The Christian music group NewSong was originally a 9-member church band for Morningside Baptist Church in Valdosta, Georgia before they gradually branched out to other churches. In 1981, four of the nine - Eddie Carswell, Billy Goodwin, Eddie Middleton and the late Bobby Apon - made the decision to pursue music and ministry full-time. Goodwin recalled in the band's online biography that it was at a high school assembly, when the four sensed the turning point. "In a real way, God sort of just showed up there," he said. "We just gave a concert and at the end, by a show of hands, virtually every student in the place had made a decision for Christ. We asked a coach if we could ask students to come forward, and suddenly there were 700 kids walking toward us. The whole community was changed. We knew it wasn't a question of 'if,' but rather 'when.'"
After recording self-released albums in 1981, NewSong signed on with Covenant Records, and released The Son In My Eyes
the next year. 2000's Sheltering Tree
was their first album to reach the Billboard 200, peaking at #130. It featured as a bonus track their mainstream hit single "The Christmas Shoes
." 2011's One True God
, which reached #27 on the Billboard 200 is their most successful album to date.
Throughout the years, and changes in the group, NewSong have accumulated numerous #1 radio singles, including 1997's "Miracles," which was named American Songwriter magazine's '97 Christian Song of the Year. That same year, NewSong was voted 'Group of the Year' by industry trade journal Christian Research Report.
Of the four founder members, Eddie Middleton left to pursue a solo career in 1993, and Bobby Apon left to spend more time with his family. However Eddie Carswell and Billy Goodwin are still with the group.
Founding member Bobby Apon committed suicide in 1999 leaving his wife Lori and 8 children between the ages of 1 and 11. He was recognized on the album Arise, My Love, The Very Best of NewSong.
is NewSong's principal songwriter. He told us that he started off writing by himself as he "didn't know anybody else back then to start writing with." He explained: "I didn't start in Nashville around all the other writers that might say, 'Hey, let's get together so we can write a song.' I was just a guy that was married, had a couple of little kids, and always liked to write songs. I was in a band, and we lived in Atlanta, so I started writing songs for that. Pretty much all it was by myself through the years."
As the years went by, other people with songwriting experience joined the group including Leonard Ahlstrom, who was a songwriter for a publishing company. As a consequence, Carswell started writing with other band members more. "And then other guys in the band were writers," he told us, "so it's gotten so at least a couple of us, sometimes three or four of us, get together and write."
A writer friend of Carswell, Donna VanLiere put together a book based on "The Christmas Shoes"
, which was on the New York Times
bestseller list in 2002. It was later made into a TV movie for CBS, called The Christmas Shoes
, which was the second highest-rated TV movie of the 2002–2003 season. VanLiere has since penned several more books inspired by the song in different ways and there have been a couple more spin-off movies.
Arising from the success of "The Christmas Shoes," NewSong started doing a Christmas tour every year and recorded a Christmas album, also titled The Christmas Shoes, which was released in 2001 and nominated for a Grammy For Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album. The band recorded another Christmas album in 2006, titled A Christmas Hope , which was based on another Donna VanLiere book. Carswell told us the success of the song has, "really given us a real Christmas life in NewSong, things we do. We're out there doing 15 or 20 Christmas concerts every year."
NewSong are the founders of the Winter Jam Tour Spectacular, the United States' largest annual Christian music tour, which only charges $10 for 10 bands. The mega-event has had some history-making moments along the way, such as setting a record in 1999 for the largest attended indoor event in South Carolina's history. The Gospel Music Association presented its prestigious Impact Award to the Winter Jam Tour Spectacular in 2009, in recognition of the Tour's continued success. Carswell told us that it started off as just NewSong, "in the beginning. And then we started inviting a friend, because we didn't put out new music enough to keep it that current back then. And then we invited two or three friends."
The tour was originally called January Jam, as January was an easy month to fill. "But then it was going so well we were playing January Jam in February," Carswell told us, "so we changed it to Winter Jam and in the last few years started making it 10 bands for 10 bucks. And it's just growing and growing and growing and growing."
NewSong worked for years with Seattle-based World Vision, an evangelical relief organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide in tackling poverty and injustice. Then, in 2006, the band decided to focus its social justice efforts specifically on helping orphans through adoption and partnered with Holt International, which specializes in adoption and child welfare around the world. Winter Jam 2009, alone, resulted in the sponsorship of more than 4,600 children through the charity.