NOTE: This is the third in a four-part 2018 Winter Jam Tour Spectacular preview leading up to the Jan. 26 performance in Des Moines, Iowa.
Lead singer and guitarist Jason Roy of Building 429 was on the beach in sunny Florida soaking up some sunshine when he got the call for this interview from a couple of thousand miles away in what was then an arctic tundra called Iowa.
When told it was below zero in the heartland, Roy chuckled and said he was thankful to be right where he was at that very moment, thank you very much.
“Yeah, I’m sure glad to be right here when I hear that,” he laughed. “Oh, man.”
Roy, who co-founded the group in 1999 with then-bassist Scotty Beshears, is now teamed with drummer Michael Anderson, guitarist/keyboardist Jesse Garcia, and bassist Aaron Branch. The foursome has captured a Grammy Award nomination, Christian Song of the Year honors (2012 and 2013), and numerous other honors during its drive in becoming a legitimate force in the Christian music scene. Being a part of the massive success that is the 2018 Winter Jam Tour Spectacular, then, is a no-brainer for the group, now 17 years and nine albums into their own version of a dream come true.
“It’s one of those things where we’ve become friends and family with them (Winter Jam),” Roy said during the brief phone interview. “Every now and then they’ll give us a call and ask us what we think, and we’re always game for it. It’s an honor to be a part of it. On this go-round, we’re friends with everyone, so that makes for a great backstage feel that’s going to flow right out onto the stage.”
Christian music fans in central Iowa will get a first-hand look this Friday night when the tour rolls north and into Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, bringing the usual crowd-pleasing mix of pop, rock, rap and worship, led by Building 429, platinum-selling rockers Skillet, 3-time Dove Award winner Kari Jobe, comedian John Crist, rapper KB, tour founders NewSong, and Jordan Feliz and Nick Hall.
Roy spoke with ListenIowa about the near miss with “Where I Belong,” a new album (hopefully) on the way this summer titled “The Journey,” and his love of sports, among other things.
Is there anything different on this Winter Jam tour than the others you’ve been a part of?
It’s cool to have (comedian) John Crist out there, which is something different and good. It’s a shot in the arm to walk out the on day one and be relaxed and know that we’re going to be able to do what we’re called to do. Every artist on this tour does something different, and that’s really cool.
Does the format take some getting used to? You’ve got four or five songs, and you’re done. Normally that’s just the warm-up time for a band like Building 429.
We’ve been headlining our own shows for 10 years, and we’re used to playing for an hour-an-a-half or two hours. It’s definitely a big change, and I’ve got to get warmed up backstage, because by the time we get to the last song here, that’s when my voice is usually ready to kick into gear. (laughs) And not to mention that we can’t really play all the songs that people want to hear in 20 minutes. There’s just no way. You have to chop it up and figure out how to fit it all in.
How do you choose a setlist, then, knowing there’s a lot that will be left out?
We have so many songs through the years. We have No. 1 songs that, if we played them, people would stare at us like, “What’s that?” They won’t even know what the song is. For us, it’s trial and error. I started working on this set in June and have had probably 20 versions of it. And then we played the first show in January, and I wasn’t happy with it. So we changed it again. We try to find the songs that are going to connect the most people and leave the listeners encouraged. Sometimes you can go out and set off fireballs and whatever, and that’s fine, but are you leaving anything with them in the process?
Speaking of songs, let’s talk about “Where I Belong,” (from the band’s 2011 album, “Listen to the Sound”) which will be a part of the Building 429 legacy forever. If you turn on a Christian music station and stick around long enough, you’ll hear it. It’s a radio staple, even this far down the line. Is that tune something special for you guys, or is it just another one of your babies?
No, no, no, no, no. What you have to know about that song that makes it really special is how close it came to never being heard, how close it came to not even being on the record, how close it came to not even being a single. That song was a juggernaut. It just took off. It was a God thing. I think our record label thought, “Yeah, we’ll just send it out and see if it works.” It got sent out in November, I think it was, and it wasn’t doing very well. The record company was like, “Guys, we don’t know if this is going to work.” Then January came around, and it just took off. So that will always be special to us. There weren’t any markers to tell us that it was going to be gigantic, just our hearts telling us that it was something we had to say. We fought and fought and fought, and then finally got it on the radio where it almost failed. (laughs) God had His way of getting it done, though.
Are there any other parts of the set, whether it’s with Winter Jam or your own tour, that are especially fun for you to perform?
I have to admit that in my heart and in my soul I’m an athlete. I love athletics. I love music, and it seems like it could be on Sports Center. I like that stuff. It’s inspiring. So we’re playing “Impossible” and “Bonfire” that are not necessarily radio songs, but they matter to me and they matter to our fans. Probably the coolest thing we’re doing is playing a new song, which I’ve only been working on for a year-and-a-half (laughs). It’s about time we get to play something new. (laughs)
You just released the single, “This Place,” which is brand new. Is this just a stand-alone single you wanted the people to hear, or is it to tease some new material, specifically a new album?
Exactly. It’s the first thing that’s ready off of our new record. Is is radio friendly? Not necessarily. We feel like we are putting together what’s going to be the work of our career. I’m excited about the future and am in a good place in my life where I can say, “Hey, I’ve made a few mistake in my life here and there and I’d love to share them with you and remind you what I’ve come to know through them. I’m excited about the new record, which is tentatively called “The Journey.”
Any timeline for its release?
Glad you asked. It’s continuously being backed up, so I’m always hesitant to give it one, but if it’s not out by this summer, it might never come out. (laughs)
I’ve been posing this last question to some of the other artists, and I’ll ask you, too: What do you hope people get from attending Winter Jam?
“This Place” is intentionally there for a reason. The first lyrics are “This floor, these walls/all the stories that they would tell if they talked/all the crippled hearts that got up and walked/it’s holy ground.” I think what we want to do with our time in Winter Jam is to remind people that whatever place they find themselves in, whether it be a place of fear, a place of doubt, a place of addiction or a place of “What in the world has happened to our country?” Whatever those places may be, we just want to remind them that everything can change. Everyone can change, and everything can change. Ultimately, the change is us. It’s you and me. It’s the body of Christ standing up and saying, “We believe in a living God.” It’s funny, because Winter Jam is a perfect microcosm of what the world could look like. You look around and you see different colors, you see different ages, you see different religious backgrounds. But what’s interesting is, there’s unity in that room when we find ourselves humbled at the cross of Jesus Christ. That’s when there’s unity. I’m excited about sharing the message of hope and standing together. Everything can change.
WINTER JAM TOUR SPECTACULAR 2018
Jan. 25 Springfield, MO JQH Arena
Jan. 26 Des Moines, IA Wells Fargo Arena
Jan. 27 St. Louis, MO Scottrade Center
Jan. 28 Tulsa, OK BOK Center
Feb. 1 Mobile, AL Mitchell Center
Feb. 2 Nashville, TN Bridgestone Arena
Feb. 3 Atlanta, GA Philips Arena
Feb. 8 Ft. Wayne, IN Allen County War Memorial Coliseum
Feb. 9 Cleveland, OH Wolstein Center
Feb. 10 Indianapolis, IN Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Feb. 11 Detroit, MI Little Caesars Arena
Feb. 15 Evansville, IN The Ford Center
Feb. 16 Pittsburgh, PA PPG Paints Arena
Feb. 17 Cincinnati, OH U.S. Bank Arena
Feb. 18 Birmingham, AL Legacy Arena at the BJCC
Feb. 22 Tupelo, MS BancorpSouth Arena
Feb. 23 Knoxville, TN Thompson-Boling Arena
Feb. 24 Greensboro, NC Greensboro Coliseum
Feb. 25 Chattanooga, TN McKenzie Arena
March 2 New Orleans, LA Lakefront Arena
March 3 Memphis, TN FedExForum
March 4 Houston, TX Toyota Center
March 9 Wichita, KS INTRUST Bank Arena
March 10 Bossier City, LA CenturyLink Center
March 11 N. Little Rock, AR Verizon Arena
March 15 Council Bluffs, IA Mid-America Center
March 16 Kansas City, MO Sprint Center
March 17 Oklahoma City, OK Chesapeake Energy Arena
March 18 Ft. Worth, TX Ft. Worth Convention Center
March 22 Augusta, GA James Brown Arena
March 23 Columbia, SC Colonial Life Arena
March 24 Raleigh, NC PNC Arena
March 25 Greenville, SC Bon Secours Wellness Arena
March 29 Peoria, IL Peoria Civic Center
March 30 Chicago, IL Allstate Arena
March 31 Lexington, KY Rupp Arena
Where: Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines
When: Friday, Jan. 26
Starts: 7 p.m.
Doors open: 6 p.m.
Cost: $15 at the door
For ticket information, visit: