'Twas Meant to Be
- Mark Moring Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2008 12 Dec
When Sixpence None the Richer announced their split in early 2004, it wasn't long before Leigh Nash and Matt Slocum started thinking about reuniting. (Actually, it was about as long as they normally take to release another album.) The duo occasionally discussed the possibility while apart, a time which saw Nash record a solo album, celebrate one new life (she had a baby boy, Henry, in 2004), mourn the loss of another (her father died in late 2007), and go through a divorce (she and Mark Nash split last year). Meanwhile, Slocum traveled internationally, did some studio work, mentored young musicians, and got married. Nash and Slocum decided to reunite a year ago, and they have since released an EP, My Dear Machine, and now their first Christmas album, The Dawn of Grace. They're still creating—Slocum and his wife had their first child a few months ago, and he and Nash are working on a new full-length album for sometime in 2009. We recently caught up with Nash and Slocum, who are preparing for a Christmas tour with Jars of Clay, Sara Groves, and Leeland in December.
So, why a Christmas album, and why now?
Leigh Nash: Sixpence fans have been asking for a Christmas album for as long as I can remember. It was something we always wanted to do, but somehow time got away from us. Now that we are back together, we thought a Christmas album would be a nice gift for our long-time supporters. We love it and hope they will too!
Matt Slocum: We thought it was another good way to get back into things. We had fun with it, and our sound suits it. We think it came out really fantastic.
How did your decision to reunite come about?
Nash: Matt was in Europe on his honeymoon [in the summer of 2007], and when he was there, we talked about getting together when he got back home. The feeling was pretty mutual. I think we both had been missing the music we make together. So it sort of fell into place once again, pretty easily like it did the first time. Would you say so, Matt?
Slocum: Definitely. It was good timing too; I had gotten married in April, and then we moved to Italy for six months. Coming back it was a little like, "What are we going to do now?"
So who made the first call? Who initiated it?
Nash: We'd both been thinking about it, but let's say it was me.
Slocum: We had conversations about what it would look like if we got back together. Could that happen? Or, would that be cool?
Nash: I had thought about [reuniting] all along. I missed it the whole time we were apart, but I kept thinking, it's a good break, and it was good for me to make the [solo] record. But I missed it the whole time.
Slocum: I would echo that. There was this gradual progression of missing making music together. I didn't know if it would ever happen, but I was real happy when it did.
Matt, what did you do in those almost four years apart?
Slocum: I traveled a bit; I went to Japan and Ireland. Here in Nashville, with a few friends, we started a community music school; that lasted about three years. And I did session work and arranging and playing with other bands. I definitely tried to keep busy, but it just wasn't as focused as when it was just Sixpence. And I got married.
Leigh, you recorded Blue on Blue and Fauxliage. Are those the only two things you did in this interim?
Nash: I recorded a few songs with a couple of my best friends in Nashville, sort of old-style gospel. But that kind of lost some steam and everything just kind of . . . Well, once again, the itch that I needed to scratch was Sixpence. Making Blue on Blue was good for me, a good exercise in writing. But it taught me that I really missed the band.
When we talked right before Blue on Blue came out, you expressed some doubt about whether you could cut it as a solo artist. Did you always feel that you weren't "whole" without Sixpence?
Nash: Yeah, I always suspected that might be the case. If I had my choice, we would have done another Sixpence record, but we just needed that break. But I'll always have doubts; I have sort of a self-deprecating internal dialogue. Sixpence makes a lot of sense to a lot of people. And it makes a lot of sense to me too.
Matt, when you two were apart, were you nagged by similar feelings?
Slocum: Definitely. It was fun to do some other things, but there was always a sense of, well, we had a good gift as the band that, one of those gifts from God that should stand—maybe not a lifetime, but a long period of time. I missed being on that long journey together of making music and building up a catalog of work. It felt like everything else was just, do this and it's over, do that and it's over. It didn't feel as focused or as fulfilling or lasting.
Leigh, did loneliness or sadness have anything to do with wanting to get back together, after your divorce and your dad's death last year?
Nash: I think so. I found out that my father passed away on the same day that Matt and I decided to get back together. I called my mom and she told me the news. It was quite unexpected, out of the blue. It's been a really, really rough couple of years. I would have been missing the band no matter what, but certainly these things played a part in me feeling kind of off my footing.
It sounds like when you decided to reunite, you didn't waste a minute getting right to making music. Why did you do an EP so quickly rather than take your time and put out a full album?
Slocum: A series of events sort of catapulted us into doing that. We saw Charlie Peacock and told him we were making music again, and he offered us a spot on a tour that was going out soon. That prompted us to say we needed some new music, to just kind of re-introduce ourselves on this tour. So we launched into the EP project, and then the tour fell apart and didn't happen. We just decided to complete the EP at that point, but I think in hindsight, it would have been better to focus on a full-length record, to focus on writing and being a bit more slow about it.
It wasn't your best work. Our own critic said you hadn't yet found the old magic again. Your thoughts?
Slocum: I read that review, and I sort of agree, only because the EP almost felt like a warm-up, of getting the rust out. It's hard to come off a long break and just be brilliant. It was a good way to get back in the game, but I definitely don't think it's our best work.
Nash: I agree. I feel like we're just kind of cranking up the gears, and we'll see what happens next. I'm thinking our next album's going to be better than anything we've done yet.??
What's the writing process look like for you two now, especially since Leigh has had some writing experience on her own? Is it more of a collaborative effort now??
Nash: I love writing with Matt. I'm more confident now, and I think Matt is as brilliant a writer as ever, if not better. So I think we have lots to look forward to.?
Slocum: I don't think I'm as brilliant as …
Nash:? You're not as hopeful?
Slocum: I will say that I'm a major fan of Leigh's solo record and seeing her blossom as a writer. It's fun to be moving into writing with her, because she's written some killer songs. At times it's a little intimidating, like man, I've gotta step my game up here!
Your EP was indie and the Christmas album is with Nettwerk, but now you're free agents. What's next on that front?
Slocum: We'll explore those options next year—whether to barter with a label or go indie, we haven't really decided yet. But the playing field is wide open.
Considering your difficult past with the record industry, I would think you would be wary of labels.
Matt: It depends more on the people that are at the label. We've had the most success when we've had advocates within that label structure. If we could find enthusiasts at a label, we'd consider it. You swing back and forth on this—you get upset at record labels, and don't want to have anything to do with them. But you get away from it for a few years and you realize there is good that they do.
Would you consider signing with a Christian label again?
Slocum: I would consider it. What do you think, Leigh?
Nash: I don't think that there are any doors closed in our minds at this point.
So who will be the intended audience for your new music—Christians, mainstream, or both?
Nash: Both. I don't think we've ever had an "intended" audience, from our point of view. It's just whoever likes the music and whoever finds it. I can't imagine thinking, Well, I just hope a bunch of Christians find this song and I hope nobody else does, or vice-versa, you know??
Slocum: I totally agree. Much of our history has been built within the Christian music industry, where we have a lot of loyal fans. We definitely want our music to be accepted on both sides, but we've never really structured it for one side or the other.
I recently read a book called Rapture Ready. The author breaks down Christian music into three categories. One is a ministry focus, two is more of an entertainment focus, and three he calls "a transformational artist"—artists in the Christian marketplace who are doing really good music that can reach the culture at large. I think we are comfortable with doing that [from within the CCM industry], as opposed to grumbling about it and wishing we were on the other side. We have had a lot of doors open to us over the years, so I hope it reaches people on both sides of the fence.?
So, what will the coming months look like?
Slocum: We've stayed a little too busy this year and haven't focused on writing maybe as much as we should. So I'm hoping we can hunker down and get to work on this album, which is what we were really looking forward to in the first place. I'm hoping it's going to look like lots of writing, lots of recording, and hopefully at the end of the year, a great record.
Any guess on the ETA on the next album?
Nash: I would say next summer at the earliest. We'll see.