About the artist
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Chris Tomlin image courtesy of Tony R. Phipps:Getty Images
|Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)||How Great Is Our God: The Essential Collection|| |
|Whom Shall I Fear [God of Angel Armies]||Burning Lights|| |
|How Great Is Our God||How Great Is Our God: The Essential Collection|| |
|Our God||How Great Is Our God: The Essential Collection|| |
|Jesus Loves Me||Love Ran Red (Deluxe Edition)|| |
|I Will Rise||How Great Is Our God: The Essential Collection|| |
|How Great Is Our God (World Edition)||How Great Is Our God: The Essential Collection|| |
|God's Great Dance Floor||Burning Lights|| |
|Indescribable||How Great Is Our God: The Essential Collection|| |
|I Will Follow||And If Our God Is For Us...|| |
Since its launch in 2003 the band has garnered 14 GMA Dove Awards, three GRAMMY Awards and an American Music Award. In addition, the band has seen three RIAA Platinum Albums (Casting Crowns, Lifesong, Altar and The Door), two RIAA Platinum DVDs (Live From Atlanta and Lifesong Live), two RIAA Gold Albums (Until the Whole World Hears, Peace on Earth) and two Gold DVDs (Altar and The Door Live and Until The Whole World Hears Live). Casting Crowns has sold more than 8.2 million albums to date (according to Nielsen SoundScan) and has been named Billboard magazine’s top-selling Christian act for the past four years.
The band recently celebrated its first RIAA certified Gold single, “Who Am I,” from its 2003 self-titled debut. The song, selling more than 500,000 copies, is one of only 12 Christian tracks ever to secure Gold status.
Casting Crowns has always worked its tour schedule around church responsibilities and has still managed to touch audiences around the world with its live performances. It’s 2009-2011 “Until The Whole World Hears” world tour placed the band in front nearly 1 million fans in more than 175 cities around the world including performances for U. S. troops in Kuwait and Qatar. The band also performed twice in North Korea in partnership with Global Resource Services.
Produced by rock legend Brendan O’Brien, well known for his work with Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Train and the Killers, Miracle finds the band exploring new sonic territory. “To have something new to say and to say it in a different way is really exciting,” says lead vocalist Mac Powell. “It’s reinvigorated us as
Miracle becomes the latest collection in a long, impressive body of work that has earned Third Day four GRAMMYs (11 total nominations) 24 GMA Dove Awards (42 total nominations) one RIAA Platinum album, seven RIAA Gold albums, two RIAA Gold Longform videos and one RIAA Platinum Longform video. Over the years, the Georgia-based band’s music has provided a vibrant soundtrack in the lives of this generation of believers. “Show Me Your Glory,” “I Believe,” “Cry Out to Jesus,” “Mountain of God,” “Call My Name,” “Born Again” and “Trust in Jesus” are just a handful of the Third Day hits that inspired and uplifted audiences around the world.
In preparing to record Third Day’s new album, Powell, bassist Tai Anderson, drummer David Carr and guitarist Mark Lee knew they wanted to try something a little different and O’Brien was at the top of the list of producers they wanted to take with them on the journey.
“They came to me and said, ‘We’re looking to make music that appeals to our fans and our spiritual side, but we want to break out a little bit and invite everyone in,” O’Brien says. “When I hear this music...it’s very inviting. It brings people in. It’s saying, ‘Come along and hear what we have to say.’ It really moves me. I really appreciate the hard work these guys have done. I think the song ‘You Are My Everything’ might be one of the best songs I have ever worked on. I’m super proud of it.”
That is high praise from the man who has produced some of the most iconic rock albums of all time, and it’s testament to the talent and work ethic that have placed Third Day among the most consistent hitmakers in any genre of music. Years of success, however, have not bred complacency and the band entered the studio with a desire to mix things up. “We wanted to make this something different,” says Anderson. “I feel like over the last five years we appreciate our fans and we appreciate the success we’ve had more than ever and that really becomes a driver at the beginning of a new album. We can’t settle. It doesn’t need to be ‘Part 2’ of any record we’ve ever done.”
O’Brien became a willing conspirator in their sonic exploration. “Brendan really became like a fifth member,” says Powell. “He played a little bit of guitar, a little bit of keyboards, a little bit of this and that, but a lot of background vocals and that sound is different than what we’ve done before. Even though we’ve done background vocals, with him doing it in the way he sings and his melodies it brought a freshness to this record. It still sounds like Third Day, but there are elements that are adding these new layers and textures.”
“We wanted [this record] to have a brightness, a grandness to it and Mac can certainly do that,” O’Brien says, “but we wanted to have a little different sound from the lead voice. I’m a huge fan of 70’s music that has great big background vocals.
I thought this music lent itself, so Mac and I did most of that and it was fun.”
The album’s title track, and first radio single, was inspired by a conversation the band had with a couple in New Jersey after a concert. “Their son was in a really depressed place in life. He drove way into the woods and was going to commit suicide,” Powell recounts. “But he turned on the radio and he heard ‘Cry Out To Jesus.’ It literally changed his heart and gave him encouragement to keep going.”
Powell took the essence of that story and penned the song “I Need a Miracle.”
The album is filled with music that rocks both body and soul. “Kicking and Screaming” is among the many standouts. It boasts a catchy melody, passionate lead vocal from Mac and ingratiating background vocals that immediately make the listener want to sing along. “It’s a song that says ‘I’m going to stand my ground and fight for the things that I care about,’” Anderson says of the empowering lyric.
“Hit Me Like a Bomb” is an edgy rocker with snarling guitars and explosive snares, and Powell’s signature from-the-gut vocal style highlight the compelling lyric about transformation. “That song is about your life drastically being changed, just a totally 180 turned around,” Powell says. “In the chorus I say ‘And I saw it coming.’ It’s like you know there’s got to be a change or you’re going to end up in a bad place. You see it coming and you know there’s this anticipation that it’s going to happen. It’s got to happen, but it’s almost like you’re fighting it. Then boom! All of a sudden it happens from out of nowhere.”
The songs on Miracle cover a rich musical and emotional landscape. “You Are My Everything” is a gorgeous mid tempo love song that spotlights the warmth in Powell’s vocals. “Your Love is Like a River” is a stirring worship anthem that is one of the band’s favorite new songs.
Another highlight on the album is Third Day’s beautiful cover of “Morning Has Broken.” A vintage Methodist hymn that was a pop hit in the ‘70s for Cat Stevens, the song gets a stunning new treatment here, anchored in Lee, Anderson and Carr’s skilled musicianship and Powell’s earthy vocals. Scotty Wilbanks, a longtime member of Third Day’s road band, provides the eloquent keyboard intro.
“The Victory” is a bluesy Southern anthem with a potent lyric. “It’s about pressing on and making a commitment,” says Powell who was inspired by a documentary he saw on evangelist Billy Graham. “He and his best friend went to theology school together and his friend is an atheist now because when he started going to school it was like, ‘Okay I’m learning all these other things I never knew before. I grew up in a little town and now I’m learning these other ways of seeing the world. I realized that wasn’t for me. I’m going to expand my mind.’ When Billy Graham saw himself going there, he went to a place that had this big boulder and prayed. He said, ‘This is what I believe and I’m standing on this truth and I’m not going to allow myself to think otherwise!’ That’s a strong faith right there to say, ‘This is what I believe and I’m not changing from it.’”
“That song is about making a commitment,” says guitarist Mark Lee. “It’s about saying you’re going to see it through ‘til the end and I think that’s a big theme on this record.”
The members of Third Day have been given a platform and it’s a responsibility they take seriously. Of course, the band loves to perform and entertain, but most importantly they want to offer hope and encouragement. “If there is any over arching theme on the record, it’s about pressing on and holding onto faith in the midst of doubt,” says David Carr.
Music can spark a miracle. Listen and believe.
After all, how many groups boast a discography with 16 albums and five gold records? And since the arrival of dc talk alum Michael Tait as lead singer, things have only gotten better: 2010’s "Born Again" spawned three No. 1 radio hits, and 2012's "God’s Not Dead" sold more than 300,000 copies. So yes, fans keep choosing the Newsboys—which makes Restart all the more remarkable, because it dares to put so much of that loyalty to the test.
With all the fervor of rookies seeking their first record deal, Tait and his bandmates—Jody Davis (guitars), Duncan Phillips (drums), and Jeff Frankenstein (keyboards)—combed through reams and reams of demos and song ideas. Their goal? To compile a stellar collection of tracks into an album like no other … not just in the band's history, but in Christian music history itself as well.
In fact, you could sum up the song selection process this way: Many tunes were called, and very few were chosen.
"At the start of this record two years ago, we knew we'd be taking great risks," Tait says. "But people will be excited about this album because we've pushed the music and taken it further than we've ever taken it before—we’ve gone through more songs than ever."
The search, in this case, boiled down to what Tait calls "world-class songs." (Remember, this comes from a guy who sang on quite a few worldwide hits in his dc talk days.) "If you have one or two of those, they'll be there when the Newsboys are dead and gone."
No one's tallied all the numbers just yet, but at least 50 compositions were considered for Restart, putting a team of about a dozen producers and seven mix engineers to the test. Songs were recorded, and recorded again; listening sessions at the Sparrow/Capitol CMG offices turned into regular Tuesday afternoon affairs where Tait and his teammates poured over prospective album tracks as the coffee flowed freely. Imagine the musical equivalent of four-star chefs concocting a tantalizing, secret sauce. "I've never been through such a distilling process," says Tait.
While that might sound extreme, you’d be hard pressed to find another record that so successfully embraces tight pop, modern rock, and worship music, and does it all with such focus. Restart sparkles with intensity, passion, and melodic majesty from start to finish. Pop grooves this incessant and immediate don't surface every day, but from the first listen, tracks such as "Disaster,” “That’s How You Change the World" and “Restart” stay with listeners a mighty long time.
Will they kick out the jams live? Oh, yeah. Tait, who’s logged more that 600 live shows as Newsboys front man, won't settle for anything less than songs that rouse the crowd from the word "go" (or "restart," if you prefer). "'Love Like I Mean It' might be the people's favorite," he says. "The crowd, when they get to the chorus, they scream their heads off: ‘LOVE LIKE I MEAN IT!’" He laughs, and continues: "That's a first for us as performers. We've never had a chorus with just five words."
But if these tracks move your body, they'll move your heart even more. Because when you consider it, what would the Newsboys be without their uplifting message—a constant dating to the band's founding in 1985?
The title cut speaks to the group's ambitious reach for stars, and the humble heart that comes with a second chance: "Oh Lord I'm a different man/You gave me a second chance/ I was lost, I was falling apart/You came along, You hit the restart."
The single "Live With Abandon" proves equally poignant, even as it gallops home with percussive keys and drums that stomp their way up the mountaintop: "I wanna live with abandon/ Give You all that I am/ Every part of my heart Jesus/ I place in Your hands."
Tait chooses his words carefully to avoid overstatement when he compares Restart to one of Christian music's greatest records, one that he played a big role in shaping.
"I have not felt this way about anything I've been involved in musically since 'Jesus Freak,'" he declares.
So if you're a longtime Newsboys fan, forget what you know. If you're new to the group, you can't imagine what's in store. Restart isn't just an album: It's a spirited pop manifesto from a band driven to recast itself almost from scratch. They didn't have to do it this way, but in music, as in the walk of faith itself, a road less traveled makes all the difference.
Other paths called, including a few of least resistance. But this is the one, the only one, they could choose.
Or as Michael Tait sums it up: "The pressure was there to make more of the same. It was there from the start. But why not risk something? Why not restart it?"
Matt Maher the songwriter cemented his respected reputation penning songs with Chris Tomlin, Michael W. Smith, Matt Redman, Passion (“Here For You”), Audrey Assad and Jars of Clay.
The heart of Matt Maher the worship leader has shown through clearly over years spent teaching, sharing and praying all over the world, including appearances at the Papal Rally in NYC, World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia, and extensive touring over the past 5 years, with the likes of Michael W. Smith, Leeland, Phil Wickham, Jars of Clay, Third Day, Tenth Avenue North and Mercy Me, bringing him in front of more than three million people.
With the September 20 release of The Love in Between, Matt Maher the artist -- fully defined, fully formed -- steps fully into the foreground.
His third national release on Essential Records shows Maher finding his voice both sonically and lyrically, the rootsy pop aesthetic he introduced on 2010 hit “Hold Us Together” (from 2009’s Alive Again) flowing into a 12-song study of suffering, grace, redemption and hope.
Those ideas coalesce particularly in “Heaven and Earth,” The Love in Between track that inspired the album’s title.
The song contemplates “the distance between us and our humanity and God and his divinity,” Maher says. “There is only one thing that bridges that gap and essentially annihilates it, and that is Jesus. He is the love in between sin and freedom, death and life and hopelessness and hope.”
Maher’s focus grows out of that idea, centering less on distance and more on the bridging of it. The leadoff single “Turn Around,” which debuted at No. 28 on the NAC chart a week ahead of its add date, explores the ways in which Jesus embodied that broad embrace, anchored by the refrain, “If you’re lost and need to be found/ If you’re looking for a savior/ All you gotta do is turn around.”
“If you look back over history, specifically around the time Jesus was physically here in the flesh, humanity has struggled with pride, resulting in a subculture that, while having the best of intentions, ends up marginalizing the people who are most in need of God,” Maher says. “However, Jesus came offering a message of repentance for all who would be willing to receive it. Those on the outside and on the inside of the Church.”
The six-time GMA Dove Award nominee also recognizes that he’s a living example of the value in shedding boundaries, be they perceived or physical. Raised Catholic in Newfoundland, Canada, he was inspired to pen “Woke Up In America,” a personal and patriotic anthem on The Love in Between.
Maher shares, “The song is really about the story of the individual as an allegory for the story of a nation and its struggle to find freedom and identity.”
The Love in Between’s release comes during a time of many big new developments for Maher. The new husband and his wife Kristin welcomed their first son, Conor, in early August; in early September, he’ll launch the first in a series of headlining tours hosted by his newly formed organization Comm+Unity, which will support multiple local, national and international non-profit efforts.
Maher headlines the first jaunt, which kicks off in Texas and runs through to the West Coast (including a Gilbert, Ariz., album release show on September 20), with support from one sonic society (Jason Ingram, Stu G., Paul Mabury) and Integrity artist All Sons & Daughters (David Leonard, Leslie Jordan).
Throughout October, he’ll headline the newly launched, month-long, “Compassion International Presents: The Love In Between Tour,” a partnership with Compassion International and Christian radio featuring Laura Story and Essential Records newcomer Andy Cherry. To close out the year, Maher will join Mercy Me on the “Rock & Worship Road Show” before spending the Christmas and New Years holidays with his family in Arizona.
Not any of this has happened overnight. It’s taken four years of non-stop touring and several more focused on writing and recording, to yield four Top 200 CCLI songs over six years and more than 275,000 in sales of his independent and Essential Records titles to reach the clarity Maher has funneled into The Love in Between.
Mike Snider of Paradigm Talent Agency figures that’s built Maher not just into a marquee name, but one with staying power. He notes, “In addition to his sales and songwriting placements, Matt has stepped to the plate as a hard-ticket-selling, headlining artist, who is going to help shape and re-define touring as we know it.”
Matt Kees, Director of the Christian Musician Summit, concurs. “Matt Maher is a great fit for us at the Christian Musician Summit – he has the ability to reach people on a variety of levels at our conferences and we’re excited to see how he’s made the steady climb into an impactful and enduring artist who people want to see. Not only is Matt a well-trained and accomplished keyboardist and guitarist, he is a top-notch songwriter, and a well respected lead worshiper with years and years of ministry experience. Matt can teach, perform and relate to Christian musicians and fans.”
Maher, always ready to share the music and the Gospel offers, “At the end of the day, I’m just thankful to be in a place where I get to share the music I was inspired to write. It’s been a great road and I’m looking forward to sharing the songs from The Love In Between with friends and fans everywhere.”
History followed in 2005, and West supported the album's release with the first headlining tour of his career. Excessive use of his voice led to severe medical problems, though, forcing West to undergo throat surgery in 2007 to remove multiple polyps. Following a period of vocal rest, he returned in 2008 with Something to Say. The album's lead single, "You Are Everything," became the most-played song on Christian radio in 2008, and West -- now fully healed and singing comfortably -- quickly returned to the studio to record 2010's The Story of Your Life, which also charted well. A holiday album, The Heart of Christmas, arrived in 2011, and was followed by another studio record, Into the Light, in 2012.