NewSong, a contemporary Christian group founded in 1981 in Valdosta, Ga., headlines the “Give Yourself Away” tour tonight at Columbus State University.
NewSong has 20 No. 1 singles and eight GMA Dove Award nominations. They are the founders of the Winter Jam Tour Spectacular, the United States’ largest annual Christian music tour that began in 1995 in Nashville.
Appearing at tonight’s concert: Bluetree (whose current hit song is “God Of The City”); Chynna & Vaughan (Chynna Phillips was a member of the ’90s pop group Wilson Phillips); and Garrett Lee of Phenix City.
NewSong’s original members were Eddie Carswell, Billy Goodwin — who are still with the group — and Eddie Middleton and Bobby Apon.
NewSong has recorded three custom albums independently. In 1982, they signed with Covenant Records. In 1984, they signed a contract with Canaan Records, a branch of CCM label giant Word Records and released The Word. In 1993, lead vocalist Eddie Middleton left to pursue a solo career, and Bobby Apon left to spend more time with his family.
In 1994, songwriter Leonard Ahlstrom, soloist Charles Billingsley, musician Scotty Wilbanks, and the lead vocalist from the contemporary Christian band Truth, Russ Lee, joined NewSong. That year NewSong released People Get Ready which brought four No. 1 hits, and featured a re-recorded version of “Arise My Love,” which was first recorded by the original group in 1987.
In May 1999, Apon died. He was recognized on the album Arise, My Love, The Very Best of NewSong. This featured 12 of the group’s previous No. 1 hits. It also included two new songs which became No. 1 hits — “Can’t Keep A Good Man Down” and “Jesus to The World (Roaring Lambs)” — which was inspired by Christian speaker and author Bob Briner, who died that year from cancer.
Russ Lee and Scotty Wilbanks left Newsong in 2000. They were replaced by soloist Michael O’Brien, Steve Reischl and former Truth member Matt Butler. Songwriter and electric guitarist Leonard Ahlstrom also left later to help a friend manage a recording label in Florida.
In 2000, NewSong released the album Sheltering Tree, and Carswell, along with author Donna VanLiere, released a book, “Sheltering Trees: The Power, Promise, and Refuge Of Friendship.” The book, containing accounts of friendship from artists, singers and speakers, won a Silver Angel Award.
“The Christmas Shoes,” a Christmas bonus track from Sheltering Tree, became a No. 1 mainstream radio hit. It rose to the top of the Billboard’s Adult Contemporary Chart, and inspired Donna VanLiere to write a book based on the song. The book was on the New York Times Bestseller List in 2002, and was later made into a CBS movie.
Shortly after The Christmas Shoes became a No. 1 song, Clive Calder shut down the Benson label. New-Song stayed with Zomba Music, now on the Reunion label, and released an album, The Christmas Shoes, which was nominated in 2003 for a Grammy Award for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album.
In March 2004, NewSong announced that they were leaving Reunion Records and moving to Integrity Music. In November 2004, NewSong recorded their live worship album and DVD, “Rescue: Live Worship at First Baptist Church of Woodstock” (Ga.), which is the home church for several members in the band.
The album was released in May 2005, and the DVD of the concert came out in September. In November 2005, Scotty Wilbanks left to join the group Third Day, and to produce bands. Also in 2005, NewSong was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.
In March 2006, Michael O’Brien left to restart his solo career and Drew Cline was asked to fill in. In September, Eddie Carswell, Matt Butler, Billy Goodwin and guest artist Drew Cline released The Christmas Hope, featuring traditional Christmas carols, NewSong originals and three songs to complement the book trilogy by Donna VanLiere. In November, The Christmas Shoes movie was released on DVD. The Christmas Hope, the third TV movie installment of the trilogy, was released last December by CBS.
Outside the music scene, NewSong supports ministries for abandoned and underprivileged children. They have worked with World Vision, as well as Holt International.
Bluetree is an Irish contemporary Christian band signed to Lucid Entertainment. Bluetree originated in Strandtown Christian Fellowship Church in 2004, and are currently based in Exchange Church, Belfast, Ireland.
Bluetree originally consisted of five members, with Pete Kernoghan joining later. While the band was traveling on a missions trip to Pattaya, Thailand, the poor conditions of the city became the inspiration for their song, “God of this City.” Band members report the song came from divine inspiration while playing in a bar. They recorded their debut album, Greater Things, at the Windmill Lane Studios (U2’s preferred studio). The record was initially released in September 2007, but on January 24, 2008, their album was picked up by Fierce! Records for UK Distribution.
Chynna & Vaughan
Chynna & Vaughan are Christian duo Chynna Phillips and Vaughan Penn. Signed with Reunion Records, the pair’s latest release is “One Reason.” Chynna lives in Santa Barbara, where she walks on the beach daily with her two dogs, Pokey and Thurman. She is one of seven siblings, has three children and eats a box of blueberries every day. Vaughan lives in North Carolina and has seven cats. She drives a 16-year-old Acura and has an affinity for Gibson guitars.
Garrett Lee, a graduate of Russell County High School, opened last December for Tenth Avenue North at North Highland Assembly of God. It was his largest audience to date. His first commercial album was “We Are Clean.”