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Arts & Music

TobyMac, NewSong bring music and message to Tampa

Ed Condran Tribune correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 08:48 AM

NewSong isn't just the name of the veteran contemporary Christian music group. The band, which formed in 1981 in Valdosta, Ga., is all about keeping its sound new.

"That's what we have to do to stay relevant and be able to connect with young people," vocalist Billy Goodwin said during a phone call from his Atlanta home. "We try to keep our songs sounding contemporary but with the same strong lyrical content we've had since we formed. We need to do what we can to engage the audience."

Goodwin, 61, admits that it's not easy staying on top of trends. The soft-spoken grandfather and his bandmates let Music City producers guide them.

"That's what they do," Goodwin said. "We trust them. They know what's going on up in Nashville. They listen to what's happening."

Producers Seth Mosely, Chris Stevens and Paul Mills give the act's forthcoming release, "Swallow The Ocean," an injection of modern sonics. NewSong will preview some of its new cuts Saturday at the Forum.

"It's just a month until the album comes out," Goodwin said. "It's time to play these songs. We've been doing it this way for 32 years."

It's never been about reaching the upper echelon of the industry for OneSong. The band has been at it more than three decades just trying to bend the ear of fans to deliver a message.

"We want to let them know about God," Goodwin said. "We want to change their life in the most positive way possible. We would like to let them know something that can change everything for them courtesy of our music. We're not trying to break new ground. We're just trying to do what God called us out to do and play some songs."

NewSong, which also includes vocalist Eddie Carswell, vocalist-guitarist Russ Lee, guitarist Rico Thomas, cellist-keyboardist Matt Butler, bassist Mark Clay and drummer Jack Pumphrey, will do just that on its Winter Jam tour, which it founded in 1995. The jaunt is the largest Christian music tour in America.

"This is our favorite thing to do," Goodwin said. "Who could have ever guessed that our Winter Jam would grow like this? It's more fun that it should be. All of the acts are like one big family. Every night we go out, you feel this tremendous sense of unity. This year we have TobyMac out with us, and he is such a dear friend. He has a great heart. We're all playing music, but it's all about the ministry. It's not about attention or money."

The laidback vocalist-guitarist isn't kidding about the latter. The suggested donation is $10, but fans don't have to fork over a dime.

"If you can't afford it, we'll let you in," Goodwin said. "We want everyone to come out."

With six grandchildren, few could blame Goodwin if he was tempted to retire after working relentlessly since the Reagan era commenced.

"I've been at this awhile, but I'm committed to stay with it as long as God gives me the strength and as long as I'm relevant," Goodwin said. "We continue to create and try to come up with the strongest melodies to attract everyone to our music and or message. That's the way it's been ever since we formed. That's something that'll never change."

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