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20 Things You Probably Didn't Know About: Jars of Clay

  • Michael Nolan CCM Magazine
  • Published Nov 30, 2004
20 Things You Probably Didn't Know About:  Jars of Clay

It’s been 11 years since four Greenville College students put their heads together on their first loop-laden song “Fade to Grey.” But instead of fading away, Jars of Clay’s future remains bright as the band puts the finishing touches on its seventh as-yet-untitled hymns album for a Spring 2005 release on Essential Records.

With all the attention Dan Haseltine, Matt Odmark, Stephen Mason and Charlie Lowell have received over the years, is there anything you haven’t been told about these perennially popular guys? After conferring with Dan and Matt, the answer is, “Yes.”

20. "Flood"-ed with Options
There have been many arrangements of Jars’ 1995 hit “Flood,” including one short-lived incarnation with a “lounge-jazz” bridge. “The looks of sheer puzzlement on the faces of our audience were priceless,” laughs Matt.

19. Happy to Be There
Among their favorite places to play, Matt votes for the Paramount Theatre in Seattle. Dan lists Irving Plaza in New York City and Stubbs’ BBQ in Austin, Texas, as well as pretty much anywhere in Grand Rapids, Mich., and Boston.

18. Dan Turns "Evil"
As his 3-year-old son, Noah, swoops into his superhero phase of life, Dan often finds himself playing the evil nemesis. Translation: “I get hit with swords, sprayed with squirt guns and beaten down a lot.” The proud dad adds, “I would not have it any other way.”

17. The Reel World
“I do a little fishing when I can,” confides Matt, who claims to be guilty of having one too many hobbies. “And if I’m really honest, it is mostly an excuse to spend an afternoon with Charlie, as we rarely catch any fish.”

16. Novel Idea
Inspired by author Anne Lamott ("Bird by Bird", "Traveling Mercies"), Dan is slowly writing a novel.

15. They Just Said, "No."
When Jars was looking for a producer for its first album, the band was turned down by Tommy Sims (CeCe Winans, Rachael Lampa) and Wayne Kirkpatrick (Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith) before things clicked with Adrian Belew (King Crimson, Talking Heads). Now friends with both “snubbers,” the Jars guys like to occasionally remind the producers of their decisions.

14. Ultimate Conflict Resolution
After more than a decade together, the guys in Jars rarely get into conflict. “We have reached a near-perfect homeostasis amongst the band and crew,” Dan professes.

13. Applause For Aaron Sands
“(Bass player) Aaron has been the spiritual glue for the band for nearly nine years,” praises Dan. “His heart and passion for truth, social justice and authenticity of faith have been vital to everything Jars has put its hand to.”

12. Banging the Drum for Joe Porter
“Joe Porter can build or fix about anything,” marvels Dan. “He is as skilled a carpenter and mechanic as he is a drummer. I’m fascinated by people like that.” And he adds, “I call him when I need to change a light bulb.”

11. 1000 Wells
Compelled to make a difference in third-world countries, Jars founded Blood: Water Mission. The first effort of this non-profit organization is the 1000 Wells Project, which officially launches in Spring 2005, with the goal of raising funds to build, rebuild and repair 1000 wells in urban and rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa. (Visit

10. America Revisted
Some find it surprising that Jars covered America’s hit “Lonely People” on its current album, "Who We Are Instead." The guys say they would have recorded it years ago if they had known the cheer that rises from the audience when they sing, “This is for all the lonely people.”

9. Cash Connection
Dan wrote the foreword to Dave Urbanski’s book "The Man Comes Around: The Spiritual Journey of Johnny Cash." You’ll have to pick up a copy to discover Dan’s personal connection to The Man in Black.

8. Thanks, Bono
At this year’s Dove Awards, Bono — via video from Dublin, Ireland — introduced Jars’ performance by mentioning the impact of one of the band’s songs (“Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet”) that he’s been listening to for the past year. “Surreal,” describes Matt. “It was humbling,” says Dan. “We look up to Bono as a man who has carried a vision for the gospel in music for a long time. I stood at a recent U2 concert and wept because I was seeing what it looks like when Christians move away from safety and take risks, risks that show a much more relevant and wide side of God’s character.”

7. Surreality Check
Looking back through the years, the guys think their most surreal moment was playing a show with Duran Duran or getting cookies from Lisa Loeb’s mother.

6. No, Wait ...
It was probably watching Sting, clad only in a loincloth, practicing yoga in the courtyard of a Texas amphitheater hours before they were playing a concert together.

5. No, This, Now This Is It ...
Dan talked with Barry Manilow at the Apple Store in Soho (New York City).

4. Surreal (Final Submission)
In Connecticut, they were in a conversation that simultaneously included Miss America, Donny Most (Ralph the Mouth from “Happy Days”), Gary Wright (1976 No. 1 hit “Dreamweaver”) and Dave Mason (1977 hit “We Just Disagree”). Dan surmises, “That doesn’t happen but maybe once every 75 years!”

3. Mapping the Future
While on the road, Dan found an old schoolhouse map from 1920 that shows all the train routes and plane routes in America. “I use it to show my son where I will be going and how close to home or far away I will be.”

2. The Ultimate Retro Worship Album
It’s not surprising that Jars of Clay would consider making a worship project, but what is unexpected is the path the band’s taking. They’re doing a major time warp — and we’re not talking dropping drum loops on “Nothing But the Blood.” We’re talking hymns that are more than 200 years old.

1. Ancient and Timeless
“This has been one of the most inspiring and faith-deepening projects we have ever done together,” muses Dan. “We have taken hymn text from the 18th century, stuff from Europe that had no melodies, and we have constructed songs. The text is so rich. I hope people will love this record as much as we have loved the process and the education behind the creative process.”

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