The Making and Molding of Jars of Clay
Jars of Clay has come a long way since their debut hit single “Flood” was released in 1995. “Flood” topped both the mainstream and Christian music charts and helped push sales of the album Jars of Clay past the double-platinum mark. This was considered a stunning showing for a Christian group.
After going strong for over a decade, Jars of Clay has kept the integrity of their Christian faith, music, and mission. Band members Dan Haseltine (vocals), Charlie Lowell (keyboards), Steve Mason (guitars), and Matt Odmark (guitars) constantly challenge themselves and each other to grow and evolve as musicians, as songwriters, and as a band. Over their career, they have sold more than six million albums. Jars of Clay has also won three Grammy awards: Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album for the albums Much Afraid (1997), If I Left the Zoo (2000) and The Eleventh Hour (2002).
The band formed in the early 1990s while they were attending Greenville College in Greenville, Illinois. They did not set out to start a musical group. Some of the first songs they wrote were for recording and music classes they were taking at that time. They started playing at local Christian coffee houses and had quite the reputation for their version of “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer” adapted to rock group Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
In 1994, the band submitted a demo to a talent contest held by the Gospel Music Association and won. They also released a limited run of the demo that they sent in for the contest, “Frail.” The word spread about their demo and their performance in Nashville for the contest finals, which resulted in numerous offers from different record labels. The band decided to pursue their music and move to Nashville. They signed on with Essential Records for their first full-length studio album, Jars of Clay.
THE LONG FALL BACK TO EARTH
Their latest album The Long Fall Back to Earth picks up where their last album, Good Monsters, from three years ago left off. Guitarist Steve Mason says that “The Long Fall Back to Earth” is about relationships from the beginning to the end of the album -- a look at the way human beings try to connect, and more often than not, fail to connect with each other. It’s also about the nature of being in relationships, divided hearts, human interactions, and experiencing grace.
While Good Monsters viewed humanity from 40,000 feet above earth, the current album focuses inward, takes a practical view, and gets into the nitty gritty of relationships.
Their newest single “Two Hands” is about the inherent struggle that goes on inside of us – that we are loved, want love, and give love. If I can reconcile two parts of the heart in light of grace and move in the fullness. This is illustrated in one of the lines of the song: “I use one hand to pull you closer / The other to push you away.” We must impact others lives and be authentic in the world, because the world responds to authenticity and compassion.
Putting their faith into action, Jars of Clay started the Blood:Water Mission in 2002. They were inspired to start this group to help those in Africa who face the challenges from the HIV/AIDS and water crises. The mission raises awareness and much-needed funds to provide clean blood and clean water in sub-Saharan Africa. One of the first projects of the Blood:Water Mission was raising funds for a late stage AIDS hospice. From this the link between living with HIV/AIDS and the need for clean water was discovered. The mission then began the 1000 Wells Project in 2004 as a nationwide effort to raise enough money to provide clean water and sanitation to 1,000 communities in sub-Saharan Africa based on the equation that $1 can provide one African with clean water for an entire year. To date, the organization has raised millions of dollars and partnered with over 700 communities in Africa to help provide water and health needs for more than 500,000 people.
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