The past two years when Winter Jam rolled through Rupp Arena, it featured the new incarnation of the Newsboys with now-not-so-new frontman Michael Tait.
This year, Winter Jam, headlined by Christian arena masters Skillet, will feature the Newsboys' former frontman, Peter Furler.
Furler famously stepped away from the Newsboys in 2009, with little word as to what was next for him.
"I didn't leave them to go solo," Furler says. "It wasn't the usual story of the singer that wants to get his songs out and wants to make his own style of record. I was already producing the records, writing all the songs and playing a lot of the instruments. I was really fulfilled in my role and loved that time with the lads."
His leaving was more about needing a break from extensive touring.
He describes it as part of a process of divesting himself of big things that were occupying his attention.
"We kept looking at all the stuff we had and how you had to work not only to get that thing, but to maintain it," Furler says of himself and wife Summer Andrea LeFevre, daughter of iconic Christian musician Mylon LeFevre.
"It was kind of like getting off a missions trip. You know, people come off a mission trip and they kind of re-evaluate and see how fortunate they are and make a change. For us as Christians, we begin to see practical things in the Bible: 'Don't wear yourself out to get rich.' 'Have the wisdom to show restraint.' 'The borrower is slave to the lender.' They're in the Bible, so why do we, just because of the culture we're in, live completely opposite of that?"
Furler said he and LeFevre had fun getting rid of things, and finding fewer expectations and obligations pulling at him.
But he was never going to lose music. He always would have iconic songs such as Shine, and an ability to write and perform more.
He stayed away from music for a while, and then he got together with his friend and longtime songwriting partner, Steve Taylor. They started messing with old ideas, Taylor singing, Furler back on his old post at drums, and some friends playing guitar and bass.
"It was a musical highlight of my life," Furler says, "like I was back as a teenager starting the Newsboys in my garage."
That project came to a halt when Taylor got the chance to direct the forthcoming film Blue Like Jazz, to be released in April. Furler says they hope to finish some of the music they recorded and release it later this year.
In the intervening time, Furler got fired up to go solo, recorded a new album (On Fire) and signed on to the Winter Jam tour.
He put together a band that includes a familiar face in former Newsboys' bassist Phil Joel, plus SuperChick guitarist Dave Ghazarian and highly regarded drummer Jeff Irizarry. "Being a drummer myself, I'm pretty picky about drummers," Furler says.
Now, he says, the music is more about fun and challenging himself to be a better songwriter and musician. And he says he enjoys watching his old band — now very different — from afar.
"The good of it," he says, "is that something you planted is still out there growing."