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Phil Joel Bibliography: (click on each album cover to view tracks and Phil Joel lyrics)
Phil Joel Biography
For believers tired of their own religious mediocrity Phil Joel offers a hopeful, can-do message: Fall in love again!
Led to examine his own commitment to his faith, Joel crafts a soundtrack of personal revolution with his second solo effort, Bring It On (inpop), a rock record of unusual depth, vulnerably revealing the recommitment he made, cultivating deeper, Christ-centered roots that strengthened him to reach higher and higher for God. "This record is one man crying out to God through song," explains the New Zealand-born guitarist.
Joel's spiritual gut check hit him one day two years ago playing guitar on the back porch of his Franklin, Tenn., home. "I wasn't doing anything bad, but I just didn't feel like I was doing anything right, either."
The anticipated birth of his first child struck him first. "What is she going to pick up from me? Is she going to know the Lord from what's happening in this house?" he wondered.
Scrutinized next was career. Joel, a musician of expanding clout successfully juggling his solo act and the demands of Newsboys, exercised a hectic schedule, making church life an occasional luxury instead of regular necessity.
"I began to see how I'd been ripped off, not by tragic failures we may see others fall by, but by the most simple of things, like attitudes and pride, things that made me take my life into my own hands." The attitude flew in the face of the image of the Christian he thought he was, and Joel knew it. "I was sort of sick of myself."
Inside him a defiant spirit whipped up. "Show me what it is You want me to see. Show me the people You want to use to teach me those things. Jesus, make me the man that you want me to be," he prayed.
Through the course of the next year he cleared away the clutter and the disrepair. He built new foundations of prayer and Bible study with the guidance of trusted Christians in his community. "The Lord compelled me to shore things up with Him; He was pushing me to discover Him better. To write these songs, certain loose ends about my faith had to come to resolute conclusions.
"I'd tried to play God and ask God to bless what I was doing," Phil says. "Now, my confidence isn't in myself so much, but in God. I wake up in the morning, and I'm jazzed to meet the Lord, to see what He's doing. It's a daily acknowledgment of God being God and me being me."
The introspective, narrative coherence of Bring It On is matched by musical elements grounded in solid rock and pop song structures. The raw lyrics of the album expose the vulnerable yearnings of Phil Joel's constantly transforming soul, while the rough-hewn edge of his guitar conveys not the cliches of rock sociology, but the realities of spiritual revolution. "These songs are prayers, and writing them has changed me."
Bring It On's opening track, "Resolution," was inspired by his men's prayer group and celebrates a Christian man's reaffirmation of fundamental faith values. A maniacal laugh at the top of the song warns would-be foes-pride, selfishness, conceit-that Joel is crazy enough and brave enough to escalate this fight beyond himself, calling on the church at large to join in. "Move," another revolutionary anthem deceptively disguised as a fun rock song, affirms the scheme.
Joel clearly finds the strength to lead the charge by trusting God deeply, as described in "I Adore You," the record's understated first radio single. What starts as a timid prayer builds into a proclamation of faith. "Either you trust God or you don't," Joel says plainly. "Do you trust God is going to take care of this? Do you trust that God is sovereign? There will always be questions, but we can trust God."
The storytelling hub of this record is also the project's most vulnerable moment. "The Man You Want Me To Be" starts as a timid but earnest prayer; by the end, the song builds into a Braveheartesque declaration. The album closes with "Take My Heart," a no-holds barred self-offering: "I'll be me, You be You/I want what You want/Take my heart, take it all/I'm so tired of myself."
Joel characterizes Bring It On as a more organic record. Not only does it include the driving guitar and drums anyone would expect of a rock album, but it also displays an array of obscure instruments such as the udu, Irish tin whistle and harmoniums to add texture to the sound.
Enlisting the talents of producer Joe Baldridge (Jewel, Self, Newsboys) and a number of players-including Lindsey Jamison, Justin York and John Painter-Joel experienced the unexpected bonus of building an inspiring community around the record. "After what God has shown me about how much we all need other believers, I just wasn't satisfied getting too many computers involved," he laughs, commenting on the record's talented supporting cast.
"I actually feel like the Lord has me in boot camp this year and I've really grown up in my faith because of it," says Phil. "I'm an entirely different person today. If people get anything from this music, I hope they will feel a hunger for the righteousness of God as I did-the crying out for God as David did, the very things that inspired him to write the Psalms. I hope they find the courage to simply say, 'Here I am, Lord. Bring it on!'"