Jars of Clay Perform In Moncton on Thursday

Over the past two decades, there have only been a handful of Christian-music acts that have found success in the mainstream. Amy Grant is one such artist; rock band Switchfoot is another.

Pop-rock band Jars of Clay just might be the biggest success story of them all, however. Their self-titled 1995 debut record spawned the hit Flood and saw the group move millions of units worldwide.

With more than 10 studio albums to their credit, the group’s popularity has sustained itself. It hasn’t always been an easy ride, however.

Success can be hard for any band to come to terms with. Given the lack of groups from the Contemporary Christian Music scene that have successfully made the jump into the mainstream and suddenly, things are considerably more complicated.

By and large, the general public doesn’t always receive Contemporary Christian bands with open arms, no matter how great the music being made is. Some may question the band’s agenda and what is the group really trying to say with their music?

“It certainly was a kind of messy, complicated relationship,” Jars of Clay member Dan Haseltine reminisces about the group’s sudden success. “When people started hearing that we were a Christian band, it made things seemingly more complex. We would go do interviews at mainstream radio stations and it would seem as though the first 30 minutes of the interview would be letting them know we weren’t some kind of aliens. We definitely got a sense that they couldn’t relate to us.

“At that time though, the face of the church was very unrealistic. The church was trying to put forth a clean, unencumbered from the world façade. But anyone who is alive, feeling and living in situations knows that life is difficult. Many people had a difficulty relating to people who had found a way to skirt through life; most Christians couldn’t relate to that.

“What we had to begin doing as a band was communicating and sharing what we had in common with the mainstream community. It was an interesting dynamic because a lot of people assumed that there was a hidden agenda playing underneath everything. After people ‘discovered’ that we were a Christian band, we had attachments placed upon our music and us. At the end of the day though, we still have our voice and that is perhaps what matters the most,” he says.

Despite being pigeonholed as a Christian music band, Haseltine acknowledges that over the past decade, there has been a cultural shift that has placed a greater emphasis on the music being made rather than on the band’s beliefs.

“All we have ever wanted is for people to hear our music and be inspired by it.”

Haseltine says that the group’s performance at the Moncton Wesleyan Celebration Centre on Thursday evening will provide a break of sorts for the band. While they have not been actively touring over the course of the last six months, Hasletine shares that the group is in the midst of working on a new record.

In the years between 2005 and 2010, Jars of Clay released at least one record per year. After 2010’s highly acclaimed record The Shelter had run its course, Hasletine says that the band had simply arrived at a point where they needed to get away from the voices they had been listening to over the years.

“We’ve been doing this for more than 18 years now and have seen that, as a band, you have to listen to the market. You have to listen to your fans and you have to listen to the record company. But as a band, you begin to tune out your own voices and determine your own agenda and find your own voice while still making sense of what others are telling you,” he says. “We decided to reclaim our voice and figure out how to communicate that voice with a new record.

“Looking back, it was good that we were busy. Just like seasons change in the course of the year, there are seasons to be creative while other times there are seasons when you listen to what the market wants. But the fact is, when inspiration speaks and if we find something that we feel is worth saying, we’re going to say. It is good to exhale every once in a while.”

Stating that the making of their next record with producer Tucker Martine (Tift Merritt, The Decemberists) has been in “a pure creative space,” Haseltine says that their upcoming record is already different from the band’s prior efforts in the respect that it is not a concept album. He says that choosing to draw from the universe at large has been a freeing process although he is quick to qualify that the band has never truly felt restrained in the writing process.

“Usually, our records have an overarching idea or theme running through them and every song contained on that record is threaded to that one theme,” he says. “With this record though, we chose to draw from the universe and see where the songs take us. The themes contained in the songs on our next record are universal — songs about relationships, love songs, songs that speak to our faith and our doubts. It is a pretty broad spectrum but it all feels very honest and not agenda laden in the least.”

Article published in September 11, 2012 edition of the Times & Transcript

● WHAT: Jars of Clay
● WHEN: Thursday, Sept. 13, 7 p.m.
● WHERE: Moncton Wesleyan Church Celebration Centre, 945 St. George Blvd, Moncton
● TICKETS: Advance tickets are $40 plus tax and service charge. Tickets at the door are $45 plus tax and service charge. Advance tickets are available at Frank’s Music (245 Carson Dr., Moncton), by phone at (506) 870-8344 and online at www.ticketwindow.ca