Newsboys: Stepping Up to the Microphone
- Tuesday, January 09, 2007
The year 2005 was turbulent for the Newsboys.
At one point the band was down and nearly out. Today, the boys find themselves with a new album, "Go" (Inpop), a fresh mandate and a firm resolve to take this music thing as far as it can go – inside the church or out. And, somehow, it all seems to go back to a little thing called ‘the Great Commission.’
“It’s become a huge thing in our lives that there’s a huge world out there,” explains Newsboys’ lynchpin Peter Furler, nursing a caffeine refuel in advance of what might be a late night of creative wrangling on the new record. “It’s the easiest thing to go out there and sing ‘He Reigns’ in front of Creation [Festival], but what about when you go in front of a bunch of Muslims? Or you go in front of a new age festival where there’s Buddhism, Hinduism, nudism – it’s all going on – people smoking pot everywhere? What happens when you go out there and do what you do without changing who you are? There came a point when we had to test ourselves.”
A glance in the Newsboys’ rearview shows a lot of tests already passed with high marks: Five gold records, six million albums sold, 20-some-odd No. 1 singles and a whole passel of Doves and GRAMMY® nominations to boot. But, in Peter’s words, “It’s just not enough.”
In the Boys’ early days down under, the band crisscrossed the sparsely populated expanses of Australia in an old truck full of fuel, extra tires and spare parts, stopping off at every little AM station they could find to try to smooth-talk the manager into playing their songs. There was a sort of restless hunger that drove their artistry.
But this new restlessness is different. It goes back to something more fundamental. It’s about recognizing that, while their vocation is centered on making music, their deeper purpose should be centered on making disciples – of all nations. And so the members of the Newsboys find themselves at this stage of career, long after most of their late-’80s peers have either bowed out, burned out or faded away, embracing a new sense of calling that’s redefining their music, their relationships and, even, their travel itineraries.
Ironically, this paradigm shift began at a time when the band members had been privately questioning whether they even wanted to continue. For a several months stretch in 2005, they were on the verge of calling it quits. Relationships were strained. Passion was on the wane. It had been a good run of almost two decades, but, frankly, most of the routine just wasn’t fun anymore. Elvis had left the building.
“Relationally, it’s hard when you’ve been in a group with someone for 13 or 14 years,” Peter explains. “You just take them for granted, or you feel like you’re being taken for granted. … I think we all wanted to go to the next level relationally, but it just wasn’t happening.
“We pretty much busted up before the start of this record. Maybe six months, eight months before this. ... We would have just dispersed.”
Pretty much busted up? As in the band actually broke up at one point?
“We didn't bust up,” clarifies Peter. “We were at that point where it was like, ‘Is this gonna get not nice now?’”
Before doing anything drastic though, the Newsboys decided to sit down with a handful of pastors and mentors and talk it through. And that talk, combined with the sense that God was perhaps beginning to use the band in a new way as disciplers and as connectors within the body of Christ, compelled them to break through that relational wall.
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