Phil Joel has enjoyed success in both his careers with Newsboys and his 2001 solo CD, Watching Over You. Five years into marriage, he and his wife, Heather, conceived their first child, Phynley, born October 15, 2000. Phil isn’t the only Newsboy to start a family, but his conviction and dedication as a father and husband is newsworthy. Family.org: Why did you wait to have children?
Phil Joel: Heather and I had 5 years together before Phyn was born, but you cant dictate when and how you are going to have children. I guess we can make plans, but it seems conceited to say, This is when Im going to have children,” or “Were going to have another one in a couple years. God delivers when he wants, and he knows whats right for us as a family.
Family.org: Did you get married pretty fast?
Phil Joel: We did. We had been dating and engaged a total of a year and a half, so that was relatively quick.
Family.org: How old is Phynley now?
Phil Joel: Shes a year-and-a-half old, and shes at the starting gate of everything. . .
Family.org: So, shes running around?
Phil Joel: Yes, shes getting mischievous and getting into things that she shouldnt. Shes starting to speak, which is really fun, and she can sort of get angry and say, No, no, no, no, and then she can also say, Daddy daddy, with the most affectionate tongue. There are plusses and minuses with both, but shes at the starting gate of life as far as Im concerned. The first year is fun and its kind of gooey and gushy and lots of cuddles. And carrying the baby around is fun.
Family.org: Did your solo CD come out the same time Phyn was born?
Phil Joel: Yes, it came out in July 2000 and Phyn was born in October. We went down to New Zealand and started my solo tour. Touring for that record started in Australia and we went to New Zealand and then we came to the States again.
Family.org: Did you bring your family with you?
Phil Joel: They came with me for a while. It was easier than you might think. I was a puffed-up, super-proud dad. Well, I guess I still am, but it’s a little tougher traveling with her now, so we’re not doing that much.
Family.org: How has fatherhood affected your music career?
Phil Joel: I didn’t realize how much I was going to get bit by the baby bug. Leaving Phyn behind even for a day is not fun. Im learning how to balance being a dad with my music. The first year was a bit of a trial and error and a lot of tears, not just from Phynley. . .from all three members of the family. Im learning not to overcommit, how to turn down seemingly good opportunities for what would seem to be good reasons, good causes, good ministry opportunities. They have to take second place to Phynley because shes my priority now. If she doesnt see Christ in me, shes not going to see Him. So, like I say, Im just learning, just bumbling my way through how to be a dad.
Family.org: Do you believe your situation is unique as a touring musician?
“Whether you are a construction worker or a traveling musician, a father is a father, and we all deal with the issue of providing for our families.”
Phil Joel: No, whether you are a construction worker or a traveling musician, a father is a father, and we all deal with the issue of providing for our families. Its a strange balance I find myself wrestling with. I wrestle the most when I am not spending quiet time with the Lord. When you are walking with the Lord moment by moment, decisions come and you can hear the Holy Spirit pretty clearly: Hey, you know what to say here. . .yes or no. It all boils down to me, as the head of the family, making sure that we have the right infrastructure, and the infrastructure needs to be that God is the head. Hes going to become the head of the family if I spend time with Him and know how to hear His voice. Without that focus, I just mess things up.
Family.org: How about the other members of Newsboys, are they having families?
Phil Joel: Yes, Jody [Davis, guitarist,] and his wife, Erica, have a little girl who is four months younger than Phyn. As a band we’re entering a new phase. Newsboys have produced new babies. Gods been teaching all of us as a band by us realizing, Okay, we need to make sure that we provide for these families.” Phyn’s got a great opportunity with four uncles and four aunties who are great people.
Family.org: You were adopted as a child. How has this affected you as a father?
Phil Joel: I consider it a real privilege. I was raised in a family that God decided to place me, and it was the perfect place to be. When I became an adult, I had the opportunity to see my birth mother and grandmother and biological uncles and aunties. I was able to look into eyes that looked the same as mine, and see jaw lines the same and other idiosyncrasies that I couldnt have learned because I didnt grow up with them. My family I was brought up in was unbelievably good at showing their love and support in very practical ways, and my birth family has been good in many other ways. Now I want to be a whole parent drawing from both my birth and adopted lives. Thats the challenge I face.
Family.org: Is Heather a stay-at-home mom?
Phil Joel: Yes, weve been fortunate enough to have Heather be at home and look after Phyn the whole time. Gods provided for us in this way.
Family.org: Do you plan to have more kids?
Phil Joel: Wed like to.
Family.org: Were you trying to have kids for a while, or to not have kids?
Phil Joel: For a while, for sure, we were trying not to, but then we just felt. . .leave the door open, and well see what happens. It wasnt long after that that Phyn was conceived. You know, life is about change and momentum and progression. When I got married, I didn’t realize how selfish I was. Now, having a baby, I know how selfish I am. The whole parenting experience, as a man, has helped me to understand who I am. Parenting has helped me see a lot of my shortcomings and areas I need to step it up. Its been great seeing my wife take on a new role, and become a great woman of Godit’s really enriching. Family makes you feel like a very rich man, like Psalm 127 says, “children are a reward from [the Lord] Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.”
Family.org: What would you say to a young couple who is considering life with no children?
“If she doesn’t see Christ in me, she’s not going to see Him. So like I say, I’m just learning, just bumbling my way through how to be a dad.”
Phil Joel: Heather and I considered it, most definitely. For the first few years of our marriage, Heather was charging along as a host for Country Music Television, hosting Farm Aid concerts. I was doing my thing with the Newsboys, and we thought many times, “Man, do we have room in our lives for children? We ultimately weighed the pros and cons of having children, and we opted for children. Admittedly, we kind of had it a bit wrong. Subsequently, Heather has given up doing television work. Even for me, my solo thing alongside Newsboys had to back off. I loved doing it but, next to Phyn, it wasn’t worth it. We realized how futile a life of selfish ambition can be. Gods teaching us a lot. Having children is not one of those things that you can be talked into. I dont know if you can explain to couples from this side what its like because it doesnt make sense. Its all new.
Family.org: Anything else you would like to share with young couples and other parents?
Phil Joel: I share this quite often from the stage. When we have our own children, we truly understand the Father’s heart. Phyn is getting a little mischievous, and I’ve got some expensive guitars around the house. Every now and then some guitars will take a tumble, which is very concerning. But you know, there’s nothing Phyn can do that I won’t forgive, and there’s nothing she can do that would cut off my love for her. That’s a big lesson for me as far as how much God loves us.