IN THE HISTORY of contemporary music, band members come and go, but nothing is more controversial and risky, than installing a new lead singer in an established rock outfit.
So does it help or hinder to replace your frontman? Or is it just madness to consider this practice?
This April, the Christian band newsboys will embark on an Australian tour with a new lead singer, American Michael Tait. The former dc Talk singer replaced Australian Peter Furler last year.
Depending on fan reaction, newsboys is headed for even greater heights or failure.
Eternity’s music writer Wes Jay spoke to Michael Tait about becoming a newsboy.
“The way I became a member of the newsboys was very simple. Wes Campbell, the manager and founder of newsboys asked me to consider taking on the lead singer role.
“After a lot of thinking about it, pondering and praying, I thought these guys are my mates, I’ve known them for years and years. And as I wasn’t too busy with anything else at the time, I accepted and the race was on. It was like trying to board a train at 80 miles an hour. I found myself running quickly, sprinting at times, to get the show down pat and I can honestly say to this day, it’s in the top three best decisions I’ve ever made.”
Choosing Tait as the band’s new lead singer had as much to do with Tait’s friendship with the band over many years, as it was a strategic decision.
“Back in the day if you were a dc Talk fan, you were probably a newsboy fan,” says Tait. “So our audiences weren’t that different. Also when the newsboys came to the States, we took them on two different dc Talk tours. Newsboys opened for us. So it’s quite funny thinking about it now. If you’d told me back then that I would be the new lead singer of the newsboys I would probably have argued. But now it’s obviously changed.“
While some bands have been able to make almost seamless transitions with new lead singers – The Moody Blues, Fleetwood Mac, Deep Purple, and AC/DC in the rock world – others such as INXS have faced disaster. In Christian music newsboys survived one change in the mid 90s to become even more successful. But can they do it again?
“I remember the very first time I made the announcement that I had become a newsboy,” recalls Tait. “It was my first official newsboys show at an Acquire The Fire event in front of 12 000 young screaming fans in Dallas Texas. When I announced that ‘I’m the new lead singer for the newsboys’ there was this cheer and thunderous applause. After that, I walked off stage, the phones lit up, Facebook lit up and MySpace lit up. Phone calls started coming in from all over the world. News travelled so quickly.
“And I thought, ‘O my gosh, what’s happened?’ It was like it some great thing happened in the minds of many of our fans. Our website was flooded too. We found ourselves in the middle of answering crazy stuff like ‘What’s going on?’’’Has Peter died?’ ‘Is he alive?’ ‘Did they fight?’
“But everything was fine. Peter simply wanted to have a long break to spend time with his wife and family, and parents back in Australia. So I took over and made that announcement. And boy, did the waters tremble!”
And it has! Promoters, fans and the media are now referring to the group as the “new newsboys” and even “newsboys 2.0”. But for the band it’s a new start. They’ve named their new album set for release in June, Born Again.
“We named the record Born Again. I thought that was very appropriate because the band is brand new again. I’m a new face, an African America who’s infusing a hybrid of music from my Tait solo days and my past with dc Talk into the familiar newsboys sound. Mac Powell, the lead singer from Third Day put it this way. “It’s like the coming together of two great bands to make a super burger. Like McDonalds and Burger King coming together to make the big super burger.
“The title Born Again is also a reference to the 70s when Christians were called “born again” believers. So we’re “born again” as a band with a new lead singer, a new mission and new drive.
“But it’s my personal statement too. In my prodigal days and months and years, walking in and out of this faith, it takes a man to stand firm. The chorus says “this is what it is, this is who I am, this is where I finally take my stand. I don’t have to fall, I don’t have to crawl because I’ve met the one with the nail scarred hands. Now I’m going to redeem the time and I’m going to give him the best of the rest of the life inside this man. I’ve been born again.”
And what can we expect to see and hear when the band tours this Easter?
“We’re performing some of the newsboys old stuff, some of the new newsboys songs, and some dcTalk favorites. I’m excited about it. I’m so looking forward to seeing you all,” Tait adds.
Newsboys will be appearing in Australia at:
– Easterfest in Toowoomba over Easter [April 2-4].
– Easterfest sideshow Sydney [April 6, Hillsong Convention Centre].
Reprinted from Eternity newspaper: www.eternity.biz
Wes Jay is the head of Woodlands Media. He interviewed Michael Tait for Eternity, and the nationally syndicated radio show Behind The Music.