If ever there was a band that could be counted on to find the silver lining in nearly every situation, it’s Newsboys. For more than three decades, the veteran Christian outfit has survived personnel changes, shifts in the music industry, and more recently the perils of the pandemic to retain an enthusiastic legion of fans and a strong presence on radio and the charts.
Supporting their new album, Stand, Newsboys are back on the road and reveling in the chance to take their music to the people again. “It kept going on and on and we all were just thinking, ‘It will be over in a couple of months,’ and then it was, ‘Maybe next fall.’ None-the-less we stopped, and the silver lining in the Covid cloud was a time to craft and write,” says lead vocalist Michael Tait, who co-wrote all ten songs on Stand.
“The songs cover everything from how blessed we are even during Covid, how much God loves us even when it’s Covid, how we need not be afraid to walk and live our life even when it’s Covid,” he says. “A lot of the songs came out of being able to sit still and listen and hear God. The songs also came from seeing the affects these times are having on people in general. The political culture we live in is so separated. It’s so sad. Everybody is so mad at each other and angry. And over what? It’s like who cares if you don’t agree with my point? Who cares if somebody slipped up and said something they didn’t apologize for? What about forgiveness? Doesn’t that exist anymore?”
The album’s lead single, “Magnetic,” is currently climbing the charts. It’s just the latest in a long, long string of hits for the veteran band, which was founded in Queensland, Australia in 1985 by Peter Furler and George Perdikis. The band migrated to America in 1997, signed a record deal and embarked on a long and successful career. The current lineup features Tait, a former member of legendary Christian trio dcTalk who took the reins after Furler exited in 2009, along with longtime drummer Duncan Phillips, keyboardist Jeff Frankenstein and guitarist Jody Davis. They are a tight and talented unit with an easy-going camaraderie anchored in a wealth of experience. Over the years, Newsboys have populated Christian radio with such hits as “Entertaining Angels,” “We Believe,” “Born Again” and “God’s Not Dead,” which inspired a successful four-film franchise. Newsboys have sold more than 10 million records, scored 33 No. 1 hits, won two American Music Awards and multiple Dove Awards.
“Magnetic” is continuing the band’s momentum. “It just felt like something people needed to hear. Newsboys United is over with. That whole deal ran its course,” Tait says of the reunion with former members Furler and Phil Joel, which included a 2019 album and lengthy tour. “With this album, we knew we had to come out swinging. We wanted to do something fresh and different and up. ‘Magnetic’ was the song because I think people had kind of missed that with the Newsboys. [We had been doing] a lot of worship songs, kind of laid back, not really poppy and punchy but that’s what I’ve always been in my life. That’s my DNA.”
When asked if there will be another Newsboy United tour, Tait responds, “I think it ran its course and did what it did, but it was great for the fans to see Peter and Phil come back. That was neat and if it happens again, who knows?”
Tait is proud of the musical diversity reflected in the new album and cites the opening track, “Ain’t It Like Jesus,” as a prime example. “That’s definitely a different direction for us,” he says. “This record [reflects] our personalities because we’re kind of all things to all people and in today’s world people listen to everything from Luke Bryan to Drake to Dr. Dre. The kids are all over the map. I think the beauty is diversity. Variety is the spice of life and all of those things come to mind in this record. ‘Aint It Like Jesus’ is definitely is a bit of a hybrid pop meets reggae but kind of quirky Newsboys style and it’s just a little encouraging thing to remember that daddy [God] always has his eye on us you know. A mustard seed of faith can move mountains. It’s like Jesus to do the unthinkable.”
Tait sees the title track, “Stand,” as the latest Newsboys song to make a strong statement. “It’s so powerful and when you think about Newsboys, you think about songs like ‘He Reigns’ and ‘God’s Not Dead.’ We believe in statement songs,” he says. “We knew we wanted a song that makes a statement and boy is that important now days. We’re all over the place in America. People are back and forth in their faith statements or they are denouncing their faith or they’re walking in the middle. In Newsboys fashion [the song says] to stand and put all the crap to the side. You’ve got to choose a side. You’ve got to own up. This is your time. . . I see it from the stage—quitters, climbers and campers. You can’t be quitters and you can’t be campers. You’ve got to keep climbing and that’s when you are going to stand. If you are quitting, you’re not going to stand. If you are climbing you are in a forward motion, vertical.”
Having poured so much of his heart and soul into writing the album during the downtime brought on by the pandemic, Tait is deeply invested in these songs. When asked which song on the album best reflects where he is right now, he cites “Blessings on Blessings.” “It’s about thankfulness,” the perpetually ebullient frontman says. “That’s my bubbly personality. I’m always trying to find the bright side and there’s a bright side to everything. I’m convinced that you can decide when you wake up in the morning whether you’re going to be for the Lord and enjoy it or are you going to be devil. There are two sides of the bed. Get up on the good side and you’ll be in good shape. Bless the Lord! You have air in your lungs. You have a song in your heart. You have a God who is on the throne whether you feel like it that day or not, who is not dead and he’s in our corner. There are days that are in the mundane, but God works in the mundane and in the sunshine. He still does whether it’s raining or sunny.”
In addition to working on the album, Tait and his bandmates spent time during the pandemic doing things they rarely get a chance to do when touring heavily. “We were never home on weekends,” he says. “I went to my church on Sunday mornings which was nice. I got to hang out Saturday nights with some friends. I got to visit a lot of people, those who weren’t scared of the COVID. And I flew around. I was on an airplane a lot of times by myself because people weren’t flying in the beginning [of the pandemic]. That all changed though. I kept it simple. I rode my motorcycle a lot.”
The band toured earlier this year with renown evangelist Franklin Graham and are now back on the road with their Step Into the Light Tour. “We renamed our tour the ‘Test into The Light Tour’ because we get a Covid test every Monday,” Tait jokes.
Newsboys are also releasing a new holiday tune. “‘The Christmas Song’ is one of our favorite Christmas tunes and we hope everyone will enjoy this song during this most amazing season,” he says. “As we celebrate His birth, let’s rejoice that families and friends can be together this year.”
With a history that spans more than 30 years, Newsboys have become one of the Christian music community’s most enduring acts, and Tait credits their material. “It’s all about the songs. At the end of the day people come to the shows to hear songs that have touched them,” he says. “That’s what keep the irons hot in the fire, having material that the masses can relate to.”
He’s hoping Stand will resonate strongly with listeners who are hungry for a message of hope. “What’s affected us comes from the Word,” he says of the Bible. “The songs don’t necessarily quote scripture, but it’s never too far away. These songs are little caveats that you can pop in during the day and be blessed by it. You can use it as a tool to implement in your walk with the Lord. Let it color a moment, fill the void in your ears and speak to your heart. Hopefully it will encourage the socks off of people and make them feel loved, wanted and needed, and hopefully will lead them to salvation.”