On May 3, 2016, the social media accounts of dc Talk suddenly awoke, teasing upcoming news that would quickly excite a massive fanbase that still very much existed, only to leave a vast majority of them disappointed with the announcement a week later of the Jesus Freak Cruise. Fans were rabidly awaiting the return of Christian music's most iconic and successful groups and expected news of new music or even a reunion tour but instead, found themselves unable to attend the reunion on the sea with the sold-out cruise financially and logistically out of reach.
Earlier this month, the group reunited again on a follow-up cruise that has kept the excitement of the band very much alive with their fans across the world who still desire an excuse for a road trip.
Then, everything went on hyperdrive. Michael Tait did a radio interview virtually confirming touring plans for the next three years. 48 hours later, Toby calmed the internet's hysteria down, clarifying nothing has been confirmed yet. And Kevin Max sat on the sidelines, simply enjoying the glow of reuniting together with two of his best friends.
After attending the Jesus Freak Cruise for a second time, I knew that something special was brewing with the band. The atmosphere was different this time. So I was incredibly excited that Kevin Max wanted to reflect on the cruise, the reunion and the special camaraderie that he has rediscovered in this new season with Micahel and Toby. While nothing is set in stone just yet, we're all pretty confident that we'll be hearing from dc Talk in the near future, and it more than likely won't take place in the middle of the ocean.
Kevin, you recently got back from the second Jesus Freak Cruise which had dc Talk reuniting again for three 90-minute sets. How are you feeling now that it's over?
This cruise was completely refreshing to me and much different than the first cruise in 2017. I almost felt a healing quality onstage between the three of us. The synergy and magic are definitely back. There are moments when you think that the spirit shows up and is a part of the performances and, for me, this cruise was an example of that. The more we inhabit these songs, the easier they become to perform again. The great thing about dc Talk's music is that the songs are such high-quality songwriting. It continues to blow my mind that we wrote such a dense amount of music in such a small amount of time. I look forward to doing more of this in the future. What was different this time around than the first Jesus Freak Cruise?
There was an overwhelming feeling of synergy and harmony together. The first cruise felt like trying on an old coat and not knowing if it would fit anymore. This cruise solidified the fact that we have more music to make together in the future. The combination of the three of us is just too powerful! There are things that I do vocally, that strangely only happens when I am on stage with these other gentlemen. This is not an exaggeration, but I feel that dc Talk is much bigger than a musical group. There is something spiritual happening here.
There were a lot of stories told on stage about the early days of the group. You guys were pretty open about some arguments, disagreements and a few seasons of frustrations. But humor and grace were heavily involved in all those stories. What do these deep friendships that you have with Toby and Tait mean to you after all these years?
It was like growing up in front of the social conscience. We never hid our mistakes or doubts and frustrations. We put all of that into the music. Now, all of us are in our fifties, Toby and I have larger families and we have absolutely mellowed and recognize what really matters. Gone are the arguments about what someone is wearing to a photoshoot or who is going to sing the chorus. There is a lot of stability these days and after living so much life together, and now maturing, we laugh at the craziness or our youth. We are still pretty sensitive towards each other though. It's honestly the best place we have ever been as people–no petty jealousies or insecurities these days.
Are there any dc Talk songs that really take you back and make you thankful for this new season with the band?
Man, there are so many! dc Talk created a bulk of music that is unparalleled within our genre. Most of the cuts off of Jesus Freak and Supernatural are undeniable. Some of the cuts from Free At Last also remind me of how great the songwriting was. It seemed that the band matured with every album, and that, in my opinion, is how it should be. The songwriting was articulate, defined and very courageous in its chord changes and multiple musical sections. Music isn't like that anymore, at least within the Christian genre. It seems like modern music has lost the appetite for experimentation. dc Talk music epitomized creative songwriting and diverse decision making. Singing the song "Colored People" the other night reminded me of how deep the subject matter was and still is today, completely relevant.
The lyrics of dc Talk's music have always been heavily influenced by themes of unity, love and compassion. How important are those messages as you continue to talk about the next steps for the group in the midst of today's cultural environment?
More important than ever. We live in a divided society, in a time where everyone is questioning what they believe and how they got to believe in the first place. dc Talk, as a group, epitomizes diversity and unity, even within its very physical makeup. We are three very different individuals with very different ideas and tastes, coming together to create something in harmony together. Every time dc Talk takes the stage or is in the studio, we sacrifice our own individual wants for the greater good of the band.
There's lots of talk post-cruise about those next steps. It sounds like there are some honest and real conversations taking place about an upcoming tour.
It's too early to draw conclusions on when and where, but I think we've answered the main question of "should we do it?" I know we've all left this last cruise refreshed by the partnership. These performances were so wonderful that it would be a shame not to do more of them.
You've navigated a lot with this band. It's been almost two decades since Intermission. Are you at all surprised that fans are still showing up and passionately engaged with what dc Talk as a group is doing? Why do you think that is?
It comes down to dc Talk being more than the sum of its parts. Together, this band is unstoppable. But it's interesting because only after being away from it for so long do we truly realize how great a gift this band is. Obviously, we all have faith in a God that, in my opinion, promotes collaboration and harmony among people. It took me a long time to realize how special dc Talk truly is. I was blinded by my own self-worth and passions for a long time, and I've been able to create my own art apart from the band. Now, I wouldn't change that part of my life and I am confident in everything I have done a solo artist, but nothing can compare to what dc Talk is when we band together.
What still surprises you about Toby and Michael?
They are just as surprising today as they were those many years ago. They are supremely talented and beautiful human beings. I am proud of what they have both accomplished since dc Talk. We have all gone our separate ways, musically and physically but there is a spiritual synergy among us that has never changed. Michael, by taking on the helm of frontman with the Newsboys, has proven to the world, and most importantly himself, that he is without a doubt one of the best performers and vocalists alive today. Toby continues to push the envelope as an artist and songwriter and has proven to everyone, including himself, that he is without a doubt one of the best solo artists in the marketplace. But the thing that really surprises me? I still really, really like these guys.
Kevin McNeese started NRT in 2002 and has worked in the industry since 1999 in one form or another. He has been a fan of Christian music since 1991.
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