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Newsboys United -- and feeling so good

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2019

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As a member of Newsboys for 25 years now, Jeff Frankenstein has lived through a myriad of the stalwart Christian rock group's personnel changes.

And that made the Sterling Heights-raised keyboardist a uniting force for Newsboys United, which has returned singers Peter Furler and bassist Phil Joel to the band for tours last year and this, and for an upcoming new album.

"It really wasn't planned, to be honest," Frankenstein (yes, his real name), 44, says by phone. Bringing back Furler who co-founded the band in his native Australia back in 1985 and quit during 2009 was a suggestion from the group's manager. That led to the 2017 single "The Cross Has the Final Word." Joel, meanwhile, came back into the fold after a chance meeting with Frankenstein, when both were on the same flight back to Nashville out of Las Vegas.

"We were really good friends when were in the band but we hadn't talked in forever," Frankenstein recalls. "So we sat next to each other on the plane and talked for over four hours straight and got back in touch. That set the stage, and about a year ago we were like, 'Let's just try it. Let's see what happens.

"There were a lot of logistics, obviously. That fell to me," Frankenstein says with a laugh.

Rest assured that Newsboys United is clearly another watershed moment in one of the most accomplished reigns in the Christian music field. In addition to six gold albums and nearly 60 Christian chart hits, the group has won four Dove Awards and been nominated for an equal number of Grammys. The band has also appeared in both of the "God's Not Dead" films.

Despite that track record, Frankenstein and company didn't count on Newsboys United as a slam-dunk success.

"Christian music is not like the (pop) mainstream they don't cherish the older artists as much," explains Frankenstein, who attended Wayne State University until dropping out his sophomore year to pursue music full-time. "In the mainstream, you can go see all the acts you grew up with, still. But in Christian music, groups like Petra, White Heart they're all gone. So we didn't know if people would be interested, really.

"We committed to three months, just to see what would happen. We went out on tour and in the first week we had people flying in from Europe and all over the place, saying, 'We thought we'd never see you again!' We ended up doing over 100 shows altogether last year, so, yeah, I guess they were interested."

The reunion also led to a single, "Greatness of Our God," during 2018, while Newsboys United is headlining this year's Winter Jam Spectacular package tour. Newsboy United's self-titled album, meanwhile, is finished and due out during May, and Frankenstein says the combination of vocalists Furler and Joel as well as former dc talk frontman Michael Tait, who's been with Newsboys since 2009, and longtime guitarist Jody Davis is something fresh for the long-lived group.

"It's really cohesive like a live, six guys in a room kind of sound but it doesn't sound dated, either," Frankenstein says. "Hearing the guys sing together really sets it apart from most of the stuff in our generation at the moment. I think it's got a little bit of everything, and hopefully people will dig it."

As for a Newsboys United future, Frankenstein predicts most anything is possible.

"I can't see a reason why it wouldn't keep going, but a lot of that is out of our control," he says. "If the response is good and if the record does well, then why not? We haven't really talked about it yet. We're just enjoying ourselves. It's been like adding a couple more assets to the band even though it can complicate things the teamwork throughout the whole thing has been awesome. It's really been an enjoyable experience for everybody."

The Winter Jam Tour Spectacular 2019 with Newsboys United, Danny Gokey, Mandisa, Rend Collective and more, plays at 6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17, at the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center, 799 N. Hewitt Road, Ypsilanti. Tickets are $15. Call 734-487-2282 or visit jamtour.com.

Web Site: www.jamtour.com

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