Winter Jam Tour 2013 feat. TobyMac, Red, Matthew West, Jamie Grace, Sidewalk Prophets, Royal Tailor, Jason Castro, OBB & Capital KingsPop/Rock
At the heart of Winter Jam is ministry and it's commitment to no tickets and only $10 at the door. This remains a unique characteristic to Winter Jam and underscores the importance of making the event affordable for families, individuals and groups of all sizes.
TobyMacChristian & Gospel
The ascension of TobyMac’s solo career has been nothing short of spectacular. In an era of declining music sales he has consistently defied the odds and has seen his sales increase with each new album release. This is no small feat. With his fourth studio album TONIGHT set to release on Feb. 9, he is poised to take things higher yet again.
Having climbed the mountain once with the group dcTalk (4 Grammys, more than 8 million albums sold), TobyMac knows how difficult the journey can be and how much work the process actually takes. Rarely does an artist get to soar to great heights for a second time, but soar he has. He took home his first Grammy as a solo artist last year after receiving Grammy nominations for each of his first three solo projects (Momentum, Welcome To Diverse City, Portable Sounds). And last year TobyMac topped 2 million in total albums sold during his solo career. He has done it with a combination of talent, hard work and humility which has produced songs that resonate with people from all walks of life .
Upon embarking on his solo career, Toby sought to surround himself with a talented and diverse cast of characters, aptly named the Diverse City Band. The result has been a musical fusion that radiates with an unquenchable energy and a penetrating message.
A self-professed perfectionist when making records—he’s been known to relentlessly tweak and massage every little thing in an inexorable effort to make it sound better—Toby is the first to admit that he has to work really hard to make great music. “That’s what drives me,” he says. “I feel like I have to work harder than other people to get there. Sometimes I feel like I’m slightly under-gifted; I usually don't sit down and write a great song in just a few minutes like others can. But I think my work ethic makes up for that.”
Starting with dcTalk, and then going solo when the group disbanded in 2000, Toby still clings to such rootsy notions as hard work, persistence, patience and—perhaps most relevant of all—the power of music, which he insists is still what keeps him going.
“It’s the truth,” he says. “I still believe that a song can penetrate a heart. I believe God can use a song to open someone’s mind and heart. Other songs can just drop what I call, 'the joy bomb' on somebody. I fight really hard to remain unjaded—to keep believing that you can actually walk into a studio and write a song that breathes life. That’s the hardest fight for a guy who’s been doing this for a while; it’s easy to fall into the trap of just making it your job. But I still believe that songs matter.”
The songs on TONIGHT certainly matter—everything from the prayerful first single “City On Our Knees” to the testimonial “Changed Forever,” from the worshipful “Captured” to the confessional “Start Somewhere,” and even down to the put-on-your-party-hat grooves of “Funky Jesus Music” and “ShowStopper.” One theme that runs loud and clear throughout is the idea that we all need God, and we need him now—this morning, this afternoon, tonight.
“Right here, right now / Under the stars / I promise You my heart / ’Cause it starts tonight,” Toby sings on the chorus of the title track. “If you gotta start somewhere why not here? If you gotta start sometime why not now?” he asks on “City on Our Knees.” And “I wanna straighten this before the sun goes down tonight,” he proclaims on “Start Somewhere.”
“There’s definitely a sense of urgency on this record,” says co-producer Chris Stephens, who has worked on TobyMac’s last three CDs. “And it’s an album that speaks of unity, of coming together and finding common ground to worship God.”
Toby has long had a passion for racial reconciliation and unity, a recurrent theme in his music. TONIGHT includes songs of reconciliation of another kind—between husband and wife. Toby and Amanda have been happily married for 15 years, but like all couples, it can be hard work sometimes. For Toby, who best expresses his emotions through music, it was a natural step to write about it. In “Hold On,” he sings, “If you move just a little bit closer / You can put your head on my shoulder . . . / Wipe away those tears / This one’s for you.” And on “Start Somewhere,” he’s downright confessional: “I said some things that I regret / And if I could, I’d take ’em back / But here I am, and there you are / The space between us is not so far / I’m reaching out my hand in love.”
“’Hold On’ is very personal,” Toby says. “Many lines are there to encourage my wife, but I know those lines could encourage anybody in a relationship. As for ’Start Somewhere,’ any time you’re in love with somebody, you’re going to bang heads from time to time. I don’t know how many times I’ve been lying in bed, sweating it out and thinking, How am I going to make this right? But then you reach that moment of apology and forgiveness. That’s one of my favorite songs on the record; it’s a personal perspective on confrontation and reconciliation.”
And then there’s “Wonderin’,” in which Toby reminisces about the past with Kevin Max and Michael Tait in dcTalk, one of Christian music’s biggest acts in the 1990s. “We was ridin’ in style, clockin’ them miles / With the songs that He put down deep in our hearts . . . / I’m wonderin’ ’bout the way I spend my days / Wonderin’ if it’s even worth the chase / Wonderin’ if they’re stealin’ me from you.”
“It’s just a warm look back at dc Talk,” says Toby, almost wistfully. “It’s reminiscing about Michael and Kevin and what we did together, and recognizing their influence on me. I love what I do today, but there are times when I wonder,What if we stayed together? I’ve got these dreams I’m pursuing now, but are they stealing me from you? I think about Kevin and Michael on every song I write. That's the truth man, we climbed a mountain together.”
Sonically, TONIGHT is typical TobyMac in many ways—an eclectic mix of rap, rock, pop and funk, all laden with catchy hooks and melodies just itching for airplay and audience singalongs. There’s even a healthy dose of reggae on the album closer “Break Open the Sky,” where Toby flexes his Jamaican family ties while Israel Houghton provides guest vocals. Other visiting vocalists include Skillet’s John Cooper on “Tonight” and Relient K’s Matthew Thiessen on “Wonderin’.”
Of course most of the vocals belong to the artist himself. Stephens says Toby “has stretched himself as a vocalist, he writes about things he is passionate about and his vocals reflect that urgency''. Toby agrees: “I do more singing on this record than ever before. I’m learning to use my vocal instrument in different ways, and I’m getting more comfortable with it everyday''.
It all adds up to a project that reflects one man’s desire to push himself beyond “very good,” to dig deep in the quest for that other country where greatness resides. He certainly reached for it. Hard.
“I’ve worked very hard not to fall into the trap of making this just a gig,” he says. “If it is a labor, it’s a labor of love. I know music can’t change the world, but who says God can't speak through a song."
Right here, right now. TONIGHT.
Two sides inhabit the lifespan of a storm: first, the suddenness of the chaos in the storm itself, then the damage, debris and, hopefully, renewal and new growth in the aftermath.
The members of RED -- vocalist Michael Barnes, bassist Randy Armstrong, guitarist Anthony Armstrong and drummer Joe Rickard -- have lived the storms, and need you to believe you can come out the other side while listening to the tracks that make up the band's new project "Release The Panic."
The duality infused in all of "Release The Panic"'s songs -- be it musical or lyrical, from the title track all the way through -- is absolutely intentional.
"Every song on this record is two-sided," Randy says. "'Damage' is a great example, talking about how 'all I do is damage,' yet our character is determined by how we repair that damage.
"Same thing with 'Release The Panic,'" he continues. "We as humans can panic and be worried about our everyday lives. In the end, the battle has already been won."
"That's the double-sidedness of it," Michael says. "Releasing the panic, you either let go of the worry and the anxiety, or you actually panic and go crazy."
For the band, releasing some of the panic that comes with making a record meant embracing creative change. From teaming with veteran rock producer Howard Benson (P.O.D., My Chemical Romance, Daughtry, Skillet and many more) to introducing even more loops, beats and yes, danceable elements alongside RED's trademark heaviness, "Release The Panic" brings you RED in ways you've never heard before.
"When you look at the whole scope of the record, we've got more heavy songs on this record than ever," Anthony says. "'Release The Panic' and 'Damage' are two of the heaviest songs we've ever done."
"At the same time, it's OK for us to do a song like 'Die For You' and 'Same Disease' because something like 'If We Only' balances it out," Joe says. "It all fits in; it's just growing and changing with the times."
That growth is designed to take RED's impact to the next level, and involved the band reinventing the way it made music. RED came off the road completely in the first part of 2012, a first for a band known for its non-stop touring schedule, and based out of Los Angeles while making "Release The Panic."
"We're both excited and scared to death of some things because we're so much closer to this project than we ever have been," Randy says. "We were on the road touring when we were making all the other records. Here we were, 100% locked into writing and making this record. It was amazing."
Known for getting passionate performances out of some of music's most powerful singers, Benson knew he had something special when first working with Michael Barnes.
"He's really committed to being a disciplined, great singer," Benson says. "In my world, most of my singers are completely the opposite of that; they don't take care of their voices, or they treat them like guitars and just throw 'em around."
The one creative element that has remained consistent is RED's ability to take feedback from fans -- be it through social media presences or face-to-face communication after a blistering live show -- and filter that into the new music created.
It's that trust gained across thousands of shows and now four records that allows the band to be transparent with that fan base, maybe saying things others in those fans' lives can't say.
"We can talk about the darker things," Anthony says. "We're still challenging people to get outside their comfort zone in certain ways, where they're rethinking themselves and being honest with themselves about who they really are."
Those ideas show up on "Release The Panic" on songs like "So Far Away" (dealing with emotional distance), "Glass House" (where even at our most transparent, no one can see into our true motives) and the album's initial single, "Perfect Life."
"As we recorded in Los Angeles, and looked at pop culture as a whole, the inspiration for that song was all around us, all the time," Anthony says. "There are people who have themselves convinced they're living the good life, but it's the clawing their way to live this kind of life that's troubling."
So these multi-faceted themes, meshed with fiery and sometimes unexpected musical moments, team to create RED's most electrifying project yet, something the band's new production partner watched coalesce.
"The thing I like about this record is that they're very forward-thinking songs for a rock band," Benson says. "These guys are sitting on a powder keg, frankly, and I just can't wait for the rest of the world to hear it."
It's time to unleash the storm. And it's time for new growth to shine through.
It's time to "Release The Panic."
Matthew WestChristian & Gospel
Life was good for Matthew West. Having catapulted onto the Christian music scene in 2003 with his debut single, "More"—the most played Christian AC song of 2004—the multi-Dove Award nominee and sought-after songwriter had enjoyed two critically-acclaimed studio recordings, Happy (2003) and History (2005); been a mainstay at Christian radio with memorable hits like "Only Grace," "History" and "Next Thing You Know"; and toured with such artists as tobyMac and BarlowGirl. But in April of 2007, with a new label home at Sparrow Records, concert dates on the books and plans to hit the studio with a fresh batch of songs for an album he’d already titled Something To Say, Matthew lost his voice.
After one look at his vocal chords, doctors at the Vanderbilt Voice Center immediately put all his plans on hold. They discovered a vascular polyp and hemorrhaged blood vessels on Matthew’s vocal chord, making it impossible for him to sing. His doctors were convinced only two courses of treatment would work: complete silence and surgery.
"Everything came to a screeching halt," Matthew says of the diagnosis and the news of surgery. "All of a sudden my calendar was completely cleared. My studio plans were postponed. My life shut down." Even worse, he says, was the frustration of not being able to communicate with his wife, Emily, and 1-year-old daughter, Lulu. "I was armed with a dry erase board, unable to do the little things we take for granted everyday, like talking with my wife, or singing to my little girl before bed."
This season of silence wasn’t just a wake up call for the Wests, it was a dark, uncertain place. "I saw a side of Matthew that I had not yet really seen," says Emily. "A more fearful side, vulnerable, less confident. But also, I saw in Matthew a determination to allow God to do a work in his life through this trial. I saw him commit time each day in prayer, and really seek God for some purpose to this season."
Matthew recommitted himself to journaling his thoughts and prayers during his season of silence. "Solitude is an uncomfortable place, and silence is so unnatural for most of us," he relates. "I found myself surrounded by questions like, ’What if I can’t sing anymore? What if my voice doesn’t sound the same? What if I can’t provide for my family?’ It was foundation shattering. But over and over again, I felt this recurring message on my heart saying, ’Cease striving…don’t even ask for answers, just be with Me. Be still. I am using your voice, even when you can’t hear it.’"
Most of the songs on Something to Say were written before Matthew’s surgery, but in many ways, it took this trial to fully understand their meaning. "Prior to this experience, I only had a glimpse of what these songs had to say, but having literally nothing to say for two months, it was as if I understood what these songs were trying to communicate all along. It’s like writing messages or taking notes and then taking the test to see if you really ’get’ what you’ve written. Sometimes you’re given the message before you know what it means. Then the test comes, and you can see how God intended everything to be."
Driven by a distinctive lyrical clarity, Something To Say is a soundtrack for life—a powerful reminder that God is speaking every day out of the broken places and pieces of our lives. Produced by Brown Bannister, Ed Cash and Chris Stevens, the album delivers the infectious guitar-driven pop that fans have come to expect from an artist and writer whose songs have also graced projects by Natalie Grant, Mandisa, Mark Schultz and Billy Ray Cyrus, as well as a cut on Rascal Flatts’ multi-platinum Feels Like Today.
From the high-energy title track, to the powerful "The Moment of Truth," to the closing ballad "Stop The World," Something To Say unfolds in fresh and thought-provoking ways to reveal its message of hope and healing. "I wanted to write songs that weren’t afraid to talk about real life," Matthew says. "Real struggles. Real issues. Real problems. Because every song about real life is an opportunity to sing about the real Hope that can be found in Jesus."
"Life Inside You" is an unforgettable example. Based on a true story, Matthew captures the struggles—and Hope—of a teenage couple facing pregnancy and addiction. "This young couple, with all the potential in the world, on the verge of throwing in the towel… somehow in the center of what seemed so hopeless, that tiny heart was beating… She kept the baby. It’s a boy. They got sober and got married. Redemption is real."
The core message of the entire album, he says, is "no matter how many mistakes we’ve made or trials we’ve faced, it’s the brokenness of our lives that God uses to give us something to say to the world. I was sitting in church one Sunday after my surgery when my pastor read a quote from C.S. Lewis: ’God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.’ It’s easier to cover up the weakest moments in life, hoping no one sees, but that’s not God’s plan for us. ’Offer it up to Me, let Me show you what new life is like, what I can do with your mistakes.’ He will amplify His voice through you in a huge way."
Ultimately, Matthew hopes to communicate the message that God is indeed at work in all our lives, in every circumstance, in every moment of our existence. And even in the silence—as Matthew well knows—there is still great Hope to be shared, a story to be told, and something to say.
Jamie GraceChristian & Gospel
Jamie Grace, a 21-year-old singer-songwriter, was discovered on Youtube by GRAMMY ® winner TobyMac and signed to his label Gotee Records.
Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, Jamie Grace received her bachelor's in Children's Ministry from Point University in May of 2012. At age 11, Jamie Grace was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, and has since traveled the country sharing her story and faith through music and speaking.
Jamie Grace's full length album, One Song At A Time, was released in September 2011. Her debut song "Hold Me," was nominated for Best Contemporary Christian Song for the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards, Billboard Awards and received two nominations for the 43rd annual Dove Awards. She also received one album nomination and went home as the "Dove Awards New Artist of the Year."
Sidewalk ProphetsChristian & Gospel
Royal TailorChristian & Gospel
Take a generous helping of soul...splatter it with bouncing rhythms, blistering guitars, engaging vocals, stellar musicianship and catchy pop melodies that make you want to move--all textured with the truth of God's grace--and you have Royal Tailor.
A multi-talented singer and guitarist, Jason was among the most popular and talented artists in American Idol history, entering the record books as the first contestant to play an instrument on the show. His performance of the Leonard Cohen-penned classic “Hallelujah” proved such an audience favorite that the late, great Jeff Buckley’s rendition of the song hit 1 on the iTunes chart the following week, selling an astonishing 178,000 digital singles. Jason scored a chart-topping single of his own a few weeks later with his interpretation of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” which also hit 1 on iTunes after a show-stopping performance of the song on American Idol. Upon the season’s conclusion, Castro was among the stars of the hugely successful “American Idols LIVE! Tour 2008.”