Christian Retailing

Meet the Artist: Skillet Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 30 April 2013 04:00 PM America/New_York

Skillet-Credit-ReidRollsTwo-time GRAMMY-nominated rock band Skillet saw its 2009 blockbuster album, Awake, recently certified Platinum. The group hopes to have that kind of success with its new project Rise (Atlantic Records/Word Records/Word Distribution), releasing June 25.

Skillet—composed of John Cooper, bass/lead vocals; Korey Cooper, keyboard/guitar/vocals; Jen Ledger, drummer/vocals; and Seth Morrison, guitar—recorded the new album in Los Angeles, where the band teamed up again with producer Howard Benson (My Chemical Romance, All American Rejects).

Frontman John Cooper offered his thoughts on the band and new album:

This album has a coming-of-age theme relating to the typical American kid. Were you surprised by how it developed?

I knew that there were a lot of themes running through the songs; however, being that I wrote 72 songs for the album, I was not sure which ones would get picked. Afterwards, it was, in fact, surprising to see how all the songs came together with such intertwined stories, yet [they] have such diverse topics. It is quite improbable that this could happen outside of God’s plan and timing!

How was the cover art chosen?

After we started talking about the story for the record and the themes therein, my wife, Korey, and I along with our drummer, Jen Ledger, began talking about possible artwork options. Jen liked the idea of trying her hand at drawing it, and upon first look, we loved it. Korey and I had an initial reaction that this artwork was perfect for the story. It was mysterious, emotional, and it had a certain sadness to it that mesmerized me.

Rise-SkilletCDYou worked with Howard Benson again on Rise. Was your experience similar to working with him on Awake?

In some ways, it was similar in that I knew how Howard likes to work. He is involved during songwriting and pre-production times. Howard is good with songs and helping pick songs that catch his ear. I know that if Howard is being moved by something that I have written, I would be smart to pay attention to that. Next, Howard does not really get overly involved during the guitar tracking and tends to leave that to the band. I quite like that approach because I enjoy trying new things, whether it be guitar parts, sounds, rearranging the songs, etc. It’s nice to not have someone constantly looking over your shoulder and trying to make you fit into a box. Howard lets us do our thing in the studio, then he pays strict attention to vocals. He records all of his own vocals and is extremely picky about the takes he chooses!

“Not Gonna Die” has some interesting choral input. How would you describe the sound on this album?

This entire record is extremely cinematic, musical and even theatrical at times. It seemed like we should try some new elements to help bring the story across and have some fun at the same time. It suddenly crossed my mind that having a chamber choir singing opera with leading into a song as theatrical as “Not Gonna Die” would be the last thing anyone would ever expect. I knew it would either be really awesome or really terrible! I guess the jury is still out on which it turned out to be because no one has heard it yet! But we loved it.

Why did you choose “Sick of It” as the first single?

I knew that “Sick Of It” was the first single ever since the day we started recording the guitars for it. It is just a really fun song to listen to. It’s extremely aggressive, but it also has a groove dance beat to it. Also, the lyrics are surprisingly uplifting and positive for such an angry-sounding song. I think that dichotomy makes people want to hear it over and over because it makes them feel good. And when you break it all down, that’s what makes a great song to me.

You asked fans to submit photos of what they are sick of. What was the response?

We got thousands of responses. It was overwhelming how many people are hurting and want to be heard.

Christian retailers will be intrigued by the song “Salvation,” in which a child quotes from Isaiah 53. Tell us about it and the song “My Religion.”

“Salvation” is the climax of the story. This is the point in the story in which our “hero” is faced with the fact the he will never live up to his own expectations. He realizes that he will be let down at times by those he loves. He realizes that he can never be a “good” enough person to find the peace and acceptance that he desperately is searching for. At this crossroad, he chooses to ask God to save him from himself. He experiences the love of God, and his life is changed forever. Side note, the child reading the scripture from Isaiah is my daughter, Alex!

 “My Religion” is a song that is breaking down the walls of false Christianity. It talks of stained glass and steeples and priests, etc. Not that those things are evil by any means! But we know that God has called us to be the church, which is the body of Christ. We can enter into His presence at all times because it is God who lives inside our hearts. This song says, “You are my priest, you are my truth, you are my religion, my religion is you.” We also sing a stanza of “Amazing Grace” in this song, which I think is a cool way to get the sentiment across.

Your social media following is pretty incredible. How did you build it to many millions?

Skillet is intentional on spending time getting to know our fans. We signed autographs for years, sometimes hours at a time to let them know how we appreciated them. We also give them tons of access to the band online via podcast, interviews, live photos, etc. We have always appreciated their support and try to be “real” with them rather than treat them like fans, while we are “super-important rock stars.” We are not afraid to act goofy and tell corny jokes, laugh at ourselves when we fall accidentally on stage, etc. It lets people know that we are with and for them.

You’re popular in the mainstream as well as Christian markets. Will that change the band in any way, do you think?

Skillet has always been confident of who we are, whether we are playing a Christian music festival, touring with TobyMac or Winter Jam, or whether we are opening for a mainstream band on a tour that is sponsored by a brand of beer. We have always encouraged Christians to live their faith in an uncompromising way. We have always encouraged Christians to love people and show Christ’s love for the world by our eagerness to accept them rather than be judgmental. On the flip side, we have always been consistent to share our faith on and off stage at mainstream performances as well. There have seen hundreds of emails, tweets, letters, phone calls to my manager from youth ministers and parents who came to watch Skillet perform in front of a mainstream act, mainly to prove what they thought they already knew—which was that ‘Skillet is a sell-out Christian band who never talks about Jesus,’ and they do not want their kids listening to our music. But they came to the show and something happened they did not expect: Skillet shared Jesus from stage in front a beer-drinking crowd! We have never backed down from our faith, and have consistently been vocal about Jesus on and off the stage. I dare say that Skillet is one of, if not the single most outspoken crossover Christian band when it comes to speaking about Jesus on stage. It’s who we are and I don’t ever plan on that changing.

How can Christian retail stores best sell Skillet albums?

The biggest roadblock for Skillet selling records at Christian retail has always been that parents or youth workers or even other Christian kids have heard that Skillet is a “mainstream” band. They wonder if Skillet members are actually serious about our faith. And frankly, I don’t blame them! I grew up listening to Christian bands, and I know what it’s like to love a band and support them for years, only to see them “go mainstream” and then try and act like they were never a Christian band to start with. Subsequently, those bands may have never shared their faith, and even sometimes have denied their belief in God after they became successful in the mainstream. What I hope to see happen is for the fans who have seen us play, and have been affected by our music and message, to spread the word of Skillet’s consistent loyalty to Christ and Christian music with those who are skeptical about our faith. Explain that even though our lyrics are sometimes ambiguous, or “open to interpretation,” it does not mean that we are not sharing the message. We view our songs like I view Jesus’ parables. They are little bits of truth being scattered on the ground. Hopefully, the Holy Spirit will water those seeds, and some will take root.

Meet the Artist: Amy Grant Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Tuesday, 02 April 2013 04:29 PM America/New_York

AmyGrant-CreditJimWrightAmy Grant has found a new label home in Capitol Christian Music Group (formerly EMI CMG Label Group). Her first full studio project in 10 years, How Mercy Looks From Here (Sparrow Records/Capitol Christian Distribution) releases May 7.

Where did the project’s title come from?

I believe the title was [label President] Peter York’s idea. I love the title because I think it sums up the feeling of the record. During the last 10 years, I have had to bury several dear friends and my beautiful mom, Gloria Grant. Yet in spite of those times of real grief, I have felt God’s presence and have also felt genuine joy at how life continues to unfold. At age 52, it is nice to have lived enough to really know that God is present in good times and bad and that His mercy continues to make all the difference.

Are there one or two songs that are special to you on this album?

It is hard to pick one or two songs on this project. The inspiration for the entire project was based on one of the last lucid conversations I had with my mom. I had stopped by to spend some time with her before catching the tour bus for the “2 Friends” tour with Michael W. Smith. When it was time for me to leave, I told my mom that I had to go sing. She looked at me with genuine surprise and asked, “You sing?” My mom was the first person I ever sang a song to as a teenager and the fact that she didn’t remember that I was a singer put a huge lump in my throat. I swallowed hard and said, “Yes, mom, I do.” She asked me what kind of songs I sang and I told her songs about life, love, family and faith. She asked me to sing something before leaving and so I started an old hymn that I knew she had sung a hundred times before. About halfway through I asked her if she remembered this song. She replied, “No, but I love it! Please keep singing!” So I swallowed another lump in my throat and finished the song. When it was over, I kissed her and said I needed to leave. She looked me in the eye and said, “When you get on that stage to sing, will you do me a favor? Sing something that matters.” All of the songs on this record really matter to me. 

What was it like working with producer Marshall Altman?

I had never met Marshall before, but upon first meeting him, I felt an instant familiarity. I immediately related to his sort of creative organized chaos, and his warm and open personality made me feel safe as an artist. We started this project by meeting once a week. I would show up and play him some songs and he would critique them and then we would discuss them. I really respected his artistic opinion, but also appreciated that he wanted me to push back and fight for what I believed in. We met every week for several months pulling together the songs we thought were special. We wrote together and tore apart existing songs to recast them in very different light. When it came time to record the record, we had already done so much pre-tracking work that we had a strong sense of what we wanted the album to sound like. What I also love about Marshall is the creative community he surrounds himself with. Every day there are people stopping by the studio—artists he has worked with, writers, musicians, friends—and he welcomes them all. I loved making the record in the midst of all that creativity.

Meet the Artist: Audio Adrenaline Print Email
Written by Felicia Abraham   
Thursday, 07 February 2013 10:25 AM America/New_York

AudioAdrenalineKingsAndQueens-AudioAdrenalineAudio Adrenaline—known as Audio A—is back, but in a new form. Kevin Max is now leading from the front where Mark Stuart was before he suffered a vocal setback. Fair Trade Services releases the album Kings & Queens (7-36211-60489-7, $11.99, Provident Distribution) on March 12. Felicia Abraham visited with band members to talk about the new project.


Your last concert was about five years ago, so what brought the band together again?

 Will McGinniss: Mark, my partner in crime, and I, we’ve been in a band for a long time. … He had some trouble with his voice, and so as a band, we made the decision together to come off the road. That was 2007. We wanted to just give him time to see if his voice could come back or what God was going to do with him, and then we also just thought maybe God was just taking us each individually to some different things. And so we kind of stepped out of the Audio Adrenaline touring world and just plugged into our local church again. We were digging into our families. We’d been on the road for 15, 17 years straight and just were seeking God’s will for our lives. Mark and I specifically plugged into an orphan work in Haiti called Hands and Feet Project. … Just recently some friends of ours in Nashville who we’ve known for years—they’ve managed the Newsboys and other bands and artists in Nashville—they’re just really impressed with the way Audio Adrenaline kind of carried themselves and our work and our ministry and the brand of Audio A, and they came to us with the idea of getting Audio back out there.


How does your new album tie in with the Hands and Feet Project?

McGinniss: The new single is called “Kings & Queens,” and really it was written for the kids of Haiti at our orphanages. We don’t really like orphanage, that term is kind of a negative term. We call our place down there a village. … We have two locations down there. There’s 100 kids we’re caring for. … It’s really why we got back on the road, why I would go to my family and say, “Hey, I really think I need to be back out there using this platform for something larger than just music or playing my bass or whatever.“ It was these kids. … Thematically the new one is about the least of these and all of the things that we stood for back before we came off the road. We were about the underdog, the person who didn’t think that they could do great things. 

Max: There’s a redemption story here with us and with me, and putting this thing together. God has obviously orchestrated it. … On the record, there’s a lot of different themes. … There’s themes of redemption about listening and being patient and letting God work through you. It’s definitely kind of an underdog record, but it’s hopefully going to be a contender. 

Stuart: Net proceeds from the record are going to build more orphanages. 

For more information about the work, see

Meet the Artist: Jeremy Camp Print Email
Written by Production   
Monday, 14 January 2013 03:26 PM America/New_York

JeremyCampProduced by Jeremy Camp and Andy Dodd, Reckless by GRAMMY-nominated Camp (5-09993-01402-2-6, $13.99) releases Feb. 12 from BEC Recordings (EMI CMG Distribution).

Where did the album title and same-titled song come from?

Reckless started as a word that kept being embedded in my mind, so I started to look up its meaning. I found that it means doing something without regards for the consequences. It occurred to me that “reckless” is a lot like true faith. When I step out in faith, no matter the circumstance, I know that God will take care of me. One of the biblical examples of living reckless for Christ that came to mind was Paul. In 2 Corinthians, chapter 4, Paul returned to Lystra after being stoned for witnessing to people in the city because He knew the Lord called him to go back. In Acts 20:23-24, Paul writes: “I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.  However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” Paul served the Lord with all his heart. He knew that he was going to face trials and persecution, but God had placed a call on his life and wanted him to surrender his heart to the Lord. My desire, and the message in this song, is to completely surrender everything to God. I want to be able to do what God calls me to do without worrying. That’s being sold out for Christ. I don’t want to miss out on the fullness of what God has for me, so when God calls me, I want to be willing to go!

RecklessCDJeremyCampWhat are some other standout songs?

“The Way You Love Me” is almost a direct response to the action of being reckless. When I think about what Christ has done and the depth of His love, despite how wretched I am, I want to tell the world about His love for me. In the same way, we are called to love like He loved. In 1 Cor. 13:3, Paul writes: “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” It says in Rom. 8:39: “Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That’s God’s love and that’s the love that I want to share with others. 

“Come Alive” is a song that I wrote while walking around in New York City. For some reason, I saw a lot of empty people that day, to the point that it felt like I was observing walking dead. We live in a culture where people are chasing things that are of this world, and I want to see them come alive in Christ!

What do you hope your listeners will take away from this recording?

My hope is that this album encourages people to step into the fullness of what God has called them to do and take action. The songs are meant to encourage all of us to go out, not just me. If we can all work together and be in the same place spiritually, that body of Christ working together can fuel a passion that is truly great. There is power in numbers!

Meet the Artist: Chris Tomlin Print Email
Written by Production   
Friday, 14 December 2012 03:42 PM America/New_York

ChrisTomlinOnChairGRAMMY-winning artist and worship leader Chris Tomlin offers his new studio release, Burning Lights (5-09996-070775-8, $13.99, sixstepsrecords/EMI CMG Distribution), in stores Jan. 8.

How did you decide on the project’s title, Burning Lights?

The title, Burning Lights, comes from a lyric within the final song on the record called “Shepherd Boy.” It says, “I’m just a shepherd boy / singing to a choir of burning lights.”

You’ve said this album took you and producer Jason Ingram much longer than usual. Good things are worth the wait, right?

I sure hope so. We were determined that we would not settle for “good enough.” I don’t have a cruise control setting. We really worked hard on this project, and I am very grateful for each of these songs and all of the guys who worked to make it what it became. It was a true privilege to work with Jason Ingram on this record; he is a genius.

Why was “Whom Shall I Fear [God of Angel Armies]” chosen as the first single?

Interestingly, when we first “finished” the record, this song did not even exist. I wrote “Whom Shall I Fear” with Ed Cash, and it came very late in the process. Once the song was alive, however, I knew it was a game changer. It’s the first single because I feel it most represents my music and the kind of song I want to be about. I am never interested in just a perfectly crafted pop song. I am always praying for songs that can not only play on radio but that can find their way into the fabric of the Church and go way past me. I feel this is one of those songs.

What do you hope your listeners will take away from listening to this recording?

As always, I hope this music fills them with a passion, a faith, a hope, a fire, and a love for God.

BurningLights.ChrisTomlinAnything special Christian retailers should know about this project?

I just want to say thank you once again for your support of my music and being a massive help in getting the music to the people.

What should fans anticipate in your spring tour with Kari Jobe?

I have huge expectations for the 2013 tour and am very excited and honored to have Kari joining us. It has always been important to me that whoever comes out with us on tour must possess a real passion and heart to lead the people to worship God. You are not going to find a more sincere heart than Kari. With my good friend Louie Giglio joining us on much of the tour as well, I know it’s going to be the best yet.

Meet the Artist: Montell Jordan Print Email
Written by Felicia Abraham   
Tuesday, 06 November 2012 10:07 AM America/New_York

Shake Heaven (7-28028-23155-7, $16.99, Victory World Music/Lucid Artist), the new album-DVD package by Montell Jordan, R&B singer turned worship pastor, is being re-released in December 2011. Felicia Abraham spoke with Jordan about the project and his ministry.

Tell us about Shake Heaven.

It’s going to be re-released very differently on Dec. 11 this year. It has new artwork, songs were added, and it’s going to include a live DVD on the project as well. It’s going to be good. On the DVD, we have the live features from Israel Houghton, Ricardo Sanchez, Rachael Lampa and Martha Munizzi, to name a few. We did a concert last year on 11/11/11 and it was amazing. We captured that and that’s the DVD that’s in the package now with the live album.