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Hillsong United Wins Big at Dove Awards

Hillsong United took tops honors Tuesday night (Oct. 7) at the Gospel Music Assn.’s 45th Annual Dove Awards, winning five Doves, including artist of the year and aong of the year for “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail).”

“The song ‘Oceans’ has opened so many new doors and so many great opportunities to share the message of Jesus,” Hillsong United's Jonathan Douglass said backstage. “Only by the grace of God is this song doing what it’s doing. . . People keep telling us the song is doing really well, but the way we gauge it is when we talk to people one on one, either back in Sydney [Australia, the worship band’s home base] or all over the world. People grab me by the shoulders, look me in the eyes and say, ‘I was going through this and that song is what helped me.’ That’s why we do these albums.”

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Veteran rock bands Switchfoot and Skillet were among the evening’s other multiple winners with Switchfoot winning three Doves, including rock contemporary song for “Love Alone is Worth the Fight” and rock/contemporary album for Fading West.

Skillet won rock album of the year for Rise and the Dove for rock song for “Not Gonna Die.” The band wasn’t at the Doves because they were preparing to leave for Europe to embark on their first headlining tour abroad. “I have to say it was pretty cool hearing the news about these wins,” Skillet lead vocalist John Cooper said in a text. “We couldn’t be there since we are heading to Europe again this week, but to have this album recognized in this way was definitely an honor and we’re really thankful.”

Hosted by Lecrae and MercyMe frontman Bart Millard, the Doves were held at Allen Arena on the campus of David Lipscomb University and will be broadcast Oct. 12 on Trinity Broadcast Network. The Newsboys kicked off the show with frontman Michael Tait descending from a platform near the ceiling and belting out the band’s hit “God’s Not Dead,” the song which inspired the film of the same name. Produced by Pure Flix Entertainment, the movie won the Dove for inspirational film of the year, a new category that was instituted at the 2013 Dove Awards.

Dove Awards were awarded in 42 categories, encompassing rap, rock, country, Southern gospel, worship, contemporary Christian, traditional gospel, Spanish and all the other genres under the gospel music umbrella. The bulk of the Doves were handed out during the pre-show which started at 2pm.

Curb Records trio Selah won the Dove for inspirational song of the year for “You Amaze Us.” “This one’s really special,” Selah’s Allan Hall tells Billboard. “The song was No. 1 for 14 weeks, which is our longest No. 1 and the thing that really made this one special is we’ve been doing this for 17 years and so when you’re almost 20 years into your career to have your longest No. 1 ever is a real encouragement to us and a shot in the arm. It’s just been a great, great experience.”

Chris Tomlin was named songwriter of the year and the top producer honor went to Ed Cash. Ellie Holcomb was named new artist of the year. “I was a little shell-shocked. I can’t stop crying,” she commented backstage after her win while her proud father, Dove Award-winning producer and Gospel Music Hall of Famer, Brown Bannister stood by beaming. “I’ve gotten to see a glimpse of the incredible impact music can have,” Holcomb said. “It’s so humbling and so exciting. We get to be on His [God’s] team. It’s so cool!”

Ernie Haase & Signature Sound won Southern Gospel album for Oh What a Savior and also earned a Dove for participating in the Cathedrals Family Reunion album, which won in the special event album of the year category.

Karen Peck & New River took home Southern gospel song of the year for their hit “Revival.” “We are so incredibly grateful for this. What a blessing to write with such incredible writers,” says Peck, who co-wrote the song with Don Poythress and Kenna West

“Karen was my very first cut 13 years ago so this is a full circle moment for me,” said West, a second generation Southern gospel musician whose father was a member of the legendary Blackwood Brothers.

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Rapper KB, a.k.a. Kevin Burgess, won the Dove for rap/hip hop song of the year for “100.” “I’m working on a new album right now and next month I’m getting to go on the road with Tenth Avenue North,” KB said of upcoming plans. “I’m looking forward to it. They are good brothers.”

Hezekiah Walker won the Dove for contemporary gospel/urban recorded song of the year for “Every Praise.” Next up on Walker’s agenda is traveling to South Africa to record his next project. “We’re going to Cape Town to record our next live recording,” Walker said backstage. “It’s a dream of mine. I’d always wanted to record in London and in South Africa and I’ve already recorded in London and now I’m on my way to South Africa.”

Erica Campbell, half of the gospel duo Mary Mary, won traditional gospel recorded song of the year for the buoyant hit “A Little More Jesus.” Backstage in the press room, Campbell was excited about picking up a Dove for her solo project, but was quick to point out that her days working with sister Tina weren’t over, and they’ll continue with new music and a new season of their reality show on WE TV. “Mary Mary is not done yet,” she said. “We are taking a break.  The cameras are here with me today. We are filming for season four.”

In addition to the Dove Awards, the Gospel Music Assn. also presented four special awards. The Outstanding Mainstream Contribution to Gospel Music Award went to Sirius XM. The Grady Nutt humor award went to Akintunde. The lifetime achievement award went to Hillsong, and veteran artist/executive Eddie DeGarmo received the GMA impact award.

The complete list of winners can be found at www.gospelmusic.org.