Jars of Clay Promote Community in New Release, The Shelter
- Tuesday, October 05, 2010
In the midst of the Nashville flood in May, Jars of Clay vocalist Dan Haseltine was forced to stand by and watch as the waters poured into his home. It was a helpless moment for a man who didn't have flood insurance, totally unable to do anything as nature destroyed the house.
"You experience the full range of emotions as you watch this happen. You realize this isn't just going to be a matter of drying everything out. There was three feet of water in my basement," Haseltine recalled. But then as the waters that took 30 lives and destroyed homes across the area finally receded, the Nashville community sprang to life. An army of people, many of whom the musician had never met descended on his home, gutting walls and ceilings and putting his place back together.
"It was an incredible experience. While they were working on my house, I went to others in the same situation to see how I could help them. Sometimes in a crisis, you think you should insulate yourself and fix your own problems, but this was something we had to do together," Haseltine said. He believes they experienced the true character of the Nashville and Franklin communities.
"Sometimes you wonder about the depth of Southern religiosity. The people here showed it was for real," he said.
At the moment the flood swept through the city, Jars of Clay was in the studio trying to wrap up its newest project that releases on October 5 called, The Shelter. They had completed about two-thirds of the collection when their studio also succumbed to the water. One of their engineers had to wade into the first floor of the building to rescue the hard drives that contained what they had already recorded. They finished the rest of the project at a friend's home and on the second floor of their recording studio, which had escaped damage.
Ironically The Shelter is a call to community. Based on an Irish proverb guitarist Steve Mason introduced to the band in January and roughly translated means, in the shelter of each other the people live, the message is all about breaking out of a technology-imposed isolation to interact with one another.
"We wanted to create an album that focused on the importance of serving and loving people," Haseltine said. "The Bible talks about how we should be Jesus to each other, that we should be his hands and feet to one another. We wanted to explore what that means."
The first thing the band did when they began the project was to break open what guitarist Matt Odmark called a compact creative environment. Jars of Clay has always been a band protective of its creative process. Since its self-titled debut back in 1996, the group's music has always expressed a deeply personal view of faith, cultural and life issues.
But now that circle had to be expanded to include a number of artists from the Nashville music scene. "We wanted to make a record about community, and we wanted the recording process to be community," Odmark explained. "It didn't make sense to us to write a record that was just us talking to one another.
The band called on the talent of songwriters they respected like Laura Story, Thad Cockrell and Phillip LaRue. They also wove in long-established voices of Mac Powell from Third Day, Amy Grant, Brandon Heath, Leigh Nash and TobyMac.
Haseltine was surprised when so many artists agreed to work on the project. "It was humbling. These are all really busy people, but in the end, they agreed with what we were trying to do."
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