Phil Wickham is originally from and currently serves at Horizon Christian Fellowship in San Diego, CA with his wife Mallory. He began leading worship when he was just 12 years old.
Phil has recorded and released two free worship albums called Singalong 1 & 2 - just as a thank you to fans - and as a person who is passionate about teaching and leading worship.
Family Facts: Phil was raised in a Christian home, the second of three children (brother Evan, sister Jillian). Wickham's father is currently a worship leader, and both of his parents were at one time members of Jesus movement band Parable. Phil and wife Mallory have a two year old daughter named Penelope - and are pregnant with a second daughter due this July.
Since releasing their self-titled debut in 2004, sisters Rebecca, Alyssa and Lauren Barlow have continuously inspired fans with intimate portraits through music. The focus is always on sharing what God has placed on their hearts. whether that be through a song on an album, or talking with a group of young fans for hours after a concert.
At the start of 2013, the sisters announced they were ending their run as a band. Obviously they are still sisters - just heading in different directions. They left fans with perhaps their best song - ever. Hope Will Lead Us On.
The girls' dad Vince Barlow is a pastor at Willow Creek Community Church outside of Chicago. Becca, Alyssa and Lauren got their start playing as his backup band for youth events. A lot of their lyrics deal with issues like eating disorders, self-mutilation, abortion, prayer and self-worth.
Fun Fact: Years before Barlow Girl became a band, the group Superchic[k] wrote a song called "Barlow Girl" after meeting the sisters and being impressed by the stance for purity.
Originally from Oregon, now Seattle-based - Shawn McDonald crafts somber melodies with rich lyrical depth. Shawn's journey has taught him to appreciate and delight in the truly good things of life and to embrace each season as it unfolds. He yearns to find contentment and accept every step God leads him on.
The Transformation: Shawn was a drug addict/dealer in trouble with the law at age 20. It was then, near suicide that Shawn came to know Jesus Christ. He is a life completely transformed by Grace.
In preparation for his album Closer, Shawn took a job as a taxi driver in Nashville, TN - collecting stories that fuel his new songs. He's also a budding photographer and deeply interwoven in the Seattle art scene.
Audiophiles: If you are into music, you'll be impressed by the undertaking Shawn accomplished for his brand new Best of... collection. For The Analog Sessions Shawn recorded everything on tape - no computers. Old school recording at it's finest. Instead of repackaging his hits, he actually re-recorded them with vintage instruments and even sang on one of Frank Sinatra's old microphones!
Citizen Way is a band of brothers. Two sets of brothers, actually. Ben and David Blascoe and Ben and Josh Calhoun. Originally the band went by the name The Least Of These. Both sets of brothers are from Elgin, IL (the Chicagoland area).
Though new to the top of the charts, these brothers have been playing music together since 2004 - when they met at Judson University.
Thanks for the reminder that we are in this thing together!
ARTIST OF THE DAY Avalon
Avalon was formed in 1995 by Grant Cunningham, A&R director at Sparrow Records. Cunningham was in search of a vocal group that could sing tight harmonies and carry God's message to the world. He pooled talent from mega group Truth and other struggling soloists to form the harmony driven vocal group - and its been a whirlwind of excellence for the last 16 years!
So who has that sort of success and says "I think we need to shake things up a bit?" That's exactly what Avalon did with their latest album Reborn. As artists they wanted to be more than just relevant, but to push the envelope and deliver music with a message that will reach the world.
The band is currently on hiatus, occasionally playing a show or event. But members keep making great music! Jeremi and Amy Richardson recently released a worship record called Never Let Go.
Avalon by the Numbers:
4 million records sold
21 chart topping singles
6 Dove Awards
3 Grammy nominations
1 American Music Award
Phil Stacey is another Christian artist that got his start on American Idol. He made it all the way to the Top 5 on Season 6 before getting the boot - and things are working out just fine for this Christian radio staple. The native of Kentucky brings a southern rock charm to emotional lyrics, and an honesty that is incredibly endearing.
Both grandfathers and his dad were pastors, so Phil has grown up in the Church, and that is where his heart is. Phil attended Lee University in Cleveland, TN where he became part of the highly acclaimed Lee Singers. In fact, he says that once he made the singing group, he stayed in school JUST to be a part of the group. He even made the ranks of their prestigious Second Edition touring group.
He serves as music minister at his home church and is very busy balancing a music career, church life and his family. Phil was also in the Navy. He enlisted (as did thousands of others) following the events of September 11, 2001.
Mark Stuart and Will McGinniss met at Kentucky Christian University. Stuart and his brother David were putting together a rock band and McGinniss struck up a friendship with the pair. Along with David and Barry Blair they launched a band called A-180. The band recorded two independent albums before signing a record contract with ForeFront Records. It was then that they officially became Audio Adrenaline.
Christian music would never be the same - or youth camp. Hits like Big House and We're A Band propelled the band to the forefront of a thriving Christian rock scene in the mid-90s. They were headliners for every Christian festival on the planet - and toured ceaselessly. Ultimately, that took a toll on their families and relationships. Exhaustion and family strain, plus a vocal disease for lead singer Mark Stuart led to the end of Audio Adrenaline.
Or so it seemed...
Just last year the band reformed - now with Kevin Max (formerly of DCTalk) as the new lead singer - with Mark Stuart writing and producing for the band (still unable to sing). The band's new album is taking the world by storm - and proceeds from the net profit go to fund the Hands & Feet Project in Haiti! It's a brand new life for Audio Adrenaline!
Andy is a worship leader out of Charlotte One - a church in North Carolina. His songs are first and foremost, worship anthems. They were born out of a desire to get God's people asking hard questions about their faith - putting in the work - becoming desparate for God's will, no matter what the cost.
Worship Revelation: One morning, leading worship at church, Andy was silently wishing to be anywhere else. He was tired and felt like nothing he was doing mattered. It was then that God revealed to him, Hey Andy, I don't need you to do this. I want you to. Andy decided it would be best to get on board with what God is doing, rather than try to make music about himself.
Family Fact: Andy is the youngest of four siblings. All sisters.
Travis Cottrell grew up in Boone, NC with a very American life. He played sports, hung out with friends, learned the guitar and dreamt of becoming a NASCAR driver. But as a teenager, God put His calling on Travis' life. Since graduating from Belmont University in Nashville, Travis has been serving God as a worship leader.
As a professional musician, Travis Cottrell has written and performed with Max Lucado, Amy Grant, Cindy Morgan and many other amazing artists. He has written and arranged choral projects and even performed at Carnegie Hall and Abbey Road!
For the last fifteen years Travis has served as worship leader at Beth Moore’s Living Proof Live conferences. He and his team have been grateful to minister with Beth Moore in all 50 states and in several other countries as well.
Family Life: Travis serves as Worship Pastor at Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, TN. He and his wife, Angela, have been married for 18 years, and have three children: Jack, Lily Kate and Levi. Plus one dog – Flash.
Luminate frontman Sam Hancock (lead vocal/guitar) grew up in Washington, IN, and began leading worship at his church at 14. While Sam continued this role through high school, he also struggled with the same issues of many teens. He calls his late high school years his time of rebellion.
Upon graduation, Hancock was at a crossroads of choosing business school or music school. He chose music and enrolled at the Visible School of Music in Memphis. It was there he met Dusty Jakubik (bass), who was looking for a fresh start after the group he was in fell apart after signing a major label deal. From there the pieces fell into place, adding additional members to the group that would become Luminate.
The Message: Luminate aims to show people that they have purpose when they think they have none.
The Goal: Reaching the world through song, and to bring hope by example, humility, and truth to a generation filled with apathy and confusion.
The band members:
Samuel Hancock on vocals
Cody Clark on guitar
Dustin DeLong on keys and vocals
Dusty Jakubik on bass
Aaron Matthew on drums.
To be procrastination just seems nicer than to be anticrastination.
I mean, what has crastination ever done to you?
ARTIST OF THE DAY Peter Furler
Peter Furler's voice is instantly recognizable - having been the lead singer of The Newsboys for almost 20 years. He was a founding member of the group from Queensland, Australia. Though focusing on his solo career now, he still writes and produces with his friends in The Newsboys - even producing some of their records.
Peter Furler is the quintessential drummer. He taps on EVERYTHING! The beat is always present. It's that driving rhythm that fuels all of his musical passion. Awarded multiple Grammy nominations and Dove awards, Furler was even been named the industry’s songwriter of the year. Between solo ventures and The Newsboys, Furler has sold over 7 million albums!
Furler is also a painter and amateur photographer - creating art that is even more personal than his songs. In fact, on his website you can even check out some of his paintings! So a multi-platinum songwriter who is also a visual artist and as if that weren't enough - he rides motorcycles. The coolness scale was just obliterated.
“I’ve heard it said that music is the language of the soul. I think it’s something God created for our souls to be able to rejoice in.” - Jason Castro
Jason Castro is the bright eyed, dreadlocked Christian who captivated the nation on Season 7 of American Idol. The Texan had his pick of music careers after the show and chose to make music aimed at worship.
Raised in the church by a musical family of Colombian descent, Castro started drumming at 11, playing music in the youth ministry, and joined his father in leading worship. As a drummer, Castro loved the intensity of bands like MxPx and Switchfoot. While in college Jason moved from being the crazy drummer to the introspective song-writer. Which meant transitioning from behind the drum kit to behind the microphone.
Jason Castro finished in fourth place on his season of American Idol. That's saying something for a guy who never really thought he had the chops to be a professional singer/songwriter. As a vocal member of the I Am Second movement, Jason has proudly broadcasted his faith, but with his naturally gentle spirit.
Have a good weekend? I hope so.
If not - let's make it a good week from here on out.
ARTIST OF THE DAY Heather Williams
Heather Williams grew up in extreme poverty with her mom and stepfather. Throughout her early childhood, she suffered intense abuse and eventually, her mother gave her away. She was only 11 when she went to live with her grandfather in Michigan. With little guidance and the pain of past abuse and rejection, Williams turned to drugs and alcohol as a way to numb the realities of life. She ran away, became homeless and contemplated suicide as she battled with her substance abuse.
At age 18, however, the dangerous road Williams was on took a U-turn when she briefly reconnected with her birth father. Her father, a Christian, invited Williams to church.
“I came to this place where it was either, OK, I’m going to give my life to God, or I just don’t know if I’m going to live. So, I walked up that aisle at that church, and I gave my life to God.”
After becoming a Christian, Heather Williams began to write songs from a perspective of radical change. But then another wave of tragedy struck the budding singer/songwriter when her first child passed away shortly after he was born. Still, this incredible tragedy drew Heather closer to God.
For Williams, she describes her songs as “conversations,” sometimes joyful, sometimes angry, sometimes a mix of both. Today, Williams is grateful for how far grace has brought her. She and her husband, a full-time youth pastor, live in Florida with their two young children - and she's about 11 months pregnant - their third child is due at any moment!
This GRAMMY and multi-Dove award nominated band from Baytown, TX is known for powerful songwriting. Their music is anthemic, with lyrics that show uncommon depth and discernment.
Lead singer Leeland Mooring and brother Jack Mooring are joined by 18-year-old newest member (and younger sister) Shelly, along with drummer Mike Smith. The latest album digs deeper into theology and belief. The Great Awakening was inspired primarily by Jonathan Edwards and William Booth - both historical "fathers of the faith."
When Leeland’s not on the road, band members continue to lead worship at the Baytown, Texas church pastored by the Mooring’s parents. The band also serves regularly in their community’s Gulf Coast emergency preparedness programs and at a local food pantry which feeds hundreds of people each week.
Josh White and guitarist Brian Ortize formed Telecast as a grunge rock worship band out of Spokane, Washington. They released several worship albums and the individuals in Telecast went on to be a part of other notable bands, including Rock & Roll Worship Circus, Ruth, Esterlyn and Starfield.
Josh White also released a couple of solo albums, The Followers and most recently Achor. As a worship and lead pastor, White has a love of centuries old hymns, which he has reworked in his solo albums.
Where are they now?
Brian Ortize is the worship pastor at Reality LA, a church out of Los Angeles, CA. Josh White pastors a church in Portland, OR called Door of Hope.
Life Wide Open has spent the last five years leading worship for youth conferences, camps, retreats and revivals throughout the Southeastern United States. The Knoxville based worship band has been compared to artists Lincoln Brewster, Fee, Chris Tomlin, and Hillsong United.
These five, normal guys will tell you that it is an honor to lead worship at any event, no matter how big or small. According to lead vocalist Mike Hicks, “it is important that everyone sees that it is not about us. It is about God and we are here to worship Him. Through God, we get to meet some wonderful people and we enjoy spending time getting to know them as people and not venues. We want people to know that we are not here for a rock concert, but we are here to worship with them.”
This is one reason that Life Wide Open continues to be asked to lead worship at events such as Lifeway’s Ridgecrest, G3, and the Smokey Mountain Youth Conference just to name a few.
Life Wide Open’s focus is making worship a deep personal experience for those in attendance. “Seeing an audience have that Holy encounter with our Savior makes it all worth it. Hearing stories of how Christ has spoken through our music keeps us going. We want to see God change lives and give people the hunger to live their Life Wide Open for Him.”
Chris Augut is a native of Dallas, Texas, and though relatively new to Christian music, is a veteran of the music industry. Before releasing his Christian debut in 2010, he toured as a keyboardist for Ashlee Simpson and other mainstream artists.
While he is not one to shy away from writing about his faith, Chris isn't afraid to embrace relationships and heartache in his songwriting. His latest album, The Upside of Down, is more focussed on faith than any previous projects.
Shortly before finishing the project, Chris was in a severe skateboarding accident that nearly killed him. When he woke up in a hospital, Chris was struck by how quickly life can be taken away and that fuels his passion now, more than ever.
Awards: In 2011, Christ scored 3 Dove Awards: New Artist OTY, Male Vocalist OTY & Pop/Contemporary Recorded Album OTY. His song Restore is listed as #17 for New Release Tuesday's Top 20 Songs of 2013!
Monicker Fact: August is actually Chris' middle name.
Laura Story won a GRAMMY and several Dove Awards for her song Blessings. Her lyrics remind us that God works in ways that we would prefer He didn't - but that His ways are truly better. It was a hard learned lesson. For several years Laura has walked a dark path with her husband Martin Elvington. Just a year after they married Martin was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He was kept alive with a breathing machine and surgeons operated multiple times trying to save his life. Through the process Martin lost much of his vision and continues to suffer severe memory loss.
Yet through this incredible journey of love conquering fear - and hope trumping diagnosis - Laura's faith has only strengthened. It is from this place of absolute faith that her album Blessings was born.
Like the story of Job, God has poured out tremendous blessing on Laura and her family after a very difficult time. Laura and Martin welcomed their first child last Summer (daughter, Josie). She continues to serve at a mega-church in Atlanta where she teaches a new generation how to lead worship. Accolades and awards have piled up.
Impressed Much?: Laura has penned many wonderful worship songs, including the hit Indescribable, made famous by Chris Tomlin.
It's already March of 2013.
Come on, scientists - you are running out of time to get us flying cars!
ARTIST OF THE DAY Jamie Grace
This GRAMMY Award nominee is only 20 years old! Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, Jamie Grace 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 Tourette Syndrome, and has since traveled the country sharing her story and faith through music and speaking.
The Beiber Connection: Jamie was discovered by tobyMac on YouTube.
Singing and songwriting just isn't enough for this new power player in Christian music. She aspires to act as well (especially in musical comedy). She has a secret Twitter account (@thegrapejam) where Jamie posts her thoughts on whatever she is watching on TV.
Winning: Jamie Grace won New Artist of the Year at the 2012 Dove Awards and was nominated for several others, too!