would take something pretty special to get me back out there. And so that component that was the special piece of the puzzle was that we can broaden Hands & Feet’s reach. We can broaden the story of the orphan and widow in Haiti. We can broaden the work there and so for me that made all the difference in the world. My family is plugged into H&F at a deep level, my wife works for them and I take my kids there every summer, and so that’s the piece that really made sense and so Mark’s gonna go out when it makes sense for him to speak on behalf of H&F and to be able to represent [them] in that way. We’ll use Audio in that way whenever we can and he’ll have some comments in the album art about H&F and what he’s doing. We have several webisodes that are out there that kind of explain it in depth. How Mark’s handing off this thing to Kevin and how we’re all connected as one big family still.
FC: Kevin, let’s talk a little bit about that. What are your thoughts as you’re stepping into the role of what Mark has done for a number of years. I mean, what is that feeling like for you?
Kevin Max: It’s interesting because you know it’s familiar and yet it’s not at the same time. So if that makes sense. We traveled quite a bit together back in the day and you know I was friends with the band for many, many years. I’m a fan of what the band’s done and I’m a fan of all of the guys in band—all of the previous members. The only guy that I really didn’t know was Tyler Burkhum, but I know Bob really well and I knew Barry really well and I knew Will and Mark and of course Ben Sisal, and so I feel like putting me in the group was kind of an easy fit. But I feel like what Mark did as a lead singer is very different from what I do. But, in cool ways it’s different, you know, and I can learn a lot from Mark. I can really kind of watch what Mark does and what he says about what he would do in different situations. I’m still learning actually from hanging out with mark as a friend. Will and Mark still live here in Nashville, so it’s kind of cool to be able to hang out quite a bit and we’ve been doing a lot of radio tours together. And Mark has come out and has been there with us on all of these trips. So what’s going to be kind of odd in my opinion is to go out and perform without Mark being there, because he has been still even though he’s not singing like he was back in the day, been a part of this the whole way. But I take this job very seriously and I have absolutely wanted to be in a rock band since I was a kid, and I guess maybe this is the first time I’ve been able to do that.
FC: Kevin, what is it like singing Audio Adrenaline songs? I’m assuming that once you guys go on tour, there’s going to be some catalog songs as part of that. How does it feel singing older, classic Audio A songs?
Kevin: It feels great!
Again, Mark and I have a very similar range, so when I’m singing these tunes, you know, they’re not out of my range. Actually my range is very strange. I can sing pretty low. People don’t realize how low I can sing. I’m kind of known as the guy who sings kind of high, but I’ve actually got kind of a low voice as well. So it’s fun to sing these songs and put my spin on them. And they’re all really great. I mean, Will is careful and so is Mark about picking what songs we do from the past. The songs that I’ll be singing for the new album and performing from the new album, I think that they’re also some unbelievably great songs on this album. So we’re all excited about what kind of packet we can throw together from a live standpoint, and, you know, uh, we’ll just shoot for the stars and hopefully hit somewhere on the horizon.
FC: When does the tour begin, or has that been nailed down yet?
Kevin: Wait, wait, that was a really weird quote. I apologize.
FC: I liked it, actually.
Kevin: Uh... I’ll let Will pick it up from here.
Will: Yeh, no, you’re all good. We have the album dropping March Tuesday, March 12, so we’re finishing that up now to get it out. And then the tour, I believe, kicks off March 1st. We do have a handful of dates in January, uh, and then we move into summer festivals after a short spring run. It’s not gonna be too crazy, just wanta get some shows under our belt to refine and connect as a band and get some things nailed down and then I think that summer festivals are really the big kick-off. We’re headlining some of those, and also are opening for the mainstay acts that are headlining for some of those festivals and then looking to the fall after that, so.
FC: Are you guys gonna be playing “Big House”?
Will: Heh, heh. Yeh, actually that is one of the ones we’ve been playing. I’ll tell you the ones we’ve been playing. We’ve been playing “Ocean Floor,” “Our Hands & Feet,” “Get Down,” “Big House,” “Never Gonna Be As Big As Jesus,” but we’ve also talked about including like “Mighty Good Leader” and maybe “Some Kind of Zombie,” “I’m Not the King” and a few more of the rock side, and remove some of those others, or “Chevette” that’s been one that’s come up. So that’s kind of the quiver that we have at our disposal of the old catalog. There’s tons to go through, I don’t know, we may go through more and come up with more. I mean the set’s gonna be, depending on the length of the set, maybe 50/50, or 60 new / 40 old, or 50/50, whatever, so we’ll have to play it by ear and see how much time we have to play and all that kind of stuff. If we’re doing an opening set of 40 minutes, then obviously we’re limited by that, but we’re going to give the fans old and new, things that they can relate to and connect with.
FC: That’s great.
I’m going to switch gears a little bit. I’m gooing ask some questions about how you guys sort of came back together again. Just, because it’s not just the reforming of a band, but it’s also, as we touched on earlier, Kevin stepping in and doing vocals. I mean, what was that like for either one of you guys? Uh, was it like this “Paul” kind of experience, where this bright shining light was being cascaded down on Kevin, and Kevin you were knocked off of your donkey and you said, “Oh, I have to start singing for Audio A now”? You were doing your own thing and successful with that, making a solo career and now this. How did this whole transition kind of fall into place?
Kevin: I actually was kind of brought into the idea of it slowly and there were probably a couple of different scenarios. One was me singing on the Newsboy’s project, God’s Not Dead, I sang on two of the songs on that album. And when one of those songs started charting, they asked me to come down and go on the road with them for about six shows, and I was singing on stage with them for the Newsboys. And we had such a great time, I think the manager for the Newsboys at that time was just like, “Wow, I’ve been basically bugging Audio Adrenaline for some time to do the same thing, so we get Audio Adrenaline back up and running, because it’s such a great band. And it’s a shame—or, not a shame necessarily—but kind of a group tragedy that they’re not able to continue because of Mark’s voice and we wanted to get them back out there with another singer. And Mark has given his blessing, and we’re looking at guys to do it. So, well, my take on that immediately, was “Absolutely!” I’ve know these guys from the very beginning. At dcTalk, we found them early on in Kentucky and basically brought them to the label at the time, which was Forefront, and they went on to great success.
Um, and so I feel like I’m a part of that story and after that, throughout the years we’ve toured together and we became great friends, and so it’s a very, very good fit, you know, even on paper. But I think that what really kinda got me was that mark was so passionate about making the right decision, and so was Will. And, also including Hands & Feet into the story of what’s happening now. So that when we go forward with albums, we’re actually raising awareness for H&F project, which in my opinion is much cooler than just being a rock band. So we’ve got lots of different things that are happening here that are just exciting and that just make sense to me.
FC: Kevin, did this decision involve you saying, “Okay, I’m putting down my solo career for a time being, or this is just the new path that God has for me?
Kevin: My solo career has been from one moment to the next both somewhat successful and completely tragic (laughs), in terms of success. In terms of personal gratification and what feel like I’ve been able to do, I’m extremely happy with what I’ve done on my solo career. Even though I haven’t reached even close to the numbers we did with dcTalk, I think that I’ve reached a completely different crowd. And that’s primarily what I set out to do as a solo artist. To create music that I wanted to create and not necessarily follow the rhyme and the rhythm of what Talk did from the beginning. You know? So, in way, personally, I feel like I’ve covered a lot of ground and am extremely proud of what I’ve done.
At this time when I decided to do this, I wasn't really taking my musical career very seriously because I'd been writing a novel. What a lot of people don't know – they will know at some point – is that I wrote a sci-fi novel about angels and basically it's going to publishers now. I spent close to two years writing this book. I'll be pretty transparent and say during those years I really wasn't interested in being on stage anymore. I kind of went through a period of not self-loathing but I just didn't want to be the guy on stage. I gained a certain amount of weight and I was just a family guy and I wanted to get into books and I didn't want to be the front man necessarily. So when this was brought up to me, I'd kind of written the book and was kind of going through a different period in my life, you know? When Wes approached me and Mark and Will, I had to go back to my wife and go, "How serious are we going to be about this? We have to do some major shifts in our life to make this happen. I'm going to have to go on the road." I've got four kids that are under the age of 7 so I really had to make a decision. So I got serious and I started writing songs and lost a bunch of weight, basically talked about getting back to Nashville. I've lived in Nashville for over 20 years but sold our house in East Nashville a few years previously, so we basically had to move back to Nashville. So, there's been a lot of changes, but It's interesting, you know?
FC: Is Audio Adrenaline all about taking care of the widow or the orphan right now? “Hands and Feet” – is that the banner that is being raised up by Audio Adrenaline right now?
Kevin: Yeah, it's one of the major we're raising. It is Hands and Feet because the idea of doing this in the first place was to raise awareness for Hands and Feet. I think Mark and Will were hesitant at first about even putting it back on the road of that wasn't a part of it, so of course, we're all extremely excited about raising awareness. Also, it's something that we can connect to on so many different levels, from the live show to Internet to merch stands. It's something that we're not ashamed of at all. In fact, we're proud of. And just to get people to understand what's going on over there right now is huge. So definitely, it’s a huge part of what's going on right now.
FC: Will, are you back? (Dropped call with Will)
Will: Yeah, I'm here. Sorry about that.
FC: No problem. I was just asking the question if Hands and Feet were basically the banner for Audio Adrenaline. I think Kevin did a fine job in answering it.
Audio Adrenaline - Kings & Queens
What are you guys most looking forward to doing in 2013?
Will: Oh man. That's a big one. I mean for me, I feel like what you're saying is true. I feel like the momentum we have right now is incredible, nothing short of miraculous. I feel like God is doing something way bigger than us. And just the favor I feel that we have…I feel like if you compare it to Michael going to The Newsboys…they were up against a lot more. They had a lot more criticism, a lot more opposition. It was a totally different scenario, I understand that, but this is similar in the fact that we're adding a lead singer to a pretty significant brand that's already been out there. And even new other members. I'm the only member of Audio A in this thing.
But, to me, God has orchestrated a thing here that's just crazy. You couldn't have wrote this. He's an amazing author. So many redemptive stories at play with the different guys in the band and our stories and our families and Kevin's story. So, for me, I think the Hands and Feet component is what's the most significant, I think by and large. Mark being so involved in this thing, so attached to it with Hands and Feet and also writing a lot of the songs, being a part of that process, being a part of putting the record together, being a part of the future. For me, I'm just excited to see what God does. Like I said, it's going to be bigger than all of us can imagine. It's gonna be great music and all those things as well, but I think there's gonna be surprises along the way that we couldn't expect. Little turns He'll write into the story that we didn't expect, you know? But for me, we're just going to try to, with as much grace and with as much love and mercy move into this thing and tour it and leave our families again and walk through all of those situations with as much grace and mercy as we can and just see what God does with it. I think each show we want to take one at a time and really be intentional about connecting with the people that are there backstage, the people in the crowd, whatever, and giving them our full attention and just doing it in a way that is excellent and that you know that we're there for you and to serve you that day.
FC: Are either one of you coffee drinkers? Or is it Mountain Dew? Or Red Bull?
Kevin: I'm huge into coffee. I'm drinking like my fourth cup right now. Just to stay awake during these interviews. You've done really well asking some really great questions. I will say sometimes the questioner can lead me down a path to deep slumber.
FC: Well, I certainly appreciate both of you guys taking the time to talk with me today. And as I said, I just want to echo what the feeling is in our building and with a lot of our customers: we're anxiously waiting for March 12 to come around. I think it's going to be an exciting day. And then, of course, the tour.
Will: It's crazy, the favor we have. I always liken it to the Bad News Bears, where we're so bad but everyone wants us to do well.
FC: Oh, come on!
Kevin: I don't know if I like that one either. Don’t sell yourself short, man.
Will: Just trying to be humble. But "Kings and Queens" is the biggest single out of the box in Audio A history ever. So something big is happening and it's abnormal for even Audio things, so I'm just stoked.
FC: Well, congratulations to you guys. God bless you and thank you again for taking the time to talk with me today.
Because Mark is on a continual voice rest, I had the chance to email him a few questions.
They are listed here:
FC: Mark, what is the transition like for you? Moving from you to Kevin being the lead singer? How do you feel that you were the voice for AA and now someone else is?
Mark: It would be very strange for me to give the reigns over to someone else if I wasn't able to contribute to the record making process. I definitely miss being a front man and the excitement of leading an audience. But to be able to help craft a record and collaborate in writing is a huge thrill for me. I miss the creative process much more than being on the road. I feel as much a part of this record as any previous Audio Adrenaline album. It's a blessing to be in the mix!!!
FC: Is your voice getting better?
Mark: Unfortunately, my voice continues to get weaker, even though I'm not singing. It can be frustrating for sure. However, I truly believe that God is directing my path. My focus, on a daily basis, is no longer being in a band or getting my voice back, but becoming a better leader, and stronger voice for the orphans of Haiti.
FC: What is your involvement with AA going forward?
Mark: I will continue to partner with the guys in writing and producing records, but the bigger partnership is with the Hands and Feet Project. The heartbeat of Audio A moving forward is furthering the cause of the Hands and Feet Project and the children of Haiti. The Audio A guys and I are always dreaming of ways we can use our music and our platform to bring hope to the next generation of Haiti.
GRAMMY and DOVE Award-winning Jason Crabb has become one of the most respected names and voices in Christian music. Working alongside accomplished producers Jay DeMarcus (band member of Rascal Flatts), Ed Cash and Wayne Haun, Jason has delivered his sophomore studio solo recording, Love Is Stronger. A moving collection of down-home gospel and contemporary songs that feature Jason’s incomparable voice and heartfelt performance style, the release offers inspiring and challenging messages of comfort through the love of Christ that conquers all. Loved by audiences of every age and background, Jason Crabb is fast-becoming a prominent voice of hope for his generation and for generations to come.
I had the privilege of talking with Jason over the phone recently to hear about his new album, his family and his heart for God.
John van der Veen (FC): Hello, Jason. Thanks for talking with me. How are you?
Jason Crabb: Hello! Fine. We’re getting ready for a concert tonight.
FC: Oh I'm excited to hear about that.
Jason: Oh, thank you. I appreciate all that you do.
FC: I'm not sure how often you check your twitter account, but I did send out a message earlier today asking all of our friends if they had any questions that they wanted me to ask you, and someone suggested, “What was the greatest advise Dottie Rambo gave you in your beginning?”
Jason: Oh, wow! I will never forget that. When we first started out, we used to host a concert at the Executive Inn, on the river front there in Woodboro, Kentucky. One of the performers that came in was Dottie. We were on stage with her and Dottie—she was always polite, and she always messed with you, she was just so funny—well, she was getting ready to play a song. And she said, “Oh, Jason, can you come out here and get my guitar pick? It's in my shoe, and she was sitting down. So I had to go out, get down on my knee and get the guitar pick out of her shoe. And it was kind of a funny thing to be doing, and then, you know, we're sitting there and she said, “Well, now sing a song with me, and we sang together, and then she said, “Jason,” she said, “if you take care of these people (and she was pointing at the audience) and be there for them, they will always be there for you.”
I took that to heart, and that's why during every intermission, after every concert, I'm the last one to leave the building because I want to be there for the people, and I want to hear what they have to say and listen to their prayer requests and things like that. You know what, I can really truly obviously say that was one of the best things that anybody has ever told me, because truly I believe that is why I am here today, doing what I'm doing. Because I'm there for the people... and they've always been there for me.
FC: Jason, let me ask you a little bit about the influences that you have had in probably your personal life at least the way that you're talking about Dottie, but your personal life as well as your career. You have mentioned that Bill Gaither has been not just an influence to you, but certainly a mentor, and probably even somebody closer than that as well. Bill said once, “Jason Crabb is the real deal. I love his voice, I love his heart and I love the unique way he can connect people to the hope every human being needs to hear.”
Jason when you hear that and have people talking into your life like that, how do you take that as a man who is pursing Christ? How do you take the words from other people and then apply them to your own life? And then what does that mean for us, and how should we be looking for mentors and other people to speak into our lives as well?
Jason: Let's go back to Bill and those people that are speaking into your life and influencing you. I have had so many in my life; of course, my family—all my family from my parents to grand parents to my siblings. They've been so supportive with encouragement and we've helped each other out, but I mean also people on the road and in different situations and things. Bill is one of those. He's one of those men that if you'll just sit, watch and listen, you can learn so much. I think people like that when they speak into your life and they truly mean it, if they say something positive about your life, what it does for me is it challenges me to be even better. It challenges me to live up to maybe what they might say. If they say, Hey, thanks for being there for me,” then it makes me want to be there for others as well. Those things feed the spirit of the person that is there and it feeds your spiritual side. If you use it the right way. Even bad things, things that people say—could even be in a negative way—can be turned around for the good. I think we have to use all of that.
So yes, everybody needs that person to speak truth into their life, whether it's good or whether it's bad. Like, “You just have to watch how you treated this person,” or “I just couldn't believe that you went down and talked to that person and you didn't have to.” That makes you want to do those things, and so I think it's very important to listen and let those things help create who you are.
FC: How does Jason Crabb—not Jason Crabb the artist or the actor or the author or the TV personality—but Jason Crabb the regular guy keep a continual focus on Christ in your own personal walk? When the rubber meets the road, Jason, how are you doing that?
Jason: I think the Lord will find ways to speak to you. Of course, in His Word, He speaks to you on what to do in character building and those types of thing. One way that He speaks to me--I've got two kids and a gorgeous wife—is through parenting. He lets me know, kind of the role that He plays in my life, and in a similar way with my kids, such as being gracious and how to treat my children if they falter or fail at whatever they do. Those situations draw me to Him, and it's the same with my ministering on stage a lot of times. Even though I am ministering, I still get ministered to as well, and feel like I'm in the presence of God and being led by Him and those types of things.
Even the times that we are on the road, people come up and say certain things that minister to me. And believe me, I do know who I am without Christ and it's a mess. I know who I need to be with and I know I need him to be the center of my life and so whatever way that I have to do that, whether it's reading or whether it's listening to one of my favorite ministries, church and all of those things, I just think that it has to be an every day moment in your life. And usually He'll show you how to get to the best ministry to where you need to be. I can also say there have been many times when I've failed at that, and I would be the first to tell you that I am not perfect, but when I do falter I'll learn from it, and that's the whole walking it out with Christ part, just to experience all those moments.
FC: As you mentioned, your family and obviously the family that you grew up in, and of course now, you and your wife have some kids… The traditions that you had growing up musically, I'm picturing like the Crabb Family Pray album where there is that little girl, I think, in front of the white church and you just kind of have this picturesque family all together and periodically you guys have these moments where you are bursting out into song. I'm not exactly sure if that's true or not, but that's just what I had in my head as I listen to the Family records. Do you and your wife have that similar tradition with your kids? Are you incorporating those traditions that were passed down to you as a child onto your kids?
Jason: Well, yes and no.
FC: I guess more specifically, when it comes to music?
Jason: Yeah, kind of. Here was the plus for the home that I grew up in: My dad was a pastor, so we had to go to church. We were at church any time the doors were open. We were the music, we were the Sunday School teachers and more. When actually somebody should have been teaching us! (laughs) But we had to step in to fill the gap, which was alright.
It's different for me, I'll leave the house and go on the road, and my kids are in school and they've got the normal routine. The everyday life of a child that is normal at that age. It is very important to have those one-on-one moments with your child, and what’s more, I've learned that it's very effective in parenting. We learned the works of God, the work in ministry, but the cool thing is now that I know that side of it (and they do get to experience that on the road with me sometimes), I've learned that it's the one-on-one thing that counts, or when everybody grabs each other's hands and prays. If you got a problem, then you talk it out and you say, “Okay how do we handle this?”
Or when one of my kids prays for someone, I realize Christ is at work in my family, that faith is present there. My daughter was getting ready for a cheerleading competition and one of the girls got sick. And in a cheerleading competition, if one person is missing, then the whole routine that they have practiced is gone. So they were all nervous about it and my daughter walked over and she said, “Let's all pray for her.” I'm talking about like at six or seven years old, she's saying let's pray for this girl and so the whole cheer team is over there praying. That's when I knew that Christ was real in our lives. That what we are teaching, that what Christian school and church is teaching is working and that what she has accepted and believes in is alive!
Even though our lives are totally different than what it was growing up in the church, her traveling full time with me on the road, that's how I knew it is still alive. You've got to know it in every day life, in what you do and in all those types of problems that Christ is present, and so it is truly cool to watch faith come alive in their lives.
FC: I appreciate your honesty there. Let's switch gears a little bit and talk about the new record, it's called Love Is Stronger which comes out in March. When you go in and begin the process of putting together a new album, what does that look like? For instance, where do you begin with that process?
Jason: We got together and kind of wanted to talk about direction and what we wanted to target and who we wanted to help us do that. I think one of the keys for me was learning how to let go and let people that are skilled and crafted at what they do help me hit that right target. You can practice and practice, but if you are not doing certain things right, then you are practicing the wrong way and so it doesn't matter.
I think it was key for us we went in and said these are the targets we want to go after, now who can help us hit that mark. We started choosing different ones, different producers and we had three different producers on this record and that's kind of where it began, where we begin on the record.
FC: A couple of these producers are new right? That you haven't worked with before?
Jason: Actually I've not worked with all three of them. Ed Cash, Wayne Haun, and Jay DeMarcus, from Rascal Flatts, produced six.
FC: That's great. So what is behind the title, Love Is Stronger?
Jason: A lot of the lyrics in the songs deal with how we get through situations, and how we help others, and also what helps us get through times like that. The song called “Love Is Stronger” is one of my favorite cuts on the record, and that's hard to say because I love them all--every lyric on this record. But that is one of my favorites, and I just felt that was kind of the direction for this record.
FC: The song, “What the Blood Is For”—Wow! What a powerful song. How do you approach a song like that? I'm not sure who wrote it, did you do write that song?
Jason: No, I didn't write the song. Two men by the name of Ronnie Freeman and Tony Woods wrote that song. How real is that song? It is just as real as can be…
FC: That's my question, when you sing that song how do you—in a rhetorical sense--how do you keep yourself from just falling apart? I was just blown away by the words and the power of that song. Unbelievable!
What the Blood Is For
I’m a mess today
I followed the desires of
My foolish heart into the dark
Feeling far away
Need a couple of days
To work real hard to hit the mark
To get myself back in good with You
Oh what a waste, what a losing game…cause
That’s what the blood is forIt cleans the dirty man I amMakes it possible to standBefore You LordCause that’s what the blood is for
What if I fall
One more time
Or soon forget
That You’re the light
Where I am free in perfect peace
And what if I can’t get my act together
That’s what the blood is forIt cleans the dirty man I amMakes it possible to standBefore You LordYes, that’s what the blood is for
It’s Your blood that compels me
Holds the power to my victory
It’s still speaking, You Lord to me
That’s what the blood is for
That’s what the blood is for
It cleans the dirty man I am
Makes it possible to stand
Before You Lord
That’s what the blood is for
That’s what the blood is for
That’s what the blood is for
It cleans the dirty man I am
Makes it possible to stand
Before You Lord
That’s what the blood is for
Ronnie Freeman and Tony Wood
Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Publishing (ASCAP) // Lehajoes Music (ASCAP) // Sony/ATV Cross Keys Publishing (ASCAP) // Songs From Exit 71 (ASCAP)
Jason: It is so real--where we are and how people feel, you know… like, How can I fix this? or Where can I go? and, well, it's just by the grace of God. You've got to grasp onto that or you'll never live in Victory because we, as humans, boy, we make a mess of things, don't we? It's totally grabbing a hold of the mercy and the grace of God, and believing it, you know, that it works. That's what the Blood is for. It’s because of that that I am able to stand; it makes me alert.
FC: Real quick, going back to the record here… There are a couple of duets, and a couple of guest appearances. You have Joyce Martin, Michael English and Kari Jobe. What was it like singing with those guys? I am assuming you've sang with Mr. English and Miss Martin before, but how about Kari Jobe?
Jason: My time with Michael English—both with the Gaither Vocal Band and his solo efforts—and with the Martins were a huge influence in my life growing up. Those were the records that you just waited in line to get. I couldn't wait to get my hands on them. Couldn't wait to hear what the next thing was, what it sounded like, or what they did and pick out my favorites and listen to them vocally. So I was very, very excited about the songs they cut, and the records, and so now I get to do that and I have always just been very excited about that.
On the flip side with Kari Jobe, now that's ... I had never heard a voice like that, ever. I remember the first time I heard her; I was just blown away. It was something that she wasn't just one of those voices where you just listen to how high she sings or something. It wasn't that. It was just the touch of God that is on her voice, and the anointing that is on her life that is just ... she sings in such a real place and I just don't know how to describe it. I am so honored that she would come and sing with me on this record. I was blown away and still am every time I hear it. I'm like, really, I can't believe this really happened. (Laughs)
FC: Jason, what kind of music do you listen to today, that lately you've been listing to, that makes you go, Wow, this is some really good art!
Jason: There is so much good stuff out there today. You know I love what tobyMac always puts out. Such great pieces; he is just so talented. And I listen to a lot of different stuff. I'm more of a guy that just likes the feel of good music, whatever style it is. It’s what I draw from and I just love it. I think tobyMac’s new record is great, and I love Kari Jobe's record, and oh my goodness, there are just so many great, great artists out there. The Vocal Band has just put out a brand new project, which is wonderful. My brothers have just put some new stuff too. Aaron has a new project and it's going great. I'm producing one of Adam's records and I'm excited about that also. I'm just wrapped in music all the time, I just love all of it.
FC: Are you a book reader?
Jason: You know what, I've just really kind of gotten into that a little bit.
FC: What have you been reading lately?
Jason: I've been reading a lot of Andy Andrews. I really like his books. I also, I just picked up a book that is an old book. It is really neat. It is about the Jubilee Singers, that was based out of Nashville and it's the Fisk University and it's about a group of African-American singers that toured around the globe and sang just about everywhere. I picked this up, I found it at a bookstore, and it's a real old book, an antique. Also, there is a writer that wrote hymns ... well, not really hymns just kind of lyrics and poems. He was a slave. He wrote about some of their lyrics—his name is Dunbar. I like history, so I loved the Jubilee Singers, that's just a really cool book and I'm just getting started in it. I guess I like a lot of different things.
FC: Sounds neat. Now I have two random questions to kind of wrap things up. Are you a coffee drinker or Red Bull drinker?
FC: Coffee? Is it black or is it a king of frou-frou type of coffee?
Jason: No, you know, I have moments where I like a little cream and sugar, but then there are moments where I just like black. My trainer tells me it's black, so… you know how that goes. (Laughs)
FC: Last question, Jason Crabb. Just how Southern are you?
Jason: How Southern am I? (laughs)
Jason: Oh my goodness! I guess if people really only knew, they would probably never come and see me. (laughs again). No, I absolutely love the Southern style living. I'm kind of a—oh, I don't know what you would call it--a hybrid, I guess. I love all of it. Fried chicken, the fried pork chops, I'm in the woods a lot, and I love the outdoors. I even like to hunt a little. That’s just the way we grew up. I grew up in the swamplands of Kentucky, with coal miners and different ones and that's pretty much who I am. But then again, you know, I love nice cars (that I don't have!) and the finer things in life as well. But if it ever came down to it, give me the rocking chair, the front porch and a cup of coffee and I'm in a good place.
FC: Sounds good. Jason, thank you so much for taking the time. Man, I really appreciate it. I love the new record. I've loved your family for a long time. I love all the records. I have them all. I think they're phenomenal. Jason, you're a great singer, don't ever lose your voice, man. Sometimes when I think that you're hitting those notes, I think, Dude, it's going to pop one of these days--his voice is going to go.
FC: I thank the Lord for you and for your gifts, and I am so thankful that you use it for Him and not for yourself. Blessings to you my friend.
Jason: Thank you so much. I give Him thanks and praise every day for allowing me to live this life and to get to experience the goodness of it, and what He is and what He has done for us. To be honest with you, from where I came from in life, I'm going, How am I getting to live this? How am I getting to do this? Thank you for allowing me to get to present your love and your dreams for our lives, Lord. Your desires for our lives you know, and it's just so, I am just overwhelmed every day and that's the truth. I'm thankful for it. I really am. Bill & Gloria Gaither - Until Then [Live] ft. Jason Crabb
Jake Ousley is a singer/songwriter from Nashville, Tennessee. And you are going to love him, if you don’t already. Sure, it’s his voice and songwriting that got you here. Because his songs pull at you like the feeling you get when you pull up to your house from being gone too long, or when you have a good night with great friends. That kind of sentiment in his songwriting is what got him here. But it’s also the talent and the time and the way he glides words up to music and makes them dance together.
FCS: Can you give us a little background yourself?
I was born in Jackson, Mississippi. I Lived there for the first 11 years of my life and then moved to Henderson, Kentucky when my dad’s department at International Paper got bough out by another company. I moved to Nashville, TN in 2003 to go to school at Belmont University, then spent 2008-2009 living right near Grand Rapids. So, Nashville feels like home now, but Grand Rapids is starting to become a close second as much time as I spend here.
FCS: What’s it like living in Nashville?
I love it. It’s a big city with a small town feel. You can get all the action you want on a Saturday night but still sit in a backyard in some neighborhood just 2 miles from downtown and feel like your miles from the city. I love that about it. Did I mention that it’s also a music town?
FCS: You’ve been involved for quite a while with Young Life; how did that start with you?
If I really think way back, I have to credit my sister Lindsay for introducing me to Young Life. Young Life had already been started up in Henderson, KY by the time my family moved there. My sister was the one who plugged in the local area as a Wyldlife leader. I was conveniently in middle school at the time, so, my early memories of Young Life were large gatherings of middle schoolers at this entertainment center place across the river from our hometown. A Hundred or so middle-schoolers terrorizing this place with video games and go –karts and everything else under the sun. Really fun.
As I got older I became close with the area director at the time, Chris Dillbeck. I grew up in the church, so I was familiar with what it meant to be a Christian, but Chris was the first person that I had ever encountered that seemed to really think about what it meant to connect what he believed and how he lived. It was an on-going conversation with him. Not only that, but he was more real than I had ever experienced anyone else to be. More raw. That helped me process the idea that faith and life are connected. I credit Young Life for that.
From there, I had lots of involvement with Young Life. I spent several summers volunteering at different camps around the country doing what they call Work Crew, and Summer Staff.
The most profound of all those experiences for me, though, was probably when I found Wilderness Ranch in Creede, Colorado. I spent one summer at this Young Life based backpacking ministry in 2007 and was hooked. I came back 3 summers after that serving as a Trail Guide. Trail guides were responsible for taking high school students on 6 day back packing trips. You can imagine the stories
All of those summers during high school and college were so full, but my favorite of all was being at Wilderness in the San Juan Mountains in late may. There’s often still snow on the ground then…and its beautiful. Some of my favorites times have been with the community there at Wilderness.
FCS: There is some great history with Young Life and the artists coming from the organization – is there anyone you look up to that’s walked this line before you?
Oh man. Well… All of them? Ha. Ha. I mean… I was a Bebo Norman fan. I don’t know who wasn’t after Ten Thousand Days came out. I still listen to that record every now and then. And I’ve had minimal interaction with Ed Cash. I love his production, again…who doesn’t?
But the first person I ever met at a young life event that kind of introduced me to the idea of what a special musician was, was Dave Barnes. Dave and I met at a weekend in Indiana and hit it off from the get go. He was the older, way cooler, version of me in my own mind. Ha. Maybe other 16 year olds were thinking the same thing, but we stayed in touch and became pretty good buddies when I moved to Nashville to go to Belmont in 2003. If you know Dave, you know that there’s not many people, that don’t like him. But he had a significant impact on me both personally and musically in those early days. We still hang out today. So that’s cool.
FCS: I understand that you’ve spent time touring as a manager for another friend of FCS, Matt Wertz. Tell us about that experience.
Yeah! Those are funny days to look back on. I wasn’t cut out to be a tour manager. Matt really put with a lot to have someone out on the road as young and inexperienced as I was. Ha.
I took a leave of absence from Belmont my second semester – that was the official term for it if you didn’t want to say you were “dropping out” – and went on the road with Wertz. Again, it was comical because I am an obvious, right brained, dreamer, creative type. So, to have a job where I was responsible for a lot of logistical, moving parts and a lot of major, day-to-day details was quite a stretch for my personality. Matt had a ton of grace with me. We luckily – thank the lord - can laugh about it today.
If I learned anything about an independent musicians career during that time it was how much it helps to show people that you are thankful. I remember very vividly the nights where Matt would wear out his voice from talking to people after shows. It put something in me deep to watch that.
FCS: When did you decide that music was for you?
I’m not positive I’ve decided yet. Ha! No… I kind of fell in love with the idea of the acoustic guitar as soon as I saw it. My dad had one tucked underneath his bed in our house in Kentucky. I think I tried to figure out to play it about 1,000,000,000 times before he realized I wasn’t going to stop and bought me an official lesson.
As far as listening to music, it was probably early Chris Rice songs and some James Taylor stuff that really made me fall in love with the singer-songwriter thing. (I’ve told Chris that, now just need to meet James Taylor somehow…anybody?) There’s something really honest about just one person and their instrument. Ya know?
FCS: So let’s talk a little about your music. How do you describe your music? Where do you find inspiration?
That has become a challenge. Sometimes it depends on who you’re talking to. The more I’ve played though, the more I’ve been told that I sound like the guy from Rascall Flatts, and then occasionally James Taylor, and Hunter Hayes. I take all of those as massive compliments. Gary LeVox is probably one of the better singers I’ve ever heard. And Hunter Hayes is easily as talented. If I can sing half the licks those guys can in a few years, I’ll feel pretty good.
The country thing is funny to me because it really just happened. All through college I was much more in to independent Singer-Songwriters like David Gray, David Mead, etc. Also, it’s apparent that I was into singers named David. Ha. But guys like that were definitely not country music. So, it’s funny to get compared to people that I wasn’t listening to in the beginning. I have warmed up to a lot to Country Music though in the last few years.
This new record, Counting Down The Days is really a blend of Americana, pop, and country influences. There are some songs on this album that were intentionally written to a pop audience and then some more written to an Allison Kraus kind of vibe too.
I find inspiration from everything. That sounds broad. I know. I just to mean to say that I’m a passionate person that loves living. That also sounds very general. Hang with me…ha… Most of my most heart-felt songs seem to center around relationship. Whether its one ending or beginning, or struggling to survive…a lot of my songs come from my own personal experience or experiences I’ve heard about first hand from friends.
And then a lot of the time I’ll hear a song that will make me want to write a song. I wrote “When It Rains” with Josh Robinson after listening to “Even the Rain” by Gabe Dixon about a thousand times. I love the idea and the word pictures he creates in that song.
Well…for one it was a ton of fun making it. Just Robinson and Matt Campbell – the guys who produced it – are really talented and did an incredible job finding the right production for these songs. The 9 songs were written over the course of about a year in 2011.
I am more proud of this record than of anything I’ve done so far. I listen to it like its not my own sometimes. Ha ha. AND I feel really blessed to have been able to successfully fund the whole project through Kickstarter, a website that helps people fund creative projects. There’s no way I would have ever been able to record an album of this quality without the support of all the people that funded it through Kickstarter.
FCS: You have quite the tour schedule right now – what’s been your favorite venue to play at recently?
I do. It’s exciting. Well, I mentioned loving Grand Rapids. So, the Intersection isn’t bad. But a few others would be Common Grounds in Waco, Texas and then Natasha’s Bistro in Lexington, Kentucky. I’ve got some great friends in both places, and it always seems to be a good time if we go through those cities.
FCS: Alright – one last question – energy drinks or Starbucks? Given all your driving for your tours, I have to assume it’s one of them.
I’m a massive coffee fan. I’ve had to develop some self-control in the coffee arena lately. I do a ton of driving so its too easy to pull off at every Starbucks I see. But I love straight, black coffee from Starbucks. No red-bulls, No monsters, No 5-hour energy. Just black coffee.
“Jake has been a dear friend for a long long time, so when he told me he had started to write and sing i didn’t know if he was joking or not. But it’s no joke, my friends. His songs get stuck in my head, as much, if not more than some of my favorite artists out there. He has the unique gift of having a voice that perfectly suits his songs, both of which I LOVE.”
- Dave Barnes
“Jake Ousley sings with an earnestness and longing that draw me in every time. His songs, like Jake, draw from a deep well that is instantly endearing and relatable- you’re gonna love him!”
Besides a complete and total belief, which I held in the sixth grade, that I was going to become a world famous whistler who would bring people into a weepy wave of wonder with my haunting melodies- my parents have supported every dream I have ever had.
Even when they have made no logical sense.
I graduated with a bachelors degree from a private university. My career plans weren’t set in stone, but I always assumed I would go straight into graduate work, like both of my parents did. Social work, speech pathology, political science and seminary topped my list. Serving people, seeking justice, fighting for beauty and redemption in another person’s life was my ultimate goal. Making music was not.
But I fell in love. With a man and with music. And the day after my college graduation we packed our bags and moved into a 900 square foot duplex in the heart of ghetto, thug-riddled Dallas, Texas. For the next two years my husband and I lived in that duplex across the street from Joe the Pimp (yes, a real live pimp), with the entire band. It was just how every woman hopes to spend the first two years of marriage! No health insurance, life insurance, 401K plan, personal privacy or financial security blanket. Four college graduates still driving our cars from high school while our peers bought houses, invested in stocks and experimented in keeping small puppies and babies alive.
By the looks of it, my life did not measure up to the kind of success that our culture aspires to.
And yet I can’t remember a single conversation with my dad where he didn’t say, “I’m proud of you Jenny- don’t give up- it won’t always be this hard- it’s worth it- you are exactly where you are supposed to be. Keep doing what you feel like God has made you to do.”
And to the 32 year-old-girl, 10 years later, now turned mother who has lived through a fire that destroyed most of what I owned, a few break-ins, car-wrecks, near bankruptcy, still living in a small apartment, with no 401 K and, yes, still driving my car from high school- all in my pursuit of listening to and following God’s voice in my life...
my dad still says the same thing.
Don’t lose heart.Keep believing in the things that God has called you to.
You see my parents are both deeply spiritual people and have served on church staffs my entire life. Many times my sisters and I have watched as members of different congregations have lied about my parents, hurt them and given them good cause to never ever walk back through the doors of a church again. And yet, my parents have always walked back in the doors.
Dad often quoted Psalm 27:13 as he walked around the house listening to my sisters and I gripe about the injustice of it all. He simply said, “I am still confident of this: we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” And he and mom believed it enough that they didn’t quit, even when quitting was the most obvious answer.
I can’t count how many times I have tried to throw away the gifts and calling that the Lord has given me. I have tried to convince myself that I heard God’s voice wrong. That serving in ministry was too hard on my spirit. That the sacrifice was not worth it. That I was being financially irresponsible to live off of little- when I could make much else-where. That my family deserves better. Or perhaps, someone else is more qualified.
I am the queen of excuses and rationalizing. I’ve written the book on fear, anxiety and distrust in the face of the unknown. I have tried to quit God, quit His call on my life, quit that still, small voice who whispers over and over again to me, “Feed my sheep,” more times than I can count.
And yet I am still here. Still writing music and telling God’s story of redemption. Still driving that same old car. Still allowing God to use me in people’s journeys. Still listening to my daddy tell me that following the call is absolutely worth it- even when it makes no logical sense. Even when it hurts. Even if it leaves you broken sometimes.
The song, Don’t Lose Heart, is the most personal song for me on my new album, The Becoming. It’s not just a pithy sentiment spoken over someone in a tiny battle. It is a monumental cry to those serving in ministry- fighting the most important battle ever: whether to give up or not.
Following the great unknown has cost you everything
But listen to the voice inside who first called out your name...
To those following the Great Unknown, to those chasing a dream that only makes sense in light of the Holy Spirit that has given birth to that dream, to those barely hanging on as they try and survive ministry in a tough church, for those making art, parenting orphans, feeding homeless, teaching immigrants, sheltering battered women, loving pregnant teenagers, heck, loving any teenager through puberty, going to the uttermost corners of the earth to deliver water- and living water- this song is for you.
For anyone in the middle of a “What the heck am I doing here?” moment- the one where you fear you have gone the wrong way or the call was meant for someone else-
this is for you.
Don’t lose heart. Don’t lose faith. Keep believing in the things that He’s called to you. When you’re tired. When you’re faint. Look deep into the eyes of your Savior’s face. And you will find your resting place.
And to mom and dad- who never gave up on Jesus and his calling- you are the most beautiful people I know. Thank you for teaching me that sometimes following Jesus is more important than safety, security or comfort. Thank you for caring more about how Jesus wants to use me, than any thing else. I am here because of you.
There’s no denying much of today’s music has the power to move the masses
physically. Inventive beats and hooky choruses are the currency of the day. Now
enter Capital Kings, a talented duo that blends pop, electronic dance music, and
rap into an intoxicating musical mix that makes audiences want to move, and yet
there’s a thought-provoking, life-affirming undercurrent. Capital Kings combine
style with substance and introduce flash with a foundation.
Jon White and Cole Walowac have parlayed a long-term friendship and shared passion for music into one of the hottest careers in the industry. Despite their young age, the duo’s
history is a lengthy one. “We were in the nursery in the same church,” Jon says.
“We moved away to Massachusetts for a few years, Cole and I met back up in
the same middle school and we started playing in the youth group band. Cole
would play drums and I would sing and that’s how we started making music.”
What follows is a brief Q&A with both Jon and Cole:
1 - What is your background? Where did you guys grow up? What made you interested in music?
Cole: We both grew up right outside of Washington D.C. We were actually really into sports growing up so if you were to tell us we would one day be in a band making music we wouldn't have believed you. But in high school we started playing for our youth worship band and that sparked an interest for us in doing music. By junior year, we really started to put sports aside and begin focusing on our music.
2 - Your debut album will be available on 1/8/13. It's not very often that a "freshman" artist get's to work with such big players in the industry. How did you happen to land gigs with such big artists (Mandisa, Group 1 Crew, Britt Nicole, TobyMac)?
Jon: We have been blessed for sure! God has really been giving us some amazing opportunities these past few years. It all started through remixing some songs on TobyMac’s remix record, Dubbed & Freq'd album. After that, the calls came in to start working with other artists. We really love having different flavors on our tunes and being able to work with all the artists we have up to this point!
3 - What are your biggest influencers? Musically and spiritually?
Cole: Our number one influence is God. We are constantly trying to pursue Christ in all that we do because He has had the greatest impact on people by showing love. Musically, we listen to everything from old stuff like Herbie Hancock or Frank Sinatra all the way to current music like Deadmau5 and Radiohead.
4 - You guys are jumping on the East Coast run of Winter Jam this next year. What does your live show look like?
Cole: Our live shows are such high energy! Our main goal is to make people feel like they’re part of the show. We want them to feel free to dance and jump up and down and go crazy. But most importantly, we want them to be inspired to love God and love others around them.
5 - What are you most looking forward to in 2013?
Jon: We cannot wait for our debut record to drop on January 8th and also to meet all of our fans who come out to our shows! It’s definitely an exciting time for us and we’re looking forward to see what God has in store for us!!
6 - Red Bull or Starbucks?
Cole: Depends on what time of day. If it’s an early morning, than definitely a Java Chip from Starbucks. If it’s a late night in the studio, then a Red Bull.
Jon: Red Bull! I don’t drink coffee, plus, Red Bull gives you wings!
After nearly a decade of success as a band, Hawk Nelson has entered a new era: new lead singer, new label, new mission, new music. But as Jonathan Steingard assures us, you can expect the same up-tempo you’ve always gotten from the band… with a slightly deeper meaning.
Family Christian: Ok Jon, before we get into the really tough “Barbara Walters style” questions, I sent out a message online and a mutual friend of ours responded by asking the question “do you have any pet chickens?” Does that ring a bell?
Jonathan Steingard: The only thing I think that would be referencing is that our manager, Ryan, has six chickens and we did a photo shoot recently where we actually were holding some of the chickens. It was pretty random. (laughs) So no, I don’t have any pet chickens but Ryan does.
FC: Alright. Ok, second question is from Twitter today… “When will Hawk Mart re-open”?
Jonathan: Oh, that’s a good question. So Hawk Mart is how we branded our online store. We’ve been going through a bunch of changes as a band the last year or so, and I think somewhere during that time we took it down. It may go up as a re-branded thing at some point. I think the biggest trick with that is finding someone to run it. Not a very interesting answer, I know… (laughs) so, I don’t know exactly when that will be back up, but hopefully sometime in the new year.
FC: Ok, now on to the ‘fun’ questions. Did you join the band right when they signed with Tooth and Nail Records, or did you join a couple of years after they were running?
Jonathan: I joined just after they signed. They recorded [the first] record with Aaron Sprinkle in Seattle in 2004 and then I joined mid-2004, so I joined right around the time that record was coming out. So I wasn’t on the record, but I toured for it and I was involved with every record after that.
FC: As a band they were doing some stuff before they signed, so they’ve been together about 10 years, which is pretty remarkable.
Jonathan: Yeah! Definitely, and that’s one of the things we’ve talked about recently. We feel pretty blessed to have had that much time. It’s not lost on us that a lot of bands don’t get to be around for that period of time. So that’s kind of special to begin with and then now we feel like we have a new lease on life in this new season…
FC: I was reading something in your bio that Daniel Biro, your bassist said “This time around we’re going through all this emotional and physical change and God breathed some new songs that channeled all those feelings and doubts and emotions into the lyrics.” So Jason Dunn, the former lead singer, is on his own now. Two-part question… Why did he leave? And what changes can we expect from Hawk Nelson?
Jonathan: I’ll try not to give you the super long answer. Basically when you start a band that young (right out of high school), there’s not necessarily a plan in place, ya know? You’re making music, having fun and it’s a great adventure. And all of that stuff is true and good. But as things progressed and we were getting older, I think we started to feel like we were growing apart. It definitely felt like Dan and Justin (who drums for us now, he joined us in 2007), the 3 of us were on the same page and we always found ourselves kind of on a different page than Jay [Jason] a lot of times musically, business-wise, spiritually sometimes, just not always seeing things the same way. But a band is like a marriage and so we were always trying to find as much common ground as we could. I think, about a year and a half ago it kinda became apparent that it just wasn’t going to work anymore. He knew it and we all knew it, but we didn’t know what to do with that, so we’re like, “what does that mean, what do we do with it?” So Jason I think decided to take the initiative – because he really wasn’t very happy – I think he wasn’t really where he wanted to be, and so he took the initiative and told us he was going to move on and do his own solo thing. I think he just wanted something that was his, where he could have the freedom to have it be whatever he wanted it to be.
FC: Was it hard for you guys to accept?
Jonathan: Oh, it was really difficult! I mean, we had been together for almost a decade. On so many levels it was all we knew. So now it was just this big unknown, like well, “what now?” For the most part if you’ve been in a band for a decade and your singer leaves, you’re done. I mean, there can be life for a band beyond that, but it’s very difficult. So we were processing all of that stuff. We had a little time off last Christmas to process this and figure out, “do we still want to be a band, or do we move on to other things?” We really felt like the answer to that question when we prayed about it was that we still really wanted to be a band and the idea of moving forward without some of that tension internally – to all be on the same page – was really exciting. Like what’s possible if we all actually want the same thing? So once we decided to move on as a band, that just meant finding a singer. We were talking to three different guys, and I think any one of those guys would have done a good job and I think it would have been great, but it just didn’t feel like it was ‘it.’
Jonathan: (laughs) Yeah, he would have been a good one.
FC: Kidding, of course.
Jonathan: So yeah, we were just kind of in this weird spot where we really felt like this was what God wanted us to do, and we just didn’t know who it was going to be with. We were so caught up in the notion that we had to bring someone in that it didn’t occur to us that maybe we didn’t, until we were on tour with MercyMe, Tenth Avenue North, Lecrae and a few others on Rock and Worship Road Show this spring.
So Bart Millard [lead singer of MercyMe] had gotten a hold of a record I had done on my own 5 or 6 years ago. I had put out the record mostly because I started producing and I needed something to work on. I had really no aspirations to be a full-time artist on my own, I love being in a band. So he was playing it in his dressing room and he hauled me in there and he’s like “Why are you not the singer?” And I was like, “I just don’t think that’s my role, I’m more of a support role” and he was like “Dude, you don’t need to bring in a singer, you’re the guy.” I argued with him for awhile and eventually he kinda persuaded me to consider it. So I started talking to the guys about it and all the guys were like, “this is brilliant.” It was this idea of starting a band with guys you’re already in a band with. Because we’d already talked about how much unity we felt between the three of us and that idea that we didn’t have to bring another unknown into that was amazing. So we started doing rehearsals as a three piece kinda secretly backstage while on tour still. We’d find little dressing rooms that weren’t being used and we’d set up a little tiny recording rig and just go through songs as a three piece… and it didn’t feel weird! It felt totally natural, which was just bizarre to us. So that’s how we got to this lineup. And then we started writing for this record. I think everything that had been pent up just came out. A bunch of the songs are just really fun pop songs, there are a few rock songs on the record, but there are also a few really aching, heartfelt God-what-are-You-doing type songs. I actually wrote a song with Mike Donehey from Tenth Avenue North called “Through The Fire” that will be on the record. It’s one of those songs that basically says “God I know that You’re there and I know you love me, but I don’t see that right this second, and I want to.”
FC: So you touched on the songwriting process for this new record. How is that different than the previous process with Jason involved?
Jonathan: Well, in the old Hawk, Jay was the main songwriter and so much of the personality of the band came from his personality, sort of goofy and quirky. Those who know him know he sometimes has a hard time being serious and that’s part of his charm. That sort of quirky thing he’s really great at. So a lot times when we sat down to write a record, the rest of us would kind of search for ways to go beyond that, and that was one of the things that was difficult. On this record there was so much going on in our lives. Sometimes I really feel like (for people that write) God uses those times to really do things that are redeeming. So when Jay left the band I moved into the role of the singer and the main songwriter. I’ve written a ton for this record. I actually did a count the other night and I’ve written fifty songs for this record. (laughs) Part of that was [because] for the first 20 or 30 songs we didn’t know what we were! We are rediscovering who we are as a band. Ya know, we’ve always been a really fun band and we still really love that. This record has tons of songs that are just a blast. But we were also sort of going through this really difficult time and God was shifting things in our lives and in our hearts that were heavy. I know that we’re not alone in that feeling. I don’t know why but I feel like the last 3 or 4 years with the recession… there’s been something about 2012. I have so many friends who are just going through massive life changes this year and I don’t know what God’s up to, but I feel like we can all identify with that. Times when the tables just turn in our lives and we go through stuff that we never saw coming. In those moments it’s like, God what are you doing!? But then you look back and go, wow God, You really had a plan and I just didn’t see it. So I think all of those feelings are pretty injected into this record for sure.
FC: So, would you say you guys are growing up?
Jonathan: I think we’ve been in the process of growing up for the last few years and this is a big part of it. I think this is a period of accelerated growth – we’re relearning some things, we’re learning things that we didn’t know before. Justin’s wife just had their first baby in May, the first Hawk Nelson baby, so that’s a new phase of life for us. Justin’s a dad and Dan and I are honorary uncles.
FC: So, would you say that Hawk is still a youth group band?
Jonathan: Definitely. We’ve been playing under the new line-up for about 20 or so shows, we’ve been mostly writing and recording this record, but we’ve been playing a few shows this year. Ya know, we’re still the band youth groups will book when they want to have fun night where they can let loose. Or if we’re playing conferences or festivals. We still are that band. The way I kinda look at it is the DNA of the band is still the same. [But] when the record comes out and people hear it, it definitely sounds different. Ya know, my voice is different than Jay’s and I think that a lot of the substance is a bit more grown up but I still think it’s something our audience will connect with. There are moments that are really fun that you can crank in your car and then there are moments that will hopefully connect in a way that we haven’t before.
FC: So, not only are you going through a lot of transition as a band, you’re also on a new label. How has the transition from Tooth and Nail to Fair Trade Services been for you guys? They’re local to where guys live as opposed to in Seattle where Tooth and Nail are located. Do you find yourselves interacting with them more?
Jonathan: Definitely. It wasn’t a bad parting of ways with Tooth and Nail at all. We had a five record deal and we fulfilled that record on our last album. It was honestly just when Jay decided to leave and we decided to move forward with the sort of newversion of Hawk Nelson, it was just a natural turning point to have a clean slate in a few different areas – and one of those was the label area. We always had a great relationship with Tooth and Nail, but we had sort of been getting to know some of the people at Fair Trade casually over the last little while and we really just love the way they operate. They’re all about people; they’re relational, thoughtful and very purposeful. They’re a small company, independent – just really smart and purposeful about what they do. They really believe in the power of music to influence lives for the better. It just has been a really productive relationship. I would say they are more involved in the process than we’ve experienced with a label before, but because of who they are I really enjoy that involvement honestly. The A&R guy, James, he and I are talking probably every other day or so. We’re just in constant communication about how the record’s progressing. I can’t say enough good things about them honestly.
FC: So besides the new record being available on April 2nd, what else are you guys most excited about this year?
Jonathan: We are just really excited [in general]. It feels kind of bizarre because we’re technically on our 6th album, but it feels like our first in a lot of ways. We kinda have that honeymoon phase thing going on right now. The three of us have always enjoyed hanging out – we’re not one of those bands that don’t like each other. We love hanging out – we’re best friends. We really genuinely are. We’re going to do a tour in the spring. We’re taking Hyland and The Wrecking so we’re excited about that, but honestly, I think we’re just really excited to get this music in people’s hands. We’ve been crafting it for almost a year now. There’s so much going on behind the scenes that we can’t wait to get out there. The record is called Made and that comes from the title track. It’s basically this idea that when something is fashioned intentionally instead of just sort of happening and everything about it is on purpose – it comes back to the way that God made us. If something is created with purpose, the only appropriate response to that is to live with that same amount of purpose. On a personal level that is true, and then also as a band, it’s really what we feel right now. More than ever we are really enjoying having a purpose behind what we do and I think the record will show that. We’re also reaching out to a few people that we haven’t worked with before to maybe do some cool things we haven’t done before. It’s not official yet (I don’t think), but we have been talking with Food for the Hungry about getting involved with them to help build infrastructure in a specific community, probably in Central America. The cool thing is that they work through a child sponsorship model, but that money doesn’t go directly to that child, it goes to the community [they live in], and Food for the Hungry has a 10-year plan to build up infrastructure so that the community is completely self-sustaining by the time they leave. It’s a pretty cool process and the idea that we could partner with them to help one specific community and maybe over the course of a year see the funding go from start to finish is pretty cool.
Also, I told you the story of Bart encouraging me to step up and be the singer, so we asked him to sing on our first single. It’s called “Words” and we’re really excited about it. It was kind of a function of us wanting him to be a part of it because he was such a big part of really encouraging us to move in this direction and he’s been a huge part of our lives this year. It’s really a special thing for us.
FC: That’s great. We’ve heard the track and it’s awesome. So knowing your audience, when you’re up on stage, what are you hoping they see? What’s your goal as a band?
Jonathan: Mmm, that’s a good question. I feel like on any given night it might change in small ways but more than anything, man, I just want people to know that they are loved and that right where they are God has a plan for their lives. That even if it doesn’t look like it right this second, God is always working behind the scenes. And that they could just take a step forward in life joyfully and confidently knowing that God goes before and behind them. That purpose might look a little different each night, some nights the show is just an absolute party and those nights I wonder if maybe God uses those times to just give people a night to let loose and remember that life is full of joy. And other nights… There was a show recently where we did an encore acoustic song and we’re not a band that normally does worship music – we love to partner with other events that have that element in them, but it’s not usually what we do – but on this particular night, for whatever reason, I just felt super prompted that we were supposed to have a moment of worship and so we did that… and it was awesome. It was unplanned and we just sang through a couple of songs and it was a special moment for me, maybe because it was unplanned. We all grew up in youth group and I see a massive amount of value there, it’s such a crucial point in the lives of people that grow up in the church. There’s so much to figure out because not everyone’s church experiences are all that awesome, sometimes they’re scarring, so I love getting to know youth pastors and coming into churches and serving them in a unique way where we’re hopefully able to bring something new to what they do. I really think that youth groups are an area we feel pretty passionate about. We’ve always kinda connected with a younger audience and we haven’t always been good at growing with that audience. We’ve always sort of been that fun band that does that punk rock song or whatever, and while we still are that band, we are keen to really grow with our audience. A lot of songs on this record will connect on that level hopefully.
FC: So what do you guys do to get ready for a show?
Jonathan: (laughs) Well I’ve started warming up vocally which I didn’t used to do because now I’m the singer and I’m terrified of getting sick. When it didn’t used to be a big deal I was the guy that if I had the flu, would just put a bucket on the side of the stage and rock it… but now it matters. (laughs) So I have a few vocal exercises that I do. Justin does some rudimental exercises on a drum pad and Dan mostly just hangs out with people. (laughs) We do have a coffee road case and we told our road manager that it’s the most important road case in the whole lot, so he knows to keep it around so we can make coffee whenever we need to.
FC: Have you turned into a coffee snob?
Jonathan: I’m not a snob necessarily; I still do Starbucks and some of my friends who are coffee snobs feel more like that’s a corporate offense. Mostly it will be right before the show that we’ll connect with the youth pastor of the church we’re at or the promoter who may have brought us in. That’s a lot of times where the more personal connections and meeting people will be, right before the show.
FC: Well Jonathan, thank you so much for talking with us today. We’re just thrilled for you guys and know that good things are ahead. We hope you guys have a great
Dekalb High School Choir from Waterloo, IL performs Hawk Nelson's "The Show"
Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance
Jesus, Friend Of Sinners
Track from: Come To The Well
[Beach Street/Reunion Records]
Take Me To The King
[Tillymann Music Group]
Go Get It
10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)
Track from: 10,000 Reasons
Track from: I Win
[Verity Gospel Music Group]
Best Gospel Song
Go Get It
Erica Campbell, Tina Campbell & Warryn Campbell, songwriters (Mary Mary)
[Columbia; Publishers: EMI April Music, It's Tea Tyme, That's Plum Song, Wet Ink Red Music]
Cheryl Fortune, James Fortune & Terence Vaughn, songwriters (James Fortune &
FIYA, Monica & Fred Hammond)
Track from: Identity
[Light Records/eOne Music]
I Feel Good
Phillip Feaster, Fred Hammond, Jonathan Miller & Calvin Rodgers, songwriters
Track from: God, Love & Romance
[Verity Gospel Music Group; Publishers: fHammond Music/Bridge Bldg Music/CJMS Music/Music Feast Productions/Jonathan Miller Publishing]
Aaron Lindsey & Marvin Sapp, songwriters (Marvin Sapp)
Track from: I Win
[Verity Gospel Music Group; Publishers: Universal Music-Brentwood Benson Songs/Marvin L. Sapp Music/Ardent Media]
Donald Lawrence, songwriter (Bill Winston & Living Word Featuring Donald
[Source Media; Publisher: Quiet Water Ent.]
Best Contemporary Christian Music Song
Jesus, Friend Of Sinners
Mark Hall & Matthew West, songwriters (Casting Crowns)
Track from: Come To The Well
[Beach Street/Reunion Records]
10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)
Jonas Myrin & Matt Redman, songwriters (Matt Redman)
Track from: 10,000 Reasons
[sixstepsrecords/Sparrow Records; Publishers: Thankyou Music/sixsteps Music/worshiptogether.com Songs/Said And Done Music/Shout! Publishing]
When Mercy Found Me
Jeff Pardo & Rhett Walker, songwriters (Rhett Walker Band)
Track from: Come To The River
[Essential Records; Publishers: Sony ATV Music, Ships In A Bottle/Simple Tense Songs]
Jason Ingram, Matt Maher, Matt Redman & Chris Tomlin, songwriters (Passion &
Track from: White Flag
[sixstepsrecords/Sparrow Records; Publishers: sixsteps Music/worshiptogether.com Songs/Vamos Publishing/Said And Done Music/Valley of the Songs Music/Sony ATV Timber Publishing/West Main Music/Windsor Hill Music/Thankyou Music]
Your Presence Is Heaven
Israel Houghton & Micah Massey, songwriters (Israel & New Breed)
Track from: Jesus At The Center Live
[Integrity Music; Publishers: Integrity's Praise! Music/Sound of the New Breed, Regenerate Music]