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Interview: Talking History with Christian Rock Legend John Schlitt and What Keeps Him On the GO at NRB!

by Rich and Laura Lynch

Music legend John Schlitt became well-known in the 1970's for his radio hit "Never Been Any Reason" with the band he helped found called Head East. When substance abuse reached an unsustainable level Schlitt departed from that group in 1980. A spiritual conversion followed and six years later John was drafted into the Christian hard rock outfit PETRA where he has remained ever since guiding many thousands of listeners toward the same Gospel message that gave him a new lease on life. We caught up with Schlitt at NRB 2024 in Nashville to talk about the PETRA 50th Anniversary and his latest musical releases History - a solo career retrospective - and GO - an ambitious project that offers the deepest look yet into the musical and lyrical genius of John Schlitt.

We had a few minutes to catch up with John Schlitt at NRB in Nashville.

SP: John, can you give a one-word reaction to the ongoing PETRA reunion and then expound on that a bit.

JS: Surprising! First, the fact that we're on our 25th show now when we thought for sure that it was going to be eight shows altogether. Next, the reaction of the folks and the amount of people that are showing up from different parts of the world and just the atmosphere of the whole thing has been totally a surprise to me and exciting. Looking back I shouldn't have been surprised but at the time I didn't expect this type of reaction.

SP: Obviously the fans remembered you.

JS: I think I said on stage every night it's like a family reunion. I walk out and I don't have to prove anything. I'm out there with a bunch of friends and we're ready to have a great time that night and it makes for a beautiful evening.

SP: It proves that you sowed good seeds back in the day.

JS: Well, and I praise God for that. It certainly wasn't anything that I would do. I tried my best. The band tried their best to make sure that what we were there for we delivered the best we could - and apparently it worked.

SP: So, to commemorate the reunion and anniversary you put out a big 3-CD set of PETRA music. But, concurrently and simultaneously to that - John Schlitt had a solo career.

JS: Yes. The same record company that did the 50th anniversary of PETRA came to me and said, "John, we really want to do something with your solo projects because they're excellent and I don't think enough people know about them."

I said, well, thank you for that but I'm so busy with the PETRA anniversary tour. What are you thinking? They said we want to highlight it like we did with the PETRA 50th. I said well if you can put that type of quality into it with my material that would be an honor.

They did it. This time it's 40 songs instead of 50 with PETRA. They selected the songs. They designed the package and I'm very happy with it. There's only 500 copies which really meant to me a collector's item which to me made a lot sense.

SP: In your mind what differentiates the John Schlitt catalog from the PETRA catalog? Do they differ in any way?

JS: Not necessarily. No. I think I am just more in control of it. The PETRA stuff is really wrapped around a lot of Bob Hartman's writing which I think is probably some of the best music ever written in Christian rock. But, it also gives me a chance to share what's on my heart. Is it better than PETRA? Not necessarily. Is it different than PETRA. I think enough because I have a different direction that I like to go in that is a little different from the PETRA direction and I think it stands on its own.

SP: In addition to the History project you're also promoting your most recent release GO that I understand you had a hand in writing a number of the songs on the album.

JS: I co-wrote all of them.

SP: When you perform a song that you have written most of the words to - do you feel that you have more of a conviction - or, does it mean more to you when you sing them?

JS: No, I forget those words just like I forget all the others (laughs).

It's pretty much all the same. Like I said, all the music that I have been a part of in my career have been amazing songs. For some reason I have been blessed that way. As a lead singer, as a frontman - it's my job to make sure that every song I sing is presented in the best way I possibly can. I treat every song that way.

SP: It really does take a lot of faith to release new music and physical product into today's marketplace.

JS: I did it because I feel there are certain people out there that want to hear the style of music that I have been a part of my whole life - and new music is always exciting. Now, do I plan on making a lot of money on it? Absolutely not. In fact, a lot of times before I even get it mastered it's already out there. But, it is out there. It's new stuff for folks like me that love this kind of music. And remember, in my case it's Christian music. Which means it has a more important responsibility than just being entertaining. It's entertaining with a message that changes lives.

So, for me - if God's open that door and allows me to put out new music I will do it. Now is there another new one coming out soon? I don't know. Because I've done a lot of records (laughs).

SP: Where can fans go to buy your music?

JS: Well, the latest one which is History you can only get at All my other stuff you can get it off of Schlitt Shop or Amazon, iTunes and all those other places.

SP: PETRA has made a comeback. Vinyl has made a comeback. The preachers are saying Jesus is coming back. Can you see a scenario where the longtime standard of 1 dollar per download price-point or single purchase can ever make a return???

JS: Boy, you're dealing with greed. I would love to see it. It would help the music business absolutely, phenomenally. I'm just going to say - I pray that it does.

John Schlitt's latest solo effort "GO" preceded his just released solo retrospective "History".

Related Links: For more information on JOHN SCHLITT and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - John Schlitt | John Schlitt - History | John Schlitt - BandCamp


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