Taking the stage of a packed arena somewhere in America on any given winter evening, NewSong is single-mindedly focused on one goal. Although their acclaim includes a #1 mainstream AC hit, a Grammy nomination, 20 #1 Christian radio singles, and industry accolades as architects of one of the biggest tours in the world—the Winter Jam Tour Spectacular—when Russ Lee, Matt Butler, Eddie Carswell, Billy Goodwin, Jack Pumphrey, Mark Clay and Rico Thomas squint past the spotlight each night, they see one thing: a sea of souls in need of One True God.
There’s a hurting world in need and Jesus is the remedy…
“Love Is The Medicine”
Frontman Russ Lee began his career as a key member of NewSong in the ‘90s, before launching nearly a decade of solo hits and eventually returning to his musical alma mater in 2009. From his unique perspective as both a seasoned performer and a worship pastor, he says the secret to Winter Jam’s broad appeal is found in the music. “A three-minute song can move us in ways a 45 minute sermon never would,” the power-soul vocalist attests, having witnessed firsthand the spiritual impact of mission-minded music on listeners. “Music penetrates the outer layers of our reality and gets to the core—to the soul.”
As the youngest band member and keyboardist/vocalist for the last seven years, Matt Butler has a fresh perspective on NewSong’s 30-year journey. And from his sight line the group’s spiritually sensitive M.O. is stronger than ever. “Nothing has changed in what God is calling these guys to do,” he affirms of his bandmates. “They have stood the test of time in Christian music because of their faithfulness to their mission to go and tell people about the grace of Jesus Christ.”
Love is Your voice and You give us the song to sing…
The band’s Gospel agenda is best exampled through Winter Jam—the annual concert extravaganza founded by NewSong in 1995 and hosted by the group each year. This year’s Spectacular was the #1 tour in the world, according to Pollstar’s 2011 Worldwide First Quarter Ticket Sales “Top 100 Tours” chart, ahead of such industry heavyweights as Bon Jovi, U2 and Lady Gaga. But the band insists the multi-artist arena blitz, which saw record-breaking attendance in excess of 500,000 people this time around, is more than a one-night hurrah. It is a platform for the message of Christ. “We feel like the five friends helping the guy on the mat who is paralyzed [Luke 5:17-26],” Lee explains. “We use the music and the production to tear the roof off. If we can just get people to Jesus, He’ll do the rest.”
Eddie Carswell, NewSong’s founding member and visionary behind Winter Jam, confirms the tour’s astounding turnouts are a result of servants, not celebrities. “We aren’t as concerned about who the headliner is as much as the ministry that goes on,” he explains. “All these pieces of the Body make up this tour and God’s using it in His magnificent way to make it bigger and better than it has ever been before. Itis a huge team effort.”
Part of this tour partnership is Winter Jam’s support of Holt International, a leading agency in international adoption. Taking a personal stake in the organization’s conviction that God desires a loving permanent family for every child, NewSong endorses Holt at each concert. Additionally, the band has created the Forever Family Fund, an initiative facilitated by orphan care organization Show Hope to help raise finances for families adopting through Holt.
There is none so mighty, not one that compares to
Your majesty and glory…
“One True God”
Few bands in Christian music can claim a history spanning three decades, let alone a career trajectory that’s been blown off the map. And cultivating a sound as fresh and relevant as the Gospel message they keep front and center is a challenge NewSong once again excitedly confronts on their latest studio offering, One True God.
Tapping 2008 Producer of the Year Ian Eskelin (Francesca Battistelli, Hawk Nelson) and Grammy-nominated Christopher Stevens (TobyMac, Sanctus Real), as well as David Garcia, also creates a savvy edge in the band’s ongoing musical evolution. And alongside Carswell and Lee, the songwriting credits for One True God are a roll call of some of Christian music’s biggest artists and writers: David Crowder, Bernie Herms and Eskelin, among others, attest to NewSong’s vibrant involvement in the current Christian music scene. “People will say, ‘I like “Arise My Love.”’ And while we love singing it every night,” Lee remarks, “we are also writing songs for the day we live in, and if you want to say things that are going to relate to people you have to be aware of the pulse.”
Among a line-up of such signature Gospel-infused selections as “Love Is The Medicine,” “Strong City,” and “Between The Cross And Crown,” One True God also showcases the softer side of NewSong. Reminiscent of the group’s 2005 hit duet with Natalie Grant, “When God Made You,” the band offers “The Way You Smile,” a new love song featuring 2010 GMA Female Vocalist of the Year Francesca Battistelli. Penned by Carswell and Lee for Carswell’s youngest son’s wedding last year, Battistelli’s involvement makes it an even more personal endeavor as the daughter-in-law of NewSong founding member Billy Goodwin.
Though they are known for writing their own discography of hits, the band’s desire to record songs that speak powerfully to the modern Church led them to consider writers whose songs are currently lighting up worship services worldwide. After hearing “One True God” for the first time, Lee remembers, “We thought, ‘Thisis apowerful song for the Church and the time we live in.’” Co-written by 2010 GMA Songwriter of the Year Jennie Lee Riddle, along with Don Poythress and Tony Wood, “One True God” quickly resonated with Winter Jam audiences this year, and the worship anthem—an electrifying proclamation of Christ’s supremacy—is destined for a permanent place on go-to set lists in churches around the country.
“‘One True God’ is our mission right now in concert,” Butler makes plain. Citing the first verse (When the dust has settled/And this world is no more/Every saint and sinner will confess that You are Lord) as the entire recording’s lyrical impetus, Butler unashamedly confesses, “With political tensions and the tough economy, we can rest in the fact that He is the One True God. Whether you believe it or not, one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess He is Lord. That’s the heartbeat of this record. I’m anxious to see how it is going to penetrate.”
God You work all things by Your plan, and nothing
comes without passing through Your hands…
“Between The Cross And Crown”
Recently taking inventory of the band’s journey, Carswell thoughtfully sums up NewSong’s mission with One True God. “The other day during my devotional time I was thinking about where we are and I wrote down the word ‘continue.’ One True God is just another part of that process of continuing what God called us to do many years ago. God still has important things for us to sing about. He is continuing and carrying us as we try to be faithful to His calling.”
“We responded to that call on our lives 30 years ago and committed in childlike faith to serve Him as NewSong until He gave us clear direction to do something else,” adds founding member Billy Goodwin. “1 Thessalonians 5:24 says, ‘He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.’ God continues to ‘do it’ on a daily basis in our lives and we praise Him for that. It has been a journey far beyond anything we could have hoped or imagined.”
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