Newsboys Arrive in Theaters & On Charts With 'God's Not Dead 2': 'The Band is the Strongest We've Ever Been'



"Sometimes sequels don't seem to get to where the original movie did. I think this one is better. We're incredibly proud of it."

2016 has been a busy year for the Newsboys and the first quarter is barely even over. The veteran Christian band appears in a pivotal scene in the new film God's Not Dead 2, which hits theaters Friday (April 1). Their latest album, Love Riot, bowed at No. 1 on the Top Rock Albums chart, No. 2 on the Top Christian Albums list and No. 14 on the all-genre 200. 

Not bad for a band that was launched in Australia three decades ago and has continually reinvented itself. "In many ways, I just feel we are getting started," drummer Duncan Phillips told Billboard. "We've been doing this for a while now and we feel that we're really starting to reach our stride. I truly believe the best is yet to come. I have to pinch myself sometimes, after all the ups and downs."

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Love Riot represents a new chapter for the band as it's the first release on Fair Trade Services, reuniting them with label founder/president Jeff Moseley. "We've known Jeff for many, many years," said Phillips. "He was one of the guys who first signed us over at Star Song and that's going back 20 plus years now. It just made sense. Jeff gets us. They understand what we're trying to do. They are super excited about the band and that's as much as we could ask for from a label. We're stoked."

"I love Moseley. I love the staff," added lead vocalist Michael Tait. "They are excited and they focus on the band."

The album's lead single "Guilty" is featured in the film God's Not Dead 2. "They did ask us to write a song for the second movie and we had a bunch of songs that could have probably been the song, but we landed on 'Guilty,'" Phillips said of the song, which the Newsboys perform during the film during a climatic scene. "It really does fit in really well with the theme of the second movie, [saying] basically 'If doing right is wrong, we want to be guilty.' I think a lot of people had a little bit of trouble understanding that from the beginning because most people are like, 'I don't want to be guilty. I'm innocent.' So I think there was a little bit of confusion at radio with this song initially but now that the movie is out, it's going to make it all make a lot more sense."

Tait agrees the single was perfect for the new film. "We were very excited about the success of the first movie and part 2 is even better," he said. "It was bone-chilling better. I actually teared up a couple of times. When the song 'Guilty' comes in, it was so perfect. The song says, 'I'm a Jesus Freak. I believe what I believe and if doing the right thing is considered wrong, I'm guilty.'"

The first God's Not Dead film shared its title with the Newsboys 2011 album and hit single. "We recorded the song 'God's Not Dead' probably over three and a half years ago now and it had massive success in its own right," said Phillips. "Then the people from Pure Flix Entertainment came to us and said 'Look, we love the whole thing and we'd love to write a movie around the theme "God's Not Dead."' We didn't know them very well at that time. Not to take away from anything that they had done, but I don't think anyone knew the scope this God's Not Dead movie was going to have. They ended up doing about 100 million dollars at the box office, which for a little indie movie it was the No. 1 Independent film of 2014."

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The sequel stars Melissa Joan Hart as a teacher who winds up on trial for mentioning Jesus in the classroom when answering a student's history question. The film also features Jesse Metcalfe, Sadie Robertson, Ray Wise and David A.R. White. "I really believe it's a better movie than the first which doesn't really happen with a sequel," said Phillips. "Sometimes sequels don't seem to get to where the original movie did. I think this one is better. We're incredibly proud of it."

The band is also proud of Love Riot. In recording the new project, Tait and Phillips, along with guitarist Jody Davis and keyboardist Jeff Frankenstein, opted to travel to the West Coast to work with new producers. They teamed up with Mark Needham, whose mixing credits include Imagine Dragons and Shakira, and Zach Hall, who has worked with Five Knives. "You get out of your comfort zone and it's fresher," said Tait. "You take chances and it was a little scary and it was a challenge. I was stretched again and it came out on the record. It was so satisfying. We ended up changing producers and all of a sudden magic happened."

The Newsboys have long had the ability to find the magic and keep churning out the hits. One of the most interesting transitions in the band's history came in 2009 when lead vocalist Peter Furler exited the group after more than two decades. Fans feared that might be the end of the beloved band, but instead the Newsboys recruited Michael Tait, formerly of the pioneering trio dcTalk, who had been fronting his own band Tait. 

"Going from a bald headed white guy Australian to an African American with dreads, that's a massive change," said Duncan. "If we were to have tried to get a Peter look alike or someone that was Australian, it just would have come across a little disingenuous, but I think the fact that we went with someone completely different -- although as risky as it was -- it just worked. And those fans that were with us all those years knew who Michael was. He was the same age as us, same kind of heritage. Obviously, now it looks like a stroke of genius, but it was a risk. We had no other option. Our backs were against a wall. He needed a gig. We needed a singer, and there's no doubt in my mind that God put this thing together."

Tait added, "I always imagine turning the Titanic around in a lake [would be] nearly impossible, but you have to do it very carefully and it worked. God was in this thing and is in this thing."

The Newsboys will continue touring in support of Love Riot and there are also plans in the works for God's Not Dead conferences that will feature artists and speakers. "The band is probably the strongest we've ever been as a team, as a mission," said Phillips. "It's just a wonderful, wonderful place to be after 20 plus years and having some of the most success the band has ever had. Only God can put this together. We do what we do as well as we can, but ultimately there are certain things that have happened that are God moments and that gives us confidence going forward."