Trusting his instincts and leaning into his faith spurred this veteran artist to make the most personal album of his career with The Elements. “I let go of worrying about the charts and if I’m good enough – things that come along with the business of artistry,” TobyMac says of his new approach. “The most important thing to me now is when I walk into a studio to record a song ‘does it make you feel something?’ And, is there a reason for it to exist in this world?”
Processing life as an artist, husband and father of five has continually fueled his work and made TobyMac one of the most successful innovators in any genre of music with 7 GRAMMY® Awards, 6 Gold Records from his solo career, an American Music award, twice named Artist of the year at the Dove awards, BMI songwriter of the year and numerous other accolades to his credit. “I just need U.,” the lead single from The Elements, spent 12 weeks at the top of the charts making it the fastest charting single of his career. “I knew it was something fresh for me from a lyrical standpoint,” he says. “I knew it was intriguing and said exactly what I wanted to say. There’s depth and maturity to it. At some point, you have to look up and say, ‘If I’m not offering people some wisdom from the journey that I’ve been on, then I might as well hang up the cleats.’ It’s my responsibility to offer people wisdom from the road I’ve traveled. That’s what I’m supposed to do. I have to depth to offer right now.”
TobyMac admits that in the past he’s been “the king of the features,” as he usually includes multiple special guests on his albums, but The Elements is different. “I do truly love collaboration,” he says, “but these songs are so personal, it was hard for me to imagine someone else singing the lyrics.”
Among the most personal songs on the record, and one of TobyMac’s very favorites, is “Scars.” “I love ‘Scars.’ It is a different melody for me. It was kind of cool to keep it real low key,” he says. “It’s the closest song to me on the record. I had a few people in mind when I wrote it, but subconsciously I started focusing on my first-born son. For the first time in my life I found myself sending ships of out the harbor–up to now our family and home have been the harbor. The people I love the most are going out there facing all the pain, struggle and temptation this crazy world brings. It can be so hard to watch. I’m very aware of the scars that come with life’s journey but sometimes we insulate those from our children—so to see them go out and there and do this real world is painful. I wanted to let him know that I’m here for him and even bigger than that, God is there for him. You are not alone—so lift your head up my son—to where your help comes from.”
“Starts with Me” is one of those very personal offerings, and yet he knew it would be even stronger with another voice. He invited Aaron Cole to join in and each man shares their unique perspective on race and family legacy. “I think that coming from both perspectives is important,” he notes. “We say some bold things about how we’re all reared, and about the households we were raised in. The type of things that were passed down to us from generation to generation. We weren’t shy about saying exactly what we both experienced, but at the end of the day we agreed on the importance of confession, repentance, and forgiveness. And it has to start with me. I really believe that individual change leads to societal change–relationships with people who are not like us is where the change begins. These relationships are not the sole answer, but they will lead us to the answers. That is how we will change the culture.”
For everyone out there in the world braving the elements, TobyMac has served up a musical invitation to stand firm and let go of the worry that can beat a soul down. To find strength in faith and love in family. “I want to write songs that move people toward each other, out of isolation and into dialog, I want to encourage people to rise up against the elements.”
Alternative CCM rockers Skillet formed in Memphis, Tennessee, around the nucleus of lead singer and bassist John Cooper, guitarist Ken Steorts, and drummer Trey McClurkin. Debuting in 1996 with a self-titled LP, the trio returned two years later with Hey You, I Love Your Soul. Invincible followed in early 2000, and the group contributed three tracks to the Ardent Worship: Skillet Live compilation that same year. With a new lineup of Cooper on bass and lead vocals, his wife Korey Cooper on guitar and keyboards, Ben Kasica on guitar, and Lori Peters on drums, Skillet released Alien Youth on Ardent Records in 2001, followed by Collide, also on Ardent, in 2003. The latter album was then picked up by Lava/Atlantic and reissued the following year with a bonus track. Collide went on to be the band’s best-selling album to date (even earning a Grammy nomination), and Skillet supported the record on tours with bands like Saliva and Shinedown. Skillet’s next effort for the label, Comatose, appeared in fall 2006, followed by Awake in 2009 and Rise in 2013. A compilation album, Vital Signs, was released in 2014 to introduce the band to European audiences. Skillet’s ninth album, Unleashed, followed in 2016 and was bolstered by a deluxe version, Unleashed Beyond, which arrived in late 2017 and featured five new songs, including “Breaking Free” with Lacey Sturm. ~ Jason Ankeny & Steve Leggett, Rovi
After 10 albums, multiple hit singles, millions of records sold, a GRAMMY Award and 20 years of touring, in late 2017, SWITCHFOOT put the brakes on. The successful release and tour for their most recent album, WHERE THE LIGHT SHINES THROUGHhad concluded, and the San Diego-based quintet decided to take a long deserved, much needed hiatus. Their goals? To think on difficult, important questions about the band and themselves personally, including: “Why are we doing this?” The answers weren’t long in coming and are musically evident in the 14 remarkable songs that make up NATIVE TONGUE, a creative juggernaut spawned by singer Jon Foreman’s realization that the answer to “why?” was to “pursue joy.”
Joy became the paramount goal in his life and music. “Joy is an incredible motivator,” says Jon: “It’s only to be found in the moment, not in the past or future. That’s what music is to us: The ever-present joy of the ever-present now.”
During the hiatus, Jon’s positive immediacy inspired songs that he had to get out. Creative openness without a goal resulted in an electric, wide-ranging collection. “There was no ‘should’ or ‘ought.’ It was a beautiful freedom. Songs we wrote didn’t have to turn into anything, as long as we were pursuing joy. That’s where this record was born.”
The results of that pursuit include the infectious, title track; the get-your-lighters out, sway-along “ALL I NEED”; and the edgy excellence of “VOICES.” Then there’s a trippily wonderful departure in the Beatles-esque “DIG NEW STREAMS,” a tune drummer Chad Butler calls an “odyssey. It breaks so many rules: Structure, tempo, arrangement, style. I love that.”
Lyrically, NATIVE TONGUE doesn’t dwell on the world’s fraught social and political situations, rather, it’s an answer that offers an antidote to them. SWITCHFOOT observe that “we’re living in a time where it feels like hatred, fear, war, pain, anger is the native tongue of our species, that these dark words are our language. For me,” says Jon, “Holding my infant son in the middle of the night reminds me of how helpless we all start off. All of us, everywhere, were comforted, held, given a bottle; we were not hated into the world, we were loved into the world. Love is our native tongue, our common bond. And when fear and hatred are put in their proper place joy is available to us. That aligns well with joy, which is only available when fear, hatred, all those things are put in their proper place, cast aside by love.”
The time off for reflection “started a beautiful season for me, of falling in love with music and songwriting all over again,” says Tim, who co-founded SWITCHFOOT when he was just 17. “I’d sneak into the band studio and write and play. But then I noticed some scribbled lyrics left by my brother. He’d been doing the same thing.” Chad, too, admits to dropping by the studio. “I ran into Jon there. He played me a couple new songs, including ‘LET IT HAPPEN,’ which is poignant lyrically, coming from the space of not having a plan or agenda.”
Jon believes that where the songs arise from is crucial; “ulterior motives can ruin even the best of intentions.” The idea of “let it happen,” along with “pursuing joy,” gave a shape to the lyrical ideas and music and spirit that went into NATIVE TONGUE. As SWITCHFOOT enjoyed the time off and, the avid surfers—reveled in the inspirational immensity of the Pacific Ocean—music flowed easily, merely for the joy of it. The band’s ‘time off’ turned out to be particularly creative and their prolific nature clicked in, writing nearly 100 songs for the project. The question arose: “Are we making an album?” The answer was clearly yes, and songs were culled to a manageable number to be produced by the band, along with OneRepublic bassist and multi-instrumentalist Brent Kutzle.
The tunes coalesced quickly. “THE HARDEST ART” got a beautiful boost thanks to vocals added by Kaela Sinclair, of the French electronic outfit M83. For his part, Tim got rid of equipment and bought “old basses, new to me,” to change up and challenge his sound and approach. Jon wrote lyrics that are an oft-philosophical combination and of the personal and universal. For example, “VOICES” was inspired by a homeless man who lived at the beach. “He was a nice guy,” says Jon, “who always wore aluminum foil on his head to block out the signals and voices he heard… Looking back I think he was bipolar. But I realized there’s always voices in our heads, all of us, an inner dialogue or diatribe.”
NATIVE TONGUE marks the 11th record since 1997’s debut, THE LEGEND OF CHIN, which started SWITCHFOOT on a path of critical and fan acclaim for albums including 2003’s multi-platinum breakthrough THE BEAUTIFUL LETDOWN, the GRAMMY award-winning HELLO HURRICANE (2009), and FADING WEST, which was also the name of a documentary on the band.
For an album that “snuck up on” SWITCHFOOT, there’s a remarkable cohesion among the songs. Of course, 20 years together can do that to a band. A band that moves easily among the world of modern rock but mystifies those who try to pigeonhole them. “Since the beginning, SWITCHFOOT never fit into a musical genre,” notes Chad. “We all come from different musical upbringings, and we believe any good playlist has diversity.”
Approaching the music on NATIVE TONGUE with kid-like enthusiasm combined with the years spent honing their craft makes NATIVE TONGUE a rare gem. “We channeled Queen, ELO, the Kinks; our favorite albums from the past. Albums with guitar solos,” laughs Jon, who says, “I’d play solos over and over just because they were fun! But we didn’t want to make a throwback album, and Brent was great at marrying the sensibility of our roots with the present and beyond. We took fun risks.”
Those risks paid off in songs that the listener can interact with on multiple levels. If NATIVE TONGUE’s tunes are approachable and memorable, the album also has a heady goal. NATIVE TONGUE is, Jon says, ‘An attempt to be a loving embrace of all the human souls who have been weighed down by the times. It’s a chance for all of us to be reminded of what brings us together, not what tears us apart. My hope, for this record,” Jon concludes, “is that it would be a reminder that there are new streams available for us to travel down, and that hatred is not our language, love is our native tongue.”
For more than three decades, Newsboys have been defying the odds. After initially forming in Australia, they landed on American soil with only pennies to their name and eventually became one of the biggest bands in Christian music history. Today, Newsboys have sold more than 10 million units spanning 23 recordings. In addition, they’ve amassed eight Gold certifications, 33 #1 radio hits, four GRAMMY® nominations, two American Music Award nominations and multiple Dove Awards. Through the years, the faces of Newsboys have changed, but the mission has remained the same: One band. One heart. One brotherhood.
Perhaps nothing embodies this mantra more than their current iteration as former members Peter Furler and Phil Joel join Michael Tait, Duncan Phillips, Jeff Frankenstein and Jody Davis for a supersized season of touring and recording that’s ultimately resulted in a brand-new studio project, aptly titled United (FairTrade Services).
The history-making reunion first began to take shape when the current lineup invited Furler to sing on the band’s worship single, “The Cross Has The Final Word.” Still, none of them knew the fire that collaboration would spark. “When you’re working together, you start to have conversations, and we started chatting about what it would look like to have two eras of the band tour at the same time,” Furler explains. “Before it started, we didn’t know if it was going to work or how it was going to work.”
This initial uncertainty was due, in part, to the continued success the band has enjoyed since Tait took the helm in 2009. With signature songs like “We Believe,” “Born Again” and Platinum-certified mega hit “God’s Not Dead,” which birthed a film franchise of the same name, Newsboys have continued to collect career-defining accolades at full speed ahead. Instead, the idea of the blockbuster lineup was birthed naturally through their longtime friendship.
After a nine-year absence, Furler—a driving force behind iconic Newsboys hits like “He Reigns,” “Entertaining Angels” and “Shine”—along with key former lyricist, vocalist and bassist Phil Joel, returned to the stage for a strategic limited run of “Newsboys United” dates. Heading into the first show, the six members were nervous, unsure of the outcome. However, their debut as a supergroup delivered a clear verdict. The combination of Newsboys—past and present—together again on one stage was unstoppable, and fans clamored for more.
The band officially reunited on the highly-anticipated Newsboys United Tour in 2018 before headlining 2019’s Winter Jam Tour Spectacular—Christian music’s largest annual tour—and then joining Michael W. Smith on a 10-city worship trek. Collectively, they’ve now performed more than 150 shows nationwide. It was only a matter of time before they found themselves in the studio together again.
“No one had a clue that this Newsboys United smashup would even work, and now who can deny it’s been nothing short of fantastic?” Tait remarks. “I often say God works in mysterious ways and mischievous ways. It’s been an absolute pleasure and joy.”
Known for their unparalleled live shows, where the energy is at a fever pitch, the drum kit rotates, and the production is unmatched, Newsboys’ expanded lineup represents the same ideals on stage that the band members harnessed in the studio for United, where themes of friendship, unity and diversity organically emerged.
“In a very un-united United States these days, it’s powerful to see a Caucasian and an African-American on the stage speaking the same message in a unified way,” Tait asserts. Furler and Tait’s unified front on stage translates to tape as they effortlessly trade lead vocals on the album, blending both the past and the present.
Along with Geoff Duncan, Furler steered the production reigns and returned as a lyricist for the band, co- penning four of the collection’s 10 tracks. The funky groove of “Love One Another,” which he co-wrote, features guest vocals from former dcTalk member Kevin Max, while tracks like the worshipful “Set Me Ablaze,” originally recorded by Bethel Music, and soaring lead single “Greatness Of Our God” continue Newsboys’ rich history of recording songs that resonate with fans of all ages.
“‘Greatness Of Our God’ comes off live like a freight train. It’s powerful,” offers Tait of the radio hit. “As believers, it’s important to constantly be reminded of the greatness of our God, and the song says it perfectly.”
“When they hear the music, I hope it’s not as preachy as it is practical—things that have worked in our lives that we’ve found freedom in, like freedom in Christ,” he adds. “We just want to love people through the music.”
For Furler, selections like “Only The Son (Yeshua)” and “Fearless” helped personally define the band’s unexpected evolution. “I think, for me, it’s not so much the songs themselves,” he reflects, “but these songs represent moments when we realized it was going to work vocally.”
Both frontmen consistently compliment one another. “Mike’s an amazing singer. He’s one of the best on the planet,” Furler emphasizes. “We had to try to figure out how our voices were going to blend.”
“There was a selflessness in making the record,” Tait adds. “When Pete sings, it’s magical.”
The magic of two lead singers, six life-long friends and one rock-solid mission form the undercurrent for both the album and the band.
“Recording this Newsboys United album did so much more than just bring two eras of the band together,” Furler observes. “It has made us one in spirit, purpose and love.”
No matter who’s taking the lead, Newsboys knows what they’ve forged over 30-plus years is rare. It goes beyond music, awards and notoriety. No matter what stage they’re gracing, Newsboys will be standing tall as a symbol of unity, defying the odds, together.
While there’s no sure route to carving out a significant presence in the music industry, there’s always something to be said for remaining true to one’s self. Since arriving on the scene with his 2004 debut Real Talk, Lecrae has been occupying two different yet not entirely opposing worlds: the sacred and the profane. Which is to say that his art, not unlike his life, has been as much about inspiring the streets, and about justice, freedom, and interrogating real-world issues, as it is about his personal journey of faith. His music has long served as a call to arms for those willing to sacrifice for a cause beyond themselves. Still, he won’t be boxed in to any genre or made to serve as a poster-child for any particular agenda.
Following a host of celebrated mixtapes and LP’s, his most recent being 2017’s exemplary All Things Work Together, Lecrae returns with new music. Let the Trap Say Amen , a collaboration with acclaimed producer Zaytoven (Gucci Mane, Migos, Future), was born out of a mutual respect for each other’s work. Joined by common faith and a love for the trap, and after years of maneuvering through some of the same circles, the two Atlanta legends decided to come together. The result is a project brimming with thunderous beats, rapid-fire bars, and, as listeners have come to expect from Lecrae, vivid storytelling.
Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Jeremy Camp returns with a brand new album “The Story’s Not Over,” which debuted in September 2019.
Camp recently wrapped the Hits Deep Tour with TobyMac this Spring, and is also heavily involved with the biopic feature film about his life, I STILL BELIEVE, which chronicles Camp’s personal story of love, loss and faith. I STILL BELIEVE is being produced by the Erwin Brothers’ (I CAN ONLY IMAGINE, WOODLAWN) newly-formed studio, Kingdom, in association with Lionsgate and is scheduled for a March 2020 release.
ABOUT JEREMY CAMP: Throughout his 17-year career, Capitol CMG artist Jeremy Camp has established himself with landmark accolades including:
Jeremy has also authored an autobiography, I Still Believe (2013, Tyndale) and toured the world, sharing his music in more than 36 countries, and his organization, Speaking Louder Ministries, has allowed him to travel to Brazil, Guatemala, Ukraine, Japan and Kyrgyzstan.
One of the many groups affiliated with the Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia, Hillsong Young & Free release worship music with a target audience of teens. Announced in 2012, the group issued the singles “Alive,” “Awake,” and the Spanish-language “Vivo Estás,” all in 2013. Filled with dance beats and teen pop anthems, their debut album, We Are Young & Free, arrived later in the year, featuring production from Hillsong veteran Michael-Guy Chislett. In early 2016 they released their sophomore album, Youth Revival, which peaked at number two on the Billboard U.S. Top Christian Albums chart and earned a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album. A year later they returned with an acoustic rendering of the same album called Youth Revival Acoustic. The single “P E A C E” appeared in 2018. ~ David Jeffries
New York City-based rap and hip-hop artist Andy Mineo makes progressive, electronic-influenced hip-hop. Raised in Syracuse, Mineo began rapping and producing albums in his home studio while still in high school. Originally going by the stage name of C-Lite, Mineo was signed to Syracuse University’s Marshall Street Records and opened for such acts as the Roots and Common. While in college, he reconnected with his faith via a meeting with producer Alex Medina and the urban evangelism project T.R.U.C.E. He was soon touring with T.R.U.C.E., and in 2009 released his first mixtape, Sin Is Wack, Vol. 1. In 2011, Mineo signed with Reach Records and dropped the moniker C-Lite in favor of his actual name. That same year he released his second mixtape, Formerly Known. In 2013, Mineo returned with his proper full-length studio album, Heroes for Sale. In 2014 he released the EP Never Land, and 2015 saw the release of the hit single “Lay Up” along with the album Uncomfortable. Two years later, Mineo joined Wordsplayed for the collaborative mixtape Magic and Bird. Peaking inside the Top 50 of the Billboard 200, the effort featured the singles “Dunk Contest” and “Judo.” The next year, Mineo scored gold certification for the single “You Can’t Stop Me” with Messiah. The same month, he issued the EP I: The Arrow, which featured two songs with Weatherman, and included the single “I Ain’t Done.” ~ Matt Collar
Jordan Feliz is a Billboard-charting contemporary Christian pop singer and songwriter. His sound walks the line between classic rock, slick retro ’70s R&B, and modern pop. Feliz grew up in Clovis, California and began his formal musical career with faith-based hard rock/screamo band A Current Affair in 2006. The band’s debut EP, Life in an Hourglass, offered a seamless screamo sound. It was followed by the Josh Auer-produced The Real Devastation EP in 2009.
Feliz left the group and relocated to Nashville in 2012. After a series of part-time jobs working as, among other things, a handyman to a valet, he became a church worship leader. In 2014, he was invited to participate in an unsigned artists’ retreat hosted by Centricity Music, and was promptly signed by the label. He began recording his debut album in February with producers Colby Wedgeworth (Lincoln Brewster, the Main, Lydia) and Josh Silverberg (Newsboys, Plumb). They finished in July. His first single, “The River,” was issued the same month, and he also became a father that September.
“The River” claimed the top spot on the Christian AC Songs chart and remained there for ten weeks. His Beloved EP was released in October and entered the Heatseekers chart at number 12, eventually earning the top spot and remaining there for eight weeks. The follow-up single, “Never Too Far Gone,” was released in March, landing inside the Top 20. His debut full-length, The River, was issued in April 2016 along with third single “Best of Me.” The album entered the Christian Albums chart at number four and garnered a Dove nomination for Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year. The EP 1 Mic 1 Take, a live acoustic session recorded at Capitol Studios in Hollywood, arrived the following year. In 2018, Feliz returned with his sophomore full-length album, Future, featuring the single “Witness.” ~ Thom Jurek
Born Kevin Elijah Burgess, Florida rapper KB exploded on the Christian hip-hop scene in 2012, topping the U.S. Billboard Top Gospel Albums chart with his debut effort, Weight & Glory. A troubled teen in high school, KB was saved by a Christian rap CD a friend gave him, and after one listen, he was on his way to a career in hip-hop for the Lord. Unfamiliar with the Christian rap scene, KB recorded demos with no network to hear them, but throwing his tracks on video-sharing sites and other social media gained the rapper a loyal following. Superstar Lecrae caught wind, took KB on tour as an opening act, and five shows in, KB was offered a contract with Lecrae’s label, Reach. The mixtape Who Is KB? followed in 2011 with KB’s official debut, Weight & Glory, landing a year later. The EP 100 followed in 2014, featuring a guest appearance from Andy Mineo. In 2015, KB delivered his second studio album, Tomorrow We Live, featuring contributions from Lecrae, Mattie, and professional golfer Bubba Watson. Two years later, as if in response, KB delivered Today We Rebel, his third LP, which again featured Lecrae and Andy Mineo, as well as guest spots from Aha Gazelle, Casey J., and others. ~ David Jeffries
Memphis May Fire is a sonic confessional, confronting the brokenness so many feel, and challenging that darkness with an aggressive call toward a hard-won victory.
Crossing genre-barriers and standing side-by-side with the elite of the rock world is nothing new for the unapologetically melodic and forcefully heavy band. They have steadily amassed a strong catalog while bringing a high level of audience participation and engagement to festivals, clubs, and theaters all around the globe.
The band’s ambitious sixth record, Broken, is a bold declaration of resilience. It fashions music into a sharp sword, dedicated to cutting free the bonds of self-doubt.
Memphis May Fire anthems like “Miles Away,” “No Ordinary Love,” “Beneath the Skin,” “Vices,” “Stay the Course,” and “Carry On” have amassed close to 100 million views on YouTube and millions of plays across streaming services. It’s a testament to the energized connectivity between band and audience. Unconditional (2014) debuted at Number One on Billboard’s Rock, Independent, and Hard Music charts. This Light I Hold (2016) arrived next, with crossovers into active rock radio.
These guys are family to the million-plus fans who follow Memphis May Fire on social media, who put This Light I Hold and Unconditional high in the Billboard 200, who empty the racks whenever MMF graces a magazine cover. They are revered by the early believers who discovered them with Sleepwalking (2009) and The Hollow (2011); those who made Challenger (2012) the biggest-selling debut in the history of Rise Records at the time; and everyone who discovered their heartfelt music since.
Broken is both a perfect distillation of everything the band has achieved creatively, with the group’s signature passion and diversity, and a bold leap into the future. It’s powered by the confident assurance of four musicians who know exactly who and what they are. Singer Matty Mullins, emboldened by a renewed purpose and the type of humility derived from personal struggles not dissimilar to the stories the band hears from their fans, leads the charge against a backdrop of instantly memorable hooks and bottom-heavy crunch, skillfully performed by guitarist/co-founder Kellen McGregor, longtime bassist Cory Elder, and drummer Jake Garland.
Broken was produced by Kane Churko (Five Finger Death Punch, Papa Roach, Ozzy Osbourne) and mixed by Drew Fulk (Motionless In White, We Came As Romans).
“The Old Me” stares anxiety in the face. “Heavy is the Weight” is an outright refusal to play the cutthroat games of interpersonal competition. “Sell My Soul” is a swinging, adventurous expansion of Memphis May Fire’s sound. “Live Another Day,” which closes the album, is an anthem for those burdened by thoughts of self-harm.
“It was important to be honest in a way that encourages people who are struggling to feel understood and to be known,” says the band’s lead singer. “Most of the album is about saying it’s important to know that it’s ok to feel broken. I’m broken, too.”
Consistently journeying to connect with as many people as possible, Memphis May Fire has toured with a diverse list of important rock and metal acts that includes Killswitch Engage, Sleeping With Sirens, Black Veil Brides, Sevendust, and Atreyu.
Memphis May Fire are veterans of the modern Vans Warped Tour, a staple defining act in the subculture that’s been so meaningful for so many. They’ve headlined the charity-driven Take Action! Tour, following in the footsteps of a diverse group of groundbreaking groups like Jimmy Eat World, The Used, and All Time Low. They’ve co-headlined with platinum-certified screamo/pop-punk merchants Yellowcard. They’ve earned spots at major rock radio festivals like Rock on the Range and heavier leaning international events like Download, Slam Dunk and Heavy Montreal.
The unity of purpose is palpable at a Memphis May Fire show, as both the audience and band share their life experiences, their dreams, and fears, through the power of transcendent music. As important as it is to see the light at the end of the tunnel, there is great strength to be gained from a sobering, stark look at what it feels like in the throes of adversity. Memphis May Fire crafts the sound of hope from struggle, delivered by a dedicated group of men who aspire to something more with their art.
FIT FOR A KING use the tools of heavy music and melodic hooks to honestly explore the dark side of the human experience, ultimately wrenching timeless hope from the jaws of anxiety, depression, and seemingly certain despair.
No matter the pristine picture of self-worth we project, in the unquenchable pursuit of recognition and affirmation, the gnawing anxiousness of guilt and brokenness chews away at our spirits, uncovering new pain and vulnerability.
Dark Skies is FIT FOR A KING’s evocative declaration of a hard won victory. “This album is far from happy. It’s about personal struggles,” explains singer Ryan Kirby. “It touches on many subjects relevant to all of our daily lives.”
The music and message of FIT FOR A KING is a battle cry against the darkness. This is a sound that stands in defiance of the mounting pressure of modern life, not through dismissiveness or easy answers, but with earnest struggle. The four young men of FIT FOR A KING are just like the rest of us. They hurt, they bleed, and in that raw transparent authenticity, they offer true solidarity. Beneath the most vicious downpour, they cling to unrelenting grace.
Like trailblazing metalcore giants Underoath and As I Lay Dying before them, FIT FOR A KING skillfully mine the varying extremes of this music, building a catalog that sees them at home on tours with hard rock and deathcore bands
alike. The band has traveled the United States and Europe with Vans Warped Tour, Beartooth, Every Time I Die, August Burns Red, The Amity Affliction, Whitechapel, For Today, After The Burial, and Attila to name a few.
Kirby, guitarist Bobby Lynge, drummer Jared Easterling, and bassist/vocalist Ryan “Tuck” O’Leary are easygoing and affable on the road, effortlessly maneuvering within the various social circles with goodwill and charm, without sacrificing an ounce of what they believe or who they are. It’s something the Texas band’s growing following respects. Simply put, FIT FOR A KING is real.
FIT FOR A KING was built with bootstrap ethics and do-it-yourself vigor. On the strength of self-released material, the group joined Solid State for a string of successful albums that connected with the downtrodden and dispossessed. Creation/Destruction (2013) debuted at Number 6 on the Hard Rock chart. Slave to Nothing (2014) cracked the Top 50 of Billboard’s Top Current Albums. Deathgrip (2016) climbed to Number 5 among Hard Rock Albums.
Recorded with celebrated producer/mixer Drew Fulk (I Prevail, Motionless In White, Memphis May Fire), Dark Skies is a collection of diverse anthems powered by the undeniable weight of truth-telling emotional vulnerability.
“Tower of Pain” takes unbridled heaviness to breathtaking heights. “Shattered Glass” is a killer throwback to the band’s most aggressive earlier work. Songs like “Price of Agony” see the quartet soaring to new melodic heights with unrestrained urgency. “Anthem of the Defeated” veers in yet another direction, evoking the percussive power of Slipknot or Mudvayne. Yet all of it is anchored in FIT FOR A KING’s signature sound, one their fans trust. “Debts of the Soul” is an examination of the sleeplessness that comes with ruminations on the nature of death. “When Everything Means Nothing” is a challenge to unplug from the vapid desperation of putting on a front online. “Oblivion” is one of the most faith-based songs the band has released. The song’s narrator pleads in the chorus, “Tell me I won’t be forgotten.” It’s a reminder of the grace of God and the power of true forgiveness without end.
No matter the political divisions, the staggering alienation arising from our paradoxical and increasingly “connected” world, or the mistakes we all make, FIT FOR A KING offer a foundation of open-mindedness and compassion.
“We’re a very transparent band. We aren’t pretending to be something we’re not,” says Kirby. “We don’t want to act like rock stars and we also don’t want to act like we’re poor musicians that can barely eat everyday. We don’t portray a false image. We want people to know exactly who we are.”
FIT FOR A KING cherishes unwavering honesty. Even under Dark Skies.
Demon Hunter is an American metal institution. The band embraces brazenly transcendent melodies, without apology, while maintaining a defiant heaviness reminiscent of the most timeless of metal music. For nearly two decades, Demon Hunter has weathered the changing tides of rock subculture, proving ever resistant to trends, and ever resilient, making music as determined and resolute as the men within the band.
In 2019 the band unveils not one but two brand new full-length albums on the same day. War is filled with aggression and Peace doubles down on melody; both are dynamic and diverse standalone offerings. They are linked most prominently by release date and a plainspoken theme:
“War in every breath / Peace in only death.”
Demon Hunter’s ninth and tenth studio albums arrive just two years after Outlive, which debuted at #1 Independent, #2 Rock Music, #2 Hard Music, #8 Current Albums, and #25 on the Billboard 200 charts. “Raining Down” remained #1 at Christian Rock radio for over 9 weeks.
Like Outlive (2017) and Extremist (2014), War and Peace were produced by the band’s own Jeremiah Scott and mixed by Zeuss (Rob Zombie, Queensrÿche, Hatebreed). Singer Ryan Clark, a Grammy nominated designer who has worked on album projects for Alice In Chains and Foo Fighters, once again spearheaded the look and feel.
As a headlining act, Demon Hunter helped introduce audiences to bands like August Burns Red. They’ve co-headlined with Red and toured as direct support for both In Flames and As I Lay Dying in the United States and parts of Canada. They’ve traveled to South America, Europe, and Australia, headlining major festivals and club shows alike.
Clark was on the cover of Revolver as part of their “Holy Alliance” feature in 2006, alongside the frontmen for Underoath, As I Lay Dying, and Norma Jean. He’s been invited to record guest vocals on songs released by Five Finger Death Punch and Anberlin, to name just a few.
Demon Hunter’s dedicated supporters and allies around the world wear the group’s symbol, lyrics, and album imagery on their shirts, denim vests, backpacks, and uniforms, and in many cases, on their skin. The band has engaged their fans in direct, authentic and personal terms for years, since long before such efforts were seen as “strategy.”
The group’s extended family around the world cherish Demon Hunter songs as personal anthems, instruments of empowerment, using them to mark chapters in their lives both good and bad, in celebration and in mourning, from weddings to funerals. Songs like “I Am a Stone,” “Not Ready to Die,” “Carry Me Down,” “Collapsing,” “LifeWar,” and “Fading Away” continue to resonate with fans, even as each successive album elicits ever more fervor from the band’s fierce, loyal supporters.
Ryan and his brother, former guitarist Don Clark, created Demon Hunter after the turn of the millennium, unleashing a self-titled first album backed by a still shadowy and enigmatic lineup in 2002, assembling a touring lineup that introduced Jonathan Dunn as bassist.
Summer of Darkness broke through in the metal, hardcore, and Christian rock scenes in 2004, with MTV2 rotation for “Not Ready to Die” and a spot on the Resident Evil: Apocalypse soundtrack helping push it past 100,000 in sales. Yogi was a fulltime member by the time they released The Triptych, which sold close to 150,000 copies in the U.S.; 2007’s Storm The Gates Of Hell crossed the 100,000 mark as well.
Judge toured on that record as lead guitarist, officially joining in 2009 with Live in Nashville. The World Is A Thorn (2010) debuted with first week sales of 14,000 as “Collapsing” became their highest charting song at metal and specialty radio. True Defiance (2012) broke into Billboard’s Top 40. Extremist was yet another milestone, with first week sales of over 18,000. It also produced the SiriusXM Octane hit “The Last One Alive.” That song and album cuts like “I Will Fail You,” “The Heart of a Graveyard,” and “Artificial Light” generated over 20 million streams.
Defying market trends and genre expectations, Outlive debuted to even stronger sales than its predecessors. Newer songs “Cold Winter Sun” and “Died in My Sleep” became live favorites, as the band performed at Chicago Open Air (with Ozzy Osbourne, KISS), Heavy Montreal (Marilyn Manson, Gojira, Trivium), and headlined festivals like Rock The Desert, Uprise Fest, and Germany’s Loud & Proud Fest.
War and Peace embody a stunning creative achievement, mining the depths of the band’s past, present, and future with unbridled ambition. “On My Side” and “Peace” saw the band back on SiriusXM. Spotify quickly placed both songs in several influential tastemaker playlists.
Demon Hunter’s musical identity is forged from diverse elements that coalesce into a singular electric charge, merging seemingly disparate sound with seamless agility: the energy of America’s thrash metal legends; the catchiness of Europe’s melodic death metal innovators; the gloomy atmospheric majesty of gothic rock; the song craft of dark romantic pop; and the fist-pumping aggression of Southern groove.
Demon Hunter’s body of work is born from unwavering commitment, uncompromising creative determination, and stark recognition of the reality of an often-cold world, tempered in defiant hope. It’s made up of smartly constructed, confessional lyrics; heady and catchy melody; monster riffs; bottom heavy grooves; the collision of meticulous production and urgent raw power; bold imagery and bolder themes.
The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus is an American rock band that formed in 2003.
Hailing from Middleburg, FL the members include brothers Ronnie and Randy Winter, Josh Burke, Joey Westwood, and Jon Espy. Over their years as a band they have achieved Gold and Platinum certifications from the RIAA as well as hundreds of millions of collective song streams world wide. They have toured extensively both in arena festival settings and headlining tours around the globe tirelessly never taking an official Hiatus or band break up that entire time (16 years). They are family owned and operated as well as having success both signed to a Major label and independently. Though widely know for their song “Face Down” released on Virgin records in 2006 the band actually only received Billboard Rock Chart # 1 status after leaving Virgin in 2011. In that time frame (post Virgin 2011-2019) the band achieved #1 SEVEN times completely independent on Billboard’s Christian Rock Radio charts! This has allowed the band to have both fans of the old and new music and ensured a longevity that the band regards as it’s most precious achievement. “I Love the feeling that I get when I see the look on someone’s face in the crowd who loves the new album and then we start up Face Down and you see them realize we are that same band.” said front man Ronnie.
The band plans to continue to release new music and tour consistently pushing the message they most hold dear, which is as follows:
“ONE DAY IT WILL DAWN ON MANKIND THAT ALL ARE LOVED BY GOD, YET COULD AND SHOULD BE BY ONE ANOTHER”
If ever a word captured an artist’s heart and ministry, it is the one HANNAH KERR has chosen as the title of her first full-length album.
“The word ‘Overflow’ sums up this whole project,” she says. “Musically, I want what pours out of me to be the overflow of what God is pouring into me. It’s not about my ability or my talent, but about letting God pour truth and wisdom into me and then writing and singing songs that matter.”
That is precisely what she has done with Overflow. The album takes us on a very personal journey made universal by Hannah’s ability to bring emotions to life, and to bring listeners into God’s presence. As such, it is music as a ministry, a combination at the core of her personal and professional journey alike.
“Those things came together for me after my family moved from Buffalo, New York, to Nashville in the summer before my freshman year of high school,” she says. “That transition was the hardest time of my life. I felt so alone and I didn’t want to let my parents know how badly I was hurting. I would dig into the Bible and ask, ‘God, why am I here? Do you have a purpose for me?’ I had always sung, but when my mom encouraged me to try out for the worship team at my church, I tried it, and from the moment I sang my first song in worship, I knew I had found my place.”
What followed was a gradual awakening to songwriting and performing that has led to Overflow—for which she co-wrote seven of the eleven songs—and participation in one of the premiere tours of 2016-2017, “The Very Next Thing Tour” with Casting Crowns and Matt Maher, something that clearly thrills her.
“Casting Crowns has been my favorite artist since I was really young,” she says. “To be on tour with them is a dream come true, and to get to continue the touring relationship I’ve had with Matt is also such a blessing—if I had to pick two artists to go out with, those two would be it.”
As she tours, Hannah is introducing tens of thousands of people to Overflow, an album that she and Producer and Sawyer Brown front man, Mark Miller, pieced together to take listeners on a specific journey.
“‘Warrior’ is the first song on the album,” she says. “If someone only hears one thing from this project, that’s what they need to hear. It’s a song of hope, and more people than I can count, people who’ve gone through struggles with things like illness and chemotherapy, have come up to me and shared stories about how ‘Warrior’ has been a big influence in their lives. The album closes with ‘Be Still and Know’ because I wanted that to be the last thing people hear. I wrote this song for a friend going through a hard time, and I felt that the words God gave me to say to her were, ‘Be still and know that I AM God.’ After everything we hear on the album, I wanted to leave people with that thought, whether this is the best time or the worst moment of their lives, and to have Casting Crowns’ front man, Mark Hall, sing on that track is the biggest honor and such a blessing.”
In between, Hannah explores the complexities of a faith-filled life with songs like “Never Leave Your Side,” a plea for connection (“in the moments when You feel so far away….”) ; “I Stand Here,” a song of encouragement and empowerment; “Radiate,” produced and co-written by her brother Josh, a song celebrating the fact that God’s love and light can bring “beauty out of the ashes”; “Your Love Defends Me,” an anthem written with Matt Maher to declare God’s strength and defense in times of loneliness; and “Love I Leave,” about the desire to make a difference.
Throughout, Hannah’s rich, expressive voice alternately brings home both the intimacy and the grandeur of a walk with God, and her approach declares victory not in self but in God’s love and strength. In doing so, Overflow encapsulates the beating heart of a young woman who approaches her craft first and foremost as a worshipper–and who did not see a career in the spotlight coming.
“I think my journey is a little different than most,” she says with a smile. “A lot of people grew up thinking, ‘I’m going to be a singer or I’m going to be an artist,’ and that was never on my mind. I thought I was way too introverted to be a singer who performs in front of thousands of people, but as I was leading worship in my home church I felt as if that ministry could be expanded to leading worship for the collective church, across the whole nation, and across the world. I felt that God was calling me to do something bigger through music.”
Hannah has been singing in public since the age of 5, when her father, himself a worship leader, brought her to the front of the church to sing. That was in her native Buffalo, in a home where music was a constant.
“Casting Crowns was my first concert,” she says of the band whose front man, Mark Hall, has become a dear friend and mentor. “I grew up listening to them along with Steven Curtis Chapman and Mercy Me. I also listened to my parents, whose worship music always inspired me, and even though I never imagined myself as an artist, I always loved to sing, and I think watching my parents and the outpouring of their gift planted a seed in my heart.”
True to the title of her debut, Hannah found she couldn’t hold back the progression that led her from shy youngster to breakthrough Christian singer and flagship artist on Black River Entertainment’s new imprint, Black River Christian. She found each step on her journey came naturally–from praise to music, from worship to ministry, from living room songs to church services to major arenas tours.
Once her family’s move to Nashville led her to embrace worship leadership, then songwriting and performing, she made a recording that caught the ear of Miller.
“Mark affirmed my calling,” she said and recalled him saying to her, ‘I believe this is what you need to do. You need to have your music out there; you need to lead worship for thousands of people.’ At first, I was hesitant because it was scary and way outside of my comfort zone, but I think that’s how God uses you best–when you’re uncertain and uncomfortable, because that’s when his power is made perfect in your weakness. So I started making music and fell in love with the process of worshipping God and transferring that worship into songs. To me, that’s a great window into my life and into my heart for people that hear it.
That heart, captured in songs about her life and relationship with the Lord, help Overflow more than live up to its name as the place where God’s love and strength flow through Hannah to her listeners.
“I think God is using me,” she says, “because I said yes and I’m willing to be used. I’m just following the call that Christ has placed on my life. When people listen to this album, I want the take away to be that encouragement comes from the Lord. I want to remind them that God is where your worth comes from, no matter how old you are, where you live, or any label that may be attached to you, it’s all about the Lord and the fact that His power in you makes anything and everything possible.”
It’s hard to imagine how many times Micah Tyler spent his days wondering ‘what’s next,’ while driving a sausage delivery truck across southeast Texas. Surely, questioning his own discernment to quit his youth pastor gig, sell half of what he owned to move his family into a single-wide trailer and start traveling the region, performing songs he’d written.
Not an easy move for a guy in his late 20s living in somewhat-reclusive Buna, Texas with a wife, three kids, and no strong connection to the music industry, at the time. “I just knew I had to be obedient and step out into music full time,” Tyler recalls. “I told the Lord, ‘I don’t know how to be a professional musician, but you’ve taught me to be faithful.’ It was a daily decision to wake up every morning and stop worrying about tomorrow.”
Fast-forward down that long road, and the same guy behind the delivery truck wheel over a half-decade prior, is now the latest pop artist to sign a national record deal, garner a nod for “New Artist of the Year” at the GMA Dove Awards and release his debut album, Different, through Fair Trade Services, home to MercyMe, Newsboys and many other key industry names. The lead single from that project, “Never Been a Moment” is not only one of the biggest radio chart-toppers from a breakout act in 2016, it turned out to be more autobiographical in context than he even planned.
“(Nashville songwriter) Jeff Pardo and I jumped in to writing this song without a specific story behind it, until after it was completed,” Tyler says. “Then I realized, ‘Wow, this song is essentially a journal entry of the past six years of my life. Everything my family and I had gone through in this faith journey led up to this.”
A big part of Tyler’s journey included traveling 200 days per year, performing at youth and college-aged camps and leadership conferences throughout the South. His impact and understanding of his younger audiences was immortalized on a viral parody video titled “Millennials,” which has over 65 million cumulative views on YouTube and Facebook. Most budding artists pine for such organic exposure, but Tyler’s YouTube fame put him on edge, though leading him to a healthy resolve.
“Here I am, working hard toward becoming a serious musician when this funny video breaks loose—and I’m thinking this isn’t at all what I want to be known for,” Tyler says. “But in all of this, God’s helped me recognize he’s provided a special set of colors on my palette to paint with, and I’m the only one who can paint this unique picture with my life and story. If he calls it ‘wonderful,’ then I need to embrace that and celebrate its worth.
Tyler’s epiphany hit him so clearly, that it inspired the album’s title track “Different.” “Writing this record brought to the surface a lot of insecurities I’ve dealt with my entire life. Not feeling good enough. Psalm 139, David’s praise of being uniquely created felt more like a punishment to me,” Tyler says. “I want to sing and look and perform like other artists, but I’m not called to be Jeremy Camp or Bart Millard. The only one he’s called me to be is Micah. There are times I’d rather be those other guys, but I’m ultimately learning to embrace who God has called and created me to be.”
With that said, hundreds of nights on the road have certainly honed Tyler’s purpose for ministry through a growing list of self-penned tunes borne from a place that’s as real as the person he’s trying to be. “These songs are battle-tested,” says Micah. “I want to live the music I’m writing. There are some songs I can’t write because I haven’t lived there yet. When someone comes up to me after a concert and tells me how my songs affected them, I want to make sure they know I can relate.”
Outside of the notable radio hits found on his newest 12-track LP, including the multi-chart No. 1 hit “Never Been A Moment” and current title track, Different includes “Soul Song,” “Directions,” “Comeback Song” and more. Tyler will continue his nearly constant trek on the road joining Big Daddy Weave and We Are Messengers for the west coast-focused “Set Free Tour” throughout the majority of the fall.
Different seems appropriate for Tyler since life looks a lot different than it did five years ago. But the passion and drive of that original step he took to serve the Lord remains very much the same and we hope that never changes.
Mark Schultz’ personal approach to music has yielded a slew of hits including “He’s My Son” and “Letters From War,” a poignant account of faith in the midst of strife, which recently served as the centerpiece of the Army’s “Be Safe-Make it Home” campaign. As one of Christian music’s most distinctive voices, singer/songwriter Mark has a considerable catalog of tracks that can’t help but tug on his listeners’ hearts.
Born on October 19, 1991 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, singer/songwriter Colton Dixon first caught the public’s attention on season 11 of American Idol. The guitar-playing, golden-maned Dixon’s soaring vocals and upfront spirituality connected with audiences enough to secure a seventh-place finish, and it didn’t take long for the charismatic rocker to land a record deal. The resulting A Messenger, his debut for Sparrow Records, was released in 2013 and quickly rose to #15 on the Billboard Top 200 and #1 on the Christian Album chart. With newly raised stakes, he fared similarly well with his 2014 follow-up, Anchor which also topped the Christian chart and featured the hit single “More of You.” Tours with major artists like TobyMac, Third Day, and Casting Crowns helped increase his profile as a popular concert act. In 2015, Dixon released The Calm Before the Storm, an album which combined two previously released EP’s: the all-acoustic Calm and a set of remixes called Storm. Early in 2017, Dixon released the single “All That Matters,” a preface to his third full album Identity, which was released by Sparrow that March. ~ James Christopher Monger
Michael Cochren is a singer/songwriter and worship leader from southern Indiana. His music tells stories of hope, grace, and second chances. A large variety of artists such as Billy Joel, Needtobreathe, and Ray Charles have impacted his American piano driven pop soul sound.
In the summer of 2011, Michael began writing and touring both solo and with a band of his musician friends. With the release of his first EP, and the help of some regional radio play in southern Indiana, Michael found himself performing across the Midwest; further developing his sound. In 2014, Michael Cochren began touring with his band under the name Cochren & Company (stylized Cochren & Co.). opening for artists such as Newsboys, Crowder, Jeremy Camp, NF, We Are Messengers and many more.
Cochren & Co. signed to TobyMac’s Gotee Records in 2018, releasing two singles “Church (Take Me Back)” and “Grave” in November.
WHATUPRG’s artistry exists on the bleeding edge of hip hop, effortlessly integrating trap soundscapes and Latin rhythms to animate his memorable lyricism. Innovation is to be expected — fans of WHATUPRG’s debut album, Pleasant Hill, can attest to his creative excellence. However, WHATUPRG is entering a new frontier in his career, one where his unbridled boldness about his life experiences is fused to his distinctive sound. His latest EP, RAUL, projects his personal freedom with a clarion call to his fans to fight for the freedom he’s found. For themselves and for each other.
Besides being the title of his latest EP, as well as the 22-year-old’s first name, RAUL is a dare to WHATUPRG’s audience to reckon with the young man on the other side of their headphones making their favorite music From the opening track to the final beat, RG performs a heart-wrenching examination of his Mexican heritage and his Christian faith, illustrating two identities that are inextricably intertwined and yet, at war in the United States. Similarly, art and artist can never be wholly separated but in RAUL, they are one.
In Freeze, RAUL’s opening song, RG journeys back to his boyhood and revisits how his father’s deportation forever altered his home and outlook. For those that intimately know the pain of a separated family, it’s a breath of fresh air. To fans that don’t, it’s an invitation to wake up.
WHATUPRG’s love for his fans grounds his raw, pointed challenge to shift their perspective from apathy to empathy; be it through renewed politics, empathy for neighbors living on the margins, and most especially, their conception of God. In “4AM,” his most personal track, he offers a somber reminder that “Jesus was an immigrant” while observing that “most people don’t give –,” well, you’ll have to listen to the rest.
The project progresses through testimony about the poverty he endured as a child foreshadowed by his father’s forced exit from his life (“Swish”) and a celebratory break up told entirely in Spanish (“Ni Aqui”). RAUL culminates with “Free,” a declaration of his newfound liberty and an acknowledgment of the One who grants it.
“When we admit our brokenness, that’s when we’re closest to freedom,” said WHATUPRG. For him, that’s a reflection of the journey that brought him to RAUL. But for you, the listener, it’s something even better than a personal epiphany. It’s an invitation.
U.S.-based English vocalist/drummer Jennifer Carole Ledger secured a life-changing role as the drummer of Christian hard rock outfit Skillet when she was still a teenager. After a decade with the band, she took her first steps as a solo artist with her debut EP, Ledger. Born in Coventry, England in 1989, Ledger moved to Wisconsin at 16. In addition to her high school studies, she also drummed with the band at her local church, which is where she was discovered by Skillet’s husband-and-wife duo John and Korey Cooper. With the then-recent departure of their drummer Lori Peters, the Coopers encouraged Ledger to audition for the spot, which she got in 2008. From the church stage to arenas, Ledger’s first outing with Skillet was on their Comatose Tour. Over the following decade, Ledger and the band released and toured behind Awake (2009), Rise (2013), and Unleashed (2016). In addition to her work behind the drum kit, Ledger also contributed vocals to each album with increased frequency. Under the guidance of the Coopers, she began to form ideas for a solo project as early as 2012. That music wouldn’t be fully realized until 2018 with the release of her first effort, Ledger (Atlantic/Hear It Loud). Produced with Korey Cooper, the defiant set of pop-influenced rock anthems was elevated by Ledger’s vocals, a stirring blend similar to Lacey Sturm, Cassadee Pope, and Hayley Williams. The set debuted just outside Billboard’s Top 50, rising as high as number two on the Christian chart and number seven on the overall Rock ranking. To promote the EP, Ledger pulled double duty on the road, opening for (and later playing with) Skillet on their joy.UNLEASHED 2018 tour. ~ Neil Z. Yeung, Rovi
Crossover appeal is a buzzy phrase that means more to the marketers trying to sell a record than the artist trying to make it. Yet hip hop, well, hip hop done right and true bridges every gap. Even the gap between Faith and Culture. Not by abandoning the culture it’s born from, but illuminating that culture for the world to see. 1K Phew embodies authenticity, his life and his music are a showcase for the culture that forged him wherever he goes. Listen once, and you can’t help but hear the shine.
1K Phew exudes that authenticity in his music and lifestyle, all the way down to the name. “My mission is to keep it 1,000. That’s where the 1K comes from,” says the 25-year-old rapper. His latest project, What’s Understood 2 is pure, unfiltered trap, not designed in a lab, but shaped by his East Atlanta home.
“Everybody that’s around me, I want them to feel love. It’s just my vibe, and I want y’all to feel it.”
They do. As evidenced by his mixtapes Sunday Night (2015) and Life (2016) and his last album, What’s Understood, Phew’s got plenty of swag with the wisdom to match, a package that has brought him an incredible platform, including the 2019 season-anthem for his hometown Atlanta Falcons. The young artist was instrumental in connecting contemporary trap legend Zaytoven with Reach Records co-founder Lecrae, leading to their critically acclaimed collaboration, Let the Trap Say Amen.
There’s a sense of transparency that comes through in his music, a refined rawness only be gained through experience and honing your craft, leading up WU2.
“I feel like the streets respect that. If you’re somebody you not, they won’t. And that’s why I keep it 1K.”
The project is strapped with explosive features, from emerging trap star the 2-Chainz signed Skooly, who shines on the contemplative, atmospheric, string-laden standout track “Heatwave,” to labelmate Lecrae on their head-bopping “Wild N Out.” WHATUPRG, Jamie Grace, Foggie Raw and more lend their talents to WU2’s packed roster, wrapped together by a young artist maturing by leaps and bounds.
“I found myself as an artist, and more importantly as a man through, WU2,” says Phew. “Making this music helped me discover a whole new world in myself.”
He’s got a word for the church, too, because “sometimes I’m preaching to the choir, but everybody in the choir ain’t all the way there.” Phew himself was that kid — always on time for Sunday service, but caught up trying to chase the approval of a crowd on a destructive path.
As he crept into adulthood, the young rapper still flirted with disaster. A weed deal intended to score extra money for college quickly went south, forcing Phew and his crew to flee the scene, speeding down city streets and dodging oncoming traffic as gunshots trailed in the distance. One bullet connected with the car mirror. Soon, the whole crew ducked their heads as shots whirred past their vehicle. Phew made it out in one piece, but once he stepped out the car he dropped to his knees.
“Something came over me that day,” says Phew. “My whole body was numb. I told God, ‘I’m done. I’m done, I’m done, I’m done.’ If I kept going, I’d be dead or in jail.”
He credits the goodness of God for making it out alive, and the love of his parents with getting his mind right and keeping his heart pure.
It’s why he wants everybody, from the choir to the club, to hear the true Phew throughout WU2 and see his comfort in his own skin. “I’m tryna show my people,” adding, “you don’t need nobody’s approval for your dopeness.”For those that haven’t heard, or just need the reminder, WU2 is here for you.
A Christian rapper with a distinctive flow that’s laid-back but committed, Nobigdyl got his big break when his boss fired him for being better at his sideline than his main gig. Nobigdyl was born Dylan Phillips on November 23, 1991 in Hayward, California (not far from Oakland in the San Francisco Bay Area). His family relocated to Bell Buckle, Tennessee when he was nine years old. At ten years of age, Phillips showed he was a natural performer, becoming deeply involved in school theater and dabbling in professional stage work. He also discovered hip-hop, becoming a serious fan of the Notorious B.I.G. and Onyx, and writing his own raps, later recording as part of a hip-hop group known as Southside Epidemic. (Phillips also worked with a short-lived act called Broken Folk, where he rapped while playing the banjo.) As Phillips delved deeper into hip-hop in his teens, his interest expanded from performing to studio production, and he studied audio and production at Middle Tennessee State University before switching majors to focus on the business side of music. Phillips was managing a hip-hop artist who was a fellow MTSU student when Christian rap star Derek Minor spoke on campus; Phillips was hoping to pitch his artist to Minor, but instead Minor became a mentor to Phillips, urging him to take his music and faith more seriously. In his junior year, Phillips landed an internship with Reflection Music Group; he moved up to a job as merchandise manager with RMG, and later Phillips became road manager for Derek Minor. At the same time, Phillips was writing and recording music in his spare time, with an eye toward putting some of his material on the market. Minor, impressed with Phillips’ tracks as Nobigdyl, began talking up his work on social media, until Minor finally told Phillips he needed to focus on his music rather than road-managing him — and fired him to give him the push he believed he needed.
Phillips took Minor’s advice, and made Nobigdyl’s music his career priority. After dropping a handful of online singles, including “Indie,” “Beauty,” and “Pot of Gold,” Nobigdyl made his first full-length album, Smoke Signal, available as a free download via the online Christian hip-hop magazine Rapzilla in January 2015; around the same time, Nobigdyl was featured on Derek Minor’s 2015 album, Empire. Rapzilla named Nobigdyl an artist to watch in their “15 Freshman of 2015” listing, and he released several more tracks through the website that year. Nobigdyl also formed a musical collective with fellow Christian hip-hop artists Mogli the Iceburg and Jarry Manna called Indie Tribe, and in 2016 he made guest appearances on tracks by Nate Jordan, Lawren, Davis Absolute, and others. In 2017 Nobigdyl released Canopy, a ten-song effort that included the successful singles “Purple Dinosaur” and “Treetops.” ~ Mark Deming
An American metalcore group based out of the Lone Star State, Oh, Sleeper emerged in 2006 out of the ashes of the Christian emo/post-hardcore unit Terminal, who ceased operations following the release of their debut (and only) album How the Lonely Keep. Oh, Sleeper perfected their tech-heavy attack, clean/scream singing, and dark atmospherics via chart-topping albums like When I Am God (2007), Son of the Morning (2009) and Children of Fire (2011), before going on hiatus in 2013. They returned in 2019 with their long-awaited fourth studio long-player Bloodied/Unbowed.
The band was founded in Fort Worth, Texas by ex-Terminal members Ryan Conley (drums), Lucas Starr (bass), and James Erwin (guitar), along with Micah Kinard (unclean vocals) and former Between the Buried and Me guitarist Shane Blay (guitar, clean vocals). Taking their name from a passage in the New Testament’s Epistle to the Ephesians (“Therefore it says, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you”), the newly-minted quintet issued their debut EP The Armored March in late 2006. They were scooped up by Solid State Records the following year, with whom they released their first full-length effort When I Am God, which featured re-recorded versions of the songs from The Armored March, alongside several new recordings. Conley left after a tour with Norma Jean in support of the album, and was replaced by new drummer Matt Davis, who made his first studio appearance on 2009’s ambitious Son of the Morning. A concept LP concerning an apocalyptic battle between God and Satan, it was the band’s highest charting outing to date, cracking the Billboard Top 200 albums chart and rising to the upper echelons of the hard rock and Christian albums charts.
Bassist Starr was the next to leave the fold, making room for Nate Grady, who made his debut on 2011’s Children of Fire. Another narrative-driven set, this time dealing with the aftermath of the rapture that occured at the end of Son of the Morning, the album made an even stronger showing than its predecessor, climbing to number one on the hard rock albums chart. Guitarist James Erwin announced his departure in 2012, resulting in Grady taking over guitar duties while passing the bass to Johno Erickson, formerly of Sky Eats Airplane. Having fulfilled their contract with Solid State, the band used crowdfunding to help underwrite their next release. The resulting sci-fi-themed EP The Titan arrived in 2013. Later that year Oh, Sleeper would go on hiatus, allowing Shane Blay to join up with members of As I Lay Dying to front a new project called Wovenwar.
In 2017 the band returned to the studio and released the single “Oxygen”, with a second single, “Decimation & Burial”, arriving the following year. 2018 also saw the group return to Solid State Records and announce the impending arrival of a new full-length effort — former bassist and co-founder Lucas Starr passed away in December of that year after a four month battle with cancer. A third single, “Fissure”, was released in January 2019, with Bloodied/Unbowed arriving later that July. ~ James Christopher Monger, Rovi
Gotee Records welcomes a new artist, Terrian, to the family with the release of her debut song and music video, “God With Us,” available now. The song was produced by Chuck Butler (Tauren Wells, India Arie) and co-written by Terrian. A familiar face to concertgoers, Terrian joined TobyMac’s Diverse City band in 2017 – being seen on the last two Hits Deep tours.
“She’s a soulful worshipper with a smile that lights up the room and a voice that is huge,” shares TobyMac about Terrian. “I am proud and honored to work with her on her art and watch her move forward in her career as an artist.”
Terrian was born and raised in Memphis, TN where she has rooted herself in community and mentorship being part of AngelStreet Memphis. AngelStreet mentors girls through musical training in areas with limited artistic opportunities while empowering the girls to understand their value, discovering their purpose and becoming creative leaders. In addition to her debut song, Terrian is featured on TobyMac’s “Scars (Stereovision Remix)” that released and on the praised The Beatitudes Project from Stu G.
Jon Keith is a Hip-Hop and R&B artist originally from southeast San Diego, California. Jon was born to loving parents in a faith-based home and remembers having an affinity for country music. It wasn’t until hearing a San Diego rapper named Clister at the David’s Harp Foundation that Jon Kieth discovered his love for Hip-Hop. Soon, Jon began making his own music, eventually connecting with Kings Dream Entertainment after meeting Ruslan at local events.
Jon’s first album, “Lost Boys,” proved to be a major success, receiving critical acclaim and garnering public praise from artists like Lecrae and Derek Minor. Because of the growing influence of Jon’s music, he’s been featured on Apple Music’s front page and on YouTube channels with millions of views.
Ecclesia is a Christian alternative pop of band led by Andrew Padilla. They are known for their experimental production and boldly gospel centered lyricism. The band focuses on blending world sounds into their music in the hope to push the church into an deeper understanding of cultural unity and acceptance. Combining elements of trap, afro-beat, soul, and traditional worship, Ecclesia is a breath of fresh air in the CCM music genre.
“Innovation and experimentation are in our artistic DNA. We are passionate about creating art that reaches the coming generations both socially and culturally while carrying the uncompromised message of the gospel. Specifically, our vision is to minister to different communities around the world through our online media and itinerant ministry.”
Death Therapy is a two man metal band from Atlanta, Georgia, and they’re anything but conventional. Their affinity for experimentation is reflected not only in their genre bending sound, but in how they create it. The most obvious example is that the duo doesn’t include a guitarist. This simple alteration to the traditional metal formula catapults their sound from common to wildly unorthodox, and it makes their live shows a wholly unique experience. Since the band’s inception, Death Therapy’s vision has been to approach the unapproachable in both style and substance. After the success of their debut project The Storm Before The Calm, the band has continued to challenge themselves. Their newest album Voices, out April 12, 2019 on Solid State Records, showcases their efforts to push boundaries both musically and thematically. The sophomore release entertains a more raw aesthetic than their debut, engaging several previously uncharted elements in their music. Thundering and time signature breaking riffs take center stage, but not without a strong dose of their signature electronic groove. Lyrically, their sophomore effort dives deep into the darkest depths of the human heart and mind, without qualification or expectation of what may be found lurking within. Without apology, Death Therapy is a band who loves to challenge their listeners to go with them on a journey that isn’t always pretty, and with Voices they have accomplished their goal in expert fashion.
Death Therapy is a two man metal band from Atlanta, Georgia, and they’re anything but conventional. Their affinity for experimentation is reflected not only in their genre bending sound, but in how they create it. The most obvious example is that the duo doesn’t include a guitarist. This simple alteration to the traditional metal formula catapults their sound from common to wildly unorthodox, and it makes their live shows a wholly unique experience.
Since the band’s inception, Death Therapy’s vision has been to approach the unapproachable in both style and substance. After the success of their debut project The Storm Before The Calm, the band has continued to challenge themselves. Their newest album Voices, out April 12, 2019 on Solid State Records, showcases their efforts to push boundaries both musically and thematically. The sophomore release entertains a more raw aesthetic than their debut, engaging several previously uncharted elements in their music. Thundering and time signature breaking riffs take center stage, but not without a strong dose of their signature electronic groove. Lyrically, their sophomore effort dives deep into the darkest depths of the human heart and mind, without qualification or expectation of what may be found lurking within. Without apology, Death Therapy is a band who loves to challenge their listeners to go with them on a journey that isn’t always pretty, and with Voices they have accomplished their goal in expert fashion.
Raised in a small town in Pennsylvania, Rachael made her way to Tennessee to attend college. During her time at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, she began writing songs, leading worship, and playing live concerts. Rachael has an electronic pop sound that matches her high energy and enthusiastic personality. As a pop worship artist, she seeks to bring hope and light into the world through encouraging lyrics and catchy melodies. Rachael says that “my purpose is to share God’s life-changing love with others through music. I want people to know that they are seen, known, and loved in this world.”
Her previous single “Circles” has racked up over 240,000 streams since it was released with no promotion. Rachael also has a heart for teen girls and reminding them of their worth and identity. Her upcoming EP “Even In The Night” will be released in January 2020. Stay tuned for more tour dates and news!
Mirours is an American Christian alternative indie band from California, formed by husband and wife duo, Jake Owen and Hilary Owen. Through an eclectic range of styles, they draw influence from a variety of musical genres to tell personal and unconventional stories of faith, love, and human nature. Mirours’ self-titled debut album released August 17, 2019.