Christian Retailing

Meet the Artist: NEEDTOBREATHE Print Email
Written by DeWayne Hamby   
Tuesday, 11 March 2014 01:52 PM America/New_York

RiversInTheWastelandNeedtobreathe, comprised of brothers Bear Rinehart (vocals, guitar, piano) and Bo Rinehart (guitar, backing vocals) as well as Seth Bolt (bass, backing vocals), readies the group’s latest project, Rivers in the Wasteland (Word Records/Atlantic, Word Distribution), which releases April 15. Bear Rinehart recently spoke with Christian Retailing about the album, which represents a return to the group’s roots. 


What does it mean that this record is a “turning point” of sorts?   The band’s been together for a long time, for 14 years, this being our fifth record, and a lot has happened over the last couple of years. We felt some things had gotten away from us personally and the business—all that’s intertwined. Some ambition had crept in and become too important and our identities had become wrapped up in it. It didn’t start out that way. We saw signs of that and it scared us. It culminated in us fighting a lot, things that are bound to happen when you get priorities messed up. For us, our identity personally in God and the band was more in God’s hands than ours. That took an incredible amount of pressure off of what we were supposed to be. It freed it up to where God could use it and surprised us. 

Do you typically write with a particular album in mind or simply write and collect songs for one of your upcoming records?   This record took a really long time. I think it was God’s plan for that in the way He gave us the songs. The first track [on the record], “Wasteland”—we’re starting with nothing. There’s a lot of confusion. Then there’s that feeling of hope. There’s a song called “Rise Again,” maybe showing that I’m getting a glimpse of how it will be when it turns around. The song “Multiplied” is about when we let go and give things to God, how He can use those things. I think this record needed to be spread out, so we could have those things happen in our own lives. 

Going forward, what does that new focus look like?  I think we appreciate each other on another level. … We felt like if we were supposed to walk away from it, we could.  Just having that faith and that willingness, I think God met us in that place. 

What was the inspiration behind the first radio single, “Difference Maker”?  I wrote that song, really struggling with the idea of how important we are in this process that God wants us to be a part of and how important that creativity is and struggling with our role in this thing. Most of the song talks about our neediness. That’s what ties us together with each other. I think God showed us that the way to be “difference makers” is not in the things that you do, but it is in that surrender.

Meet the Artist: Kari Jobe Print Email
Written by DeWayne Hamby   
Tuesday, 11 February 2014 04:55 PM America/New_York

Majestic-KariJobeKari Jobe’s new worship project, Majestic, was produced by Jeremy Edwardson (Jesus Culture, Kim Walker-Smith, Bethel Church) and recorded live in Jobe’s hometown of Dallas at the appropriately titled Majestic Theater. The Sparrow Records release is available March 25 from Capitol Christian Distribution.

What is your life like right now since the success of your previous release, Where I Find You (Sparrow)?   Busy. Less seeing family right now and a lot of travel, but I love it. It’s a beautiful season for the church, and God’s doing some really exciting things. I did the Chris Tomlin tour and Women of Faith tour, and to hear what God’s doing globally and people coming to church so hungry [is great]. I wouldn’t trade what I’m doing right now for the world. It’s so amazing. 

How different was the recording process for Majestic?  I’m excited because I’m a worship leader through and though. To have my own project, top to bottom, is so fun. My favorite thing is to hear people sing the songs with me. You can hear people sing these anthems and you can feel how congregational the songs are. They were hearing them for the first time that night, but they responded. I’ve been dreaming about doing this since I was young. 

Who did you collaborate with on this new Sparrow release?  Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, Reuben Morgan from Hillsong, Paul Baloche. I’m excited, too, because they totally have a heart for the church, of course. 

Tell us about some of the album’s key songs.   “Forever” is the newest single. It’s such a powerful anthem that says, “Forever he is glorified, forever he is lifted high. Our resurrected King has rendered you defeated.” I think it’s a powerful declaration to be singing that out loud. I just love to hear people sing with that much authority, knowing they are getting this revelation of our resurrected King has rendered you defeated. It’s just such a cool moment to lead people in that song. “Majestic” is the whole theme of the album. Our God is majestic. We serve the King and He is fighting on our behalf. I want people to capture, to get a revelation—we serve a mighty, majestic God who loves us and is fighting for us. “Lord Over All” is just really strong. The Lord has rescued us, and He is literally the Lord over all in our lives. 

What is the name of your next tour?   I’m doing a tour called Majestic, teaming up with Rend Collective and Food for the Hungry. It will be a really strong night of worship, such a great worship experience, and it will be nice for people to have the album to back it up and take it home. At the same time, this project is going to be released as a full DVD as well.  

How do you think worship is growing today as a category?  I think it’s going to keep getting stronger and more powerful. People are connecting with worship because it changes the atmosphere. There are inspirational songs and we need those songs, but worship songs change the atmosphere. That’s my favorite thing. I love worship. I need my atmospheres to change.

Meet the Artist: KUTLESS Print Email
Written by DeWayne Hamby   
Thursday, 16 January 2014 11:19 AM America/New_York

Glory-KutlessGuitarist James Mead of rock band Kutless spoke with Christian Retailing about the group’s Feb. 11 release, Glory ($13.99, BEC Recordings/New Day Christian Distributors), and the history of the group that has sold millions of records of albums such as Believer and The Beginning.


What can you tell us about Glory?  A couple of years ago, we felt the Lord was telling us that we needed to pray, to just seek Him about renewed vision for our band. As we took time out to check our hearts and search our hearts, as the psalmist said, we started to spend a lot of time together praying through, “Lord, what is your vision for our band?” When we started, we felt a clear, direct route from God that we were to be missionary-minded, evangelism-minded, [to help] those who are sent out by the church to share the gospel and to help lead souls to Christ. So we’ve always had this evangelistic drive of the band. Through the years, our music has included very pointedly Christian lyrics, seeking God through hardship. At our shows, we share the message and lead out in worship time. That’s been very important, because that’s how we started. When we started to pray for God to renew our vision, we felt Him strengthen the core of who we are and give us a new thirst to go out and specifically seek this generation. 

The cool thing is when we prayed about the Lord’s vision for this record, we had come off a period of time where we were very busy. We decided to go home and shut down for a while and write together. We’ve always been the band that’s gone back and forth between rock music and worship music. For some reason, we’ve had a problem distinguishing those two. What we really want to be is a rock band that does worship music. I think we have a singular opportunity to be a band like that in the marketplace. I can’t think of many bands that have the opportunity to play on a rock stage with Skillet and the next night be with Michael W. Smith. The past records that we’ve called worship records, we’ve done the standard songs that churches around the country are doing. That’s where this record came from for us. It’s really inspired by the heavenly worship in [the book of] Revelation. When you read through Rev 4-5, see nations of the Earth worshipping before the throne. Nowadays, worship is introspective and sad-sounding. In heaven, it is this electric energy through the throne room of God. It’s all eyes on the Lamb who walks through the door, and lightning and thunder comes from Him. The whole of heaven points and says, “Holy, holy, holy, there He is—oh, wow!” That’s like rock music. Let’s do triumphant, joyful, victorious-sounding rock worship music.

What are some of the key songs on the new album?   For the most part, everyone is familiar with “You Alone,” a single we released in October. It’s a pretty rocking song. It’s kind of a song to lift up the glory of God’s name: “His name is mighty in counsel, and He’s the Lord and ruler of all.” We just wanted to proclaim that, “It’s You alone, God.” We highlight one of the verses, Acts 4:12 [“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved”]. We just wanted to set up God in that way. We lead off the record with “Revelation.” … Jon Micah [Sumrall], our singer, and myself wrote this song. If you look at Revelation 4-5 and read along as you’re listening to the song, it’s pretty much what is happening [in heaven]. Another one is the follow-up single to “You Alone” called “In Jesus Name.”  

How long have you guys been playing together as a band?  I joined the band in 2001 and we weren’t called Kutless. Jon Micah and I were the only originals.

With that history, have you had a chance to mentor any new musicians and bands?   That’s certainly a realistic aspect of us. When we started, I was 18 and had just graduated high school. It takes a little time to stop feeling like you’re the youngest around. Honestly, we had to kind of carve our own way. Radio stations would turn our CD over and see Tooth & Nail and say, “We’re not playing that.” Rock ‘n’ roll music wasn’t really on the radio. In Christian music, you had rap, rock or metal, so we were just trying to carve our own way. It took awhile for people to feel receptive to us. Now I feel there are tons of bands, so many. A lot of them, they do ending up telling us, “I’ve grown up listening to you.” I think what we realize is it’s no different than just sharing life as we’re supposed to as Christians. One of the most beneficial things any of us can do as Christians is pouring into a person. I’ve always viewed discipleship as honest friendship. It’s really edifying. It’s encouraging, mutually beneficial for guys to share about the wisdom that they’ve learned from God’s Word. It’s really beneficial for the person younger in the faith. We’re very happy to say we love each very well. We view each other as closer than brothers. We’ve stuck to our calling and tried to serve each other as a band. If we have anything to share with a band, it’s that.

Meet the Artist: Bob Smiley Print Email
Written by DeWayne Hamby   
Tuesday, 24 December 2013 08:51 AM America/New_York

MulletsOnFireComedian Bob Smiley releases his newest DVD, Mullets on Fire (622306019090, $14.99), Feb. 15 through Crown Entertainment ( The video captures Smiley’s live performance at Roseville, California’s Bayside Church.

How did you come up with this DVD’s amusing title?  The title Mullets on Fire is the punchline from one of the bits I did. ... The feature presentation is strictly stand-up—fast-paced story form. There are messages in there. I end with a story about how much God loves us unconditionally. I tell a story about listening to my son playing trombone and how bad it is, but how I love it because he’s playing it for me. Maybe we’re not playing the song how God created us to play the song. He still loves us. We’re His children. There are quite a few inspirational things in there. 

I’m also doing some bonus features. They will have a question-and-answer period. After the concert, I go out and take questions from the audience. If they have questions about a bit from the past, I’ll also do the bit. A second bonus feature will be cartoons to go with some of the bits from my first CD. 

You’ve been touring as a comedian for a long time. What is that like?  Well, my hotel shampoo collection is extensive. When my kids were young, I would bring them shower caps from hotels and tell them they’re space helmets. When I first started, I simply wanted to use comedy as a vehicle to get them in, get them laughing and then let me share scripture or my testimony. The thing I’ve seen is not only are people receptive to that and that plan is still working, but also [what] I’ve learned is just simply laughter is a huge healing tool. ... I did a show at a Christian coffee house one night for no money. I had a dad come up after and said he and his teenage son had not spoken. … When they heard I was coming, the week leading up to it, they were able to share old bits from that old DVD and laugh. It really kind of started the healing process. They had more in common than all the problems. I’ve seen families laugh together. There could be tragedy walking through the door, but God uses laughter and joy to show that He’s not given up on them. 

How hard is doing stand-up comedy night after night?  I’ve done a show for eight people and 82,000 people. I’ve done a football stadium. I did a show in the middle of a racetrack, and I had to stop my jokes while the cars raced between me and the audience. I did a show for a church called “55 and Better,” but no one in the audience could remember being 55. This lady kept talking to me through the whole show. She would ask questions and I would answer her. At the end, she stood up and gave me a big hug. It was the perfect end to a show. I feel like I’ve seen every situation a comic could be in. 

What is the key to demonstrating confidence and yet remaining humble?  I love my job and I have the confidence that God has blessed me. I realize that God has given all of us individual talents to use to glorify God. That’s the whole reason He gave me that talent to begin with. He’s going to equip me with the ability to do my job well. The humility comes from the fact that God would even use me. I’m just so grateful to do stand-up and to do it well enough to do it this long. I think a lot of people do stand-up comedy and put us up on a pedestal where we don’t belong. To me, I say words into a microphone and people laugh.

Meet the Artist: Casting Crowns Print Email
Written by DeWayne Hamby   
Monday, 11 November 2013 10:50 AM America/New_York

Thrive-CastingCrownsCastingCrownsThrive (602341018425) from GRAMMY-winning band Casting Crowns releases Jan. 28 from Beach Street Records (Provident Distribution). Lead singer and songwriter Mark Hall shares the story behind the new project. 

Tell us what inspired Thrive.  It was inspired by the student ministry at our church, Eagles’ Landing, called “Thrive.” We’ve been working with the youth for about 12 to 13 years. Being a youth pastor is still what I want to be when I grow up. When I talk to my teens, I ask, “How are you doing?” and they answer, “I’m just trying to get to Friday or fall break, if I can just get to graduation.” All they’re doing is surviving. When they talk about their calling, they say, “One day, God is calling me to ministry,” but there’s something to be doing now. You’re here to bloom where you’re planted. You’ve been given your story to make God known today, so we named our student ministry Thrive and used a verse in Jeremiah [17:7-8], which speaks of a tree planted by streams of water whose roots are digging down and reaching.

In the church, some believers are all roots. They’re digging in and learning all the doctrine and theological terms, they’re all roots, but there’s no reach. They don’t get out and love on the world. As deep as their roots are, there’s nothing to them. Then there are believers who are all reach, saving the whales, doing mission projects. They haven’t fully dug into their faith. The first storm of life just knocks them right over. So the “roots” people are more law and the “reach” people are about more grace. We took six songs and they’re all about digging deep and getting into the Word. The next six songs are about reaching out, your gifts, talents. How does it work to live out your faith in your friendships where you’re having to trust God in your everyday life?

What are some of the new songs?  “Thrive,” the title track, is a high-energy worship song. “All You’ve Ever Wanted,” that song is hitting the church right where they live. It’s about the fact that [with] most of us, the battles we’re fighting are the battles that are over, just taking us to that journey of God pursuing us, not that it needs to be earned. 

“This Is Now” is the story of Peter in that same vein, about starting his friendship with Jesus all over again. It’s a pretty “killer” story I’ve been telling my kids for years. We tend to gravitate toward stories. We just pop around sometimes. I remember, several years back, that the story of miraculous fish happened twice. Peter caught the fish when he first met Jesus. Peter, on the biggest payday of his career, leaves it all and follows Jesus. Anybody today would say, “Jesus, let’s meet here tomorrow at this same time.” He leaves it and follows Jesus, and for the next three years, sees things he’s never seen before. … He’s starting to get a little less popular hanging around Jesus. Jesus is telling him, “I’m going to die. I’m going to let them kill me.” He leads with his mouth, which reminds me a lot of myself. At Jesus’ greatest point of need, Peter bailed. In the last chapter of John, Peter is with Jesus, Jesus is resurrected … teaching and talking to Him. At one point, Peter turns to one of the guys and said, “Hey, I’m going fishing.” To me, it’s like saying “I had my shot, I’m bailing.” He’s out fishing, and what does he hear from the shore? He pulls in the second-biggest payday of his career. He’s so far away from God in his mind. One of the other disciples says, It’s Jesus. He jumps in the water and swims a football field to get back to Him. What Peter is saying to Jesus is, “I’ll start over with you. We’ll go all the way to where our friendship began.”

How do you meet the needs of older listeners while reaching younger ones as well?  The music has never been polarizing; it’s been in the middle by design. I listen to a lot harder music than I play. I listen to rap, to (the rock group) Red. I think the blessing [is] that our music lands somewhere in the middle. Someone said, “you’re one of the only bands that my daughter and I can listen to together.” It’s more about what we say. I think that helps us that our group, our audience, is all over the map. We’re working with teenagers every week we’re writing these songs. It’s almost like it’s designed to be that way.

Meet the Artist: Mandisa Print Email
Written by DeWayne Hamby   
Monday, 08 July 2013 03:12 PM America/New_York

MandisaPortraitAmerican Idol alum Mandisa’s new album, Overcomer (5099960707420, $13.99), releases Aug. 27 from Sparrow Records (Capitol Christian Distribution). 

What are some of the things that influenced you most going into the process of preparing for the new album?

I feel like God placed several “overcomers” in my life around the time I began working on this album. Being a small part of Robin Roberts’ story on Good Morning America opened my eyes to the strength someone fighting a similar battle must have. Being on GMA the week she went on medical leave for her bone marrow transplant, and being invited to sing “Stronger” the day she returned was one of the biggest honors of my life! The six months in between those two events were filled with walking with several “overcomers.” One was a friend who was pregnant with her second child when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Another was a friend raising her daughter while walking through a divorce after discovering that her husband was having an affair. These beautiful, strong, godly women helped me realize that an overcomer is someone who faces a battle and comes out on top. They inspired many of the messages on my Overcomer album.

What are some of the highlights of the new record for you? 

One of my favorite things about this album was getting to write with and record songs written by some of my friends, who also happen to be some of my favorite artists. I have always been a huge fan of Plumb’s. I wrote one of the songs that means the most to me on this album with her. My brother John is not a Christian … yet! “Dear John” is basically a letter to him set to music about my desire for him to have the abundant life Jesus died for him to have. Matthew West and I have written many songs together. For this album, we wrote “The Distance,” a song about how God pursues us and closes the gap created by sin. Britt Nicole and Cindy Morgan co-wrote a beautiful song called “Where You Begin” about God’s strength being enough in our weakness. Israel Houghton is one of my favorite worship leaders. Writing a congregational worship song with him was a dream come true! When we worship God in the middle of a battle, it becomes a weapon. “At All Times” is a war cry of worship! After “Good Morning” (on my last album) became an alarm-clock song for many of my Twitter and Facebook friends, they overwhelmingly requested a nighttime song from me. Their wish is my command! I wrote, “Cradle Me (Patsy’s Lullaby)” with my friend and longtime Women of Faith speaker Patsy Clairmont. I’ve always wanted to write a song to my future husband. I finally got to write one with my boy, Chris August (who, to squash any rumors before they begin, I am not dating! We’re just friends!). “Praying for You” is the song I hope to sing to my future husband face to face one day. Until then, I’m pretty sure he’s lost and refuses to ask for directions!

Overcomer-MandisaCDWill you tour in support of the new record?

I have some concerts with Brandon Heath in the fall (dubbed “The BranDisa Tour”). In November and December, I’ll be on the Hits Deep Tour with TobyMac, Brandon Heath (nope, we’re not tired of each other yet), Jamie Grace, Colton Dixon, Chris August and Capital Kings. Woo hoo!

Do you consider your permanent tie to American Idol a challenge or a blessing? Does it still continue to open doors?

American Idol was an amazing launching pad for me. I love how my ties with it continue to provide a platform for me to share Jesus to a watching world. And it is so like our God to use a show with that title to teach that there is only one true and living God that is to be worshipped!