Two-time GRAMMY award-winning duo for KING & COUNTRY makes a powerful statement with their much-anticipated third album, Burn the Ships, an epic, sweeping musical landscape that explores themes of new beginnings, forgiveness, hope, and love.
The album’s soaring debut and GRAMMY® nominated single, “joy,” which features a 100-person choir and a hypnotic wave of rhythm and electronic sounds, hit No. 1 and has been streamed more than 18 million times. The lyrics cut through the cacophony of societal noise to remind us about what is important: “Oh, hear my prayer tonight. ‘Cause this is do or die. The time has come to make a choice. I choose joy.”
The inspiring pop masterpiece also represents the exciting adventure into unchartered territory for brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone, who were propelled into superstardom with the release of their critically acclaimed sophomore album, RUN WILD. LIVE FREE. LOVE STRONG., which debuted at No. 1 on iTunes and was certified gold. In addition to winning two GRAMMYs and four Dove Awards, the duo performed internationally on a hugely successful 60-date arena tour.
They have garnered four No. 1s (“joy,” “Priceless,” “Fix My Eyes,” and “Shoulders”), nine Top 10 hits, and had songs featured on the Emmys, Super Bowl, Sunday Night Football and many other high-profile events, including performances on The Tonight Show, Today and Jimmy Kimmel Live!
But as they reveal in Burn the Ships, there is no looking back, no resting on their laurels. There is much more to explore and explain, especially during this time of great unrest when answers don’t seem immediately apparent. With a new level of vulnerability and honesty, they wrote every song on this project, which they also co-produced with longtime collaborators Aqualung, Tedd T. and Seth Mosely. “It isn’t perfect – far from it – but there is a sense of truthfulness and a heart and a personality and an ideology behind this record,” Joel says. “It feels like the most mature version of for KING & COUNTRY.”
The title track was inspired by a 1500s Spanish explorer who boldly landed his ships on enemy shores without any knowledge of what awaited his arrival. To ensure that the men were committed to their mission, he proclaimed, “Burn the ships!” The only way to go was onward; retreat was not an option.
“That is the big statement that this collection of songs is making,” says Luke. “We don’t want to live in the past; we want to move forward. There are things in everybody’s pasts that you have to get rid of—in some cases physically burn and in other cases you just need to get rid of them however you can emotionally. For us, that is the name that represents this collection of art and work best.”
These songs fit in perfectly with today’s pop music arena, where artists ranging from Kesha to Drake are exploring themes of religion, prayer and God. The Smallbones’ words are a soothing salve for a hurting nation in need of healing.
“People are hungry for truth and hope,” Luke says. “I don’t think they want something that is false. So when it comes to people seeking out God, they are receptive because they are trying to figure out what is true and real. I think that is a good thing. I hope our music can play a role in that, but ultimately people have to figure it out for themselves.”
Burn the Ships may be the duo’s most personal work to date because the songs are about some of the most meaningful and terrifying moments of their lives. For instance, “Need You More” was inspired by the near-death of Luke’s infant son, Leo. His wife Courtney found Leo in his crib, blue from not breathing. She began CPR while praying over their son, who soon came back to life. While driving to the hospital, the words, “I need you more/more than ever before,” came to Luke, who hit record on his phone. That original recording, including sounds from the car, was included in the final mix.
“My hope is that if I have gone through some form of suffering, maybe there is someone else who has gone through something similar who can take a bit of hope that there was someone else just like them,” Luke says. “I feel like God has given me these struggles to share those stories.”
“joy.” was inspired by Luke’s late-night marathon scrolling through social media. “I couldn’t articulate in that moment why I was sad, but it sent me on a pilgrimage, and that is where ‘joy’ came from.” I realized I needed to do something if I want to have joy. I can’t just scroll and find it.”
While “Fight On, Fighter” continues the duo’s focus on a woman’s worth, it is first and foremost a musical letter of support to their wives.
Joel and Luke, who have become American citizens, learned about hope, love and support from their tight-knit family. Their parents raised seven children in Sydney, Australia, before moving to Nashville in 1991. Music became the family business. Their charismatic father was a music promoter and sister Rebecca St. James became a successful Christian music artist, so the duo’s teen years were spent working as part of her road crew.
When Luke was 19 and Joel was 21, they formed a band and began writing and recording the body of work that would become for KING & COUNTRY. They released their debut album, Crave, in 2012 and won New Artist of the Year at the 2013 Dove Awards, where they received six nominations.
In what has become a full-circle moment, they wrote “Never Give Up” with sister Rebecca for the new album. Once novices, they are now their sister’s peers and have a shared understanding of the difficulties of being frequently away from home. “We learned the craft of music and fell in love with it on the road with Rebecca, “ Joel says. “In some ways, for KING & COUNTRY is a legacy band of Rebecca’s. It’s a real special moment to be able to have that creative collaboration after all of these years with her.”
The album’s theme of adventure and exploration ends poetically with “Pioneers,” a lush song about the romance and realities of long-term commitment. Fittingly, wives Moriah and Courtney join them on the final track. “In a time where commitment can be hard to come by—the through-thick-and-thin/death-do-us-part kind of commitment—it’s a song that celebrates that kind of love,” Joel says.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that the duo felt compelled to embark on this musical pilgrimage because they have been two of our most prescient storytellers in recent years, addressing issues even before they became part of the national conversation. It’s as if they know what we need to hear exactly when we need to hear it. For instance, their 2016 No. 1 hit “Priceless”, which also inspired the Smallbones’ human-trafficking themed movie by the same name, celebrates a woman’s worth. Several years before the #MeToo phenomenon, the Smallbones sparked a movement highlighting a woman’s value that continues to grow and evolve today.
They began writing and recording songs about hope and love several years ago for Burn The Ships, messages that are vital during these tumultuous times. Their music provides answers, comfort and affirmation, while offering a constant reminder that we aren’t alone, even in our darkest times. “We never want to be a voice of critique or criticism, but a voice of, ‘Maybe if we shifted our perspective, what would we see?’ That is the beauty of music,” Joel says. “We ask the questions of ourselves: ‘I want to have joy. I want to find a way. When I am faced with despair, struggle or hardship, what can I do?’”
Luke adds, ” The thing I am most proud of with this album is that when I look at all 10 songs, they all have a special place in my heart and there is a real significant story with each one. This album is about those songs in our hearts being exposed to others, and hopefully others will expose their hearts too.”
In Winter 2019 Joel & Luke are performing in their Australian homeland for the very first time as part of the burn the ships | world tour and have sold out 6 of the 7 Australian cities, including the iconic Sydney Opera House.
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.
For more than 15 years, well-respected worship leader Kari Jobe has been using her gifts to lead people into the presence of God. When she began leading worship at age 13, she never imagined she would be nominated for a GRAMMY®, win multiple Dove Awards or be praised by the New York Times. She only knew she had a heart for broken people and a deep desire to lead them to the cross.
Jobe’s third album and Dove Award-winning, Majestic (Capitol CMG), reveals her lifelong passion for the Church. “Worship, for me, has always been such a rescue place in my life,” she says. “When you get down to the very bare bones of worship, it is about us being thankful for the cross and magnifying the name of Jesus above all names. Anything past that is just feel-good music.”
Recorded at the historic Majestic Theatre in Jobe’s hometown of Dallas, Texas, the album is a departure from her first two major label studio releases. Majestic is entirely live and features all-new material (with the exception of Jobe’s cover of “Holy Spirit”), every song a piece of her heart. “It reminds me of what heaven might be like,” she says, reflecting on the evening of recording at the iconic landmark. “I want this album to give more of a revelation that God is in control. If you will lift your voices and worship Him, there will be a shift and a change in the atmosphere of your life, and it will be heaven-centered and majestic.”
Jobe began writing for this record two years ago while simultaneously maintaining her position as an associate worship pastor at Dallas’ Gateway Church and a tour schedule that included stints on the Winter Jam Tour Spectacular, Chris Tomlin’s “Burning Lights” tour, Hillsong Conferences in Sydney and London, the Passion Conference and her own headlining tours. “I started really plowing and digging in for this album,” shares Jobe, who wrote nearly 50 songs total for the project. “I was able to say, ‘This is a great song, but I don’t feel it’s saying exactly what I want to say. I want to write something deeper.’ I just kept writing.”
She reached out to like-minded worship leaders who share her passion for writing songs for the Church and who have become personal friends through their common vision. The result is an album that boasts co-writes from some of the most admired songwriters around the globe, including Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, Brian Johnson, Jason Ingram, Paul Baloche, Reuben Morgan, Marty Sampson, Mia Fieldes, Jenn Johnson and Christa Black Gifford, in addition to several co-writes with her band. Many of the album’s 13 tracks have as many as eight writers on one song, revealing Jobe’s heartbeat for community.
“We all have such a heart to connect people to the heart of God through music, and it’s powerful,” she offers. “To all write together, I think it’s just a huge picture of how we’re supposed to do Kingdom together. If we, as worship leaders, are connecting and writing songs for the Church, then the Church needs to do Church together, too.”
Some of Jobe’s most popular worship anthems, like “Revelation Song” and “Healer,” have been written by others, so to release a collection of songs where she’s personally been an intricate part of creating every track was a dream come true for the worship leader, who’s grateful and eager to collaborate with others. “When I die, if I was known for one thing, I would want to be known for [helping people] fall more in love with Jesus,” Jobe asserts. “So I don’t care what song I sing, if the heart of it is that people fall more in love with Jesus and they understand the heart of God for them.”
Majestic reveals a collection of simple, congregational-friendly tracks that Jobe hopes will become new anthems for a generation hungry for God to move in a fresh way. “I believe this album has a new sound on it,” she muses. “It may not sound different to anybody, but I think there’s a heart cry inside of it for more of the presence of God. We’re hungry just to see God move in a more powerful way in church—not just people coming to church for the sake of it, but coming hungry for more of His presence.”
From the regal title track, “How Majestic,” that points to the grandeur of God, to the powerful, pleading cries of the closing song, “Let The Heavens Open,” listeners will find God if they are willing to seek Him. Every song is an invitation.
First single “Forever” celebrates the collision of heaven and earth. “It’s painting a picture here on earth as believers of our redemption story, but then it’s also telling of what heaven’s going to look like in our worship because it’s going to be forever singing that He is glorified and He is lifted high. So it’s marrying the two worlds in a song,” Jobe explains.
Exodus 14:14 inspired the honest ballad “I Am Not Alone,” which speaks to God’s constant presence in our lives no matter what we’re walking through. Jobe hopes it will remind listeners that our God is a God who fights for His children. “Everybody has broken places in their lives that need the rescue of God and that need healing and need His perspective,” she says. “When we get His perspective, it just helps things get smaller compared to His greatness.
“I have such a desire to go to war for people’s lives and to help them overcome the enemy through their worship and through their declarations of who He is,” she adds. “It’s astounding how many people just don’t live in the complete authority that we have over the enemy. He doesn’t have any power unless we give it to him.”
The album also ushers in a new season of ministry for Jobe who feels called to disciple people through her music. “I think the Lord really wants more of people’s hearts and more of their surrender,” she says. “If people will trust the Lord to go deeper in their walks with Him, it would be an amazing journey of watching Him fight for them; but it’s going to take us completely surrendering our lives to Him. There will be things that He asks us to do that are completely sacrificial, but that’s what our lives are about. It’s about His kingdom anyway.”
Jobe longs to see denominational barriers broken down and believers united, and she believes worship in its purest form has the power to do that. “There’s honor in all of it. There’s beauty in all of it. There’s beauty in tradition, and there’s beauty in reverence, but that’s the key—reverence. It’s not about a title or what kind of church you go to; it’s about reverencing who God is and allowing Him to be God in your congregation,” she maintains. “He comes to inhabit the praises of His people, and so He’s going to come when we worship Him. He always shows up, and He always changes an atmosphere because that’s His character.”
She may now lead worship for thousands around the world, thanks to an expanding platform, but for Jobe, the songs birthed for Majestic have nothing to do with her. “It’s not about me,” she emphasizes. “If it became about me, that would be dangerous and wrong. It’s about Him. It’s a great honor and a great responsibility, but it’s not any different than me just living my life every day needing Him in my circumstances.”
Her greatest accolade always has been and always will be the opportunity to reflect Christ. “I don’t see myself any differently than when I was 13, just a worship leader,” she admits. “It’s just sometimes I open my eyes and there’s a few more people worshipping God with me.”
Every artist’s career begins with a dream. Sometimes dreams are promised and quickly fulfilled. Other times, dreams are planted—rooted deep in the soil of our hearts, needing to be watered and cultivated, so that at the proper time, they can bear fruit. We The Kingdom is the fruit of a planted dream. A dream that not even the group’s five members could have seen coming.
The multi-generational family band—consisting of brothers Ed Cash and Scott Cash, Ed’s daughter Franni, his son Martin and dear friend Andrew Bergthold—grew roots when the Cash brothers were just kids. Their dad played guitar, and their mom played piano, resulting in a home filled with music. Despite there being an eleven year age gap between them, as both Ed and Scott entered their teens and early 20s, they embarked on similar individual journeys as touring artists and had the opportunity to be deeply involved in the ministry of Young Life. However, when they each became fathers, the dream of being an artist was relegated to put on the back burner. Instead, behind the scenes, Ed went on to become an award-winning songwriter and producer, steering records for artists like Chris Tomlin, Crowder and Bethel Music and co-writing timeless songs like “How Great Is Our God,”“Amen (Because He Lives)” and “All My Hope,” among other hits. After stepping off of the road to spend more time with his growing family, Scott began working with Ed writing and producing, and the brothers have written many songs together including “Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies)”. Though no longer pursuing careers as artists, both brothers continued to lead worship and remained involved in playing music at Young Life camps.
They never could have imagined how, years later, God would bring their artist dreams full circle in the form of a family band. “I think many producers are, in some way, closet artists,” Ed attests. Andrew, Franni and Martin were also aspiring musicians, passionate about sharing their gifts through songs and stories.
“I think it was a dream that was deep in all of our hearts, but it was almost too raw to actually bring it up because it was so, so precious and so dear to us,” adds Andrew, who pursued his own artistry in his hometown of Kansas City before joining We The Kingdom. “I think it’s really beautiful how God weaves stories together, and not only that, but gives dreams and desires for the appropriate season.”
The group organically formed at a Young Life camp in Georgia. Scott had asked the other four to help him lead worship at the camp, and they gathered late one evening to write a song, which they presumed was for the campers. “We were writing a song for those kids to tell them about the beauty of the Father’s love and how much He lavishes that over them,” Ed remembers, “but now I see that He was telling us that truth. In that moment, we really needed to hear that.”
Each of the five members of We The Kingdom came to camp weary, grieving and heart broken due to a number of difficult circumstances. The songwriting session, where four different generations offered their perspective, was like a healing balm. “Sometimes songs feel like they fall out of the sky and you didn’t have anything to do with it at all, and that song definitely felt like that,” Franni says of what became “Dancing On The Waves.” “It felt like the light came back into our life in a lot of ways through that song. It felt like it was our story to tell.”
Over the course of the next two weeks, We The Kingdom wrote half a dozen songs—raw, personal ones that told their individual stories. When they returned home from camp, they sat around Ed’s fire pit and agreed that whatever was being birthed, they were all in.
As they began to commit time and energy to this new collective and these new songs, Scott was hired as a worship leader at a local church in Nashville, and he once again asked his We The Kingdom bandmates to join him. Gradually, over the course of the following year, We The Kingdom forged their artistic identity—an amalgamation of four different decades of music encompassing worship, rock, soul, Country, folk and pop, providing a textured sonic background for vulnerable, often gritty, lyrics.
“We want to write songs about the rawness of life,” Scott offers. “It’s OK to sing about our filth, and it’s OK to be honest in songs. I think that brokenness in a corporate setting leads to a greater catharsis as we praise God and as we lift His name on high.”
The fact that they’re family also allows for rich connection and adds a rare depth to their rugged songwriting. “We have seen the best and the worst of each other, and that actually is a very beautiful thing, because there’s freedom to be 100 percent ourselves,” Franni shares. “Being able to have complete vulnerability to talk about whatever we’re going through, knowing that it’s a safe place, opens doors to much deeper songs and much deeper conversations.”
In turn, the storms they’ve weathered together have also forged an unbreakable bond that lends itself to one-of-a-kind collaboration. “I think when you go through war together, when you go through tragedy together, it breeds a real compassion and a real loyalty,” Scott asserts, “and it also sets the stage for a great creative explosion.”
Just like their origin was unexpected, We The Kingdom’s musical introduction has been nothing short of unorthodox. Instead of heading into the studio to record their original material, the band decided to celebrate the source of the songs themselves.
“I met Jesus at Young Life camp. Ed played music at Young Life camps early on in his career,” Scott says, “so Young Life has really been a foundation for us in our faith and in our band.”
Appropriately, for their debut EP, Live At The Wheelhouse, We The Kingdom headed back to Georgia to capture high school kids at a Young Life camp singing these new songs at the top of their lungs. The recording is just as unfiltered and authentic as their lyrics, and the collective voices in the room bring the songs to life in a real way, taking the band back to the very place where the songs were conceived. “As we have continued on this journey, I’ve noticed that it can be easy to forget where we came from – and that’s with anything in life. Recording our first project together at this camp has been such a timely reminder to us all to remember where we’ve been planted and not to step outside of ourselves.”
Creating a live EP was also a chance to reveal the heart of the band—a heart rooted in worship. “We love to praise God. We love to sing to God,” Ed shares. “I love the sound of God’s people singing together. The more I have had the privilege of being involved with a lot of other worship records, the more the sound of people singing together is just the sweetest thing.”
Although We The Kingdom’s music was originally intended for students to sing, their songs confront universal issues that extend well beyond youth. For example, the first song they wrote collectively, “Dancing On The Waves,” speaks to insecurity and identity. “If we think a 60-year-old man doesn’t get up and look in the mirror and have the same feelings of shame that a 15-year-old kids does, we’re lying,” Scott says. “Singing that song every night makes me realize I’m a 15-year-old high school kid. I’m a dad of five young daughters, and I’m still trying to figure out who I am.”
Then there’s the rock-tinged lead single, “Holy Water,” whose sonic sensibilities remind the Cash brothers of their dad, who’s now suffering from dementia. “I think a lot of us live far too long in our chains, so I love that this song is a celebration of forgiveness,” Franni offers of the track’s lyrical content. “Shame and heaviness is what can lead you to the cross. You come to the cross, and you repent, and you take that burden and give it to Jesus.”
Desperate and pleading track “SOS”—the oldest song on the EP—was written by Ed following a season in his teens when he lost his way, allowing drugs and alcohol to control his life. “I was knocking on the doors of the world actually looking for what the joy of Jesus offers,” Ed admits. “When God came in and changed my heart and I became alive in Christ, that’s when I really started living. It was like I was seeing in color for the first time.”
And that’s exactly what We The Kingdom’s music feels like—visceral emotion wrapped in the technicolor of joy. Their music isn’t confined to the pretty parts of life but covers the full spectrum, including the messy parts; each song contending that it’s OK to not be OK. And that’s a message they want to take beyond the four walls of the church.
Already, they’ve been given multiple opportunities to share their music with a broader audience. They experienced a bucket list moment when they opened for Chris Tomlin at Colorado’s iconic Red Rocks Amphitheater. In 2020, they’ll serve as direct support on tour for Zach Williams. As they’ve begun to perform these songs live, they’re realizing what a special bond they share as songwriters, as family, as dreamers and as worship leaders.
“Worship is so much more than music, and if worship is confined to a sanctuary, that is a great tragedy to me,” Ed says. “Our hope is not only that worship pours out of the sanctuary and becomes a daily part of life, but also that the mess of daily life is welcome in the sanctuary.”
Scott adds, “We want to bring people who don’t know the freedom found in Jesus to the cross and to lead those who already know Him to the throne room.”
For We The Kingdom, their faithful worship has led them full circle to this moment—and they are incredibly grateful to see some of their deepest dreams coming to fruition.
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
Four-time GRAMMY® Award-nominated Tauren Wells debuted his solo music in 2017 with the dance-able pop hit, “Love Is Action”, which held the No. 1 spot at CHR radio for eight weeks and the hard-hitting “Undefeated” featuring rapper KB.
Those hits were then followed by the now GRAMMY-nominated “Hills and Valleys”, the piano and cello-driven thought-provoking track that quickly climbed the radio and sales charts and jumped to the Top 10 at the Christian Airplay radio chart for multiple weeks. The following single, “When We Pray” also hit the Top 10 at Christian Radio. Tauren Wells is the former frontman of GRAMMY® Award-nominated band Royal Tailor, father, songwriter, worship academy founder, multi-instrumentalist, and performer, and his deep desire to draw people closer to their identity in the Lord is apparent in all he pursues. Tauren Wells recently finished a tour with Lionel Richie and Mariah Carey and Chris Tomlin’s Worship Night in America tour, and is currently touring with some of largest bands in Christian music. Despite all of the accolades, Tauren Wells isn’t making music to gain notoriety – “I feel called to call greatness out of people,” Wells shares. His focus of speaking the love of God to others through his many talents is apparent on his most recent release, Hills and Valleys, which came out June 23, 2017 and was nominated for a GRAMMY Award for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album. He also currently leads worship regularly at Elevation Church and Lakewood Church.
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.
The heaviest and catchiest extreme metal act from the Lone Star State since the original cowboys from hell, FIT FOR A KING’s ascendance is demonstrated as much by the massive singalongs at their shows as their jaw-dropping streaming numbers. The band had nearly two million listeners on Spotify in 2019; incredible for a group who was self-releasing EPs just over a decade before.
Album six, The Path, is a definitive masterpiece. Bigger, bolder, and overwhelmingly epic in scope, The Pathleans harder on the “metal” side of their sound, with shredding guitar solos, while doubling down on the massive catchy choruses that propelled their fiercest fan-favorite anthems. Like Dark Skies, The Path was produced/mixed by WZRD BLD, aka Drew Fulk, who was responsible for career-making records from Dance Gavin Dance, Motionless In White, and Bad Wolves.
Even as their music is rightfully heralded as “majestic and punishing” (Revolver Magazine) “straightforward heaviness” (Metal Injection), genuine connection, fearless transparency, and an accessible relatability are the most essential elements of the band’s powerful presence.
Their anthems appeal equally to anyone whose tastes were shaped and inspired by gateway bands like Slipknot and Korn or New Wave Of American Heavy Metal torchbearers like Killswitch Engage and As I Lay Dying. As important as each record in the band’s catalog has been, many of their dedicated supporters first encountered them on the road, as they appeared several times on the Vans Warped Tour and alongside Ice Nine Kills, Beartooth, August Burns Red, and Whitechapel.
FIT FOR A KING stands for triumph over adversity. This music is the soundtrack for those who muster the strength to carry on, to survive, to achieve, and to defeat all obstacles in life. FIT FOR A KING is the perfect soundtrack for fighting through life’s most painful and difficult seasons.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Based out of Northeastern Ohio, we both grew up in the church with a passion for music an a passion for worship. We have spent the last few years leading worship in the local church. Our music is a reflection of our faith, our journey, and the hope we have because of Jesus Christ.
Chandler records, produces, and mixes our music under the name of his personal production studio, Yahweh Records. He desires to continue writing and producing for Letner Music as well as pursuing collaborative projects with other artists.
We are Christ-followers pursuing his presence. The heartbeat of our music stems from our passion to create an experience that connects to people and connects people to God. On April 16, we have our first full length album titled “Broken Hallelujah” coming out, and we would love to see God move through the songs that he breathed into our hearts over the course of the last couple of years.