More than four years ago, Sixpence None the Richer wrote an open letter to CCM Magazine readers that stopped them dead in their tracks:  "After 10 years of music, we are closing up shop and moving on."

The news shocked critics and music fans who grew to love the band's wistful melodies and almost otherworldly sense of arrangement and beauty, expressed to perfection in its breakout self-titled release and 2002's majestic Divine Discontent (Word).

After a few projects on their own, longtime members Leigh Nash and Matt Slocum realized they missed each other and the band too much to let it fade into oblivion, so they brought it back last year and are now on the verge of releasing their comeback project, a Christmas album titled The Dawn of Grace (Nettwerk). In this conversation, Nash and Slocum talk about how they decided to put the pieces back together and begin creating in tandem again.

CMP:  You published an open letter to CCM Magazine readers announcing your retirement. You signed off with, “Goodbye for now.” Did you know deep down you’d get back together?

Leigh Nash:  No, I didn’t at the time. At a time like that, that’s not what you think about. But I did, six months after that on; I think I did start to wonder and kind of hope that eventually we would. But at the time I thought, “This is it. We’re done.”

Matt Slocum:  I would agree with that as well. It was definitely a bit of a subconscious statement that ended up being, I don’t know, somewhat true. Maybe it was a subconscious desire just to get a break for a while, but kind of subconsciously knowing that there was still music to be made in the future.

CMP:  Why did you break up in the first place?

Slocum:  I think it was a mixture of a number of things. Leigh and I both started doing this really early in life. I think Leigh was 16 at the time we made our first record; I was 19 going on 20. It had been a long time [that we had been in the group]—all of our 20s into part of our 30s. I think there’s just sort of a natural [desire] to explore what else is out there.

In hindsight, it was probably a little bit of a drastic decision to break the whole thing up. I think we could’ve just taken a four-year break and avoided all the announcements and the hoopla and just kind of come back four years later with an album. We kind of overshot on that.

CMP:  Who picked up the phone first?

Nash:  While Matt was gone [to Italy, where he and his wife lived for six months], I think that’s when I decided to talk to him. But I had been feeling that way for a really long time—as early as six months after we’d broken up. I just missed everybody. I had so much confidence in the band and what we did together musically. While I got a chance to make a solo record and all of that, I’d been missing the band for a long time.

Slocum:  I definitely had sort of been feeling that. We didn’t see each other that much, but if we did get together here and there, it was always mentioned a little bit: “I wonder what that would be like.” I definitely had it on my internal radar as well. I decided to come home from Italy, get together with Leigh and flesh it out into reality.

CMP: You two kept yourselves relatively occupied while Sixpence was on hiatus. What was it like creating independently? Was there ever a temptation to reach out and ask for feedback?

Nash:  I definitely did. I avoided it at all costs, but I just thought, “If I’m going to do this by myself, it needs to be completely without Matt.” I always missed his guitar playing. I missed him all the time.