Any 90s kids who listened to Christian music growing up will know who Avalon is, and now they are back, after more than 10 years, with a new album.
The group’s four members — Janna Long, Greg Long, Jody McBrayer, and Dani Rocca — are now spread out between three states: Tennessee, Texas, and New York. But when they spoke with Faithwire over the phone earlier this week, their close connection to one another was palpable.
Avalon’s new album, “Called,” is all about living out the faith they have spent years professing. The direction of the new record was a natural fit for the singers, who see themselves as more than entertainers — but as ministers.
“I think we just are at a place, all of us, in our lives where the rubber meets the road as far as our faith is concerned,” said Jody. “Now more than ever, we’re solidifying our calling as musicians, as ministers, as people who want to bring salt and light to this earth. … I watch the news, I travel for a living, we all do. We see how drastically things have changed and how desperate for Jesus Christ the world is.”
And none of them have a choice but to be ministers, he added, because each singer in Avalon has been “called” to share their faith.
They’ve spent years singing about faith with hallmark songs like “Testify to Love,” “New Day,” “Adonai,” and “Can’t Live a Day.” But it’s now more than ever that they seem to understand — at an increasingly deeper level — what exactly that faith means in their lives.
For Janna, it’s learning to know God in the midst of motherhood, and through the hard work of losing loved ones. For Dani, the youngest member of the group, it’s wrestling through the difficult questions our culture raises and seeking what God wants from us.
With time, Jody said, their trust in God has deepened.
“When you’re younger and you don’t have kids and you’re newly married, you think things are difficult, but they’re just not,” he explained. “And as you get older and as you start to live some life, raising children, burying parents, dealing with sickness in families, you start to realize, ‘My gosh, I am nothing but for the saving faith that I stand on every day.’”
“Life can change in an instant,” he continued, noting the recent loss of TobyMac’s oldest son Truett. “We definitely have to be grateful for what we have in the moments that we have. That’s part of why I’m so thrilled to be back with Avalon, to have this second chance.”
Many of the songs the pop group is known for have, according to Jody, “taken on a whole new meaning” for each of them, because their relationships with God have grown and evolved over the last decade.
There’s no doubt the album is just as much reflective as it is pastoral.
The 10-track record is the fruit of the work each member has put into their own relationships with God. It’s also pastoral in its message for listeners not to just internalize the Gospel, but to share it with a world longing for hope.
A common thread through each of the singers’ stories is God’s grace, and the importance of extending it to themselves and to others.
“I’ve learned to understand that people aren’t going to be at the same place I am,” Jody said. “I can’t look at somebody and say, ‘Oh, you don’t have as much faith as I do, so you’re a worse Christian than I am.’ We are all on a journey. Every single one of us is on a journey. We are working out our faith every day with fear and trembling, and I don’t have any right to have any expectations of anybody but Jesus.”
Echoing Jody’s words, Janna pointed to a song on the new album that’s particularly important to her, “If Not for Jesus.”
Life, she said, could have gone any number of directions. But she’s found peace in knowing God has directed and orchestrated every part of her life.
“One of the lyrics is, ‘Seeing myself in old pictures, I think of the miles left behind,’” Janna said. “We’ve covered a lot of miles and a lot has happened in the past decade and beyond, but God has been faithful to me and in spite of myself and in spite of all the things I didn’t get right, he’s still leading and guiding me.”
For Greg, who is married to Janna, he has been most impacted by Jody’s song, “Just Can’t Stop My Hallelujahs.”
That track, he said, is a perfect response to God’s provision in our lives.
“It’s like a child looking at his mom or dad and saying, ‘Wow, thank you,’” he said. “Of course, ‘hallelujah’ is like a response, ‘You’ve been so good to me.’ … If I truly look at God and how good he has been to me, I can’t stop. It becomes a response that is just inside of me so deeply. If I’m honest with the Lord and honest with what he’s done, I can’t stop by hallelujahs.”
The new record — “Called” — is packed with so much encouragement and inspiration for Christians facing what can be a difficult life. To listen to the new album, or to purchase it, click here.