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O Come O Come Emmanuel

Christy Nockels


Jeremy Camp

There’s evidence that everyone else feels otherwise—he has sold three million records, charted nineteen No. 1 hits, GRAMMY-nominated and won several major Dove Awards—but Jeremy Camp is tired of himself. Not in any self-deprecating way, but in that positive spiritual sense to which we should all aspire. You can hear him working this out on his sixth recording, We Cry Out: The Worship Project.

“It’s common to say, ‘It’s not about me, God. It’s about You.’ Yet I’m really at that point right now,” Jeremy admits. “The Lord says in Jeremiah 29:13, ‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’ But we live in such a distracted society; we let the world’s noise divide our focus and our hearts. Our generation is in desperate need of crying out to God.”

To get himself out of the way, Camp, a rock artist who’s also an ordained minister, makes an intentional return to worship on We Cry Out just as he did for his second album, Carried Me. In this familiar setting, he often steps back from self-written tunes, choosing instead to celebrate and share the latest praise songs by others that have been stirring his own spirit toward revival.

Jeremy explains, “This feels full circle—just coming in to make the record and saying, ‘whatever you want, God.’ A lot of people don’t know that Carried Me was the first project I signed up to do; I was launching as a worship artist. But we ended up debuting with a studio album (Stay), because the content of those original songs related more directly to my personal testimony.” (Camp’s first wife had just passed away months after their wedding when he was 23 years old).

We Cry Out is definitely marked by an air of Spirit-leading at every turn, which results in an easy and rewarding listener experience. Recorded just outside of Nashville with award-winning producer Brown Bannister (Amy Grant, MercyMe), it’s the first all-new set from Jeremy to feature his excellent live band—guitarists Randy Williams and Andy Davis, bassist Walt Smith, drummer Leif Skartland, and keyboard player Jacob Sooter. Their dynamic playing, a confident mix of modern rock and modern worship, flows naturally with their singer’s creative goal here.

“We didn’t want to over think this. It was such a chill project,” Camp says. “I just wanted to be obedient to what God has put on my heart in this time. We had been doing Hillsong’s ‘Mighty to Save’ and Matt Redman’s ‘You Never Let Go’ on tour. I simply asked the band to ‘enter in’ and help me make this an intentionally vertical, corporate worship style album through and through.”

There are two resonant ways to look at the title of We Cry Out. In addition to the aforementioned tracks, audiences will recognize the amped up version of Brenton Brown’s “Everlasting God” (previously recorded by Chris Tomlin) and first single “Jesus Saves” as outward cries for strength and eternal rescue. Most of the other selections are equally passionate declarations of God’s active grace and power, including Jeremy’s emotional take on Desperation Band’s “Overcome” written by Jon Egan.

“When I first heard the song, I thought, ‘I’ve got to record that; it’s getting into my spirit,’” he says. “During the recording, there was a spontaneous moment of worship. The producer raised his hands, and my father was there; he stood up and worshipped. I had to stop singing from all the emotion. We felt God’s Spirit was so thick in that room—and I would never say that lightly.”

Covering Egan’s uplifting song inspired Camp to call and meet the man. In turn, they ended up writing together on “Not Ashamed,” a fist-pumping new anthem with a big chorus that’s already an early favorite among friends. Similarly, Jeremy wrote with Brenton Brown on the title track, a joyful rocker that captures the album’s theme of seeking God’s face and duly responding:

We who called upon Your name cannot be silent / We will praise / We will sing it out / We will cry out to You / Your loving kindness and Your truth / It has delivered us / You have delivered us

Other collaborators on We Cry Out include Matt Maher who helped pen “You Are the Lord” straight from Psalms and Isaiah. The softer, piano-laced tune calls God’s people to raise their voices and features supporting vocals from recording artist Adie, to whom Jeremy has been married for six years; they have two daughters. Adding to the family atmosphere, “The Way” was co-written by Adie’s brother, Brad Peens. With a back-story similar to the late arrival of “There Will Be a Day” on 2008’s GRAMMY nominated album, Speaking Louder than Before, Camp recalls first hearing the song now marked by thundering drums and a South African choir.

“I’m pretty much done with the record when he shares this song, just wanting my opinion of it,” says Jeremy. “I thought it sounded like a worldwide anthem and asked to use it for We Cry Out. It feels like a war song, a cry of God’s glory.”

All creation cries out with longing / with wisdom You always answer / Jesus, You are The Way

We Cry Out closes with two new Jeremy Camp originals that, while indeed personal, really are all about God. “King Jesus” sounds like a future pop/worship classic, victoriously proclaiming with a shout of praise and with our voices raised / One day every knee will bow, behold You in Your glory. “Unrestrained” confirms the unassuming artist’s prayer for himself and all souls:

So take this selfish heart of mine / I want to give it all / And melt away everything that’s not of You / I want to know You more, so much deeper than I do / Completely unrestrained

“That’s where I am today—seeking the face of God,” concludes Jeremy. “I feel like I’ve had a growth spurt the past two years in my walk with the Lord, and I think this album reflects that deepening. There’s a purity behind this record that I can’t even describe. But I didn’t write most of it, so I can’t take the credit. And I love that.”

Everyone else is sure to love We Cry Out: The Worship Project as well.

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We began this worship project, IT IS WELL, by asking one question, “Can we do something unique?” There are many worship records; however, we were driven by the challenge to do something different, something Kutless. Although we’ve done a worship-oriented album (“Strong Tower”), we are in a different place right now and wanted this project to reflect our hearts.

From February through May 2009 we poured over hundreds of songs. We looked for songs that had a special meaning to us, songs that were traditional, songs that were modern, and songs we could make our own. As the list of songs started to form, we began arranging the songs to fit our style, after all, we are a rock band. This was a challenge in terms of how to take a hymn written in the late 1800’s and make it sound like a Kutless song.

We recorded in late May and early June at a beautiful 300-acre hazelnut farm south of Portland, OR. The recording process was unique for us for many reasons. For one, it was our first project to co-produce, and secondly, we recorded in the living room of a farmhouse. We also met as a band every morning and dug into the Word and prayed knowing God was there. There was freedom, laughter, and unity. We had one of those incredible experiences that happen to Christ-followers. We started with a goal, but, through the process, God took that goal and turned it back around to Himself. The quest for a special album became a unique time for us to go deeper in worship. The goal of composing original songs became a time for us to grow in our love and appreciation of each other. The epiphany for us was that the purpose of a worship record was to reflect who God is - His peace, freedom, power, and ability to help us grow in relationship with Him and others. In the end, this “unique” experience happened to us in the making of IT IS WELL.

One of the biggest challenges for us on this record was in how to balance the traditional and modern worship songs. We selected to record “It Is Well,” the title track because of the story of the composer, Horatio Spafford, and his faith in God in a time of personal tragedy. We also love Keith Green, and we tried to honor his memory by combining two of his songs “There Is A Redeemer” and “Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful” into a medley we titled “Redeemer.” We recorded several favorite modern songs including “Hungry” and “God Of Wonders.”

For the original songs, we took the opportunity to combine traditional adoration-based worship songs with elements that wouldn’t typically be found on a worship album. “Remember Me” is written from the perspective of the thief on the cross. The idea of a lifetime sinner falling into the arms of salvation at the end of his time on earth was redemptive to us. Our first radio single, “What Faith Can Do,” is more encouragement to all of us that God is there, and His power is real, which makes it a worship song in that realization. It wouldn’t be a Kutless album, without a rock-oriented track, which is “You Save Me.”

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Britt Nicole

In penning the eponymous single for her third album Gold, Britt Nicole drew inspiration from some of the deeply devoted fans she’s amassed over the years. “I’d gotten lots of letters telling me, ‘I’m struggling, I’m being bullied, I don’t feel like I fit in,’” says the newest pop singer/songwriter signed to Capitol Records. To reach out to her followers—and send a potent yet joyful message of self-worth to her fans-Britt created the song “Gold,” a slick and shimmering self-empowerment anthem that pairs emotionally charged lyrics with an instantly catchy melody. Now a fan favorite that prompted countless concert-goers to turn up wearing “Gold”-referencing crowns on her recent headlining tour, the song marks a significant next step for Britt and signals her emergence as a pop phenom of uncommon substance and soul.

“When I write songs, I just write whatever’s in my heart,” says Britt, who co-wrote each of the album’s tracks. But while she didn’t intentionally push her Capitol Records album Gold (due out February 26, 2013) into a more pop direction than her sophomore effort The Lost Get Found (a 2009 release that debuted on the Top 100 Billboard Chart), she did realize early on that its highly danceable, hook-laced songs would likely have a broad appeal. “A lot of times I’m writing about what I’m personally going through,” she says, “and if I’m facing these sorts of things, then there’s got to be other people dealing with them too.”

Produced by Britt’s longtime collaborator Dan Muckala along with producers Chris Stevens, David Garcia and Josh Crosby, Gold merges her passionately thoughtful lyrics with infectious beats and soaring melodies. Also showcasing her masterful vocals and remarkable range, Gold has no shortage of songs that match the tender intensity of its title track. The sweeping, slow-building “All This Time,” for instance, recounts Britt’s struggle to overcome the pain of her parents’ divorce, while “Stand” blends high-powered beats with sweetly inspirational lyrics about rediscovering your strength. On “Ready or Not” (an ode to self-expression and “just bringing love to people and not holding back who I am,” according to Britt), sunny acoustic strumming gets elegantly layered over stomping rhythms and in-your-face electro effects. And with its throbbing groove, sleek synth, and celebratory lyrics, “Amazing Life” fast proves to be a dance-pop powerhouse.

Whether delivering a soulful ballad or a beat-soaked dance track, Britt strikes a stunning balance between vulnerability and self-assurance all throughout Gold. Not only evidence of her gift for crafting intensely relatable lyrics, that emotional complexity is a testament to her strength and honesty as a songwriter. “I write songs to myself, and it’s always great to see them connect with other people who need to be reminded that worth doesn’t come from having all the right things or from success—it’s about being who you are,” she says.

For Britt, the journey to her own success began as a child growing up in Salisbury, North Carolina singing in the church choir for nearly her entire life. After high school Britt chose to forgo college in favor of dedicating herself to her music full-time. She released a pair of independent records in the two years following high school and then—at age 19—moved to Nashville to further pursue her singing/songwriting career. Soon after arriving in Nashville and showcasing her early collection of pop songs, Britt landed a record deal and ended up releasing her debut album Say It for EMI by the time she was 21.

With her career continuing to flourish over the last few years, Britt has made a point of maintaining a close connection to her beloved supporters. “After shows I always go and hang out with my fans, talk to them and get to know them,” she says. “I try to take as much time as I can with them, people really want to share their stories.” Noting that her fans “know they can be honest with me because I’m honest with them,” Britt points out that those stories also play a key part in helping to shape songs like “Gold.” “A lot of girls come up to me with their heads down, and I can just tell that they’re feeling broken,” she says. “I love that they can come into the show feeling one way, and then leave feeling like there’s hope.”

To foster that feeling of hope on a grander scale, Britt has extended the self-esteem-raising sentiment behind “Gold” to the song’s powerful video. Featuring a cast of characters dealing with issues common among today’s teens (such as eating disorders and self-mutilation), the “Gold” video aims to uplift and inspire. While many have made the connection of “Gold” as an anti-bullying theme, Britt is intent on not focusing on the bullies. “There are probably always going to be people who feel the need to hurt someone else because of their own insecurity,” acknowledges Britt. “But the message of “Gold” is to remind those kids that are struggling that no matter what they have been told they are worth so much more than the words of another. Once you know that, no one can ever steal your shine.” she says of the intent behind “Gold.”

As she reaches an ever-widening audience, Britt aspires to stay focused on creating music that’s both genuine and empowering. “Whether it’s pop or rock or hip-hop, what moves me most is music that’s passionate, real and comes from artists who really believe in what they’re putting out into the world,” says Britt, who is inspired not only by their hit songs but by the authenticity of artists like Adele, Mary J. Blige, Taylor Swift and Coldplay. “And with a song like ‘Gold,’ I’m putting out a message that everyone needs to hear, regardless of where they’re coming from. It’s about knowing that you’re loved, that you’re worth something. It’s a message of hope.”

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“We live in an age when the most basic assumptions of orthodox Christianity are being challenged. As a younger band we wrote a lot of songs aimed at pointing out problems and tearing down things that we believed were wrong. But now, at this stage in life, we’re much more interested in going back to the beginning, and using our gifts to reaffirm and shore up the foundations of the faith. We want to be a part of building up the church and preserving the culture.”

If their last record was a light-in-the-darkest-places announcement that “the end is really just the beginning,” then Downhere’s latest Centricity Music release arrives as an artfully textured but heartfelt declaration that, “True progress might mean we have to go backwards.” As students of history, Jeremy, Jason, Marc and Glenn have come to recognize and appreciate the fact that their faith is not simply their own—but that it’s part of a much larger communion of believers that stretches across cultures and thousands of years. And while we might have the privilege of bearing that torch during the short span of our own lives, they would say it’s important to recognize it’s not a torch we lit. It’s one that was passed to us by generations of faithful saints, and it’s one that we’ll soon enough be passing on to those who follow us.

At first blush that might sound like a heady concept for a pop album, but what Downhere has somehow managed to do is to translate those great truths into the most pop-friendly record they’ve engineered to date, carving out lush and hook-laden aural landscapes, complimented by a lyrical approach that feels personal and intimate. Or, to put it another way, On the Altar of Love is thoroughly passionate, but never preachy.

“Our generation is ‘cronocentristic’,” guitarist and co-lead-singer Jason Germain observes. “We’d like to think we’re on the cutting edge of discovery simply because we’re at the most recent point in history. But when it comes to truth, we’re not the new discoverers of anything; we’re just the inheritors.”

“When it was time to start writing for this record,” adds drummer Jeremy Thiessen, “we sat down and talked about ‘What if we had a clean slate? What if all the wreckage and debris of our culture were gone, and we were back down to the foundations. What would our creeds be? What would our anthems sound like? What would the practice of our faith look like?’ So that’s where we started, and we tried to write songs out of that place of pioneering a return to the core of Christianity.”

Consciously borrowing from meters and styles that hearken to an earlier time, the band also focused intentionally on crafting the sort of songs that could stand the test of time stylistically; no small challenge in the context of radio singles. With Marc Hiemermann (DC Talk, Newsboys, Jaci Velasquez) at the production helm, the feel that emerged was both immediate and timeless.

“We’ve done this long enough now that we have an unspoken chemistry,” says bassist Glenn Lavender. “We’ve defined our sound, and we’re not shy about indulging that. We’re no longer experimenting with who we are as a band. We know who we are, and we’re trying to push the boundaries of that.”

“For me it used to be all about being musically complex and artsy,” says guitarist and co-lead singer Marc Martel. “And then I had a real perspective-shifting experience. At one of our shows there was a little girl standing front-center with her mother. When I said the next song was How Many Kings her face lit up as she looked up at her mom and grabbed her hand. She sang along to every word. I thought to myself, ‘I’ve got to write more songs like THAT.’ Until that moment I didn’t realize the effect it had on actual people and their lives. It’s not our most artsy song. It’s not the most interestingly produced either. But it connects with people. That really made me rethink my songwriting priorities. Sure there’s a time for exploring new soundscapes and interesting arrangements…but if the song doesn’t connect with people emotionally first, then there’s not much point to it. So I’m really trying to stay in that magic equilibrium now as I write, that place that has some interesting artistry, but combines it with a strong emotional human connection too.”

On the Altar of Love is perhaps at its most vulnerable and human on the anthemic and plaintive Let Me Rediscover You. In fact, if songs had a physical posture, Let Me Rediscover You would probably be on its knees with its arms uplifted. The urgency of the vocals sweeps the melody along forcefully, undergirded by the song’s hymn-like and punctuated rhythm.

“Sometimes we think we’ve given all we can,” Jeremy says, “and then love asks us for more. The only proper response to the love we’ve been given in Christ is to abandon ourselves completely to his love, whatever that might mean. Let Me Rediscover You is really a heart cry, a prayer that our hearts and minds and souls would be turned back afresh to the knowledge and experience of who God is. That has to be our beginning, and our ending point.”

Other standout songs on the project include the moody, rootsy, spinning-wheel-feel of the title track, the powerful minimalism of Reveal The Kingdom (an “anthem for an eternal kingdom”), and the accessibly poignant poetry of Thank You For the Heartbreak—a song that not only recognizes but sincerely celebrates God’s sovereignty at work even within our hurt and sorrow.

On the Altar of Love is really a proclamation of faith,” explains Jason. “It’s an encouragement to continue on regardless of circumstance, to continue this journey with joy and celebration, because we have a promise. We know where the journey ends. And we know that we’re not alone as we make our way. We have the companionship of Christ, and we have this vast family of brothers and sisters, and we have this great cloud of witnesses that have gone before us, who are cheering us on. So we want to cast aside the distractions, return to what is essential, and spend ourselves completely in response to the love we’ve been given.”

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For everything there is a season. The darkest hour is just before the dawn. All things come to he who waits.

It’s difficult to ignore the truth in such timeless adages, wisdom that often bears repeating, especially for those in the midst of that “season,” “dark hour,” or “time of waiting.” Such is the case with GRAMMY Award nominated, female-fronted rock act Fireflight, whose preceding 2010 album, For Those Who Wait, left listeners patiently anticipating the band’s next move.

Fireflight, too, awaited its new direction. The group’s third studio project laid bare its vulnerability, with songs echoing a cry for divine comfort, guidance, and understanding. As the title suggests, members Dawn Michele (lead vocals), Justin Cox (guitar, keys, vocals), Wendy Drennen (bass, vocals), Glenn Drennen (guitar), and Adam McMillion (drums) were in a holding pattern, a season of uncertainty, trusting God to make known His plan and purpose.

“At that time, we had been through a lot of hurt and disappointment,” says Dawn. “Although we knew that God was shaping our character through life’s unexpected twists and turns, we didn’t know how or where to go from there.”

It was in the waiting; however, when God seemed silent, that He began stirring a call to action, one that would serve as the heart of Fireflight’s fourth record, NOW.

NOW is a call to move beyond your circumstances,” explains Glenn. “To not accept the way things are because life is difficult or you have been hurt in the past. It points to God as your refuge who not only provides a place of safety and comfort, but who also challenges you to get outside your comfort join with something greater than yourself.”

Producer Jasen Rauch's open, experiment-friendly mindset meshed snugly into NOW's in-the-moment vibe. His knack for marrying creativity and aggression helped Fireflight develop a new sonic focus as well, built on lush electronic textures, futuristic moods and a more finely honed grasp of tender-to-titanic dynamics.

Lead CHR single and CD opener “Stay Close” provides a techno beat backdrop for lyrics that address calling on God when our hearts and minds are stuck in dark times. Dawn explains, “Sometimes we become a prisoner to our thoughts. We actually believe that our past pain controls our future...that our choices have been taken away from us. It is important to realize that our only hope is to move forward, trusting that God’s power will heal those things we cannot change.”

Similarly, second AC/CHR radio song “He Weeps” pulses electric effects while asking the age-old question “Where is God when bad things happen? What is He doing?” The chorus offers a poignant response...“He weeps/ He weeps with you/He weeps with me/ When I'm on my knees, and I taste defeat, He weeps.”

It reiterates the theme that we are not to be frozen in fear, tricked into believing that God is distant and doesn’t care. “God is bigger than our circumstances,” says Dawn. “And we must allow Him to work through them, through us.”

Another cut that stresses our need to fight the things that have been eating at us and take hold of God’s promises is “Now.” This fist-pumping anthem encourages listeners to quit making excuses, hiding in the shadows of previous pain, and to choose the path to freedom.

In the same vein, melodic ballad “Rise Above” urges us to stop the cycle of victimization, overcome those things that have entangled us, and work toward a new tomorrow.

“In addition to writing about our own experiences, we also develop songs based on our conversations with fans,” says Dawn. “In talking with fans, you begin to collect all these stories, and suddenly they are bursting out of you. You’re asking God to help you figure out how to express their feelings, to offer them peace in their suffering.”

The band mates keep in touch with their family of thousands of die-hard fans at shows and online, answering all the messages they receive through Facebook and MySpace, many of them extremely personal, focused on deep struggles. Fireflight believes the essence of its ministry lies in these intimate fan relationships.

“The best way to spread Christianity is through relationships,” says Dawn. “We see how God works in those relationships, how He uses our music to empower them in their daily lives, and we want to provide the soundtrack to their victory.”

And that victory is one that’s there for the taking, no more need to wait. “That’s why the concept of NOW is so powerful,” explains Justin. “It demands that in this moment, you are going to take the best and worst situations in your life and make them work for you and for God’s glory.”

Fireflight’s message through NOW is crystal clear: There is no greater time than the present to make a difference. So raise your fist, start the fire and live like you mean it. This is your time - NOW!

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Matt Maher

Great music hinges on compelling writing, honest delivery, a refined, unique musical identity. Great leadership hinges on openness, compassion, devotion. Singer-songwriter and worship leader Matt Maher has built his career – his life – on striving to embody those ideals.

Matt Maher the songwriter cemented his respected reputation penning songs with Chris Tomlin, Michael W. Smith, Matt Redman, Passion (“Here For You”), Audrey Assad and Jars of Clay.

The heart of Matt Maher the worship leader has shown through clearly over years spent teaching, sharing and praying all over the world, including appearances at the Papal Rally in NYC, World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia, and extensive touring over the past 5 years, with the likes of Michael W. Smith, Leeland, Phil Wickham, Jars of Clay, Third Day, Tenth Avenue North and Mercy Me, bringing him in front of more than three million people.

With the September 20 release of The Love in Between, Matt Maher the artist -- fully defined, fully formed -- steps fully into the foreground.

His third national release on Essential Records shows Maher finding his voice both sonically and lyrically, the rootsy pop aesthetic he introduced on 2010 hit “Hold Us Together” (from 2009’s Alive Again) flowing into a 12-song study of suffering, grace, redemption and hope.

Those ideas coalesce particularly in “Heaven and Earth,” The Love in Between track that inspired the album’s title.

The song contemplates “the distance between us and our humanity and God and his divinity,” Maher says. “There is only one thing that bridges that gap and essentially annihilates it, and that is Jesus. He is the love in between sin and freedom, death and life and hopelessness and hope.”

Maher’s focus grows out of that idea, centering less on distance and more on the bridging of it. The leadoff single “Turn Around,” which debuted at No. 28 on the NAC chart a week ahead of its add date, explores the ways in which Jesus embodied that broad embrace, anchored by the refrain, “If you’re lost and need to be found/ If you’re looking for a savior/ All you gotta do is turn around.”

“If you look back over history, specifically around the time Jesus was physically here in the flesh, humanity has struggled with pride, resulting in a subculture that, while having the best of intentions, ends up marginalizing the people who are most in need of God,” Maher says. “However, Jesus came offering a message of repentance for all who would be willing to receive it. Those on the outside and on the inside of the Church.”

The six-time GMA Dove Award nominee also recognizes that he’s a living example of the value in shedding boundaries, be they perceived or physical. Raised Catholic in Newfoundland, Canada, he was inspired to pen “Woke Up In America,” a personal and patriotic anthem on The Love in Between.

Maher shares, “The song is really about the story of the individual as an allegory for the story of a nation and its struggle to find freedom and identity.”

The Love in Between’s release comes during a time of many big new developments for Maher. The new husband and his wife Kristin welcomed their first son, Conor, in early August; in early September, he’ll launch the first in a series of headlining tours hosted by his newly formed organization Comm+Unity, which will support multiple local, national and international non-profit efforts.

Maher headlines the first jaunt, which kicks off in Texas and runs through to the West Coast (including a Gilbert, Ariz., album release show on September 20), with support from one sonic society (Jason Ingram, Stu G., Paul Mabury) and Integrity artist All Sons & Daughters (David Leonard, Leslie Jordan).

Throughout October, he’ll headline the newly launched, month-long, “Compassion International Presents: The Love In Between Tour,” a partnership with Compassion International and Christian radio featuring Laura Story and Essential Records newcomer Andy Cherry. To close out the year, Maher will join Mercy Me on the “Rock & Worship Road Show” before spending the Christmas and New Years holidays with his family in Arizona.

Not any of this has happened overnight. It’s taken four years of non-stop touring and several more focused on writing and recording, to yield four Top 200 CCLI songs over six years and more than 275,000 in sales of his independent and Essential Records titles to reach the clarity Maher has funneled into The Love in Between.

Mike Snider of Paradigm Talent Agency figures that’s built Maher not just into a marquee name, but one with staying power. He notes, “In addition to his sales and songwriting placements, Matt has stepped to the plate as a hard-ticket-selling, headlining artist, who is going to help shape and re-define touring as we know it.”

Matt Kees, Director of the Christian Musician Summit, concurs.“Matt Maher is a great fit for us at the Christian Musician Summit – he has the ability to reach people on a variety of levels at our conferences and we’re excited to see how he’s made the steady climb into an impactful and enduring artist who people want to see. Not only is Matt a well-trained and accomplished keyboardist and guitarist, he is a top-notch songwriter, and a well respected lead worshiper with years and years of ministry experience. Matt can teach, perform and relate to Christian musicians and fans.”

Maher, always ready to share the music and the Gospel offers, “At the end of the day, I’m just thankful to be in a place where I get to share the music I was inspired to write. It’s been a great road and I’m looking forward to sharing the songs from The Love In Between with friends and fans everywhere.”

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It’s hard to believe that twenty years have passed. Isn’t that what old people say? Well perhaps I’ve joined the “old people” ranks because it’s something I’ve said a lot lately. We’ve all aged. We’ve gone through hardship. We’ve set up our lives in different parts of the United States. But we have also stayed connected. Some of our connection has been intentional; some of it simply through the history we share. All of it is part of the story we’re in now and we want to connect our story with everyone.

PFR 12 in 2012 is an idea/inspiration that formed in my heart over the last several months. It’s my own “if you build it they will come”. It sounds super cheesy but it doesn’t feel that way at all. There’s something about following a hunch, trusting your gut, or being led by something beyond yourself that feels really big. It’s terrifying and a real trust builder. This year we’ve committed to doing twelve shows around the country in hopes of sharing some of our journey and encouraging people to stay in it when hope seems small and pain looms large.

We kicked off the first event in our home state of Minnesota. Church of the Open Door was kind enough to let us start the experiment there in their beautiful sanctuary. It was an absolutely fantastic night. Singing and playing with Mark and Patrick is always a treat. Having the local band Grayshot open up was a wonderful way to connect our friends and fans to some great new music. But playing for an audience that made you feel like you didn’t have anything to prove was a new experience. It was a night of freedom in that regard. And I can only hope to have that experience again and again. [...] Patrick’s brother Michael Andrew and my long time friend Aaron Ankrum added some musical muscle with guitars, keys, lap steel and vocals. Michael grew up on the same music PFR did and Aaron learned to play guitar listening to PFR’s music. It makes for some great live chemistry that we can’t wait to share with the rest of you this year.

— Joel, Lead Singer/Guitarist, PFR (from the PFR 12 in 2012 blog)

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Mark Schultz

Singer/songwriter Mark Schultz invites all to “Come Alive” with his latest collection of songs that explore life’s greatest joys and toughest challenges while celebrating God’s presence in every moment.

Perseverance, creativity and a strong will are qualities that have served Schultz well throughout his career. A native of Colby, Kansas, Schultz moved to Nashville to pursue his musical ambitions and found inspiration and encouragement while working as a youth pastor. With the support of the congregation, he booked a show at Nashville’s famed Ryman Auditorium. The show was a sell out, an unheard of feat for a fledgling artist that earned him a deal with Word Records.

Since then the Dove Award winning artist has become one of Christian music’s most acclaimed singer/songwriters. Schultz, now a resident of North Carolina, has also tasted success on the mainstream adult contemporary charts with such hits as “He’s My Son,” “Letters from War” and “Walking Her Home.” “Back in His Arms Again” was named BMI’s Christian Song of the Year in 2003, “Letters from War” was the centerpiece of the Army’s “Be Safe-Make It Home” campaign and Schultz has flooded radio with nine No. 1 songs, such as “Remember Me” and “I Am the Way.” He’s also earned the top spot on Billboard magazine’s Christian Adult Contemporary Songwriter list and has been featured on the national TV programs, 48 Hours, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, CNN and more. His 2005 release, Mark Schultz Live…A Night of Stories & Songs, sold RIAA certified Platinum and garnered Schultz his first GMA Dove Award.

In crafting songs for the new record, Schultz co-wrote with some very accomplished friends, among them Matthew West, Mercy Me’s Bart Millard and Barry Graul, Joy Williams and Bernie Herms, who is one of the producers on the album. “I’ve always done a record with one, maybe two producers and this one has four on it,” says Schultz, who worked with Herms, Shaun Shankel, Paul Mills and Brown Bannister. “It’s my 10th year to have done this and it feels like I’ve just started. I thought ‘what a great way to say it’s been a great 10 years.’ Let’s open it up to a few different producers who I’ve worked with and a few new ones, just to create a very diverse record.”

As he always does, Schultz pulled from real life experiences to create the songs on the new record. “He Is” was inspired by two different stories. “Payton Cram was a girl who came to one of my concerts in Michigan with her dad,” recalls Schultz. “She had cancer and I was really amazed at her maturity for her young age. When it started to get bad, I flew up and spent a day with her and prayed with her and her family. She was a beautiful girl. She was never going to blame God for it. She never asked ‘Why me?’ She just always knew there was a bigger purpose in it.”

During the same time Payton was battling cancer, Mark’s wife came home and told him about a missionary family whose fourth child was born on a Friday and on Sunday they found out the mother had terminal cancer. “The father of the family said, ‘well we can’t praise God on Friday and curse him on Sunday. He’s the same God on Friday as he is on Sunday. We have to trust that He knows what’s going on,’ and that’s when the idea of ‘He Is’ was born,” says Schultz. “It really encapsulated Payton’s story and that family’s story too. He is, he was and always will be. It’s been a special, special song for me and I hope people really enjoy it. It’s a pretty important message—no matter what kind of rough road you are riding through to be able to say ‘the same God who has given me so much is the same one that’s in control today through this rough stuff.’ It’s a pretty strong thought.”

Another poignant song on the album, “What It Means to Be Loved,” is “the only song I’ve ever played in concert that received a standing ovation before the end of the first chorus was over,” recalls Schultz. Kate was again a source of inspiration for the song: “My wife said to me, ‘Since you are adopted, I think we should adopt kids too. I think we should adopt kids with special needs…maybe someday we adopt kids with special needs that doctors know are only going to live for a year or two,’” recalls Schultz. “I replied, ‘Honey, why would we do that?’ She answers, ‘Because, before they go to heaven, I want them to know what a great Christmas is like and what a great birthday is like and let them know they were loved well before they get to heaven.’ That’s the kind of wife I’m married to.”

This conversation was sparked by the story his wife told him about a family who was expecting a child and were told that tests revealed health issues that meant the baby probably wouldn’t live long. Although the doctors suggested terminating the pregnancy, the mother decided she would love the child as long as she could. Schultz channeled those emotions into the “What It Means to Be Loved” lyrics: I want to give her the world / I want to hold her hand/ I want to be her mom just as long as I can and live every moment until that day comes/ I want to show her what it means to be loved.

“As Christians, we are called to be love,” says Schultz. “If that means loving a baby that will be here seven minutes or 70 years, it doesn’t make any difference.”

The song is a powerful work of art, teeming with emotion. Schultz’s clear, compelling voice conveys the sense of sadness, yet shares the spirit of hope and abundant love that lie at the heart of the song. It’s his ability to capture life’s most fragile moments in song, and lead people closer to God by revealing His glory in every situation, that make Mark Schultz such a gifted artist.

It has been 10 years since Schultz sold out the Ryman Auditorium and embarked on this creative journey. It’s not always an easy road, but he has no doubt he’s exactly where God wants him to be. “I think the surest that I’ve been in the last 10 years is when I rode my bike across the country,” says Schultz. Learning to lean ever more closely on his heavenly Father, many of the songs on Come Alive were inspired during that bicycle trip that raised over $250,000 to benefit the James Fund, which provides assistance for widows and orphans. Along the way he learned much about himself, the human condition and God’s sovereignty. Those revelations reverberate throughout his new album.

“I would hope that when people listen to this CD they can identify with the struggles within the songs, but at the same time know that God is the same God through the struggles as he is during the triumphant moments. Christ, who began a good work, will finish a good work. It may not be on your own timeline or not even the way you imagined it, but he promises he will. There’s a bigger picture out of our control, but God has made these promises and I want to hold onto that.”

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Jamie Grace

Jamie Grace, a 19-year-old singer-songwriter who is appearing as part of Women of Faith’s popular “Revolve Tour,” has been signed by Gotee Records, helmed by Joey Elwood and multiple GRAMMY ® winner TobyMac. Gotee Records’ will also launch Jamie Grace’s debut Hold Me e.p. digitally on February 22, with plans for a full project release in fall 2011.

Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, Jamie is a college student who aside from her career and touring as a singer-songwriter, is also studying children’s ministry. At age 11, Jamie Grace was diagnosed with Tourettes Syndrome, and has since traveled the country sharing her story and faith through music and speaking.

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Adam Cappa

Twenty-five-year-old Adam Cappa was born and raised in Richmond, Indiana—the birthplace of recorded jazz where his dad is the sheriff and his mom is vice president of a local bank. Not the most obvious back-story for a rising new Christian pop artist.

But it’s clear that as soon as Adam began to investigate the reality of God for himself, other people were inspired to invest in Cappa. Although his heart stays close to home and family, he’s now ready to see where his faith—and the faith others have shown in him—is going to lead.

“We went to church every week, then at some point in high school I wondered: Who is this God I hear about but don’t really know personally?” the spiky-haired singer/guitarist recalls.

Such questions got him invited to a nondenominational Young Life group where Adam felt an immediate connection and developed a deep relationship with the Lord. Music had never been Cappa’s main interest (he was a Junior Olympics jump rope medalist), but the men putting their energy toward his spiritual growth were worship leaders, and mentors in his life, and he simply wanted to be like them.

In short order, Adam bought a guitar, learned a few songs, and was leading fellow students at a local youth group in Matt Redman’s “Blessed Be Your Name” and Chris Tomlin’s “Enough,” not fully realizing those guys were recording artists whose outreach was also their profession; Christian music just wasn’t on his radar. Cappa led worship at churches and youth events throughout college while working at Fountain City Wesleyan Church earning a degree from Indiana University. His joy was in serving kids not much younger than himself. He had never imagined a record deal, but a new talent would begin to change that.

“God began to write a lot of songs in my heart,” Adam says. “Before I knew it, I felt the Lord had called me to pursue ministry on the road full time. I sold my car, bought a van, and started playing for teen camps full time.”

It was in those travels that Cappa first met fellow Indiana native Jeremy Camp through a mutual friend. The chart-topping rock/worship artist generously welcomed Adam to his home studio to record some demos and offer insights about music and ministry.

“We stayed in touch, and then through an unrelated booking deal on my end, I was asked to open a concert for Jeremy,” he remembers. “When I came off stage that night Jeremy was there waiting and said, ‘You blew me away tonight; that was incredible. I really felt the Lord speak to my heart, and I want to invest in you. I love your heart and your passion for the Lord.’ He had been praying about this work I was doing. So, we prayed some more and felt like God was saying, ‘Go.’ Soon we were working together on my debut album.”

Co-written and produced with Camp and Andy Dodd (Switchfoot, Plain White T’s), The Rescue bears comparison to Cappa’s mentor with its biblically insightful themes and emotionally stirring arrangements. It also brings to mind Redman and Tomlin respectively through subtle European production values and a crystalline singing voice that engages both pop and praise listeners alike.

The first single and title track is a fine example of all those elements. Born from the story of Peter stepping off the boat in Matthew 14, its initially heavy tone is lightened by a heavenward chorus: I’m so far down, but this time around I’m keeping my eyes on You / You are the rescue.

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Star Fish Winner Alyssa Graham

Alyssa's Star Fish Video

We're exciting to introduce Alyssa Graham at Fish Fest as our 2012 Star Fish winner!

Alyssa Graham has been singing since she was old enough to speak. At a young age, she would find inanimate objects to sing into, as if they were microphones. When she was 8 years old, she joined a singing and dancing group called Sunshine Generation, in which she would sing at county fairs.

She was frequently asked to do solos and appeared on local TV. Throughout her life she has sung for family, friends, church and school events. At 13, she began writing songs. At 15, she began forming bands to sing cover songs and eventually her own.

Strong vocals and honest songwriting are what make Alyssa stand out from the crowd. Alyssa writes about everyday life and the struggles that she faces or witnesses in the lives of others. Music has always been her passion. Alyssa hopes to reach people with the relatable messages in her music. Sometimes life is good and sometimes life is hard. God is always there by our side and will give us strength to get through it all.

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