In 1985, an Australian pop band was born that sought to bring the gospel to music lovers in a way unseen ever before. Twenty-nine years later, Newsboys is still one of the biggest groups in Christian music history. With six gold albums, a new lead singer, a mega movie in the works and headlining a tour, Newsboys continues to rock on. Drummer Duncan Philips sat down with Examiner to discuss what they've got up their sleeves.
KF: You joined Newsboys in 1993, eight years after they started. How did you become their drummer?
DP: I actually grew up with the boys. We used to surf and hang out. I just happened to be in Nashville when the original drummer left, so they called me up. I had to audition and they really made me sweat, but I got the gig. After three or four days of practice, my first show was in front of 60,000 people.
KF: What was the transition like from Australia to coming over to the States?
DP: At the time, Crocodile Hunter was really popular, so we were able to capitalize on that to a certain extent. We didn't have cell phones and stuff like that back then. We just did as many interviews and shows as we could. We were so young and hungry. We just went to work and the rest is history.
KF: The band has had a total of sixteen members between the time it started and today. The latest line-up change came when Peter Furler stepped down and was replaced by former DC Talk member Michael Tait. How has that worked out for Newsboys?
DP: It was kind of wonderful and scary all at the same time. When you lose the lead singer, the focal point of the band, it messes with people. The great thing with Michael is that he came from a similar musical history, he's our age, and he's a world class vocalist. More than that, he can hang. He's a great mate. It's like a marriage. You can have two beautiful people, but if they don't love each other it ain't gonna work. With Michael, you can't fake the chemistry and we definitely have that.
KF: Do you still keep in touch with past band mates?
DP: We've been so busy these past five years with rebranding that when I get home, I just want to spend time with my family and kids. It's kind of like, do you call your ex-wife when you get remarried? But, we got to see Peter last summer. It kind of sucks that we don't get to talk regularly, but when you get in studio mode and family mode, that's just how it is.
KF: Some would define Newsboys as contemporary pop? Others say rock or praise and worship. How does Newboys define the genre of music you do?
DP: I see us as a pop band. I grew up loving the music of the 80s. I love Selena Gomez and Katy Perry. I see us as a pop band that has explored worship and rock, but at our core and on all eight cylinders, we're a pop band.
KF: Your latest album, "Restart," is number one on Christian music charts. What made that song the title track?
DP: The first record we did with Michael was "Born Again," which kind of reflected our band's rebranding. "God's Not Dead" was a celebration. "Restart" is one of the records that is most pop driven and really is where we are right now symbolically as a group.
KF: That said, why "Live with Abandon" as the first single?
DP: It was the first song we finished! Truth be told, people think a lot of times that choosing a single is way more calculated than that, but we just had to get a song out to the fans and radio stations, so there it was.
KF: Earlier, you mentioned a fan favorite, "God's Not Dead." So, that's going to be a movie?
DP: It's crazy right? A few years ago, the people from PURE FLIX came to us about writing a movie around the song. We have a few cameos and a performance in it. Disney's Shane Harper plays a college student whose faith is challenged by his professor, played by Kevin Sorbo from Hercules. Dean Cain from Superman is in it, too. so we got to hang out with a bunch of superheroes. The movie raises a lot of questions and a lot of eyebrows from a culture that questions if there is a God.
KF: You're doing Winter Jam again this year!
DP: Ten bands for ten bucks! This our fifth time jam doing Winter Jam. It'll be the highest attending tour in the world this first quarter of the year. I'm stoked! The great thing about Winter Jam is that it's fun for everyone and it's extremely affordable. Bring your whole family!
KF: How will your set be different this time?
DP: As far as production goes, it's the most pop driven production we've done. It's gonna be a big, MTV Awards Show looking set. We've got people flying around and my drums go up in the air, spin around... I don't want to give away too much!
KF: Kansas City is known as the mecca Christian rap, so we can be a pretty tough crowd when it comes to good music. You think you can impress when Winter Jam comes to KC on January 31?
DP: Girl, watch out! Newsboys is coming to town! We'll have Kansas City eating out of the palm of our hands!
KF: What can fans expect in the years to come?
DP: Oh, man, it's gonna be big, bad, loud and beautiful. Looking at where we are today, only God can do that. I couldn't be happier. I mean, really, all glory to God. There is a creator out there that can really make it happen.
For more information on Winter Jam, visit www.jamtour.com.
For more information on Newsboys, visit www.newsboys.com.