Jars of Clay front man Dan Haseltine discusses the relational theme behind the band’s new record as well as the award-winning group’s passion to serve. ...

CMCentral:  The Long Fall Back to Earth carries a theme about relationships and community. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Dan:  This record is a more intimate look at the over-arching theme we wrote about on Good Monsters. There are no huge declarations on this record. A lot of marriages were falling apart around us; a lot of people were wrestling to find a foothold in their relationships. We were pretty entrenched in the fight to find reconciliation and restoration for people. These songs capture what we were living and experiencing over the last couple years. This record is much more concrete in its imagery. It is less lofty or poetic in some regards, because we were talking about the ground level human condition and how we hurt the ones we love, and how love endures and overcomes so many obstacles. I didn’t want to obscure the meaning of the songs by wrapping them in any obtuse language. So the record is a bit simpler—hopefully more relatable than most of what we have done in the past.

CMCentral:  What is the story behind the first single, “Two Hands”?

Dan:  “Two Hands” talks about the duality of the heart, the way we desire to be loved, and, at the same time, are petrified of letting anyone truly know us. It talks about the longing to be passionately engaged with a whole heart. It is the song we most closely connect to our work in Africa and the inspiring shift in culture we have seen. People are recognizing that serving people, getting their hands dirty and doing something to help usher in a redemptive story—whether that is providing clean water or simply being a friend to someone who might not have one. Pouring ourselves out is the outward expression of an inward change that comes when the gospel takes root. It is a powerful song and has proven to be a highlight and a worshipful moment when we play it live.

CMCentral:  You have been making music for a long time now. Do you feel like you still have something new to say with this record?

Dan:  It has taken me a while to realize that as long as I am writing honestly about my own experiences, I will always have something to say. The songs we write are born out of experiences that turn our gaze back toward God and what His story is for us on this earth. As long as there is struggle, and as long as I am in a teachable place, I think I will always be able to see something of the multifaceted work of the gospel.

CMCentral:  It’s rare that a band that’s had the success and the longevity that Jars of Clay has achieved would still maintain the original line-up after all these years. What do you attribute to the four of you staying together all this time?

Dan:  We are friends. We have grown up together and experienced some of the biggest tragedies and greatest victories so far in life together. I think it feels comfortable—not always easy—but familiar to work the way we have. We still inspire each other and have been able to build something that feels a bit more like family than it feels like band mates.

CMCentral:  Each album you put out seems to showcase a different facet of Jars of Clay musically. How would you describe the music on The Long Fall Back to Earth? What side of Jars of Clay will fans get to see this time?

Dan:  The record definitely draws from our progressive rock and new wave influences. This was in part due to the fact that we knew the songs would be honest in a way that might make people uncomfortable. We thought it was a better [idea] if we juxtaposed the lyrical content with a pop music skin. In the last few years, we have experienced a freedom in pop music; and a lot of the restraints seem to have been lifted. That allows us to use more creative textures and sounds.

CMCentral:  What do you hope fans will take away from this record?

Dan:  I hope that they enjoy these songs and find a resonance in the description of real relationships. I hope it gives them a chance to examine their own world and the people they brush up against every day. It is ultimately a story of our need for God, our inability to love people well on our own, and the grace that this condition affords us. I hope that people find freedom in this record.

CMCentral:  Do you have any upcoming touring plans in the works for this record that you can share with fans?

Dan:  We will be touring this record starting late spring [with] a bigger tour starting in the fall. This record is going to be a different kind of experience live. We are looking forward to offering these songs to a live audience. This is by far the most textured and layered record we have made, and with that comes a great opportunity to be creative about how we deliver [these songs] live. There is also a cinematic quality to this record that we will tap into for the live show.

CMCentral:  Can you give us an update on Blood:Water Mission?

Dan:  Blood:Water Mission is nearly 7 years old and seems to find new life and amazing stories every year. This year we are focusing on a community in Kenya called Marsebit. It is a desert community where we have started working with HIV/AIDS groups to do testing and support, as well as helping to provide clean water in places where there is very little to no access. We are hoping to complete the goal of having clean water in 1,000 communities by early 2010. And we are continuing to develop ways to connect people here in the U.S. with people in Africa, so that lives can be transformed on both continents.

CMCentral:  Also, I know you just returned from a recent trip to Africa. Can you briefly talk about your experience there?

Dan:  It was a different experience on a lot of levels. The first difference was that we showed up as Jars of Clay and performed some bigger concerts. It was unusual to us because we normally work in Africa under the radar. Being met by press in the airport and seeing banners up about the band around Nairobi and playing rock ’n’ roll music… It felt a little strange. But it was all for a good purpose. We were kicking off a campaign designed by college students in Nairobi called “Jijue 1 Million.”  “I Choose Life,” a student organization, hopes to get 1 million young people tested for HIV by December 1, 2010. We wanted to show our support and help kick off the campaign. We also see the need for this in the United States, as HIV is on the rise on college campuses here in the States. We also traveled out into the desert. It was the first time I had experienced a real desert and the kind of people that live and survive in such a place. One of the men that picked us up from the airstrip where we landed smiled at us and said, “There is always life in the desert.” He was right. We found the thumbprints of God all over that place.

CMCentral:  Is there anything else about your new record, upcoming plans or your work with Blood:Water Mission that you’d like to add?

Dan:  This is a record for anyone who has wrestled to know whether love is strong enough to prevail. It is a record for us all. I find that these songs more than any other record have spoken things I have not always had words to express. God gave me a window into my own world, and I hope it serves as that for others… Time to get our hands dirty.


For more info on Jars of Clay, visit jarsofclay.com.

To read our exclusive feature on Jars of Clay, check out CCM’s premiere Digital New Release Guide.

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**This interview first published on April 29, 2009.