Growing up, one of the staples of the Newsboys was bassist Phil Joel. He became just as much a part of the band as the aluminum foil Shine suit (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you don’t know the Newsboys). The former Newsboy is back with Zealand Worship. The band released their debut EP last fall (which I highly recommend). I recently spoke with Phil about his old Newsboy friends, his new band, and what it’s like writing music with a spouse.
Gabe: I have to say that it’s so good to hear your voice again in music. I know you’ve had some solo stuff but this is on a whole new level. What led to the formation of the band?
Phil: Well, over the last 8 years or so since being gone with the Newsboys, I’ve had opportunities to minister and be a part of all kinds of things. After leaving the Newsboys, I really felt that I needed to let the Lord lead. We didn’t really want to take on a booking agent, management, a record company or anything like that. We just felt that the Lord was going to lead us down a different path. I know that sounds kind of reckless but it’s been really exciting! It’s been really fulfilling! I’ve been invited to be a part of all kinds of ministry opportunities. I’ve done solo shows, I’ve led worship, and I’ve even done some speaking.
One of those opportunities, about 4 years ago, was being asked to lead worship for teen’s youth camp throughout a summer. I really didn’t know what to expect. But it was fantastic! I really just fell in love with leading worship for teens and just being able to minister in that way. The band that I had at the time has changed somewhat. Myself and the drummer are still the same guys. Different guys have come and gone. But the band grew out of that experience and we became Zealand Worship. The whole idea behind the name was people would become zealous for life, and zealous for a relationship with God that they’re born to have. Hopefully through our music, it will inspire them and get them excited about that. But yeah, it was really birthed out of leading worship at youth camps.
Gabe: It sounds like you are making this music, not because it’s a genre that sells well, but you’re genuine about this. You’ve been on the front lines and you’ve seen that zeal from young people. How much has that inspired you to do what you’re doing?
Phil: Yes. I want to inspire them as well. I don’t even know that I’m seeing as much zeal as I used to. Kids’ heads are down now more than ever looking at their iPhones. Their eyes aren’t up and coming alive. I want them to be more invigorated or excited about the life that God has for them. It saddens me that they’re not. But I do seem it happening in different moments. I know that zeal is available. I want to be a part of that movement that gets kids really ignited in their faith and in their life. It definitely goes both ways.
Gabe: You mentioned the Newsboys… What have you learned both as an artist and a Believer since you left the band that has made you who you are today?
Phil: One of the big things that I’ve learned is never to measure success by numbers. Success, in God’s eyes, is a whole lot different than what it looks like in the world’s eyes. As a band, we don’t embrace social media. We don’t feel like the collection of numbers and fans is what we’re about. We also try to encourage other people to ditch their devices and put aside the things that take up so much of people’s lives. There are so many voices and messages that we put in our brain that we don’t need. We should instead embrace the life that God has for us. Quite often that means to put aside the things that culture says is very important. Even in the music world, we are told constantly that “you must be collecting fans. You must be collecting numbers. You must continuously be reaching out and staying in touch with your fans or they’ll lose interest.” Well, I don’t feel like that’s my job. My job is maintaining my interest in them. That’s one of the many things I’ve learned since leaving the Newsboys. Being able to gain a little distance from the industry and how things work has been really refreshing.
Gabe: Okay. I have a couple names. We’re going to play a little game where you say the first sentence or so that comes to mind when you hear the name.
Phil: This is a dangerous game, Gabe. (Laughs)
Gabe: Well, that’s what we’re about (Laughs).
Phil: Okay (laughs) let’s play.
Gabe: Ok. Jody Davis.
Phil: He’s a quietly wonderful human being.
Gabe: Duncan Phillips.
Phil: A wild man! He’s great at a party!
Gabe: Jeff Frankenstein.
Phil: A fine kind fellow and a mean ice hockey player.
Gabe: John James.
Phil: (laughs) A mystery wrapped in an enigma.
Gabe: Wes Campbell.
Phil: A powerhouse human being.
Gabe: Steve Taylor.
Phil: An incredible mind and a fantastic guy!
Gabe: Michael Tait.
Phil: You’ll never meet a nicer guy. He doesn’t know a stranger!
Gabe: Last one, Peter Furler.
Phil: He’s a good mate. If I had to go to war with somebody, I’d want him at my side.
Gabe: Nice. Well done. You guys, Zealand Worship, put out your debut EP in the fall. Do you have plans for a full length album or is that going to be it for now?
Phil: Yeah! We wanted to get that out and about in the mean time. But we are going to be releasing the full length album very soon! It should be out by the summer time I believe.
Gabe: Speaking of the summer, are you guys going to do any festivals this year?
Phil: I don’t think so. We’re not aiming to do too many festivals at the moment. We’re going to be busy through July, which is when most of the festivals are. But maybe some of the ones that are in the late summer.
Gabe: I noticed on the EP that you wrote a song or two with your wife. What’s that experience like?
Phil: Yeah! They’re usually spontaneous moments. They’re not necessarily planned out. We don’t sit down and try to write a song. She and I will be sitting on the couch having a discussion and we’ll pull a guitar into the mix. And then it turns into a tune.
Gabe: That has to be an awesome unique experience to be able to write a song with your wife.
Phil: Yeah, it is pretty cool! Especially when it turns out to be something that we feel is useful. I like useful songs. She definitely helps me write useful music (laughs).
Gabe: You have anything else you’d like to leave us with?
Phil: We’re going to be out on tour in March with Ginny Owens and Adam Cappa. And then we’ll be out in April opening for Mercy Me! So, I guess people should look out for those dates! Come out and see what we do!
Gabe: Thanks for your time Phil!
Phil: See ya Gabe!
Stay up to date with tour dates and band news on http://www.zealandworship.com/!