When Hawk Nelson was faced with the prospect of finding a new lead singer, it initially looked outside the group, as a number of other Christian bands have done lately.
"They were sort of running out of former members of dc talk," guitarist Jonathan Steingard said, a joking reference to Christian rock stalwarts Newsboys and Audio Adrenaline, which now are fronted by former members of talk, another iconic Christian pop act.
Soon, however, the gaze turned to Steingard to step into the role long held by Jason Dunn, who left the Canadian quartet last year and has launched a solo career. (He made a Lexington appearance late last year.)
Hawk Nelson, now reconstituted as a trio, comes to Whitaker Bank Ballpark on Saturday night to play a show after the Lexington Legends' game against the Delmarva Shorebirds.
Hawk Nelson has played Central Kentucky numerous times at the Ichthus festival, Winter Jam and headlining dates of its own. But this will be the Bluegrass's first chance to see the group as a trio with Steingard in front.
"It's been really fun to have this feeling of being in a band and being new again, but with guys you've been in a band a long time with," he says.
To an extent, the group is happy to keep going under the name that has earned it numerous hit albums and award nominations since its inception in 2002.
"We discussed changing it," Steingard said of the group's name. "But at the end of the day, we're still the same band. Obviously it's a big change. But we're the same band. We're operating under the same principles with the same goals. It made a lot sense to keep it.
"And there were a lot of fans who have followed us for a long time to whom this was really meaningful, that we continued it."
But there is no getting around the fact that Steingard had to adapt, both behind the scenes and onstage.
Fans who want to hear what Hawk Nelson sounds like as a trio need look no further than the group's new album, Made, which Steingard says was important to get in front of fans once the band decided how it was going to move forward.
"Any time you try to emulate the band you were before, it's really, really hard to do that, because obviously you've been through a change," he says. "We're still a high-energy, live concert-focused band, and that's what we're always going to be. But we always wanted to be able to reach out further than just that and maybe be able to tackle some songs that spoke to our hearts differently than the old stuff."
He points to the band's latest single, Word, which he says "is getting more play on Christian radio than anything else we have done before."
Hawk Nelson has always been a band that straddled the Christian and mainstream rock markets, earning distinctions such as portraying The Who on an episode of the NBC drama American Dreams and landing some tunes on mainstream movie soundtracks. And Steingard says the band continues to play to both markets, though he acknowledges that lyrics on Made "probably lean more to the faith side."
He says some of that springs from the fact that band members are a decade older than when they started.
"We were just out of high school, this punk band," he says. "We were out to have a good time, not necessarily make a point.
"As I have gotten older, I have thought about things more, and my relationship with God has made a quantifiable difference in my life. That can't help but be something I talk about. So I think regardless of who's listening, that's always going to be a big part of who we are."
In addition to becoming the main singing voice of the band, Steingard has become the lead writer, cranking out more than 50 tunes to be considered for Made. "It's definitely jumping into the deep end of the pool," he says.
But it has helped to have been a band for nearly a decade, he says. While being the center of attention is new, it's not as if he had never faced a crowd before, and longtime friends and bandmates Daniel Brio and Justin Benner are backing him up.
As the new Hawk Nelson rolls out, Steingard says the band has encountered another breed of fan.
"We have met people who never heard of us before and come up and say, 'Oh, I really like your music,'" he says.
That's really a fresh start.
IF YOU GO
What: Christian rock trio performs after Lexington Legends-Delmarva Shorebirds game; there also will be fireworks.
When: 7:05 p.m. July 13 (game time)
Where: Whitaker Bank Ballpark, 207 Legends Ln
Tickets: $4-$23, depending on seat location. (859) 422-7867, Ticketreturn.com
Rich Copley: (859) 231-3217. Twitter: @copiousnotes. Blog: copiousnotes.bloginky.com.