Contemporary Christian artist has message for audiences

By Megan R. Harrell

Star Staff

Over the past decade Contemporary Christian music has undergone a metamorphosis. Several Christian vocalists have seen their songs receive nods from mainstream radio and top charts in both the secular and Christian arenas.
   One reason for the surge in the industry's popularity is the fact that many of the artists can relate to the trials youths face today because they have been there themselves. Michael O'Brien is the lead singer and songwriter for the contemporary Christian music group NewSong, and he uses the lessons that he learned from his own past failures to encourage others.
   "The whole mindset behind NewSong is - we pray that our songs reflect our relationship with Christ," O'Brien said. "We share our experiences and how we learn from those experiences."
   O'Brien has been performing around the world for several years and has released 12 albums with NewSong, including 17 number one hits. One of the group's most popular songs is, "The Christmas Shoes," which CBS recently made into a television movie.
   O'Brien began listening to contemporary Christian music after giving his life over to the Lord 14 years ago and said the lyrics to many of the songs helped him through tough times. He added that artists like Michael W. Smith challenged him to have a deeper relationship with Christ, and he hopes to have the same effect on members of his audiences.
   The singer has plenty of opportunity to impact others. NewSong regularly performs in front of crowds of 5,000 each night, and sometimes draws as many as 15,000 at concerts.
   O'Brien attributes his group's popularity to the fact that many people are searching for answers in life. He said all that is happening in the world leaves many feeling vulnerable and weak.
   "I think a lot of us are searching trying to find that hope. 9-11 was an eye opener, but the hope that we have in our songs is inspiring people to live another day," O'Brien said. "I think what we saw in the past was people talking a lot about God, but they were not talking about Jesus, and now people are beginning to look for that relationship with Christ."
   NewSong will be performing in Johnson City at the Freedom Hall Civic Center with seven other contemporary Christian artists this Saturday evening. The performance is part of a Winter JAM 2003 tour that spans 20 different cities in the region.
   Other artists performing with NewSong will be Carman, Plus One, Tait, Natalie Grant, Daily Planet, KJ52, and According to John. The concert begins at 7:00 p.m. Tickets will be sold at the door for $10. Those who would like more information may call 423-461-4884.
   O'Brien said those that come out to this weekend's concert can expect to enjoy themselves, but he hopes they walk away having been impacted and challenged at the same time.
   "It is going to be a lot of fun, and yet a focused bunch of artist will be talking about how Jesus touches their lives," O'Brien said. "You are going to have fun, yet you are going to be challenged because there is music out there that is touching peoples lives just like it touched my life."