Newly formed Christian rock band, The Union of Sinners and Saints, which features members from Petra and Whiteheart, two of the best selling Christian Rock bands of all time, has announced their debut radio single.
"Christ the Lord is Risen Today," a scorching rock rendition of the classic Charles Wesley hymn, is the first single from the band's upcoming, self-titled debut album. The single showcases an updated rock sound, including soaring signature John Schlitt vocals and production that echoes the familiar Whiteheart sound.
We are honored to catch up with John Schlitt for this interview.
Hallels: Thanks for doing this interview with us. I am so excited about The Union of Sinners and Saints, which is the coming together of two of Christian music great bands, Whiteheart and Petra. Tell us how this union came about?
About this time last year, Billy Smiley and I ran into each other at the NRB Convention (National Religious Broadcasters) and Billy, being the go-getter he is, said "John - we need to write together." I really didn't write that much, but I said "You know what? That sounds like a great idea..." but I really didn't take it seriously. A lot of people say those kinds of things but it never happens. But Billy persisted, and we finally got together. Things started working really well and by the time we knew it we had songs together; he felt it was worth his while to produce it. So we started getting friends together and it all formulated into the music that will be out in June as "The Union of Sinners and Saints."
Hallels: Why did you end up calling yourself "The Union of Sinners and Saints"?
It's not easy to come up with a cool title of a band or an album! This was probably our third or fourth option, but when it finally came together we felt that the name was a good representation of both bands coming together in unity and stating a fact that none of us are saints by any means. We're actually sinners but through the blood of Jesus Christ we can also call ourselves saints. So all that working together seemed to be a very unique but very appropriate title for us and the music that we play.
Hallels: Let's talk of your new single "Christ the Lord is Risen Today." Why release this old Wesley hymn as your debut single for the group?
Petra and Whiteheart are obviously rock bands. It's hard for many people to relate to; there's always been controversy involved in Christian rock. We wanted to start with a very traditional and familiar praise song and mix it together with an exciting music form that we're known for--rock 'n roll. The blending of the familiar classic and the passion of rock was a good representation of the music of The Union. Is the rest of the album going to be like that? Not necessarily; we still believe in praise & worship, but we believe in praise & worship our style. So it seemed like the right thing to do.
Hallels: For our readers who have not heard the hymn yet, how did you re-imagine this hymn that reflects your own identity?
I answered a little bit of that in the question before, but rock 'n roll is a very thrilling music form. Hymns are very rich in messages--this one especially. What we wanted to do was take that exciting music form, singing about an exciting subject, Jesus Christ, and use traditional words, melting them together in an unusual but appropriate way.
Hallels: Is this the only hymn or cover from your forthcoming album?
It is the only hymn, but it's not the only cover. We're actually taking a Petra song and a Whiteheart song and redoing them with a more live and current sound.
Hallels: Can you give us some details to your upcoming album? When it be released? Who did you work with on this new record?
The album will officially be out June 17; in addition to Billy and myself, we worked with Anthony Sallee (Whiteheart) on bass, new artist Jason Fowler on guitar and vocals, Steve Brewster (Peter Cetera) on drums, Jonathan Crone on guitar, and John Ellis, lead singer from Tree63, on guitar and vocals. On select songs we had Michael W. Smith on keys, Bob Hartman (Petra) on guitar, John Lawry (Petra) on keys, Brian Wooten (Whiteheart, Trace Adkins) on guitar, Chris McHugh (Whiteheart, Keith Urban) on drums, Brennan Smiley (The Technicolors) on guitar, Peter Furler (Newsboys) on drums and vocals, and Dave Ellefson (Megadeth) on bass. These are all amazing artists and a great culmination of friends that we've known over the years, which is really what we wanted to do--bring in a lot of excellent musicians that are old friends that would relate to our music style and would have fun playing it with us.
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