Phil Joel was part of newsboys very early on and has rejoined them over the last couple of years for Newsboys United. He is a singer, a songwriter, a dad and an all around good guy. Wayne caught up with him to chat about his brand new EP ‘Better Than I fount It’.
Phil, you have a brand new EP called ‘Better Than I Found It’, which came out towards the end of January. How were you able to get this done, because you’ve also been really busy reconnecting and working with Newsboys United. So how do you fit everything in?
Well, it has been exciting getting back with the band. It’s been an amazing journey and the band’s still doing its thing and people still still turn up, which is just great. So recently, in the last three years, Peter and myself had been touring with the band. Until of course, March 12th of last year we got sent home. We were on a tour and we got sent home and told “until further notice, boys, stand by”. And we’re still standing by because the virus kept getting worse, as we all know. Before that though, in 2019, we were touring quite steadily. So I took the opportunity during that year to take a little writing time on the road and wrote some songs about some of the things I was seeing and feeling. When 2020 came around and I came home, my wife said, “well, you’re not going to get out of the house, get back out there into your studio and get to work recording the songs that you wrote last year”. So I did and the record came out this year. I feel like the songs that I wrote in 2019, recorded in 2020 and are now out in 2021, are right on time. You know, they are songs about unity, about togetherness, about looking out for our fellow man, about reaching out across the table, about leaving this place better than we found it. I don’t think it’s irony, I think it’s divine. I think God’s just decided, this is the time for these songs, which is kind of interesting. I’m just along for the ride, honestly.
Tell us about the song ‘In This Together’, it very much does, as you just mentioned, speaks to the time that we’ve all found ourselves in over the last 12 or so months.
Yeah, it does. It is a song about togetherness. The funny thing is, last year, how many times would you turn the TV on and someone would say that, ‘we’re all in this together’. So hopefully it hasn’t become a cliche now, but the reality is it’s true. We are all in this together. We are all riding this planet and trying to figure out this virus thing and trying to figure out everything else as well. As believers, I believe we have the answers to life issues, but of course, not everyone still feels that way. Not everyone thinks the way we do, not everyone looks the way we do, not everyone worships the way we do, and yet I believe we should be the first to reach out and say, hey, we may not see eye to eye, but we are in this together. How can I serve you? How can I help you? How can I ease your burdens, carry some of the load for you? To me, that’s Jesus style stuff. He came to serve and not be served. He was always accused of hanging out with the wrong types and he was misrepresented in what he was doing. I think that we need to be those sorts of people emulating the Jesus model. So Jesus isn’t mentioned in the song. His name isn’t mentioned throughout this project, but he is the underlying theme running through it. And hopefully people will pick that up.
Phil, there seems to be and I’m probably generalising, so forgive me, but there seems to be this kind of thought that if you’re not including Jesus in a song, then is it really a true Christian song? Do you feel any pressure or obligation or is there any expectation externally upon you with regards to that?
Yeah, I have. I have felt a lot of pressure like that at different points. In the United States, it’s partly because of the population. They like to put things in the boxes and the categories. Fair enough too, I guess we like to know when we go to a restaurant what it is what they’re selling. So I guess it’s helpful. But you’re right, there is this sort of pressure to be fairly overt, make sure everything is sort of on the nose and there it is. Especially in Christian music when it comes to the radio market because that’s where people are still listening to Christian music a lot. If you don’t fit within that format, then they won’t play your music. And that’s fine, because they’re serving a certain place and a certain set. But for me, this last year was a really good year to sort of just push some of that stuff off the shoulders, get that pressure off, get into sort of a little bit of isolation. Isolation can make you insane at different points, but it can also be a time of a place of purification. Getting away and getting by yourself. Jesus did that all the time clearing the clutter and to me, what it is, is about being creative, being artistic, but also communicating truth and bringing hope.
I want to ask you a loaded question, and that is, do you have a favourite song on this brand new EP ‘Better Than I Found It’. And if so, why?
Oh, yeah, I do have a favourite. The last song on the EP. I’m one of these guys who always feels like the last song is kind of the hidden gem and it is almost like the underdog. And we all love to cheer for the underdog. This song, it’s got some quotes in it, some audio quotes from a couple of very famous people. Honestly, somewhat controversial in their time, but people who definitely move the ball forward in different ways and in the song, there’s a certain point in this song I always get a little choked up and I won’t tell you where it is. But to me, it’s the one.
Listen to the rest of the interview here!
A big thank you to Phil for taking the time to chat with us! God bless!