CONTINENTAL — Formed in 1981 at Morningside Baptist Church in Valdosta, Ga., as a nine-member church band, NewSong has undergone many changes during its nearly 40 years on the charts. The contemporary Christian group that features hits such as, “Can’t Keep a Good Man Down,” “Arise My Love” and “The Christmas Shoes,” will be in concert Sept. 15 at 6 p.m. at Free Christian Church of God in rural Continental.
Tickets for the concert are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. To purchase tickets, go to freecog.org, or call 419-596-3103.
The now seven-man band on the HHM record label includes, founding members Billy Goodwin and Eddie Carswell, as well as Matt Butler, Rico Thomas, Jack Pumphrey, Mark Clay and Russ Lee. This is the second go-round in the group for Lee, who joined NewSong in 1994, left in 2000 to embark on a solo career, and rejoined the group in 2008.
In a recent phone interview with Lee, the vocalist/songwriter shared that God has blessed the group over the course of the past 40 years.
“NewSong was just a group of guys that started singing together on weekends in southern Georgia, and every time they went out, they just kept on getting invited to sing at more and more places,” said Lee. “This is what we do full-time, and in fact, by the grace of God, we have more work than we can handle. Every one of us knows this is what we were called to do. Eddie and Billy took a leap of faith all those years ago, not expecting it would last like this.
“Over the years, all the members of the group have been using the talents God gave us to praise Him and spread His word,” continued Lee. “I guess the secret to our longevity is that we just keep showing up. It’s exciting and amazing how God has blessed us. When I first joined the band, then it was a four-man vocal group, and we went through a metamorphosis into a Christian rock band. We didn’t know what to expect, but with God’s help, we’re still doing it.”
In addition to its hits, NewSong is known for starting The Winter Jam Tour Spectacular in 1995 as a way for the group, and many new artists, to play their music and spread the message of the gospel. The group also founded the youth event Xtreme Conferences, which features several groups and speakers. That will be held at the end of the year in Gatlinburg, Tenn. and Branson, Mo.
Although NewSong performs about 100 dates a year, Lee explained that most of the dates take place on weekends so that band members can spend as much time with family as possible. Lee shared also that the group members get just as excited to play smaller venues, such as at Free Christian Church of God, as they do when they’re performing in a big arena.
“Our music is relationship driven, almost a musical conversation, and even though we love to play in front of 20,000 people, we are really made to be in a more intimate setting,” said Lee. “What’s great about playing in an intimate setting is that we’re closer to the people. We still bring that energy and excitement in a smaller setting, but it just feels like we’re more accessible to the people, and it really makes us feel at home.
“We’re going to do what we do, regardless of how big the place is where we play,” added Lee.
When Lee left NewSong in 2000 to go solo, the main reason was to be in control his schedule so that he could spend more time with his wife and two sons. He explained that he came to a place after his sons had grown where he was writing songs with NewSong when Carswell asked him, “Why don’t you just rejoin the band and do these songs with us?”
“I loved being in NewSong and I didn’t want to leave, but my marriage and my family were most important,” Lee said. “I didn’t have a re-entry strategy, but when my sons got older and we had come to a place where I was writing songs with the band, Eddie asked me to come back. I prayerfully thought about it, realized what a great opportunity it was, and so I came back. To be honest, it felt like only a week had gone by when I came back.
“One of the best things about being in this band is that we all make our families our priority,” added Lee. “God has blessed us with a schedule where we travel on the weekends, and we’re home during the week. All of us come home, do laundry, work on our ‘honey-do’ lists, take out the trash and be with the people we love. When the weekends come, we pack up, head out to do our ministry, and head home when we’re done.”
NewSong is “looking forward to performing at Free Christian Church of God,” according to Lee, who loves the message the group shares with its audience.
“We’re just a group of professional musicians who have spent the better part of our adult lives making music, by the grace of God,” said Lee. “We work hard to share an encouraging message about God in a world that is truthfully filled with chaos. We take our music and words and share the hope of Jesus Christ, and it’s our goal that people are encouraged, entertained and more hopeful when they leave.”