Christian Retailing

Meet the Artist: Anita Renfroe Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Thursday, 03 June 2010 03:57 PM America/New_York

Comedian Anita Renfroe talked with Christian Retailing about her DVD Big Ol' Sweet Iced Tea, releasing in July 2010 from Blue Bonnet Hills and Word Distribution.

Where does the title to your new DVD, Big Ol' Sweet Iced Tea, come from?
"Well, believe it or not, on the cover if you'll notice, there's a big door that we saw on a restaurant down in South Florida. (It) had this big door on it that had sweet iced tea, which is one of our favorite things as southerners, to be honest. We just think it's just the sweetest elixir that God did not make that man thought up. So we are quite big on sweet tea and we have all kinds of rules around our house about how it has to be made. The water has to be hot, melt the sugar, and you have to have five of the big tea bags to make a gallon-you know there are rules and it's quite involved.

Meet the Artist: Rebecca Ellis Print Email
Written by Production   
Tuesday, 04 May 2010 01:25 PM America/New_York

A former clothing designer who “gave up thread for a spool of wire,” artist Rebecca Ellis makes crosses out of wire and gemstones. Along with selling her necklaces, earrings and other cross-based products, she displays her art at the RebeccaEllis10wholesale Habitat Showroom in Dallas.


Tell us about yourself.

“I have been making crosses since almost the end of 1997. The idea came to me when I was with my father. He was in his 80s and he had macular degeneration in his eyes. He couldn’t see, so we decided to go out on our property and check the fences, and for years he had baled hay from a square bale of hay and crossed over the two pieces of wire from a bale of hay and had thrown it in this big ravine. … But trash became treasure to me because I started looking at it and I pulled it out and said, ‘Dad, look, this makes a cross.’ … That was my serendipity with the wrapped wire cross that God gave me.”

Your husband is a pastor?

“He’s pastor of Union Church (in Dallas), and he was on staff at First Baptist Church in Dallas. He was a singles minister and decided to go full time into pastoring a church. We actually started a church with, like, 13 people and now we have 400-500 members at the Dallas Convention Center.”


How do you make the crosses?

“Each cross has nothing in the core of the center except wire, and I start by just wrapping and wrapping the length of that long bar on the cross, and then I tie off a little piece to do the cross bar on the cross and then I just kind of go crazy. I wrap, wrap, wrap, wrap up and down the cross bars and then once I get the cross frame made, then I embellish them with gemstones or geodes, rocks, anything you can imagine that I feel I can truly put on a cross knowing that it was Christ’s sacrificial cross that paid my debt and gave me eternal life.”

Where do you get your inspiration for each cross?

“A lot of times it’s through scripture. It’s like an outpouring of what I’m going through in my own life. I had this inspiration after going on a mission trip with our Amazon outreach. I was just so compelled about fish and water and how that all wrapped around the scripture and Christ’s calling to the disciples to follow me and to leave their fishing industry behind. … so the Fisherman’s Cross came out of that trip. It has three hanging fish on a piece of wire that’s all kind of rolled around. It looks like it’s all caught on the fishing line on the 15-inch frame. … I’m totally inspired by just the gospel and how He changed my life personally and so the cross is just everything I think about, wow, what a great sacrifice.”


What is the retail price range of your art?

“I have a line that starts anywhere from $20 up to $700.”

Meet the Artist: Newsboys Print Email
Written by Production   
Monday, 05 April 2010 10:32 AM America/New_York
newsboys2010smallNewsboys returns June 8 with Born Again and the debut of lead singer Michael Tait (second from right), formerly of Tait and dcTalk. Tait and Newsboys drummer Duncan Phillips (far left) discuss the band’s new record and sound.


Michael, how was it for you joining the band?

Tait: “Newsboys have always been the top in my industry. I thought to myself, ‘Am I ready to do this kind of thing once again without my old partners TobyMac and Kevin Max?’ Prayed about it and thought about it, and I took on the responsibility and learned the songs. That said, I’ve never looked back.”


What can you tell us about the new record?

Tait: “The record is very traditional in the sense of message because the message never changes, but the method does change. Musically, it’s killer, it’s pop-rock, it’s edgy, it’s groovy.”

Phillips: “We have the opportunity with Michael to really kind of explore musically and create avenues that we haven’t done in the past, so it really is like a software upgrade, like an update to the band. This is a new thing, although saying that, there are songs that we are writing right now that are very classical Newsboys’ songs, so we are not just walking totally away from what our fans know. But, on the (other) hand, we want to be so new and fresh, and with Michael, he could sing the phone book and people would buy it. He just has that rich, beautiful quality to his voice. Michael says we are chasing the art—we are absolutely doing that and know that we have a paintbrush that can paint those new pictures on that canvas.”


What do your fans respond to most in concert?

Phillips: “It’s probably ‘Jesus Freak,’ which is a dcTalk song from way back when. It’s real fun for me because it allows me to play this incredibly huge single legitimately within the confines of Newsboys now.”


Do you think it was an easy transition because of the Christian community?

Tait: “Yes, we are blessed by that. Back in the day, they always said that if you were a Newsboys fan, there was a good chance you were a dcTalk fan. I was waiting for the comments … ‘Where’s Peter (Furler)? We want the other guy back,’ and there were a couple of comments here and there, but it lasted for just a minute.”

Phillips: “The first guy we thought to ask to be the lead singer was Michael Tait. It’s kind of a very interesting story looking back now at the hand of God and how He orchestrated this whole thing, and we truly believe it’s divine.”

For an exclusive, extended audio interview, visit the Christian Retailing music blog at

Meet the Artist: Nathan Cochran Print Email
Written by Production   
Monday, 08 March 2010 11:22 AM America/New_York


Meet the Artist: Nathan Cochran

MercyMe bass player Nathan Cochran talks about the concept behind the band's May release, The Generous Mr. Lovewell (INO Records/Provident-Integrity Distribution).


What is the theme behind the album? Is it a concept record?

"It starts with 1 John 4:10-11, and yes, it is a concept. We decided to invent a character named Mr. Lovewell who really believes that the little things he does to help people make a difference, whether it's helping someone carry their bags or mowing the lawn for an older lady that cannot. He also knows that ultimately, if he has not offered them the hope we have in Christ, then he has not really loved them at all. In a way he has really insulted them by not sharing this truth with them."


What is the viral promotion all about?

"We had great fun doing a photo shoot that was very stylized, to say the least. Mr. Lovewell was there and shot some short videos just to let everyone know that he was coming."


Can you tell us about some of the songs?

"Hmm, do you really want to know? Isn't a surprise better?"


When do you launch your tour in support of the new record?

"We will be on the Rock and Worship Roadshow again this spring, and we will be playing a few new songs on tour. The rest of the year will be great fun showcasing the whole record to everyone."


You seem to have a lot of fun on Twitter and blogs. How has social media helped you as a band?

"We really do like talking to people, and things like our blog
( and Twitter have made it very easy on us to keep in contact with everyone. We all know how important instant communication is to everyone now, and we as a band wholeheartedly jump at the chance to share what God is sharing with us. And everyone gets to see exactly how goofy we really are."

Meet the Artist: Phil Vischer Print Email
Written by Staff   
Thursday, 04 February 2010 03:01 PM America/New_York
VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer, owner of Jellyfish Labs, on strategies to reach kids today and his current projects, Jelly Telly online programming and the new "What's in the Bible?" DVD series from Tyndale House Publishers.

What's the aim of the new DVD series?
"To bring Christianity to life for kids by walking them through the entire Bible-from Genesis to Revelation. I think VeggieTales did a good job teaching individual Bible stories and Christian values. What we're trying to do now, though, is connect all those dots to show kids the big picture. Instead of teaching Christian values, we're teaching Christianity. Instead of teaching individual Bible stories, we're teaching the entire Bible. I think it's the next step after VeggieTales-sort of 'VeggieTales v2.' "

Meet the Artist: TobyMac Print Email
Written by Staff   
Monday, 08 February 2010 02:52 PM America/New_York

GRAMMY Award-winning artist TobyMac, on his Feb. 9 release, Tonight (ForeFront Records/EMI CMG), creativity, touring and digital music.

Tell us about the new album.
“I try to write about life as a believer on this planet and all that comes with it. ... I call the record Tonight because that’s when things come together for me. A written song turns into a produced recording and then gets into the hands of people and we get together in a concert setting where anything can happen.”

What did you bring from your experience with the live record Alive and Transported?
“My band played on a lot of tracks on this record. I have always had a mixture of studio musicians and my band to make up the sound of my recording. I am always thinking about the live show. My band is so amazing they make me think we can do anything in the studio. So I think the live record probably busted my confidence to take creative adventures with my show in mind.”

The songs touch on a variety of topics. Where did you draw from?
“My own personal experiences, my friendships and my shortcomings. ... I want my songs to be about life, a pursuit of holiness in a crazy mixed-up world.”

Where are you now creatively?
“Coming off a year-and-a-half-long process—the writing, mixing, mastering these songs—has been a long run. Then I headed straight out to the Winter Wonder Slam Tour. I usually get refueled creatively very quickly, though. ... Right now I am most inspired about taking the songs on the Tonight album and turning them into a live experience.”

What are your thoughts on the changing landscape of the music industry?
“I would always want people to enjoy the experience of buying the CD and delving into the packaging. ... But if my songs are getting into people’s hands, I’m not complaining. When artists begin to overly concern themselves on how music is getting into people’s hands, they are not concerned enough about the art that they are making.”

Will you tour in support of the new record?
“I will be co-headlining with Skillet on the Awake Tonight tour. I think the intensity of both bands will make for a great live experience. Later this summer, I plan to co-headline some shows with Chris Tomlin.”