Touring legend and Christian radio hit-maker, NewSong is a Dove Award winner and GRAMMY nominee. The group has garnered 20 No. 1 singles, seven Dove Award nominations, numerous songwriting awards, and five of the Top 100 Christian radio singles of the past decade. UCW caught up with the band’s Billy Goodwin in between stops on their Winter Jam tour to get the scoop about the group and WJ’08.
So, what’s it like to be in an internationally known music group? It’s really not a big deal. What’s good about it to me is doing something that you love to do, something you’re gifted to do and also being able to see God working in such a great way every night in people’s lives.
Tell me about how and when NewSong got started… Well, Newsong started about 27 years ago with four guys that were singing locally in south GA. We were all members of the same church sand we had put the group together singing at the church. After a while, we began to feel like God was calling us do this full time, so we prayed about it and talked to our families; and we decided that we would do this until he was finished with it.
In the last 27 years, what has changed or stayed the same? Musically we have tried to change with the times. We want to stay relevant, and we want to stay current and have a musical style that folks would be interested in listening to and that would be played on the radio. Lyrically and message wise, we’ve stayed the same. It’s basically about a relationship with Jesus, how to know God in a personal way and the kind of life that he wants you to have here on earth. It’s been our heart to share with people what God means to us and how much he has affected out lives. In 27 years, the message has never changed, but the music stays current.
Has NewSong faced any major challenges or struggles along the way? The same four guys were together for about 12 years, and then a couple of the guys decided they wanted to do something else. We were at a crossroads as to whether we thought God was finished with it or not. Eddie Carslile and I felt that God was not finished, he was just turning a page. So we really changed from a four-man group to a full band at that time and now, change has been really a part of who we are. We’ve had people come in and stay a few years and then go out and do their own thing. We take on the personalities of the new people and musically it keeps us fresh and on our toes. So it’s been a really good thing. We’ve really embraced the change. It helps to keep us current and musically effective.
A little bit on the history of Winter Jam. It really started as a way to get folks to come out to concerts in the wintertime. At first it was just one Christian artist friend who came out to play a couple of dates right after Christmas… It grew from that to having three or four artist friends coming out… and then we started getting some of the biggest names in the Christian music industr. Now we’ve got seven different artists going out and we’re going to big venues and big cities; and we’ve expanded from a few weeks in January to Jan., Feb. and March. The big venues are filling up and God is really showing his favor on it. The Winter Jam has really become its own little thing, we’ve just taken a seat and strapped in for the ride.
Who are some of the biggest names that have signed on with Winter Jam? We’ve had the Newsboys and Steven Curtis Chapman, Rebecca St. James, tobyMac just about anybody you could think of... Over the years we’ve had just about all of them. There may be a few that we haven’t toured with, but we’re praying that God will open the door and we’ll have them out in the next year or so.
Are these musicians all friends of yours, or are they more like colleagues? They’re all friends, and they’re all co-laborers, but a lot of it really depends on if they’re available schedule wise and if they’re willing to become a part of what we’re doing with this tour.
Do you know what drew them to be a part of Winter Jam? There’s a unity of spirit among all the artists. They’re all enjoying it and all go out and do the best that they can do, but they all understand and we all agree that what we’re doing is trying to open doors for people to hear the truth that we’re sharing in the gospel. And when you see that there’s 1500 people making decisions every night, it’s a humbling experience to realize that you’ve been a part of that. That God has used you in some small way to reach those people.
Tell me about some specifically memorable experiences you’ve had with the tour? Last Sunday night a father came, and brought his son. He had lost his wife weeks just a few weeks before and God used the music and the tour itself to really speak into his heart and give him comfort and encouragement to go on. It’s just amazing that every night we see that kind of thing going on.
What should people know before coming to Winter Jam? Well, it’s pretty obvious what we’re singing and speaking about. You can bring your friends expecting God to change and touch their lives… we see it happen to thousands of people every night. It’s encouraging to think that one of these people who would not normally come to church could come to one of these concert and their lives could be changed. They could really experience life the way it’s supposed to be. You could come with a friend and leave with a brother or sister.
What do you think makes Christian music so different? Music has a way of really getting into your heart, it can really have a positive or negative impact on you and change you — for the better or worse.. We’re presenting the kind of music that can build you up, so musically it can be any style in the world. But lyrically, that is what really sets Christian music apart. Because it can have an impact and really change your life in a positive way.
Some final thoughts on Winter Jam…We try to keep it as fresh as we can every year, so we will hopefully hopefully have the best winter jam ever this year: the best crowds, the best response to invitations, some of the best attitudes of the spirit that we’ve ever had. I don’t know how we’ll do anything better next year, but we always trust God to come through and continue to make it better. So we plan to continue WJ next year and the years to come as long as God’s hand is on it.
Winter Jam 2008 will take place at the Crown Coliseum on Friday, March 14 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door for the all-ages event.