Montell Jordan Video for ‘You Are’ featuring Chris August

Okay, so yesterday I learned that two people who, for some reason I thought had passed away, are actually alive and doing quite well.

I think at this point on my blog its a well established fact that I have a tendency to get confused sometimes, so let’s not dwell on it, okay? 🙂

First, for some reason I thought that singer/songwriter John Mark McMillan had passed (he wrote David Crowder’s popular song, ‘How He Loves’).  Actually, he’s doing quite well and about to release an independently funded project that was incredibly well supported over on Kickstarter.  So, congratulations…and I’m glad to hear you’re doing well!

The second person I learned who is alive and well is (no, not Chris August…well, I mean yes, Chris August is alive and well, but I already knew that since I just talked with him two weeks ago, or at least I assumed he was alive and well since I hadn’t received any press releases detailing his demise.  Anyways…) Montell Jordan.  I don’t know why I thought that he had passed.  Actually, maybe I thought he had retired from basketball.  No, wait, that was Michael Jordan.  Oh, who knows what I thought.  All I know is, apparently he’s doing great!  Jordan is a born again Christian and worship leader who’s now starring in music videos with Chris August.

What more could anyone want from life?  🙂

Seriously though, I really like this song a lot.  It has a very soulful vibe to it, and the pairing of voices between Montell Jordan and Chris August is solid.  Definitely check it out, and let me know what you think!

OBB: Not Just Another Crazy Talented Boy Band

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Early in the morning on Saturday, June 22nd, 2013 I was standing in the middle of what a week earlier was an empty Indiana field.

On this particularly hot and muggy morning, the field had been transformed to a full-fledged musical venue for the WFRN Friend Fest at Amish Acres in Nappanee, Indiana. As far as my eye could see, Christian music fans sat perched in rows of colorful lawn chairs or spread out on the tall grass on blankets. The air was scented with an interesting combination of suntan lotion, freshly grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, and bug spray.

I could tell it was going to be a good day.

Armed with my camera and handy-dandy notebook, I was ready for the first act of the day to hit the Main Stage—the Oswald Brothers Band, more commonly known as OBB. While my friend and assistant for the day, Sarah, and I chatted from the restricted access area near the front of the stage, I couldn’t help but notice a curly-haired little girl in perpetual motion wearing what appeared to be a brand spanking new OBB t-shirt hopping up and down in an attempt to improve her view of the stage from behind the barricade.

I walked over to the little girl and her mother, and introduced myself as a Christian music writer and photographer.

The little girl whirled around to show me the back of her shirt. “My name is Taylor, and OBB signed my shirt!” she said excitedly, beginning to jump up and down again.

“I can tell you are a big OBB fan,” I said with a smile. “What do you like the most about OBB?” I asked.

Without hesitating, 8-year-old Taylor replied, “They sing about Jesus! They are really nice and they have curly hair like me!”

Indeed, this is all very true, but what I was about to learn after OBB’s lively and fun set on the Main Stage is there’s a whole lot more to like about the Oswald brothers than what meets the eye (or ears).

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I have to admit, my first impression of OBB was similar to Taylor’s. In my initial review of the band’s WinterJam performance in January 2013, I playfully compared and contrasted the band with (one of my favorites) the Jonas Brothers. I wrote, “I liked OBB. I thought their music was appropriately awesome. I liked the fresh-faced, positive vibe they had going on at Winter Jam. I liked the t-shirts and denim look they were rocking; it wasn’t too much, but it wasn’t too little, either. Everything about OBB was thoughtfully balanced and well crafted, from their song selections to the way they carried themselves on stage. When I met them after the show, I found they were just as genuine and sweet as they appeared on stage. This is one boy band that I fully endorse my niece, Alyssa, listening to, and that’s saying something.”

I’m happy to report after spending some time interviewing Zach, Jacob, and Nich following their set at the WFRN Friend Fest, my initial WinterJam impressions of the guys were spot on; I will say, however, that I didn’t adequately anticipate just how funny and personally engaging the brothers are off stage.

The Oswald brothers are, to borrow an expression from my Grandma, “a real hoot and a half!” Roughly translated, this means they are the most fun trio of brothers ever.

So, just how exactly did this energetic and fun-loving three-piece band get their start in music?

“Our parents forced us when we were younger to play piano,” said Jacob, the middle of the three brothers, who plays guitar. “Neither of them could play the piano because their parents let them quit, and so they were always sad that they couldn’t play.”

“Our mom knew one song and our dad knew one song and that was it,” said Zach, the oldest Oswald brother, and lead singer.

“Our dad David glued the keys shut when he was younger because he wanted to quit so bad,” interjected Nich, the youngest brother and drummer. “Now our Aunt has that piano and all the keys stick. If you try to play the piano and press a key, the whole octave goes down!” he added, and all the brothers nod in agreement and start laughing.

“So our parents agreed that when they had kids, they would have to play the piano. It was not going to be optional, at least not until we could play reasonably well,” said Zach.

Clearly, Mr. & Mrs. Oswald didn’t have any grand ambitions of creating the next great boy band when they started Zach, Jacob, and Nich in piano lessons; they just wanted their offspring to be able to competently play a few songs on the piano like any other civilized, well-rounded individual.

“We’d all cry when we had to play the piano,” remembered Zach, laughing, his eyes lighting up at the memory.

His brothers chimed in on cue: “I don’t wanna play! I don’t want to practice!”

“I’m so thankful they did now,” said Zach, a hint of maturity far beyond his years in his voice.

“A piano background is so wonderful,” agreed Jacob.

I’m going to guess there are a whole lot of OBB fans who are really thankful that Mr. & Mrs. Oswald made the boys take piano lessons in their younger days, too.

Zach, Jacob, and Nich give their parents much credit for the success they have recently experienced as a band. “As a family, we all love music,” Jacob told me during our interview. “Our parents have been very helpful in our music growing up and in everything we’ve done.”

This is especially evident when Nich tells the story of how he came to acquire his first drum set.
“When I was 9, right before I turned 10, I begged my parents to buy me a drum set for Christmas,” said Nich. “They said, ‘Are you kidding me? You’ll be banging that thing all the time! Can we at least buy you an electric drum set?’ I said ‘No, I want the real thing!’ I didn’t think they would get me one. But they did, and I loved it…. until they bought me the practice pads that go on the top of it, then I cried when I had to practice. I hated it. It sounded terrible. My Dad almost sold my drum set,” reminisced Nich, and his brothers nodded and chuckled, remembering with vivid clarity a soon to be 10-year-old Nich crying at his drum set.

Jacob’s experience was significantly less theatrical than Nich’s when it came to finding his musical passion. “I took piano for five or six years, I always enjoyed playing piano, but whenever I started playing the guitar I just loved it,” said the soft-spoken Jacob with simple sincerity. “I would wake up and want to play my guitar. Most kids wake up and want to go outside and play, but I just wanted to play my guitar. God gave me this desire and love for guitar playing.”

Drummer Nich shakes his head. “That’s the great thing about being a guitar player. You just open up your case and you can play,” says Nich with a touch of gentle sarcasm to his voice. “If I want to play, it takes me an hour to set up, then within ten minutes of playing everyone is yelling at me to shut up. Even when you’re tearing it up, people still want you to be quiet after a while,” he adds teasingly.

As for lead singer Zach, he loved singing, but like a lot of other really awesome lead singers I’ve interviewed, had a paralyzing fear of singing in public for a long time.

“I would always sing in the choir ministry at our church, and I would be in this special singing group with a mic even though I wouldn’t sing out. In all of the pictures you can see my mic is way over here,” said Zach, gesturing as far as he possibly could away from his body. “I would just whisper because I was terrified of singing in public. I just didn’t want to do it.”

Then, the Oswald’s father David did something entirely unexpected that changed everything.

Even though the boys all played instruments, they had never really played together. Zach was involved in the family’s church music ministry, Jacob played in a band called Deer in the Headlights, and Nich played in a band called Fish Sticks, Nich recalled. “We were all terrible, and the bands weren’t very good, either,” said Nich.

“We were taking Korean lessons to learn how to talk to our aunt that speaks Korean and lives in Texas, and our Dad came to pick us up,” said Zach. “Dad said, ‘Hey, would you guys want to be in a battle of the bands?’”
Nich and Jacob interjected, “And we said ‘Together? Us?’” disbelievingly.

“We told Dad that we would probably do it if we could find a Battle of the Bands someday,” said Zach laughing. “Dad says, ‘Well, good because I signed you up for one and it’s tonight. The show’s in 3 hours, and first you need to sell 25 tickets and get 30 minutes of music ready. We’ve already paid $50, so get ready.”

No pressure or anything.

Nich said, “I was like ‘I don’t need any practice, I got this. I’ll go and sell the tickets.’” So while Zach and Jacob worked on getting the music around, 12-year-old Nich went door to door in his neighborhood selling tickets.

pussinboots“‘My brothers and I are in a band. Do you wanna come to our concert? Tickets are only $10.’” Nich demonstrated his sales technique by making a face that strongly resembled that of sad Puss in Boots from the Shrek movies. “Nobody came to the concert, but I sold all the tickets to the first 15 houses I went to. Nobody said no. Our next door neighbor bought $100 worth of tickets just because he wanted to be supportive.

There was just one problem remaining: OBB’s lead singer was paralyzed by the thought of singing in public.

“Before my Dad signed us up for this thing, I was terrified of singing in public. I would never sing in public,” said Zach, “but as soon as I got up on stage God took all of the fear away from me. Before that, I never wanted anyone to hear my voice. It was like that night God said, ‘Zach you are singing for me. It doesn’t matter if these people love you or if they don’t love you. You are singing for me, I gave you this voice, so sing for me’. I can honestly say since that night I haven’t been afraid to sing.”

Nich, never one without something to add to the conversation, chimes in, “Now we can’t get him to stop singing. We have to remind him when we’re at home, ‘Zach, this is not an OBB concert.’”

While the brothers didn’t win the Battle of the Bands that night (they came in 2nd place), they had unknowingly embarked on the journey of a lifetime, one that would take them to places they had never dreamed of, from a nationally syndicated morning TV show to a record deal with Curb to the 44 city WinterJam tour in 2013.

WinterJam is where I first experienced OBB, and in the days leading up to my interview with Zach, Jacob, and Nich at the WFRN Friend Fest, I realized that out of all of the stories and songs I had heard from all the bands at WinterJam, the only one that I really remembered was the one that Zach had shared that January night from the Memorial Coliseum Stage.

“We were looking for a new home church,” said Zach. “We loved our church but they didn’t have a college program and we wanted to stay plugged in and connected to other youth our age. At the time, I had this huge Mohawk. It was supposed to be blonde, but it turned bright yellow.”

At this point, Nich begins surfing his phone for a picture of the Mohawk in question, but alas, was unable to find one. “I will admit, it got a little crazy,” continued Zach, elbowing his brother while referring to his Mohawk. “A lot of places I would walk in, and instead of people saying ‘Welcome to our church’, they would look at me and no one would say anything to me at all.”

“Except a few people who would ask you if that was your real hair,” added color commentator Nich. (Side Note: If I ever get my own TV show, I definitely want Nich for a host. He’s awesome!)

Zach ignored Nich. Nich went back to looking for Mohawk pictures on his phone. I looked at Jacob. “Zach normally talks a lot, and Nich is usually trying to get Zach to stop talking a lot. I’m just along for the ride,” says Jacob, smiling and shrugging his shoulders.

“Then we went to Passion City church in Atlanta and were sitting in the front row. Louie Giglio was doing the message that week. At the end of sermon, he pointed at me and said ‘You in the front row with the awesome Mohawk!’ to make his point in a positive way. ” said Zach. “We realized that God called us to be loving to people. That’s what Jesus does. He wasn’t up on the cross saying, ‘Hey you with the Mohawk, I’m not doing this for you.‘ He paid for every single one of us. It doesn’t matter what you look like or what you’ve done or what’s happened in our lives, He loves every single one of us. He really does.”

“Even you wearing the socks with sandals,” points out Nich.

I can’t be sure, but Nich may or may not have been talking to Chris August who had just popped his head into our air-conditioned interviewing oasis to look around.

The story inspired OBB’s current single, ‘Come on Home’, which Zach said he really hoped would be the band’s first single off of their self-titled debut EP. “’Come on Home’ started out as two completely different songs, but when we put them together and added the bridge it became magic,” Jacob told me, and I completely agree.

It is hands down one of my favorite songs on the radio right now.

Even though it appears that the Oswald brothers are having the time of their young lives right now, it is obvious that even though they are having fun and enjoying what they are doing, they remain a focused band of brothers intent on the ministry that God has called them to.

As if they weren’t already endearing enough.

When asked what the hopes are for OBB’s future, Nich promptly replied, “I hope that on Monday everybody has our single!” (With that being said, Nich seamlessly transitioned to the sad Puss in Boots face that so effectively sold Battle of the Band tickets when he was 12.  So, if you aren’t hearing the new single, ‘Come on Home’,  on your local radio station, you should probably call ’em up and request they add the single ASAP!)

Jacob and Zach laugh, and Jacob adds “I hope that we just reach as many people as we can with our music, and to do as much for God’s kingdom as we can.”

“Yeah,” agreed Zach, “I just want to encourage younger people to not let age hold you back from doing what God’s called you to do; but not even just younger people,but all people. You can’t say ‘I’m too young, I’ll do that when I’m older’ or ‘I’m too old, I can’t do that’. God can use every single one of us. He started using Nich when he was just 12!”

“Yeah, he started using a not very good 12-year-old to reach people for Christ,” said Nich laughing. “God can use you, too, no matter what. No excuses.”

“We might not have some of the same life experiences as some of the older guys out there, but we do have Jesus inside of us and He can speak thru us just the same as someone who is 40 or 50 years old,” said Jacob.

With a brand new full length album in the works to be released in 2014, the Oswald brothers (who co-write all of their own songs) will undoubtedly have many new opportunities to share their music with all kinds of people, both young and old, while furthering the kingdom of God.

As I reflect on OBB’s hope for the future to reach people for Christ, both young and old, I can’t help but think about 8-year-old Taylor and her excitement about how nice OBB is and how they sing about Jesus (and the hair, can’t forget about the hair!)

In her happiness over her autographed t-shirt, she had very seriously informed me that she was OBB’s biggest fan.

Prior to getting to know OBB, I had smiled at Taylor’s assertion and thought it was super cute.

After getting to know OBB during our interview, and out of deference to young Taylor, I think I need a fan-title of my own because I am convinced that Zach, Jacob, and Nich are more than just a crazy talented boy band. Rather, the Oswald brothers are young men of integrity and faith who are using their God-given talents to shine His light in world filled with a lot of darkness.

I pray that Alex, my own six-year-old son, might one day grow up to be like the Oswald brothers in this respect. (Alex already reminds me a lot of Nich with his drum playing and some of the candid conversations we have 🙂
In the meantime, I’m laying claim to the title of OBB’s tallest fan. (The only other option I could come up with was ‘oldest fan’, and I’m not going there!)

That reminds me…where did I put my autographed OBB t-shirt again?

Faith & Family, Wishes & Dreams: An Interview with SWP Dave

Dear Readers:

Ok, so my feature articles from my interview with Dave Frey of the Sidewalk Prophets have all gone to print as of this weekend. which means I can officially release a special edition blog that includes all the best parts of the different Faith & Family Night stories from area publications.  If you live in Northeast Indiana, you may very well live in one of the more than 100,000+ homes that received one of these publications recently:  Fort Wayne Newspapers publications, New Haven Life magazine, West Bend Newspaper, New Haven Bulletin, WhatzUp Entertainment Newspaper, The Frost, East Allen County Times Newspaper, KPC News Media publications, or Northern Allen County Life Magazine. 

I hope you’ll enjoy!

  If you read all the way thru to the end, I’ll post some bonus material for you,  my blog readers!  First, I will tell you what Dave had to say about my Ohio BFF Jill’s favorite person in the universe, Chris August.  Second, I will post some links to previous blogs I’ve written about the SWP’s, and why I thought they would be perfect to headline the first Faith & Family Night Festival in New Haven. (I mean, I waited 10 years to make this happen, it kind of needed to be perfect, know what I mean?)  Finally, I will post a link to a story about one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to, when I met my friend Pam from Minnesota (waving at Pam!!)

Enjoy!
B

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help me find it

One of the things that I believe is universal to all people in all places is the innate ability to dream; by ‘dream’, I don’t really mean fall asleep while strange scenes play out in the recesses of your mind. What I really mean is we all have hopes, and wishes, and, well, dreams.

For some of us, our dreams are relatively straightforward: to be a firefighter, a teacher, a doctor. For others, the dreams are a little more complex: to be the next Larry Bird, Beyonce, or Leonardo di Caprio.

For me, I believe that God, who uniquely and lovingly created me, also uniquely and lovingly created and placed the dreams I have in my heart.

Specifically, I’m referring to one of the dreams I’ve had for over 10 years now to bring an event to my adoptive hometown of New Haven that celebrates the strong foundation that this city is built on.  What originally drew me to New Haven is its rich history of  faith interwoven with the heritage of many legacy families and relationships that last for decades.

On June 8th,2013   in Schnelker Park in downtown New Haven, the New Haven Canal Days Festival is set to host the first ever Faith & Family Night headlined by the Sidewalk Prophets.  This is where my dream of hosting such an event will intersect with fellow Hoosier native Dave Frey’s childhood dream of being a singer; Frey is the lead singer of the Dove award winning, Word Record label band that is based in Nashville, Tennessee.

For Frey, there were two main dreams driving him as a kid growing up in Terre Haute, Indiana. “I dreamed of either being a Chicago Cub or being on stage since I was a little child,” said Frey with his distinctive chuckle in our interview on April 10th. “Since I wasn’t the most athletically inclined, I ended up going to school to be an English teacher at Anderson University.”

God, however, hadn’t forgotten about Frey’s childhood dream of being on stage. In fact, according to Frey, it was quite the opposite. “God just kept showing me that this gift he had put inside me was more than just a hobby,” he said reflectively.

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Dave Frey performs at Winter Jam 2013 on January 20, 2013

These days, Frey’s childhood dream is straight up reality; earlier this year, as the lead singer for the Sidewalk Prophets, he toured with Winter Jam, the #1 attended tour in the entire world in the first quarter of 2013, using his God-given gift to perform for more than 550,000 people in four short months.

“You know, especially once I saw bands like DC Talk and Jars of Clay and Third Day as a kid I dreamed of being on stage, and now here I’ve stood on stage next to each one of them. It’s like, ‘How blessed am I?’” asked Frey incredulously.

Well, as Walt Disney once said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

 

 

 

When I conduct interviews, I have to admit that I really don’t have an official angle I work like a lot of writers do when they do interviews. Truth be told, I never do have an angle and it doesn’t matter if I’m interviewing former Governor Daniels or David Crowder. Like any proper journalist, I always have a list of questions to ask in case I develop a temporary case of amnesia, but aside from my handy-dandy list, my main objective is always to just ask some general questions and see what themes evolve over the course of a conversation.

This may not be the method taught at the Harvard School of Journalism, but it works for me; which brings me around to my point. Dreams, both fulfilled and yet to be fulfilled, served as a touchstone of sorts in my conversation with Dave Frey.

Perhaps what I found the most interesting about how this theme kept recurring in our conversation was how Frey consistently pointed much of the credit for achieving his dreams back to others: to God, to his parents, his band mates, his friends, and even teachers from his hometown of Terre Haute.

“Growing up, I had this cloud of witnesses guiding me to truth and love and faith,” said Frey, referring to the verse in Hebrews 12:1 that sparked the Sidewalk Prophet’s latest song and album of the same name, Live Like That.

One such person that had a strong influence on the young Frey was his 10th grade history teacher, Dan McGrath. “There was something about him. You could see the passion inside him. It was infectious,” said Frey. “He loved history, and there are a lot of people who don’t like history, that are bored by it. Why are we rehashing the past, you know? Mr. McGrath just made you realize why history was important, that this was something you could learn from.”

“Watching him, I felt like I was watching Jesus teach his disciples. That’s the passion that Jesus brought, this desperate passion,” said Frey with passion in his own voice. “‘You gotta know this, because this is my heart,” he added after pausing for emphasis.

“I could just see His heart inside of Mr. McGrath. You know, in a public school you can’t necessarily lead kids in prayer but come to find out years later Mr. McGrath was a Christian the whole time. You know, he was showing me that without ever saying it,” Frey said softly. “I was incredibly blessed by his life, and by many other teachers. Teachers are so important in shaping the world.”

Another teacher who had an even more powerful role in shaping Frey’s life besides Mr. McGrath is his mother, who Frey told me has been teaching for 36 years. According to Frey, in addition to her work as a teacher she also serves as the “unofficial” chief promoter of the Sidewalk Prophets.

“My Mom will go to a show and ask people, “Who’s your favorite band?” If they don’t say Sidewalk Prophets, she’ll say “Oh, they’re good too, but I really love those Sidewalk Prophets!” Then she’ll go and buy them all t-shirts,” said Frey with a hearty laugh, adding “I’ll come back and Mom’s bought like 20 t-shirts. She’s our greatest promoter, that’s for sure.”

With that, Frey’s tone turns momentarily more serious. “She and my Father are both the reason I am where I am. They took me to church and showed me, ‘This is what life’s about: bringing joy to others and doing it thru the message of Jesus.’ Yeah, I am very blessed to have the mother and father that I have. Very blessed.”

As someone who has dedicated her adult life to encouraging and empowering young children and families, I love hearing stories like Frey’s.  Truly, it takes both strong parents and influential ‘others’, like teachers, pastors, and youth leaders to bring out the best in kids and ensure that every single child has the very best chance to lead a fulfilling life, a life where they have the tools they need to go out and forge a path to make their own dreams come true.

Perhaps that’s why having a Faith & Family Night to celebrate the importance we place on these values in New Haven is so important to me? No matter the reasoning, it seems my longstanding dream had once again kind of inadvertently found its way into the interview, and intersected with the life and times of Dave Frey.

 

 

 

“You know, I think you really have it in the right order: faith, family, friends,” said Frey. “That’s the order we ought to live our lives.”

I totally agree.

Yet, I wondered, ‘Isn’t it hard to do that when you are on the road more than 200 days a year?’ I mean, seriously, the Sidewalk Prophets are notoriously (in a good way) one of the hardest working groups around with a consistently punishing tour schedule. (For instance, did anyone else realize a few years back they did both the Rock & Worship Roadshow AND Winter Jam in the same winter? While driving a van? And they all lived to tell the tale? Pretty remarkable if you ask me. I barely survived a December road trip to Minnesota in a Honda Civic with my BFF and 2 youngsters.)

“We always have to realize that this is a calling that God has laid on our hearts,” said Frey in his usual gracious and humble manner. “We get to serve him in a mighty way and we don’t want to take that for granted. Not only do we serve him, but we get to do what we’ve always dreamed of. This is a double blessing. It blows my mind how blessed we are. We can’t take that responsibility for granted.”

With this responsibility in mind, Frey will return to his home state of Indiana with the Sidewalk Prophets co-founder, Ben McDonald, lead guitarist Shaun Tomczak, bassist Cal Joslin, and drummer Justin Nace on June 8th to rock the first ever Faith and Family Night in Schnelker Park beginning at 8 pm.

“We’re really excited to come to New Haven,” said Frey. He admitted that while growing up in Terre Haute, different festivals would frequently come to town to play, just not faith-based festivals. “That made it tough,” remembered Frey. “We’d have to drive to Bloomington or Indy or Illinois for the Christian music festivals.”

Frey recalled with a smile to his voice going to concerts at the park in Terre Haute with his Mom as child. “Mom would go to the park with her friends and I would head to the park with her friends’ kids. I would listen from far away. I wasn’t prone to loud music as a kid. I didn’t want to hear them blasting their music, so I’d go out to the swings and listen from afar,” he said with a laugh. “I didn’t get over my aversion to loud music until I was in middle school.”

I think it is fair for me to speak for all the Sidewalk Prophet fans of the world when I say I’m really glad Frey got over his distaste of loud music.

“You know, that’s what’s great about outdoor festivals,” said Frey. “Not everybody wants to be front-row-blown-away-by-the-sound. (Side Note:  My BFF Sarah & I like to be front row center, blasted by the sound unless it’s a RED show.  Sarah may still be missing part of an eyebrow from the last time we got too close to a RED show.)   “There are people out swinging, and families interacting and having fun, and people just there for the atmosphere. Maybe someone who’s just there for the atmosphere will have their life changed because of what God’s doing. That’s our great hope. Hopefully our music is more than just sound bouncing off swing sets; hopefully it’s something that cuts to the heart, perhaps even unexpectedly.”

This is certainly my great hope as the Director of Festival Entertainment, and the great hope of more than 100 pastors and community residents who have been meeting with me since January to pray for the success of Faith & Family Night.

Now, with hope addressed, my mind comes full circle to the dream that started this whole idea of a Faith and Family Night in the first place. I am quietly reminded of something my favorite poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning once wrote: “God’s gifts put men’s best dreams to shame.”

This is so beautifully true; but perhaps Dave from the Sidewalk Prophets said it best in a slightly more modern way when he told me, “When I stand on stage, getting to do what I love, it’s a gift; but when anyone just tries to do something that they love, and spread the love of God, He’s going to bless it when it comes from a real and genuine place. He really is.”

I, for one, am pretty sure that the musical gifts that New Haven is about to hear courtesy of the Sidewalk Prophets on June 8th will exceed even my most ambitious dreams.

Praise God for that!

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Beth Stauffer would like to thank Mr. Frey for taking time away from his vacation with his family to conduct this interview.  It is sincerely appreciated!

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Faith & Family Night Concert Information:  Saturday night, June 8th, 2013.  Pre-show with Central Lutheran School students begins at 7:45 pm at Schnelker Park, Prospect Avenue, New Haven, Indiana.  Hosted by WBCL 90.3 FM.  Opening act–Word artist Love & The Outcome at 8:00 pm, followed by the Sidewalk Prophets at 8:20 pm.  VIP Wristbands for premium seating available for $10.00 donation at the New Haven Parks & Recreation Department, 1125 Hartzell Street, New Haven, IN 46774.

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What did Dave Frey say about Chris August during our interview?  This is a direct quote:  “Chris August is a big jerk.”

OK, Jill, calm down.  He was kidding.  Really, he was totally joking.  I actually thought it was pretty funny!

Dave then went on to say that he and Chris August are actually good friends, and even went to a hockey game together recently.  So, I think it is safe to say that Chris August is not a big jerk.

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Why were the Sidewalk Prophets my #1 choice for Faith & Family Night?  Check it here

Not convincing enough?  Maybe my 3-year-old friend Ned can help.  Check out her Sidewalk Prophet story here

Here’s the link to read the story about my incredible friend Pam.  I last saw Pam and her family in December when I was in Cheese country (aka Wisconsin), and they are all doing exceedingly well.  Since I wrote the linked letter in June 2012, Pam’s sister Daria has completed several rehabilitation programs available to her, and the family prays that she will be released early for good behavior by September.  Please join me in praying for Pam, and Daria, and the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the entire family to be met.

MIKESCHAIR debuts new lyric video for ‘All I Can Do (Thank You)’

The fun bunch known as MIKESCHAIR has a great new song out, and along with it, a brand spanking new lyric video for the song ‘All I Can Do (Thank You)’. It has that great MIKESCHAIR sound about it, while managing to somehow avoid sounding like any of the previous MIKESCHAIR songs. I don’t know how they do that, but I do know that I like this song a lot! I bet you will, too….so enjoy! (And, may I add, if you get the chance go check them out on the Redeemed Tour with Big Daddy Weave and Citizen Way in the near future…by all means, go! I saw MIKESCHAIR back in November and LOVED them, and I saw the Redeemed Tour minus MIKESCHAIR plus Chris August a few weeks ago and I LOVED it, too. Definitely a must see!)

Chris August Makes a Friend…

So, I had the honor of meeting Chris August last week.

At the time, I did not realize how desperate for friendship he was.  Perhaps I should have had a clue when he referred to his laptop, Cletus, as his best friend.  Alas, I did not.

It wasn’t until I saw the following video that he shared on Twitter over the weekend that I realized just how badly he really needs a friend.

Like, really bad.

Honestly, there’s not much more I can say, other than you have to watch this video.

Dear Chris August…

Chris August humors me, especially with his latest video detailing the behind the scenes shenanigans on the Redeemed Tour with Big Daddy Weave and Citizen Way.

Seriously, I was cracking up.  (Considering the day I’ve had, this was a real accomplishment.  Just saying!)

Maybe it’s just me, but it appears that there is a lot of camouflage, facial hair, throwback eyewear, and Dr. Pepper going around on the Redeemed Tour.  Kind of like Duck Dynasty set to music, minus the whole hunting thing, iced tea and Uncle Si.

Any which way you slice it, the Redeemed Tour looks like my kind of show! I’m now even more excited than ever to check out the Redeemed Tour at BlackHawk Ministries in Fort Wayne on Friday night at 7:30 pm.  If you’re in or around Fort Wayne, you should be there too!

Friday will be the first time I’ve seen Big Daddy Weave and, I think, Citizen Way in concert before.  (For some reason, I simultaneously think I have and have not seen Citizen Way before.  I’m pretty sure I haven’t, but then again, maybe I have.  Who knows?!)

The last time I saw Chris August was in December while he was out with tobyMac & Co. on the Hits Deep Tour in Toledo.  I attended well over 100 concerts last year, and if I had one award to give out for the 2012 ‘Fashion Statement of the Year’ it hands down would have gone to Chris August.  Seriously, while a good majority of the guys I saw on tour last year were wearing skinny jeans and/or rolled up pants with boat shoes, t-shirts and beanies (for the record, NO ONE looks good in rolled up pants and boat shoes!), Chris August was rocking a pair of camouflage cargo pants and a bedazzled denim vest.

Yes, you read that correctly,

Camo cargo pants and a bedazzled denim vest.

As I twittered the night of the Hits Deep Tour, “Haven’t seen that look rock a stage since my Dad took me to see Poison in the ’90’s.  Another reason to love Chris August!”

Indeed.

Unfortunately, Chris does not discuss his stylist (or lack thereof) in his latest video, but you should still check out the video because it’s funny in an eccentric, goofball kind of way.  Then, check back here next week for full details on the Redeemed Tour (and to find out if the bejeweled denim vest makes its return to the stage!)

Big Daddy Weave ‘Redeemed’ Tour News!

(Side Note–I’m sharing because Fort Wayne is on the list of tour stops!  Woot!  I was starting to think Big Daddy Weave had an aversion to Fort Wayne or something because it has been awhile since they’ve been here; also of special note, Chris August will be coming along for the ride.  In case you are a devoted blog follower, yes, I plan to have my friend Jill on tight leash at the show, that is if I even consent to going with her at all.  She’s Family Force 5 cray-button crazy about Chris August!)

From Press Release:

NASHVILLE, TN (January 29, 2013) – Dove Award-winning group Big Daddy Weave is set to depart on the second leg of their highly-successful “The Redeemed Tour” February 1 in Wausau, WI. The tour, featuring chart-topping artist Chris August and special guest Citizen Way, is scheduled to stop in over 38 cities from February through May. This launch comes on the heels of the band’s hit No. 1 single, “Redeemed,” which spent eight weeks at No. 1 on the NCA (National Christian Audience Chart) and nine weeks at No. 1 on the AC Monitored Chart. The video for the hit song has also proven to be a hit as it has amassed close to two million views on YouTube.

“What happens every night on ‘The Redeemed Tour’ is the most special thing we’ve ever been a part of, and it just keeps growing,” says Big Daddy Weave’s lead singer Mike Weaver. “We’re excited to play and be with the wonderful people that we meet in every town.  We’re also big fans of everybody playing on the tour, so we couldn’t ask for anything more!  We can’t wait to see what God does next with all of this.”

Label mate and three-time Dove Award-winner Chris August will also be joining Big Daddy Weave on this leg of “The Redeemed Tour. This past summer, August released his sophomore album, The Upside of Down, and collaborated with Group 1 Crew on their No. 1 hit, “He Said.” Fans can expect to hear his next single, “Restore,” when it hits radio February 1.

 

Citizen Way has made a big impression fast with their first single “Should’ve Been Me” reaching the radio chart’s top 10.  The Elgin, IL band’s appearance on Big Daddy Weave’s “The Redeemed Tour” marks their debut on a nationwide tour.

 

“The Redeemed Tour” is scheduled to hit the following cities:

 

Feb. 1              The Grand Theater – Wausau, WI

Feb. 2              Community Church – Oshkosh, WI

Feb. 7              Eagle Heights Church – Somerset, KY

Feb. 8              BC Lloyd Building – Paragould, AR

Feb. 9              Christ Fellowship – McKinney, TX

Feb. 10            MK Brown Civic Auditorium –  Pampa, TX

Feb. 12            Clovis Civic Center – Clovis, NM

Feb. 13            RN Tydings Auditorium – Hobbs, NM

Feb. 14            St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church – Tucson, AZ

Feb. 15            Trinity Life Center – Las Vegas, NV

Feb. 16            Reno Christian Fellowship – Reno, NV

Feb. 17            Faith Community Church – Acampo, CA

Feb. 21            Marshfield High School – Coos Bay, OR

Feb. 23            Dayspring Fellowship – Keizer, OR

Feb. 24            Everett Theatre – Everett, WA

Feb. 26            The House of Faith – Lewiston, ID

Feb. 27            Idaho Falls Civic Auditorium – Idaho Falls, ID

Feb. 28            Cheyenne Civic Center – Cheyenne, WY

March 1           Restoration Church – Casper, WY

March 2           Helena Community Facilities Center – Helena, MT

March 3           Faith Evangelical Church – Billings, MT

March 8           Rodger’s Theatre, Poplar Bluff, MO

March 9           Cornerstone Christian Academy – Shelbyville, KY

March 10         Dublin Jerome High School Center for Performing Arts – Dublin, OH

March 14         Memorial Stadium – Waycross, GA

March 15         Westover Church – Greensboro, NC

March 16         Charleston Southern University – Charleston, SC

March 21         Christ Community Chapel – Hudson, OH

March 22         Blackhawk Ministries – Fort Wayne, IN

March 23         Cornerstone Church – West Chester, OH

March 24         Trinity Evangelical – Upper Sandusky, OH

April 5              Cross Creek Community Church – Trucksville, PA

April 6              Wyoming United Methodist Church – Dover, DE

April 13            Davis and Elkins College Auditorium – Elkins, WV

April 14            Walker Center – Wilkesboro, NC

April 20            Plant City Stadium – Plant City, FL

April 21            Truett-McConnell College – Cleveland, GA

April 26            Concordia University Wisconsin – Mequon, WI

May 4              Wild Adventures Theme Park – Valdosta, GA

 

About Big Daddy Weave: 

Big Daddy Weave formed when Mike Weaver, Jay Weaver, Jeremy Redmon, Jeff Jones and Joe Shirk got together at the University of Mobile. They stepped into the spotlight in 2002 with the release of their second album One and Only, which debuted in SoundScan’s Christian Top 5 and saw the group nominated as Dove Awards New Artist of the Year. Their 2010 album Christ Has Come won a Dove for Christmas Album of the Year, and they recently released their first greatest hits compilation, The Ultimate Collection. They have been honored at ASCAP’s Christian Music Awards, were chosen for the WOW Hits compilations in five of the last six years, and are one of the 10 most played artists at Christian radio over the past decade.

27 Days of Christmas Music, Day 6: Chris August’s Jesus, Savior

chris august jesus savior

Chris August – Jesus, Savior

As I write today’s blog, I’m actually in the Ohio city of Toledo for the TobyMac Hits Deep tour featuring Brandon Heath, Mandisa, Chris August, Britt Nicole, Jamie Grace, Group 1 Crew, and of course, the man himself, TobyMac.

You can probably imagine that I, along with my VIP Press Pass, am near giddy with excitement. I’ve been looking forward to this night for quite some time, and I’d venture to say that wild horses couldn’t keep me away from the Huntington Center in about 2 hours.

Well, that’s not entirely true.

One thing almost did keep me away: the Anthony Wayne Bridge that spans the Maumee River in downtown Toledo.

If you don’t know anything else about me, the one thing you will probably take away from reading this blog is the truth that I am kind of a quirky person.

For starters, I am physically unable to eat meat that has a bone attached.

I can’t stand the flute.

I have a bizarre, totally inexplicable crush on TV’s Turtle Man.

And, to the delight of my friends and family, I am freakishly terrified of underground tunnels and bridges that span over waterways.

We’re talking a hyperventilating, sometimes vomiting, crying and screaming type fear.

To give you an idea of what I’m dealing with, you should know that I suffer from a recurring nightmare in which I am drive across the Mighty Mac Bridge to Mackinac, Michigan. (This, by the way would never happen, me driving across a bridge like that. It’s better for everyone if I’m blindfolded and sedated in the backseat when we drive across the Mighty Mac.) In my dream, my Honda Civic turns into a science fictional submarine that transports me back in time to World War II, where I land on the beach at Normandy during the Allied invasion of France.

Not a good time to visit France, even in a dream.

Needless to say, as much as I love going to Mackinac Island, I abhor the thought of having to cross over the Mighty Mac in the process of getting there.

My experiences with the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco haven’t been much better. The one positive thing I will say is that the Golden Gate Bridge is breathtakingly beautiful, especially with two feet firmly planted on the ground outside the gift shop while taking pictures.

When I was inside a large passenger van driving over the Golden Gate Bridge…well, that was another matter entirely.

Earlier this afternoon, I was faced with my fear of bridges as I approached the venue for tonight’s concert. There, in between me and the Hits Deep Tour, was a really big, really archaic looking Smurfy blue bridge over a really wide section of the Maumee River. Seriously, this bridge looked like a bad knock-off of the Golden Gate Bridge, only not nearly as well maintained and with far fewer people on the pedestrian bridge.

I was in big trouble, and I knew it.

Abruptly, I pulled my car over to the side of the road to take a moment to come up with a plan.

Should I use my GPS to calculate a different route? A logical plan, but my GPS hates me and the spot I was in was a veritable no-man’s land so I couldn’t pick up a signal.

Should I call my doctor to have an emergency prescription of Xanax filled at the nearest CVS?

Drive across the Anthony Wayne Bridge with my eyes closed?

Turn around and go home?

There was really only one good option, and that was to buck up and just drive across the bridge. I thought to myself, ‘Really, what could go wrong?’

‘Well, since you asked,’ I replied to myself, ‘remember the bridge that collapsed in California a few years ago that killed a bunch of people? Or the bridge that collapsed in Minnesota? Wait, I think that was just a pedestrian bridge, but still, it collapsed. What if another driver veers into my lane and I end up in the river? What if there’s an earthquake, or a fire, or a tornado? What if….”

(Side note: you know you’re in a bad situation when you are having an intense mental debate with yourself. No one ever wins in this scenario.)

As I continued with my very long list of possible catastrophes that were not very likely to occur at any time, ever, I heard the words to Chris August’s song, Jesus, Savior, as his CD, No Far Away, played in my car.

Once upon a time,
In a town called Nazareth,
Lived an ordinary girl.

Mary was her name,
And she was engaged,
To Joseph the carpenter.

Suddenly an angel came,
Said, “You will have a baby boy.
But don’t be afraid,
God is with you.”

It occurred to me that Mary was a young woman who really had a legitimate reason to be fearful, at least when compared to me.

The angel Gabriel had appeared to her, announcing (and I’m loosely paraphrasing here), “Guess what? The Holy Spirit is going to come down and overshadow you, and you’re going to get pregnant! In nine months’ time you’ll give birth. Congrats, it’s a boy! He’s going to be, like, a really big deal. We’re talking the King of Kings and Lord of Lords here. A real VIP.”

Reason to be Afraid #1:  Mary had angels dropping in to visit her. I’m sure that was awesome, but freaky frightening as well.

Reason to be Afraid #2:  Mary was going to get pregnant, not the old fashioned way, but by the power of the Most High overshadowing her. I don’t know about you, but that sounds rather frightening to me, to say the least.

Reason to be Afraid #3:  Mary was going to be an unwed, teenage mother. She no doubt knew when word got out about her situation she would likely be stoned to death or worse. Yikes.

Reason to be Afraid #4:  She had no money, no job, no life skills. No way to take care of a baby, much less the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Reason to be Afraid #5:  How do you even begin to mother God in the flesh anyways? Being a parent is tough enough, but being a parent to Jesus Christ…now that is seriously intimidating.

I’m sure I’m missing at least a hundred more reasons why Mary should have been scared out of her wits, but I’m going to cut to the chase and tell you the two things that strike me the most about this song, and this story.

The first is that Gabriel tells her very plainly, “Do not be afraid. God will be with you.”

The second is Mary’s reply to Gabriel: “May it be to me as you have said. I am the Lord’s servant.”

I love Mary’s response to the news that she was to become Jesus’ mother. What I love even more, however, is the fact that God promises the very same thing to me and to you that He promised Mary on the day she learned God’s plan for her.

God promises us that He will always be with us. Always.

There is nothing, not one thing that can separate us from His love, although many a fear and phobia have tried. When we are at our feariest, He is at His kingliest.

(Yes, I know, I’m making up words again…Deal with it!)

There is quite literally no bridge that He cannot cross to get to us when we need Him, pun intended.

With the song Jesus, Savior playing on the stereo and the song Jesus, Take the Wheel playing in my mind, I made it across the Anthony Wayne Bridge without the least bit of a problem.  For about 20 whole minutes, this was the biggest accomplishment of my entire life.

Then, in one of those weird twists that my life is full of, I unexpectedly got to have a little Q&A session with the one and only TobyMac.  You know, my most favoritest singing person in the whole wide world since I was 12 years old.  (Considering I’m halfway to 70, that’s a long time.)  The one person in the entire world I told my BFF Sarah I never wanted to meet because I was afraid I’d lose all ability to speak coherently, among other things.

Yep, him.

All in all, it was a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-ly good day of fear fighting on my part.

Bridges and Peter Furler (the other person I never want to meet), take note.

 

 

 

Tuesday Tunes Playlist

Dear Readers:
I’ve received quite a few e-mails lately asking me about what my music playlist sounds like lately. Yes, I’m aware that I have been somewhat negligent in writing about music lately, and I do apologize for that.  So for fun today I thought I would post a Tuesday Tunes Playlist of what I have been listening to lately and what has been speaking to my heart. Enjoy!
#15—The Words I Would Say (Sidewalk Prophets)—Yep, I realize that this is kind of classic.  It’s by far the oldest song on this list. Lately, this song has been popping up in my life in weird places when I need a boost.  For instance, I was in a real foul mood at Gordon Food Service shopping for a picnic at church last weekend, and sandwiched in between songs by The Cure and Bon Jovi was ‘The Words I Would Say’.  Very strange, but in a good way.  It definitely brought a smile to my face and turned my attitude around in record time.
#14—Obsolete (Sara Groves)—I really like Sara Groves.  She has a haunting quality to her voice and the lyrics to her songs are just flat out brilliant.  This song just kind of hits my feelings on the head lately, and in a way that I don’t think even I could describe as well as Sara does in this song.  Highly recommended listening, along with the rest of the her album ‘Invisible Empires’.
#13—Redeemed (Big Daddy Weave)—This song just touches my heart every time I hear it, which fortunately is quite frequently as it’s getting a lot of radio play these days in my neck of the woods.  I think this may be my all-time favorite BDW song!
#12—Higher (Lecrae featuring Tenth Avenue North)—I have to admit, when I first saw this song listed on Lecrae’s newest album, Gravity, I did a double take.  Lecrae…and Tenth Avenue North?  How exactly would something like that work, anyway?  Well, let me say for the record it works quite beautifully.  Great song, I totally love it.  Further proof (at least to me) that Tenth Avenue North makes everything better!
#11—Gold (Britt Nicole)—There are a lot of really good songs on Britt Nicole’s latest project.  If I had to pick one, I’d say ‘Gold’ is one of my favorites.  Without fail, it brightens my day and gets me going no matter what else might be going on.
#10—Pushing on a Pull Door (For King & Country)—Yes, for those of you in the know, this is my theme song.  I have written an entire short story based upon inspiration derived from this song. Luckily, I haven’t actually been hanging upside down lately like I was in the story I shared, but I’ve definitely been pushing on some pull doors lately. 
#9—Good Morning (Mandisa featuring TobyMac)—Here’s a no fail recipe for a song that I will love:  Have Mandisa sing something positive and upbeat, and toss in some TobyMac for good measure.  Seriously, that’s a no fail recipe for a great song.  These two together are like peanut butter and jelly (well, that might not be the best example since I’m allergic to peanut butter). Anyway, I think you get the picture.
#8—For the First Time Again (Jason Gray)—I’ve just recently discovered Jason Gray, and I’m quickly becoming a fan.  This song really hit me the other day while I was driving along in my car, as it very accurately described a place in my life I’ve been feeling lately.  I’ve listened to it a lot in the time since then.  If you are feeling a little run down, I would recommend listening to this song for sure!
#7—Opposite Way (Leeland)—I had a strange experience with this song over the weekend.  Honestly, if I’ve listened to this song once, I’ve listened to it a hundred times  as I love the CD Opposite Way.  Yet, as I was driving along the highway on interstate I-469 on Sunday, Opposite Way came on the radio and it was as if I heard it for the first time.  I was struck by the lyrics, and I swear it was like I never really heard what was being said in this song before.  I would encourage you if you don’t have this CD to get it, or at the very least look up the lyrics to this song.   Beautiful, poignant, touching.  Definitely go check it out!
#6—All I see is You (Trevor Morgan)—I really like Trevor Morgan’s CD, The Blessed and the Broken. If you don’t have it, you should. It’s really, really good.  I’ve been listening to All I See Is You a lot lately, and it has become the prayerof my heart these last few weeks. Another highly recommended song, and CD.
#5—Angel By Your Side (Francesca Battistelli)—Her name maybe difficult to spell and kind of hard to say, but definitely worth the effort.  I love this song, as it has been both an encouragement and comfort to me lately. 
#4—Even If (Kutless)—I’m a longtime fan of Kutless, and as such I have to admit that their latest project “Believer” is one of my favorites.  What I like about Kutless is that they sing the truth.  They aren’t compelled to make everything tidy and neat, and they tend to cut straight to the heart of what really matters.  I really admire them for that.  Even If is one of those songs that is a brilliant amalgamation of hard truths amidst a unifying hope in the Lord.  For sure, if you haven’t yet, you’ll want to give this song a listen.
#3—Center of It (Chris August)—I posted a review on my blog awhile back about Chris August’s new CD, The Upside of Down.  It’s been in a continual state of replay since I got it back in August.  It was hard to pick just one song off of the album to include on this playlist, but I decided to go with Center of It because of the reminder it provides me that no matter what is going on in my life, God is in the center of it all.  Worth a listen (or a hundred!)
#2—Never (Hyland)—Okay, here’s my rant for today.  I think Hyland is one of most underrated groups in Christian music today.  They have some really great songs and I so enjoy listening to their CD, Weights and Measures.  They also have a single out called “Beauty in the Broken,” which I think is spectacular.   Their song, Never, is also a standout in my book.   The lyrics are so relatable and heartfelt that I find myself coming back to listen to this song over and over. 
#1—Banner of Love (Luminate)—This is such an awesome song it should be mandatory listening for everyone.  If everyone listened to this song, and then attempted to live by the lyrics, the world would no doubt be a more beautiful place.  Truthfully, if you haven’t heard this song yet, you need to listen to it and you’ll see why it’s my #1 pick on my playlist this week! 
And there you have it!  You can view pins of all of these videos on my Pinterest Board, Tuesday Tunes Playlist!
Much Love,
Beth