Continuing their reign as one of Christian music’s most popular and compelling groups, Newsboys returns with the album Restart, featuring the single “Live With Abandon.” With former dcTalk member Michael Tait on vocals, Newsboys makes a unique connection with every listener.
Check out their new video for their new single, “Live With Abandon” here:
What do you think?
After five years away, Audio Adrenaline is back with a renewed mission and a new line-up. Kevin Max of dcTalk takes the mic and founding member Will McGinniss is on bass, while Dave Ghazarian of Superchick, Jared Byers of Bleach and singer-songwriter Jason Walker round out the band. Former front man and co-founder Mark Stuart contributed to many of the songs for the new album, titled Kings & Queens.
This talented group of like-minded musicians shares a common goal: to be the voice for orphans in Haiti and around the world. To that end, the lead single, “Kings & Queens,” is an orphan anthem that celebrates the transformation God can bring about.
Watch the behind the scenes for their new video, Believer
Watch their new video, Believer
Check out the interview that we did with Kevin, Will and Mark by clicking here.
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.
A Message From Mark Stuart
Amidst the speculation and rumors that have been circulating for weeks, Audio Adrenaline officially announce their return. With the same heart, passion and infectious musical prowess they developed as a band in the 1990’s, multi-GRAMMY® award-winning Audio Adrenaline is indeed back and putting together a new lineup of like-minded musicians with the same common goal; to be the voice for orphans in Haiti and around the world. The Know Hope Foundation, supporters of Audio Adrenaline and Hands & Feet Project, as well as record label Fair Trade Services, have joined them in this renewed mission to fund and market a new record from which net proceeds will go to Hands & Feet Project to continue growth and support of the nearly eight-year-old charity.
Five years ago, the band gathered in Hawaii along with their biggest fans for what they thought was their last performance. Since that emotional finale concert, founding members Mark Stuart and Will McGinniss have tirelessly worked to raise awareness and support for the 100 orphans currently being cared for in Jacmel and Grand Goave, Haiti. Now, with additional new band members and a larger mission goal, there is no question the world is ready for the “new” Audio Adrenaline.
Stuart and McGinniss are still very much a part of the re-formed band. McGinniss continues his role as the band’s bassist while Stuart, although stepping down as lead vocalist due to his spasmodic dysphonia, causing involuntary muscle spasms of the larynx, is very much a part of band decisions and writing on many of the songs for the new album. Taking over lead vocals is former dcTalk member and industry mainstay Kevin Max, while CCM vets Dave Ghazarian (Superchick) is on guitar, Jared Byers (Bleach) is the band’s drummer, and singer-songwriter Jason Walker plays keys.
“I’ve never been more excited about an Audio A record,” shares Stuart. “We’ve collectively poured into each song for months, and I love every track. Being able to help write and direct the process of putting the band back together has been an absolute joy. I can’t wait to see our fans sing along with Kevin on the AA classics and fall in love with the new songs.”
As just released in Billboard, the brand new album is slated to release March 2013. The first single, “Kings And Queens,” will hit Christian radio in November. “It’s just an incredible song about this idea of when we love the least of these, God wraps these little orphans in his majesty and they can become kings and queens,” Stuart says of the song. “It gives you that idea that these are God’s favorites, these little kids that have been forgotten. There’s going to be a special place in heaven one day because of what they’ve been through here. It’s just a triumphant, majestic song that just connects so deeply with Hands & Feet and the message of Audio A right now.”
When the decision was made to re-launch the group, there was a lot of thought to who would be the right selection to carry on the mantle of lead vocalist for Audio Adrenaline. When conversations were had with the band’s new manager, Wes Campbell of First Company Management, the idea was raised to talk to Kevin Max, a long-time friend of the band. Most of all, Max understands the passion for orphan care and Hands & Feet because he, just like many of the children at Hands & Feet Project, had been orphaned as a small child.
McGinniss shares, “We have joined together under the new banner of Audio Adrenaline, yet the common thread that brings all of us together is for a much greater reason. We are beyond excited to finally share why we are putting the band back together.”
Fair Trade Services, the new label home for Audio Adrenaline, could not be more excited in their unique partnership with Know Hope Foundation and the Hands & Feet Project, and name the band as part of their stellar roster. Shares Jeff Moseley, Fair Trade Services President, “We would like to see the orphans in Haiti taken care of and given a chance to succeed in life. As believers and leaders, we must do good while we are doing well. This is our mandate as followers of Christ and this is our mandate as humans.”
Prologue #1 – The Ballad of Mark Stuart
His Christian music career may span more than twenty years, but tobyMac is as relevant as ever. While his music’s packed with uncompromising truth, cut-to-the-quick beats and unforgettable musical hooks, our recent chat quickly revealed he doesn’t even flinch at making himself vulnerable about his own faith-journey. From our discussion and what we’re hearing about his upcoming record, Eye On It, we can’t help suspecting that just maybe his best days lie ahead.
toby: I’ve always really loved Isaiah 43:19 which basically says God is doing a new thing in the land, it springs forth, do you perceive it? I love a lot of things about that but [especially] the thought that God can do something new. If you’re a parent, or a husband or a songwriter or all of the above, in all those things God can do something new or something beautiful. You just have to be ready to perceive it – to be looking for it.
FC: Such a good reminder. The second question is – if you were not doing music, what would you be doing?
toby: (laughs) I have no idea. I’ve thought about that a few times… I used to think I had some administrative-type skills back in the day when I used to organize for DC Talk. But nowadays… the longer you’re an artist the more those responsibilities are sort of taken out of your hands. (laughs) I think I would be working with youth culture some way. I don’t know if I’d be a youth leader or a writer or a speaker or something, but I definitely think [it would be] where the Gospel and the Kingdom meet youth culture – that’s how I think.
FC: Speaking of DC Talk, it seems like you, Kevin and Michael have periodically thrown out various bits of info about getting back together. Do you think that’s really going to happen?
toby: The truth is I don’t think there’s any reason that we wouldn’t do something sooner or later. I mean [here’s] the main thing – is there any barrier that would cause you to not be open to it? I can honestly say – from all three of us, no. Nothing negative. The only thing that would be a barrier are positive things like Tait’s success with the newsboys, or me doing my solo record or whatever Kevin’s got brewing up, whether it’s his book, whatever it may be. I will say that when it happens, I think it will be because it is right for all three of us. Not because it’s right for one or two of us, and I wouldn’t want to do it at a time other than that. I wouldn’t want to feel like I’m forcing somebody into it. I mean, is that going to happen? I don’t know. I can’t predict it, but I know I’m not opposed to it when the timing’s right.
FC: Since you’ve gone solo, are there certain elements of being in the band that you miss? Like having collaboration versus being on your own?
toby: Well I think I’m always a part of collaborative efforts, it’s just the way I’m wired. It’s probably is part of my neediness as an artist, as a songwriter, as a showman, as a guy that shares the Gospel through music. I’ll admit in those things, I’m a needy man. Obviously not only for God to breathe through me – desperately needy there – but also I’m very needy when it comes to the people around me. I do songs with Chris Stevens and David Garcia or David Wyatt or Jamie Moore and we are literally in the trenches just pushing or pushing each other. I’m not a one-man show, I’m not a mastermind. I mean, I might have vision for something, but I need people that are great at what they do. I am a needy man – whether it’s [working with] co-producers or the way DiverseCity (my band) puts together our shows, whether it’s the way Amanda and I raise our kids. I’m not the kind of guy to say “I’ve got this, gimme the ball.” I’m a team player so I’ve always been collaborative from DC Talk to today. I think my band and I – as far as climbing a mountain together [goes] – as much as an artist can include a band in that, I do. It still is a tobyMac CD, but I know my band feels very much a part of what we do and we all win if it succeeds. Something that I’ll never live through again and I hold very dear is three guys packing up a U-haul, moving from their dorm to Nashville, sharing an apartment together and trying to make a ‘go’ of something. I mean, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to go, working in the crew all day to get to do one or two songs [that night]. I mean, there’s something about that that brings people together. That joint vision, that making $10,000 the first year we moved to Nashville, ya know, there’s something about that; you can never re-trace it. Even when I started doing solo I remember I was playing in the afternoons, barely able to rent a bus and there was a rebuilding process but there’s nothing like the hunger and desire to share your music with the world for the first time. There’s nothing to compare to that.
FC: We don’t want to spend a ton more time talking about DC Talk because that was part of your past, so we’ll close that portion with this… There was something SO unique about how with each record your popularity swelled. What do you think was it about the group that made it so special?
toby: First of all I would say, we can’t leave God out of the equation – God IS the equation. I think when God chooses to shoot something through and it connects with peoples’ lives, it’s bigger than we are. If any of us took credit for masterminding that thing it would be a mistake. Just like I know when I wrote City on our Knees I know God breathed that song through me. There’s no doubt about it, I believe that with all my heart. I think that we have to realize that it’s bigger than us if God chooses to do that. We can make our best plans and work really hard and be as passionate as we can be – but at the end of the day the thing that connects with peoples’ lives is beyond our humanness. Especially if it changes their path spiritually – it’s beyond what I could write, or conjure up. I’m ready to acknowledge, to recognize that. I think that [our] different personalities played a role in that [too]. I [also] think there was enough depth when it came to the vocal-thing. It was interesting vocally because it was complex. It was not just a one guy standing in front of a band singing or another guy rapping. It was complex because you’ve got this African American guy that sings soulfully for sure, but he’s also really a rock singer and then there’s this other guy – he’s a rock singer too but he can sing R & B like nobody’s business when he wants to. And then you have this other guy that came up rapping and writing songs… when you combine those things! [Also] at that time it was either a rap song or a singing song. There were very few things that ever did what hip hop does today – and that’s have a vocal hook but a rap verse. It just didn’t happen much back then. There was one group that really did it and it was my favorite group, called Houdini. There were kind of these chant-y sung choruses with rap verses and I always loved that. I thought, people love to sing a melody– why wouldn’t you put that together with rap? Then you have something. So I mean, there was that aspect of it too. I could talk about this stuff all day, but really it was God. I think the three of us having different styles and different tastes appealed to different people. It was literally like having three front men. I think the complexity of it made it interesting, I guess.
FC: Through all of your music, it’s easy to start picking out some overarching themes. Transitioning to your new record, Eye On It, what is the overarching message that you hope to come across with?
toby: I think there’s a kind of decisiveness about this record that I like. I do think that the themes of my life and the way I write are not going to venture too far because they’re foundational to my life. But what a record is to me is, you take those foundational themes and you rub them up against the world, what the world is doing to you. Whether I’m 26, 36 or 46, that world is ruffling me in different ways. I’m being hit in different ways but the foundational themes stay the same. So the perspective of continuing to fall back on what I know to be true in the midst of this world coming at me is what these records end up being. I am singing about my spirituality and my faith in Christ as it relates to this world because that’s what I see, what I walk everyday. As I grow in age I also hopefully grow in wisdom and temperament, so it’s all these things coming at me – I’m also looking at how it’s coming at my 13 year old son Truett. I’m writing in these dynamic ranges, these wide frequencies and I think that I continue to draw back to my foundation. My life, as it relates to my writing has been – I’ll write songs like “Tonight” all the time because I’m always re-deciding that I’m going to walk strong and fall passionately into my pursuit of holiness. But then two months later (or even two days later) I’m in the midst of grabbing things of the world and trying to let them satisfy me, so then I decide again, it starts tonight! (laughs) I know some people might just ride out this spiritual life really well and consistently, but for me I feel like it’s always a struggle. I think it comes out in lyrics. There are other themes [too], but there’s this foundational knowledge that we’re supposed to love people well and love God well as we walk on this earth. [Also about] how loving people encompasses all races and denominations and inviting everybody. Instead of arguing, why can’t we just meet at the cross? It’s all these things that have bugged me to death. I’m not really into debating scripture but I know there’s a need for it. I know we need people out there on the cutting edge of that, but I’ll be my own little part of the Body and continue to try to help us to get it right by loving each other well and loving God with all of our heart.
FC: So you’re not just an artist – you’re the co-owner of Gotee Records, you’re a father, a mentor to hundreds of artists and a youth leader to thousands (if not millions) of people. How does one like yourself (who we suspect views himself as a normal, average follower of Jesus), go through your life in a godly manner in all of those aspects?
toby: I think first of all my life revolves around trust – trusting God and the promises that He offers us. Amanda has this really intimate walk with the Lord that sometimes I’m jealous of. It’s real intimate and I love that about her. Me, it’s almost a little more that I just completely trust God. It might not be as intimate as I wish it was sometimes, but so far (thank God) it’s just been unshakable trust. I guess I’m just aware of how much I need Him and how much I don’t have the skill set that I need to make it in this life without Him or without friends that tell me the truth. They are living examples of people that love God more than I do! When you surround yourself with people who love God more than you, those people inspire you to love Him more, to walk more humbly, to walk more meekly and depend on Him more. Not only am I surrounded by amazing talent, but I’m surrounded by people who love God with all of their heart. They’re so willing and care enough about me to tell me the truth about myself. They’re willing to tell me the things I’m missing about myself that I need to hear, and also encourage me when I need to hear it. I’d say that’s exactly how.
FC: Thanks for the honesty there. Ok, let’s transition to a few “bullet” questions, just one or two word answers.
toby: If I can manage that. (laughs)
FC: Ha! Ok, so what is your favorite cookie and why?
toby: I don’t know what it’s called, but that peanut butter cookie with the Hershey’s Kiss on top; that’s my stuff right there. I have a friend of the family that makes them for us sometimes and she knows I just look forward to that day. (laughs)
FC: Favorite restaurant?
toby: Oh man… In Franklin (TN) we have one called Red Pony. It’s, uh… the chef would probably kill me if I called it an American bistro, but it’s a local restaurant. If you want something that more people could relate to outside of Franklin, believe it or not, Whole Foods is way out there. (laughs) Just go to the food section and dine like we did last night. I also love Asian food.
FC: Have you ever been cow tipping or snipe hunting?
toby: I’ve been snipe hunting. I got absolutely bamboozled on the snipe hunting – I was ALL in. I have been cow tipping, but we couldn’t find any cows.
[For more Four Questions With… blog series, click here]
FC: Are you a book reader?
toby: Yeah, I just finished The Hunger Games series and I’m reading Eugene Peterson’s Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. I love that book. I’m just kicking it a few pages at a time, but it’s rocking my world.
FC: What music are you listening to?
toby: We listen to a lot of reggae at my house. And of course I love to go back… The Police, the things I loved growing up, Hall and Oates. Currently in regular rotation at my house would be anything from modern worship to Mat Kearney. It’s kind of just on. [What’s playing just] depends on who has the wheels of steel in their hands.
FC: Thank you so much for taking time to chat with us today and for being so vulnerable. We really appreciate you.
toby: My pleasure. Thanks so much.
Bonus – Toby talks about his new single, Me Without You
Lyric video for Me Without You
Are you as excited about Eye On It as we are? Prebuy today and get a special premium offer. Keep your eyes peeled for the release August 28th.