Newsboys Talk Reuniting With Former Members for 'United' Album: 'It Was Stinking Fantastic'
Longtime Newsboys fans enjoyed the best of all possible worlds last year when former frontman Peter Furler and bassist/vocalist Phil Joel joined current members Michael Tait, Duncan Phillips, Jeff Frankenstein and Jody Davis for the Newsboys United reunion tour. On the heels of that successful trek, band members past and present carried that collaborative spirit into the studio to record their new album, United, releasing May 10 via Fair Trade Services.
"It was stinking fantastic," Tait says of the recording experience. "We had no clue what it was going to be like. The biggest concern for me was how are the voices going to blend. Pete and I got there and we started singing on songs, doing harmony parts and working on bridges and were like kids in a candy store because it was really magical. We knew we had something special."
"It's got a little bit of everything," Phillips, the band's longtime drummer, adds. "Obviously you've got everything that Pete and Phil bring to the band, but then you've got Michael's brilliance sitting over the top of it, so it just works. We didn't know whether it would or not, but then you get in the studio and you've got all these great voices together and you end up getting a super burger!"
Produced by Furler and Geoff Duncan, the 10-song set kicks off with the first single, "Greatness of Our God," which is currently at No. 13 on the Christian Airplay chart. "It was the one that felt like Newsboys past, present and future," Furler says. "It was the song that we played live way before anybody had even heard it, and it went great live right away, so it was a good indication."
Furler launched Newsboys in his native Australia more than three decades ago and migrated to the U.S. in 1987. In the '90s, Frankenstein, Davis and Joel joined Furler in the Newsboys and the band became one of Christian music's top acts, populating radio with such hits "Take Me to Your Leader," "Breakfast," "Entertaining Angels," "Shine" and "He Reigns." Joel exited the Newsboys in late 2006 to pursue a solo career and Furler left in 2009. That spring Tait, who rose to prominence in the Christian rock/hip-hop trio dcTalk, joined Newsboys. Since then, the veteran band has experienced a whole new wave of success, topping the charts with such anthems as "God's Not Dead," which inspired a popular movie franchise.
This latest chapter in the band's history was initiated in late 2017 when the current Newsboys enlisted Furler to work on "The Cross Has the Final Word." "We were struggling on the song and we were looking for a verse so we said, 'Let's give it to Pete to see what he could do,'" recalls Phillips. "He sent back a scratch vocal and ideas of what he had. We loved it so much we said, 'Why don't you come sing on it with us?' We thought that would be nice to get Pete back on a Newsboys track again. It went so well and we were having such a great time we thought, well, let's do some shows."
That led to the Newsboys United tour, which launched in the spring of 2018 and became such a success that the tour continued through the fall. After finishing the Newsboys United Tour, the combined group headlined 2019's popular Winter Jam Tour. "We see people in the audience laughing. We see them singing along and see them crying," says Furler. "We love our fans. Newsboys love their fans and appreciate them. Without them I'm a mall cop."
Phillips is grateful for the band's multi-generational appeal. "There's all these songs like 'He Reigns,' 'Shine' and 'Something Beautiful' that people really resonated with back when they were teenagers and now they are bringing their teenagers along," Phillips adds. "It's really getting these two different eras, two different generations of the band coming together and making a whole family night of it because mom and dad they can bring their teenagers along and equally enjoy a night out together. That doesn't happen too often. Because we have been around for a minute, and we have combined fans from two generations, that's exactly what it's turned into. We just love it."
Phillips and Furler say the idea to do a United album evolved naturally. "We said, 'Hey, let's cut a couple songs and see what happens' and we did," says Furler, who co-wrote four of the songs on United. "Everything started to work and we all got happy about it. Then we got maybe halfway through -- maybe five or six songs into it -- and thought, 'Alright! I think we've got to put a record out.' We're all singing and playing better than we ever have, so that kind of was a not so much of a surprise, but a benefit."
One of the songs that is getting great response during their live shows is the funky "Love One Another," which also features vocals by Kevin Max, Tait's longtime friend and dcTalk bandmate. "K Max was a must," Tait says of enlisting him to sing on the track. "He's been in my life for most of my life. I met Kevin in college when I was sinking my teeth in the music. And actually it was Peter's idea [to recruit him]. Pete had dinner with Kevin the night before and Kevin came by and sang on this song and boy did he nail it! I'm so happy that he's a part of it. He only makes it better."
The label is releasing a digital deluxe edition of United that will include "The Cross Has The Final Word" and "Rejoice," a new selection penned by Furler and longtime Newsboys producer/collaborator Steve Taylor, along with remixes of "Greatness Of Our God" and "Only The Son (Yeshua)" as well as "United: The Story Behind The Album," an exclusive interview with Furler and Tait.
Newsboys are currently out with Michael W. Smith on Surrounded & United: The Tour, marking the first time the veteran acts have toured together. "Smitty gave dcTalk a platform in 1991 and '93 and it was absolutely the best thing that ever happened to us because it launched us into dcTalk," Tait says of the group where he began his career. "To be out with him now and get to sing 'A Place In This World' with him, which I love, it's been fantastic. It's a way to say thank you Smitty and to love on him."
As for whether or not this current Newsboys United lineup will continue on indefinitely, that remains to be seen. "It's a season," says Phillips. "If this thing blows up and people want to see more of it, we may continue on. We don't really know. We are feeling our way in the dark as we go. When we first started doing shows in the spring of 2018, we had no idea we were going to do a record. It just kind of evolved. We're having a ton of fun. We're getting on like a house on fire so I can see us for at least the next year touring this United record. We're loving it."
"It feels great," Furler agrees. "The greatest part about it is to be on stage and look around and see people you have so much history with. It's still a joy. Duncan and I will look at each other through the night and just laugh. We're very grateful for this opportunity. We're grateful that we're still able to do what we love to do."
And they are grateful to still be doing it together. "I met Peter at 19 so we've lived so much life together. There's not too many people who get to still hang out and work with their mates that they met when they were teenagers," Phillips says (in his Aussie accent, naturally). "It doesn't happen that much. It's been an awesome moment for us to reconnect on a personal level and musical level. We're just having a blast."