MercyMe releases exclusive iTunes project

Before a show in Irvine, Calif. last fall, MercyMe spent a day in the studio recording their "iTunes Original," a collection of six exclusive new recordings, in-depth interviews with frontman Bart Millard and key tracks from MercyMe's previous releases. The set list includes "I Would Die for You," the Dove Award-winning and No. 1 single "Word of God Speak," a cover of Tom Petty's "Won't Back Down," and their multi-format smash hit "I Can Only Imagine." The iTunes Original released in March and went to No.1 on the iTunes Christian album chart and No. 32 on their overall chart.

Five-time Grammy winner and multi-platinum selling artist, Steven Curtis Chapman received a star on Nashville's Music City Walk of Fame on April 20. Chapman has more than 10 million records and 44  No. 1 radio hits to his credit and has been awarded 51 Dove Awards, more than any other artist.

After Delirious drummer Stew Smith announced to fans in February that he was leaving the band, the search was on for his replacement. Smith himself helped in the search, which has ended with the announcement that drummer Paul Evans is joining the band. Evans has a solid resume that includes tracks on more than 40 professional albums, including projects by Tim Hughes, Matt Redman, Ben Cantelon, Graham Kendrick, One Hundred Hours, Brenton Brown, Cathy Burton and more. He even filled in for Smith during the band's 2006 U.S. tour. Delirious is currently on a world tour in support of their eleventh studio album, Kingdom of Comfort.

Fans of Southern Gospel are invited to vote for their favorite artists, songs, Web sites and more for the 2008 SGN Scoops Diamond Awards. Ballots can be found by visiting www.diamondawardsonline.com. The deadline for voting is May 17. The awards presentation will take place on Sept. 12 in Louisville, Ky. during the week of the National Quartet Convention and will be hosted by Karen Peck Gooch (of Karen Peck & New River) and Johnathan Bond (of Young Harmony).

Each season, Fox's "American Idol" has at least one contestant sharing a Christian testimony, but this year the faith factor kicked it up a notch with the finale of the "Idol Gives Back" special in April. The show's finale had the final eight contestants singing (minus the first verse that starts "My Jesus, My Savior") popular praise song "Shout to the Lord." The next night, the group sang the song again, this time with the first verse. Given that The Clark Brothers, winners of Fox's fan-driven contest for "The Next Great American Band," were blatant Christians, maybe the mainstream music industry is starting to get the hint that not only is a lot of Christian music good, but it's also very popular with mainstream audiences.

Telecast's latest album has one overriding message for listeners: Clear away the noise, turn off the gadgets and get back to basics. "I want to bring theology back to music and be as Jesus-focused as possible. Pure and simple," says vocalist and songwriter Josh White. The band's third album, "Quiet Revolution," is a beautifully crafted collection of 12 songs that serve as a call to holiness for believers. In support of their forthcoming release, Telecast hits the road with the Robbie Seay Band in May.

With the release of their latest album, "Hawk Nelson Is My Friend," the band proved that indeed, they have many friends. The album debuted on iTunes at No. 13 on the Top 100 and on the Billboard Top 200 at No. 34, and has garnered rave reviews from Christian and mainstream media outlets.

Ashley Cleveland, who took home the Grammy this year for Best Rock Gospel Album of the Year, has a new home. The three-time Grammy winner recently signed with KOCH Records, also the new home to season three American Idol contestant George Huff.

Internationally-renowned worship artist Alvin Slaughter releases his seventh album, "Overcomer," on May 13. Slaughter hopes the album will bring life-changing principles and leadership skills that will inspire and motivate thousands across age, gender, and denominational lines. Overcomer was produced and arranged by Grammy Award-winning producer Aaron Lindsey (Israel and New Breed).

Crunk rock's Family Force Five is back in the studio working on their sophomore album. Their 2006 debut, "Business up Front, Party in the Back," was a smash hit, selling 110,000 copies, racking up two No. 1 rock radio hits and catapulting them onto the music scene with performances on CBS's "The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson" and DIRECTV's "CD USA," music video play on MTVU.com, and a win as Yahoo! Music's "Who's Next" contest. The new album is slated for a summer release.

IndieHeaven recently presented its Momentum Awards, given to the industry's best independent artists. This year's winners include Southern Gospel Artist of the Year Cathy Reynolds, Jazz Artist of the Year Drew Davidsen, Urban Artist of the Year Alyce Metallo, Worship Artist of the Year Broken Vessels, and Rock Artist of the Year Mile7. Album of the Year honors went to Donna Kay and the Hardest Working Indie Artist award went to Bread of Stone. For a complete list of winners, visit www.indieheaven.com.

This year's GMA Music in the Rockies, Aug. 3 to 9, boasts an incredible line-up of daily classes designed for artists, songwriters and worship leaders as well as career development and networking opportunities. The GMA Academy National Competition, the official GMA talent competition for unsigned artists and songwriters, has seen entrants like "American Idol" winner Jordin Sparks, Chris Tomlin, Matthew West and BarlowGirl go on to successful careers. The newly redesigned talent competition features prizes from Walt Disney World, American Bible Society, Centricity Music and Compassion International. More information on registration and event details is available at www.musicintherockies.com.


Entertainment notes are compiled from artist interviews and press releases.