Legendary rock vocalist, Grammy and Dove Award-winning Christian music artist and GMA Hall of Famer John Schlitt has released his first solo album of original material in seven years. GO, an 11-song collection of sanctified rock 'n' roll, was offered as a limited digital pre-release through Schlitt's website in December 2019, and the project's official digital and physical CD release is set for February 28, 2020. GO will be available for sale from 4K Records through iTunes, Amazon, and other digital media outlets.
In an unusual move, the project-although a 2020 release-was tapped in pre-release as one of the Top 10 Albums of 2019 by Classic Christian Rock Magazine, which extols the project's sweet melodies, direct lyrics, and Schlitt's seemingly ageless vocal prowess. GO joins chart toppers and fan favorites on CCR's 2019 "Best Of" list, including projects by Newsboys, Michael Sweet, David & the Giants, and Guardian's Jamie Rowe.
Q: John, thanks for doing this interview with us. Congratulations on the release of your new album "Go." This is also your first album in seven years, why was there such a long wait between albums?
Those seven years went by really fast! I spent the first year and a half after The Greater Cause was released, basically promoting it and touring with it. About that time, I started recording with The Union of Sinners & Saints, and it took about seven months to do that.
In the meantime, I was still working with The Greater Cause, and once The Union's album came out, we started promoting that, which was another year and a half to two years. At the same time, I've got John Schlitt Ministries and associated projects, which took up a lot more time than I thought it would... not to mention the Jay Sekulow Band, doing live online concerts. So, to give you a quick answer to a quick question-I was very busy!
Q: "Classic Christian Rock" magazine has already named "Go" one of the best albums of the year. How does that make you feel?
The fact that the album wasn't even officially out in 2019... I was very honored. It was a beautiful way to start the introduction of the CD, and I was very blessed.
Q: Who are some of the songwriters and producers you have worked with for this record?
I used Dan Needham, my son-in-law, whom I've worked with on my last four solo albums. He did six of the songs. John Lawry, my buddy from Petra who is a great producer, did three songs, and then I was very blessed to have Mark Townsend, the guitar player/band leader for the Jay Sekulow Band.
I could count on Dan because we have a great track record; John Lawry wasn't a risk either, because we've done projects together throughout the years. Mark was a new contact as far as production, but I've watched him with the Jay Sekulow Band, and he is amazing! I liked the idea of the variety. Different mindsets, different ways of looking at producing... I felt that all three directions were very safe-and it turned out that I was right!
All my producers co-wrote with me, which is always a blessing because they're putting that extra touch into each song. They can really relate to the music as we're making it; that's always a major plus when you can do that.
With Dan, we brought in guitar player/writers because we wanted that rock feel, that guitar-rock of the '70s. That was a very good formula. We brought in Scott Bernard, Scott Faircloff, Jeff King, Jerry McPherson - they are all guitar players who came in with a guitar-centered mindset. We would sit down, and Dan would say "Guys, have you got a lick or something? We're looking for that '70s-'80s guitar lick type of song," and every time one of them would say "oh yeah, I got this" and he would start playing something, and another would say "hey, what about this?" and that's how the writing of those songs started. It was a great formula for Dan's material.
Mark, on the other hand, came in as a guitar player with a totally different attitude. He came in with almost an acoustic-rock feel which made for a totally different formula, but it ended up being a '70s-'80s type of feel which was fantastic. It wasn't planned; it just worked out that way.
Of course, Johnny (Lawry) comes in and he's got that keyboard mindset. We brought in Ryan Horn, taking his song and bringing it up to the next level. We brought in a guy named Chuck Anderson who actually was a buddy of mine; we had been writing together just for something to do here and there, and we came up with the song "Where Would I Be." I love this one because it has a Motown feel. We handed it to Johnny, who said, "Oh yeah... this is what we're going to do with this!"
So that's how the collaborations worked with these different songs and the different song writers. It's not necessarily unique to have so many different songwriters, but it adds to the variety. Every person I've mentioned is an A-artist, and that kind of quality just came naturally. When it was all said and done, it was quite an ensemble of talent.
Q: Did you approach the making of this album any differently compared to your previous records?
Yes, actually I did-with the inclusion of three different producers. We wanted to make sure, especially with Dan, that it was a '70s-'80s direction with 2020 sounds. With that, I told John and Mark to go in the same type of direction, and they took it and ran with it. I wanted to make sure it had a rock sound; the rock sound that I'm known for-but with the 21st century techniques. As far as the direction of the subject matter, that was the idea behind using an amazing talent pool-all my producers, writers and musicians-and being able to use that to bring across the message that changes lives: Jesus Christ.
Q: Why did you entitle the album "Go"?
Very simple-every song seemed to head in that direction. The three different producers didn't set out to do that, but when we sat down and all 11 songs were written, GO just came out... it just shined. There was no other title for it. It was there... it had to be.
Q: Talk to us about the album's single "Feel it." What's the story behind this song?
It was one of two choices as far as being the first single, and it was the more aggressive of the two choices. "Feel It" is basically saying "Can you walk, go forward, and feel the power of Jesus Christ? Go forward... and feel it. Understand it. Know it's the Holy Spirit."
Q: My favorite song off the new album is "Fighting the Fight." Tell us more about this song.
That was a real blessing. Ryan Horn, good friend of mine, came to me and said "John, I have a song. I've really wanted to record this for a long time. Would you consider doing it?" So, I had John Lawry put it together for him; we re-wrote it, and I sang it. When it was finished-I loved it. I thought it was amazing. It was a beautiful song to start with, and we put on the finishing touches.
Q: On the track "Not Dead Yet," you claim that you can still compete with all the new and younger artists. What do you think of the current state of Christian music now?
I think it's very skillful. The recording techniques are incredible, the musicianship is really good, and the artistry of the music is top-notch. It's generally not my cup of tea, though. I lean a bit more towards evangelism and I think the music today is a little more encouraging, more geared toward the Church.
Q: What's the secret of your longevity in this music industry and also as a Christian in this world?
I love what I do. It's what I'm supposed to do, as far as the longevity in the music business. You'll never work a day in your life if you do what you love. As far as being a Christian-what other options are there?