Chart-topping Newsboys spread the word at Fraze

By Rusty Pate

Newsboys have

been helping to define the contemporary Christian genre of music for nearly three decades.

Consisting of Jody Davis on guitar, Jeff Frankenstein on keyboards and bass, Duncan Phillips on drums and former DC Talk singer Michael Tait on vocals, their last 14 albums have hit the top five on Billboard’s Christian chart, with five certified gold and seven No. 1 hits.

Dayton City Paper recently caught up with Phillips to talk about the band’s new album Love Riot, the deep connection contemporary Christian acts have with their audience and their cameo in the major motion picture “God’s Not Dead 2.”

Tell me about the recording of Love Riot. You brought in some heavy hitters on the production side.

Duncan Phillips: I think with every record, you’re really re-applying for your job. I don’t think you can rely on your last record for the success of your next song or record. We’ve had a lot of success with everyone we know in Nashville, but we really wanted to break that mold and work with someone that we hadn’t before. We headed to the West Coast and worked extensively with Mark Needham. He’s worked with guys like Imagine Dragons and The Killers over the years. He’s a really good pop guy—really, at our core, we’re a pop band. We wanted to get that radio pop sound. I think sometimes when you do go with people you’re not necessarily comfortable with, they can end up pulling stuff out of you. We’ve got all our producer buds in Nashville, but when you don’t have that relationship and someone says ‘That’s not what I’m hearing, let’s try this. Let’s try it a different way.’ Even though it’s a little bit more painful, I think at the end of the day, that producer will end up pulling something out of you that may not have happened. It was one of those moments where we really felt out of our element, but we knew we had to do it to grow as a band.

Are there any tracks on the album that are hidden gems for you? 

DP: One of the hidden gems is “Earthquake,” which is track number nine. It could go on pop radio tomorrow and that’s probably one of my favorites on the record. Unfortunately, kids don’t still play records, and I kind of still wish they did, because a lot of times it will be track number nine that ends up being your favorite song on the record. I just don’t think kids have that connection with bands and artists anymore. They love to hear the pop single, but the connection from it, because they’re listening to it on Pandora or some streaming service, they don’t have that sense of ownership like we did. We would buy the record and pour over all the photos and lyrics. The music experience ends up being a lot deeper than if you just listen to the radio singles all the time.

There’s an investment, in not only money, but time. Sometimes, it takes an album a couple times through to really sink in. 

DP: Of course it does. You might listen to an album the first time through and think ‘Oh, it’s OK.’ But then you put it on again and again and you end up finding these gems. It would end up being your summer jam and the memories associated with those albums went deep. I remember when I heard Radiohead’s The Bends, I listened to it over and over and over. I think it was a cassette tape. You wore the tape out and you had to go buy the CD.

Any live music can be exhilarating, but for a contemporary Christian act, I imagine it runs a little bit deeper. You’re not only connecting with the audience on a musical level, but you’re making spiritual connections as well. What is it like to be a part of that experience from the point of view of the stage? 

DP: There’s absolutely another level. I think that’s one of the reasons why the connection runs so deep in our genre. People are very loyal to Newsboys and other CCM bands. It’s not just about the band. People get to have church at a pop show. I love it because I get to have church every night. The fans love it because it’s catering to a spirituality that’s about more than the show.

What’s it like being a movie star? 

DP: I think every musician wants to be a movie star and every movie star wants to be a musician. The fact that we got to do these little cameos in the movie was really exciting. We still can’t act. It’s funny, you’re playing music for 20 years, but then all of a sudden, you get a cameo in a couple of movies and then we’re known as ‘those guys out of those movies.’ Any given year, you might get to play in front of 500,000 people, maybe. But those movies, you get to play in front of millions and millions of people—not only in the movie theaters, but on DVD and …over and over again.

Newsboys will play with special guests Audio Adrenaline on Friday, June 10 at 7:30 p.m. at Fraze Pavilion, 695 Lincoln Park Blvd. in Kettering. Tickets range from $25-$45 and increase by $5 day of show. To buy tickets or for more information, please visit fraze.com/newsboys or newsboys.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Rusty Pate at RustyPate@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Rusty Pate at RustyPate@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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