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For powerhouse pop band FFH, life couldn't be more in focus than it is right now as they prepare to launch their fifth studio album, Still the Cross.
Timing is everything, or so the old adage goes. And true perspective-the kind it takes to see clearly-can only be gained over time. Time to see the path ahead come sharply in focus.
For FFH, everything has come together to bring them to this milestone in their journey when their one central passion as a band has never been more clearly defined in their music and their ministry. Their new album title sums up their message and their mission in three simple words. It's Still The Cross.
With career sales of more than 1 million, seven No. 1 radio hits, 17 Top 5 singles and multiple Dove Award nominations under their belt, FFH members Jeromy and Jennifer Deibler, Brian Smith and Michael Boggs could easily rest on their laurels and stay safely tucked away in their well-earned place among Christian music's most elite if they chose to do so.
But along with their success has come the challenge of adapting to change. And for FFH, change came on both the personal and professional landscapes. Over the past year-and-a-half since the release of the group's last project, Ready to Fly, the band members have ventured into bold new territories. Jeromy and Jennifer have joyfully taken on the challenges of parenthood with the birth of their first son, Hutch, while Brian and his wife Allyson are preparing for the birth of their second child. Jeromy has individually continued to sharpen his production skills while working with artists like Big Daddy Weave and Palisade on their recent albums. While Michael has been honing his songwriting skills, new relationships and new opportunities have developed within the industry for his creative giftings.
With fresh personal considerations involving home and family life vs. road life and new professional opportunities popping up, Jeromy, Jennifer, Brian and Michael arrived at a crossroad in the journey. "We're back at the launch of Still The Cross, after all having experienced life outside of FFH for a while notes Jeromy. "If ever there was a time we were going to turn back on our vision-if we were going to quit, the months leading up to the new record gave us the opportunities. What we got instead as a group was an opportunity to gain a renewed focus. God has told us all in no uncertain terms that this is where we're supposed to be. He has really given us a true passion about our jobs again and more than ever we feel called to do what we're doing."
In fact, not only does the band have a renewed commitment, but there is an obvious excitement and collective hunger about what the future holds for them as they reach another epic milestone in the history of FFH. Still the Cross is undoubtedly the group's most musically ambitious album to date, showcasing a mix of melodic pop that is both powerful and subtle, and certainly their most hands-on project yet.
"I feel a level of confidence in our music that we've never felt before," says Jeromy. "He's given us all a desire to improve and we're involved in every part of the record-making process. We have a lot of creative freedom in the studio, and in many ways I feel like we're just in the beginning of our stride. We've worked very hard at this and it's really an authentic picture of who FFH is."
Still the Cross features seven tracks co-produced by Jeromy and the band's long-time producer Scott Williamson, while three cuts were produced by Mark Miller (Casting Crowns, Sawyer Brown). "I was initially drawn to the integrity of the music and the ministry intent of FFH," Miller shares. "I'm pleased to be a part of a project that is a definite 'coming of age' venture for them as a band."
One listen to the new album proves that this is not a group chasing trends or singing songs that are more craft than substance. All of the album's 10 songs were written or co-written by Jeromy, Michael and Brian, including the title cut. A powerful anthem for the Church, Still the Cross captures the heart of what FFH hopes to communicate most clearly this time around.
"That song's been teaching me a lot about having eternal eyes," says Jennifer. "It's so easy for me to get wrapped up in my every day and just focus on all that is going on with me. But God's been showing me how none of that really matters. It's so important to see the things that are eternal."
"I think it's pretty cool that after five records and thousands of concerts, as a band we're still committed to the same thing we were on the first record," Michael adds. "We've written lots of songs and we've talked about a lot of different things. But when it comes down to it, it's still all about the cross."
"If there's a statement we want to make right now," Jeromy says, "it's this one about Jesus. This is the statement we'll hang our hat on. It's about hope."
Other album highlights include the infectious rocker "Without You" (co-written with Aaron Benward); "You and Only You," a piano-driven song written about the Deibler's new son; the melodic "You Love Me Anyway," with it's simple message about grace; and the touching "Cover Me," written after a friend's five-year-old son passed away.
"This was one of those records that sort of just came together for us," Michael explains. "It was really a band thing for us in the studio; what you see us do live is what you're going to hear on this album. I believe this is song-for-song better than anything we've ever done, and that's because it comes from an honest place. We weren't concerned about writing what's good for radio, we just wrote what was on our heart."
With an ever-widening audience, FFH continues to perform an average of more than a hundred concerts each year, only half of which are in churches. But while this is a band that is poised to impact the mainstream, they are more committed than ever to making music that reflects Jesus in real life bold in their faith, honest in their lives.
"Our biggest reward is seeing people's lives changed," Brian says. "If we weren't able to see that happening every night, it would be difficult to keep doing what we do."
"More than ever, we know that God has called us to reach people, and we can't do that effectively by staying inside the walls of the church every night," Jeromy adds. "But wherever we go, we want people to know who we are and that we love Christ. That's still what it's all about, and it always will be." It's Still The Cross."