Michael Tait has been at the summit of Christian rock for more than 20 years.
The singer spent 12 years as a member of the multi-award winning group dc Talk but recently stepped from one supergroup to another, becoming the lead singer of Newsboys, replacing former frontman Peter Furler and joining guitarist Jody Davis, keyboardist Jeff Frankenstein and drummer Duncan Phillips.
Newsboys, with Third Day, are headlining the Winter Jam 2010 tour, which stops at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park at 6 p.m. Saturday. Other bands on the tour include Newsong, Tenth Avenue North and Fireflight, and evangelist and author Tony Nolan will be the featured speaker. Admission is $10, to be paid only at the door.
The best-selling Christian rock group Newsboys includes (from left) Jeff Frankenstein, Jody Davis, Michael?Tait and Duncan Phillips.
"It's the best tour in our industry. It's one of the best tours, period," Tait said. "The show is off the hook. These aren't filler bands; these are solid bands."
Tait's transition from one hit-making Christian band to another has been "quite a journey," he said.
Tait formed dc Talk with Toby McKeehan and Kevin Max Smith in 1988, while the trio were students at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.
If you go
What: Winter Jam 2010,
featuring Newsboys and Third Day; Other bands include Newsong, Tenth Avenue North and Fireflight, and speaker
When: 6 p.m. Saturday; doors open at 5 p.m.
Where: Bryce Jordan Center, University Park
Admission: $10, only at the door
Pre-Jam Party featuring Sidewalk Prophets, Robert Pierre and Revive begins at 5:20 p.m.
Recording hits such as "Jesus Freak," "Between You and Me" and "Consume Me," the three friends became one of the biggest acts in contemporary Christian music, winning multiple Grammy and Dove awards. The group took a hiatus in 2000, and each one departed on solo projects.
Furler helped form Newsboys in 1985 in Queensland, Australia, and the group gained fame in the United States around 1990, according to Erik Lane, a disc jockey with Rev-FM 89.1, a Christian rock station in State College, broadcasting on 102.7 in the Altoona area. Phillips and Davis joined the group in 1993, and Frankenstein became the group's keyboardist in 1994. The group had hits with songs such as "Shine," "Breakfast" and "He Reigns" and, like their counterparts in dc Talk, claimed multiple Grammy and Dove awards.
Furler recently stepped aside from his role in Newsboys to give himself "time to work on some other creative endeavors," according to his Web site, www.peterfurler.com. So when the band went looking for a new singer, they sought out a familiar face.
"Peter said that when they decided (on a new lead singer), they had a short list, and I was at the top. No pressure," Tait said, with a laugh. "They knew me, they knew I could do the job.
"When the Newsboys were just coming out, they came on tour with us," he said. "Back in the day, if you were a Newsboys fan, you were a dc Talk fan. But if you had told me back then that I would be the Newsboys' singer, I would have never believed it."
But, according to Tait, there is no coincidence in the band's current lineup.
"The band feels that we've done all this through the years to coincide at this moment, and I wouldn't have it any other way," he said. "It's a God thing. We've waited all our careers to come together."
Tait understands the gravity of assuming vocal duty from Furler, whose voice and image are substantially engrained in the Newsboys' legacy. The switch, however, is not unprecedented.
"Few remember that John James was the original lead singer for Newsboys," Tait said. "Peter took over, and everyone was like, 'Peter Furler, the drummer?' But now, the press, the promoters were all like, 'What's going on? Tait's in the Newsboys?'"
Yes, Tait's now in the Newsboys, and he is serious about his position.
"I'm just being diligent in my studies of new songs, being straight up and honest about my passion for God and letting people see who I am. I am going to sing my butt off, respect the band and love the band. I'm humbled by it every day. It takes a lot of prayer, and you've got to be on top of your game, you know?"
Lane is certain that Newsboys fans have no apprehension about the change.
"Everyone I've talked to feels very positive about it," Lane said. "With the Newsboys, your ears are attuned to an Australian accent, but Michael is establishing his own style. He's an accomplished singer. They are reinventing themselves. It's a paradigm shift."
And despite dc Talk's ongoing hiatus, Tait keeps in touch with McKeehan and Smith and doesn't discount a reunion of sorts, though "it's tough to envision in our present occupations and journeys."
"Maybe down the road, who knows?" Tait said. "It's always on our plates. I wouldn't mind it. Toby and Kevin wouldn't, either."
With a background such as Tait's, do the Newsboys include some dc Talk songs in their set?
"Don't you know it, baby!" Tait exclaimed. "At Winter Jam, we're going to play some old (Newsboys) stuff, some stuff off the new record (titled Born Again, tentatively scheduled for release in May), and we'll add some dc Talk for some spice. It will be off the hook. At Winter Jam, we'll step it up, for sure.
"Come to the show expecting, hoping and wanting, and you will receive. It will be a late Christmas gift for the fans. We want to encourage them to light up their town or city, love their neighbor, get out of the box, leave the shore and go out to the deep."
With a $10 admission price, Lane considers the concert "not just amazing, but unbelievable."
"A lot of these bands you couldn't get in to see for $10 themselves," Lane said. "It's a decision on the part of the promoters and the bands that they may take a loss, but it's all about ministry.
"They want to reach people who may have never heard about Jesus or have misconstrued concepts of Him."
Mirror Staff Writer Cory Dobrowolsky can be reached at 946-7428.