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Winter Jam brings music, worship together

Annual Christian tour with 10 performers stopping at Coliseum

We The Kingdom are headlining this year’s Winter Jam, which stops by the Memorial Coliseum on Thursday, Feb. 2.

Published January 25, 2023

The contemporary Christian tour Winter Jam is making its way back to Memorial Coliseum.

Costing just $15 at the door, the show features seven acts, headlined by We the Kingdom, as well as a speaker and three “prejam” artists.

“It’s such an eclectic night of music,” said Jeremy Camp, a Capitol CMG artist and Lafayette native, about the show Thursday, Feb. 2. “A lot of people might be like, ‘Hey, come to this concert,’ and people will just go because it’s a concert, but then the gospel is being preached very clearly. For me, that’s one of my greatest joys.”

‘Three-minute sermons’

For those unfamiliar with the tour, Winter Jam began in 1995 as the brainchild of the band NewSong, who is on the 2023 bill with We the Kingdom, Camp, Andy Mineo, Anne Wilson, Disciple, and Austin French. Zane Black will be a speaker, and prejam artists include Thrive Worship, Sean Be, and Renee.

The tour began as a way for people to attend a concert and hear the gospel at a low price, and that has continued 28 years later.

For French, the ability to preach through song is important to him, as he might have a chance to reach someone at a concert that might not have stepped foot in a church.

“I think a song does a lot,” he said. “When I think about what I do, these songs are like three-minute sermons that can reach someone who might not step foot in a church. They may stumble upon it on the radio or streaming. I have a couple songs that have played in some TV commercials, and people may look it up. It’s crazy how a song is so disarming. Doing this is kind of like a missionary journey.”

Broken people

French’s journey began as the son of a preacher, but he says not everything was as it seemed.

“I had a lot of bitterness toward the church as a kid,” he said in a phone interview. “My dad was a minister, and our lives looked totally different at home. My dad was pretty abusive at home. We were taught to perform at church like everything was fine and dandy, but it wasn’t. Our life fell apart, and I was so bitter toward the church and so bitter toward Christians … . I didn’t want to be one. When I was 13 is when I accepted Jesus as my savior, because God pretty much said, ‘Don’t judge Jesus on the broken people he came to save.’ That was kind of the moment things got real for me.”

And music helped guide him back to the church. When he heard Casting Crowns’ “If We Are the Body,” his life changed.

“It was a game-changing song for me,” he said. “That was the moment that I realized everyone around me was just as broken as me. Broken people do just really hurt each other, but if we can find a group of people to be honest with and find a place that can be a shelter and refuge, we get to grow together towards a savior that is perfect.”

French released Wide Open in 2018 and was nominated as Best New Artist at the 2019 GMA Dove Awards. He’s currently working on his follow-up album, Wake Up Sleeper, with the single “Jesus Can,” being autobiographical.

“It’s my testimony in song, so it’s a really special thing to be able to share the song and hear how God’s using it,” French said.

As far as the rest of the album goes, he’s not giving much away, but you just might hear something new at Winter Jam.

“I’ve been writing a lot, so you just need to keep your eyes out and ears out,” he said. “Who knows when we’re going to release it, but we’re working on it.”

Camp’s cross-over success

French is relatively new to the scene, but Camp has been going strong since 2000’s Burden Me.

Since then, Camp has released 12 albums, won six GMA Dove Awards and six American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers Awards. He’s also experienced cross-over success, receiving nominations for a Grammy and three American Music Awards.

“It’s one of those things you never take for granted, and if you do, you have to take a step back,” Camp said in a phone interview. “I’m super thankful. I’m really blown away by what God has done. He’s really opened doors that I could not have imagined.”

One of those doors was the 2020 film I Still Believe about his life. Starring Gary Sinise and Shania Twain, the film covers a tragic time in Camp’s life when his first wife, Melissa, died from cancer shortly after the two were wed in 2001.

“I never compromise what I do, and if God wants to open a door in that arena, that’s great,” he said of reaching secular audiences. “Then he opened a door for a movie to come out, and that was mind blowing, because Lionsgate is this big studio in Hollywood that decided to do this film on my life. That was just a huge honor. Then to have Gary Sinise and Shania Twain, K.J. Apa and Britt Robinson playing in the movie was just one of those things that when you’re growing up, you’re thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to have a movie about my life with all these awesome actors and Academy Award-winning actor Gary Sinise playing my dad.’”

Camp has continued putting out music, his latest album being 2021’s When You Speak.

Tour of duty

This year’s Winter Jam began Jan. 13 in Tampa, Florida, and the artists won’t be getting much time off until it ends March 25 in Spokane, Washington. By the time it’s finished, the tour will have visited 40 cities in just over two months.

“It’s not a new thing for me, but for a new artist, I can see it being like, ‘Whoa,’ ” Camp said of the tour, which he was also on in 2005 and 2015. “I’ve learned to pace myself.”

This will also be French’s third time on the tour, having performed in 2019 and 2020, although the latter tour as “cut a little short” because of you know what.

“I am so excited,” he said. “It’s one of my favorite tours.

“The curse of being a touring artist is that you don’t get to go to shows, because you are the one putting on shows every weekend,” he added. “This tour really is a chance to see some of my favorite artists.”

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