It's that time of year again, when Christian music fans pack arenas nationwide for Winter Jam, the industry's largest and most successful concert tour. • Since its founding in 1995, the event has grown to include 100 stops and feature Christian radio's top-selling artists. From contemporary worship to hip-hop, Winter Jam offers variety for just $10 admission. Tickets are sold at the door only. • Noted Christian rockers Newsboys and hip-hop sensation Lecrae headline this season's show, Saturday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. • Tenth Avenue North, Thousand Foot Krutch, Newsong, Plumb, Colton Dixon, Love and the Outcome, Everfound and Derek Minor also will perform. • I spoke to Newsboys drummer Duncan Phillips about Winter Jam and the rising popularity of Christian music.
How has Christian music evolved since you joined Newsboys in 1993?
When bands first started playing Christian rock back in the day, there was a fan base but there were also a lot of churches picketing, saying the music was of the devil. Now, most of what we do is pretty well accepted across the board.
A lot of Christian artists are even crossing over into mainstream radio.
Christian music is constantly getting better. The art of it is getting better. I think the better it gets, the more people will notice it.
Christian music is this massive industry no one knows about. There are so many people all over the world playing and singing our songs, but we get no press.
Is that a bad thing?
I kind of like it that way because for the most part, I can go pretty much anywhere without getting recognized but I still get to do what I love. I think we've got the best deal.
This is Newsboys' fourth time traveling with Winter Jam, what do audiences appreciate about it?
It is worship that spans all genres. There is something for everybody. You see all these generations coming together for a great family night out.
What are your thoughts on the Christian rap trend?
I think it's awesome. I love it. I love Lecrae. He's such a good guy and I love his music. His music is fresh and music like that is needed.
There should be all forms in what we do. It can be hip-hop or hard-core rock. Whatever it is, if it's worship, I applaud it.
In September, Newsboys released a new album, Restart. What makes it fresh?
We worked on the record for two years. We really worked on the art of it. For years we concentrated so much on lyrical content that I think the music itself suffered. The art of it suffered. This time, we spent a lot more time on the sound of the record and I think sonically it stands up. Fans like it. It's selling well.
What are you looking forward to about performing in Tampa?
I love the venue and I'm excited to get out of the below zero weather. I'm hoping I can make time to go to the beach.