BETWEEN THE LINER NOTES
Jars of Clay on The Shelter
By Hannah Goodwyn
For the last six years, Jars of Clay has moved in a pop music direction, according to lead singer Dan Haseltine. Their musical outlook recently veered as the veteran bandmates started exploring the concept of community. The result is their latest record, The Shelter. Featuring 15 artists including Amy Grant, tobyMac, Mac Powell, Leigh Nash, Sara Groves, and Brandon Heath, The Shelter truly is a community project.
The Shelter has garnered the attention of the industry with two Dove Award nominations this year for Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year and Praise & Worship Album of the Year. Watch gmc on Easter Sunday (April 24) at 7 p.m. ET to see if Jars of Clay won.
CBN.com spoke with frontman Dan Haseltine about some of the songs on the new Jars of Clay album and how the band sees the Church and the world doing "community" better.
“Ar scath a cheile a mhaireas na daoine.”
CBN: The Shelter is built on the old Irish proverb: "It is in the shelter of each other that the people live." Why?
Haseltine: One of the things we were doing before we found that verse was talking about doing a second Redemption Songs project. We were going to find a lot of old hymns and redo them like we had done them on that first Redemption Songs record. So we were already thinking about doing a project that would be specific for the Church.
Then we found that proverb, and it really spoke to us. It was very human. When you think about our worship, in my own experience, I sing a lot of these songs, I go sit in my seat, and I'm usually looking at a screen or a group of people singing and leading. I sing these songs out into the air, but I don't really connect them back to the human experience. When I'm singing about the attributes of God and about grace, and mercy, and healing, and love, and care, I don't usually attribute that to the person who is sitting next to me. But, if we actually believe that God is working through His people, then we are the means by which all of those things happen. It brought all of those conceptual ideas about God, all of those big vague words, and lofty words, and language that we use, and we’ve brought it back to the human experience.
CBN: The title track encourages listeners to be a shelter to others. What is the Church doing right with regards to being a community?
Haseltine: My experience is that, in my own church, it's become more vulnerable. We've been willing to share the harder, deeper, darker parts of our story with each other. We're learning how to be better stewards of ... when we make bad choices, the potholes in our path of our story, the things that we tend to want to hide, that we don't want to really want to deal with or reconcile with.
What it is really doing is it’s causing us to love each other more because we're actually finding that our stories are not that different, ultimately, that we all have these places where we've been broken and where we have made choices out of that. But we have forgotten what the Gospel says about us, and, therefore, we have done things or needed things that we have thought we needed, but actually don't. Therefore, when a person knows your story, they can then speak into it.
It tends to bring us back in from being isolated. It tends to help push us away from addictions. What I see is that the Church is the main place where this is really happening and then it is moving outward. That’s really encouraging.
CBN.com: The chorus on "Small Rebellions" is striking, specifically the line, “brutal acts of kindness”. What’s the soul of this song?
Haseltine: It is a traumatic or a shocking way to describe really just anything that brings a person closer to another person. I was around a lot of the youth group culture when I was a kid. I remember the mantra was, "Go against the flow. Be different." That was a misuse of that idea that God has set us apart; that we are in the world, but not of it. But what it did to the kids, the way that a lot of kids translated it, it just made kids somewhat antisocial. It made kids weird. Also, there was this agenda that now Christian kids, they were there, listening to their friends so that they could get a foothold in so that they could evangelize, and so that they could bring them to Christianity. It just made kids seem disingenuine. It was love with this massive agenda attached to it, so it made kids different and weird. It wasn't something that made them countercultural really.
When I look at culture today, I look at it and I think, "All of these things like technology and entertainment, and everything seem to be on this course to isolate us. They are trying to make us more individual. They're using a lot of the language of connectedness and networking, but it's still isolating us." For me, anything that a true movement, a true Christian Gospel-centered move that is countercultural is something that brings a person closer to another person. That's what that is, these acts of kindness.
Simply doing something that shows that you care for somebody else is a brutal blow; and it’s a truly countercultural experience. We may think that they're somewhat insignificant, but they're really not. Every time that we attempt to love somebody well without agenda is a massive, massive, courageous act. That's what really the song is about, saying, "What if we all were in this place where what we sought to be was people that were trying to connect people together, truly face to face, arm in arm? What would life be like if we we’re doing that?” The brutal acts of kindness are those kinds of things. It's a very dramatic way of just saying, "the courageous act of trying to love somebody well."
CBN.com: The first radio single off The Shelter is "Out of My Hands." What's the song saying?
Haseltine: The song is about just the way that we try to control our lives, and our own story, and usually how much of a burden that ends up becoming in our failures. The song is from the perspective of a person that’s saying, "You know what? This isn't my own story to live. I certainly get to make choices, but here is what is true is that the burden that I should have to carry is much lighter than the one that I am putting on myself."
CBN.com: "Flood" is the band’s most recognizable song, especially in the mainstream market. Is there a "Flood" on this album?
Haseltine: I wouldn't necessarily say that there is. It’s an interesting question, because most of the time I don't think we intentionally tried to write songs that are specific to a Christian or a non-Christian crowd. What I mean when I say that [The Shelter] was specific to the Church is that a lot of these songs were designed to be sung in a congregational setting. They're meant to be sung communally, and that's a bit different. Maybe you find them on an Arcade Fire record. There's nothing like getting a bunch of people yelling these words that started this revolutionary kind of experience. We haven’t on this album really focused so much on pop music.... We used a little bit loftier language on this record because we figured it would be in a church setting most often.
The closest thing to a song that could be used beyond the church market might be the song "Eyes Wide Open". Although it’s geared towards the Church, hopefully the themes are universal, because hopefully God's truth is everywhere, not just in the walls of the church. But that one specifically just talks about the ways we yell at each other in our position of moral behaviors or any of the hot button issues that we have with things like abortion or homosexuality. We don't really spend a lot of time listening, even now in our governmental system and the ways that we yell at each other. It's a very violent, very disrespectful kind of process.
We try to spend most of our time being defensive to control our position there and keep our ground. What we need is to just be able to humble ourselves and listen to other people, and find that there are ways to love people, and simply understanding their position, and being able to find where God's story is in that side.
CBN.com: By design, The Shelter includes 15 artists from the Christian music industry. The popular '90s folk-ish band, Burlap to Cashmere, being one of them.
Haseltine: Yes. That was a treat. I've been a fan of those guys for years now. We've been friends for a long time, and so when we called them up and said, "Hey, would you be interested in being a part of this song?" , they were very much into it. That song ("Eyes Wide Open") actually is one of the ones that has such a strange combination of artists all together. It really embodies, again, that idea of community, with Mac Powell and Derek Webb, Jars, and Burlap to Cashmere all in the same song, all coming at their expression of Christianity and faith differently, but all being able to kind of sing the same song, it was exciting to us. We were really, really proud of that moment on the record.
CBN.com: With all of these artists on one album, your plan could have backfired.
Haseltine: Even as producers, we were very much aware that the potential was that we could create 11 "We Are the Worlds". It could get corny and not have good impact. We wanted to create a collective voice. What we’ve loved is that when you get all of those artists together singing on the chorus and doing harmonies together, that's where it all really kind of comes together for us.
Hannah Goodwyn serves as the Family and Entertainment producer for CBN.com. For more articles, visit Hannah's bio page.
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review of the shelter
Reminiscent of the City on a Hill project from a decade ago, Jars of Clay’s latest release The Shelter, is a collaborative effort that brings many of today’s contemporary Christian music’s top names together to record songs about the importance of community. Third Day’s Mac Powell, TobyMac, Brandon Heath, Tenth Avenue North’s Mike Donehey, and Amy Grant are just a few of the artists to lend support to Jars of Clay’s vision... Read the full review!
"Small Rebellions" (feat. Brandon Heath)
"Call My Name" (feat. Thad Cockrell, Audrey Assad)
"We Will Follow" (feat. Gungor)
"Eyes Wide Open" (feat. Mac Powell, Derek Webb, Burlap to Cashmere)
"Shelter" (feat. Brandon Heath, tobyMac)
"Out of My Hands" (feat. Mike Donehey)
"No Greater Love"
"Run In the Night (Psalm 27)" (feat. Thad Cockrell)
"Lay It Down" (feat. David Crowder, Dawn Michele)
"Love Will Find Us" (feat. Sara Groves, Matt Maher)
"Benediction" (feat. Amy Grant)