Newsboys Jeff Frankenstein Talks About the Christian Music Scene.

Newsboys keyboardist/bassist Jeff Frankenstein knew there were pitfalls to the idea of the group reuniting with its original singer, Peter Furler when the idea surfaced in 2017.

Furler left the group in 2009, after leading the Newsboys to the top of the Christian music scene. Over that span, the group from Queensland, Australia won five Dove Awards (the Christian music industry’s equivalent of a Grammy) and released nine straight albums that all went top five on the Christian music chart (with four hitting number one). He was replaced by another notable figure in Christian music, former DC Talk singer Michael Tate.

The “new” Newsboys spent the next several years trying to prove that they could be a successful band without Furler, who was the group’s songwriter. The efforts paid off with three straight albums, “Born Again” (2010) “God’s Not Dead” (2011) and “Restart” (2013) that topped “Billboard” magazine’s Christian Albums chart and a fourth album, “Love Riot” (2016), that reach No. 2 on the Christian chart and topped “Billboard’s” Alternative Albums and Top Rock Albums charts. The song “God’s Not Dead,” meanwhile, became the group’s first platinum-certified single and inspired three Christian films, “God’s Not Dead” and “God’s Not Dead 2” and “God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness.”

So when the idea started gaining traction in 2017 for reuniting with Furler, as well as long-time bassist Phil Joel (who had left the band in 2006) to create what is being billed as Newsboys United, several issues had to be considered.

Did the current Newsboys want to create a situation where they were competing with the original group? Would there be confusion over what group was the “real” Newsboys? Would they want to deal with the questions about whether Furler would replace Tait or if a group that included both Furler and Tait would be a long-term situation?

“I think I had those feelings in the back of my mind. Is this going to work? Is this smart? Is this what we want to do right now?” Frankenstein acknowledged in a recent phone interview.

In the end, one factor made the idea of bringing together the two eras of the Newsboys make sense.

“I think as an artist you have to keep the fan first in mind. And that’s the way I’ve approached it the whole time,” Frankenstein said. “If I was a fan and I saw this whole concept coming together before my eyes, like how thrilled would I be? How excited would I be? We were kind of between records and it just kind of made sense.”

What’s more, Frankenstein said the group realized this might be the last best chance to try a reunion with Furler and Joel.

“I think there are a lot of bands, you could even argue DC Talk, for example, have waited too long to attempt something like this or just get too hung up in the details or there are too many attitudes in the way or they can’t get along, or blah, blah, blah,” he said. “So it was like ‘You know what, guys, we’re not getting any younger. Let’s do this while people still care.’ And it turned out it was the right thing. And I’m thankful, too, because it’s been a boost for my relationship with Phil and Peter. Both of those guys are guys I’ve spent 25 years of my life with, some of the best years of my life with, almost like family. So even if all the music goes away and we don’t do this after this, or whatever happens after that, I’m just thankful that those relationships are back in my life and they’re strong again.”

It already looks like the Newsboys United reunion will last longer than some may have expected. The six-man lineup of Furler, Joel, Tait, Frankenstein, guitarist Jody Davis and drummer Duncan Phillips began touring in February 2017 and continued through much of the years. Now the group is headlining this year’s edition of Winter Jam, the annual package tour that has become the biggest regular concert event in Christian music each winter.

And perhaps the biggest news of all is that a new studio album featuring the full Newsboys United lineup is on the way, which means Winter Jam is just the start of more touring. A run of concerts for April and May has been announced, and it looks likely that shows could continue through the end of the year and possibly further into the future.

The reunion began when the Newsboys were trying to finish a song called “The Cross is the Final Word.”

“We were kind of at an impasse with the song,” Frankenstein said of the song, which was released last spring as a single. “And Wes (Campbell), our manager, it was kind of his idea. He was like let’s call up Peter and see what he’s up to, with Pete being a songwriter and all that. And so Pete helped finish the song out and that kind of put us back in touch with him. And just with the way things were going, he wasn’t even going to sing on the song, and it was just like a scratch vocal that he put on the song. The next thing you know, we were like ‘Why don’t you just sing on the song and we’ll make it like a cool piece. You can just be on the song.’ And one thing led to another and we started talking about doing some shows together.”

The headlining shows Newsboys United have done have been generous affairs, running nearly three hours and featuring some 30 songs. Winter Jam, though, features short sets from each of the acts, with the Newsboys allotted about 45 minutes to close the evening, creating plenty of challenges in crafting a set list for the tour.

“I think we’ll probably all just come out together and play and really try, it will basically be a 45-minute medley where we can play as many songs as possible,” Frankenstein said of the Newsboys United’s set. “It will be interesting, too, on this (headlining) tour we’ve been on, it’s people that are really interested to see us. But on Winter Jam, it’s kind of a lot of people that just come to see the spectacle as well. But it will be a great opportunity to play to a lot of people that haven’t seen it and all that kind of stuff. But as a music director, for me, it’s definitely, it’s like trying to solve a puzzle and make all of the pieces fit and make it flow.”

Frankenstein said there’s a chance the group will even play a song or two from the forthcoming Newsboys United album. He is eager for people hear the new album and said a new single may be out in time for the Winter Jam tour.

“It’s kind of a mix of both worlds, to be honest,” he said of the album. “It’s not going to be like a throwback record to the ‘90s or anything like that. Maybe that will disappoint people, but in some ways, maybe it won’t. I don’t know. It’s kind of its own new thing in a way, and I think it works well…So far it’s good.”

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