There’s something a little ironic about listening to a man known for his role in the band Jars of Clay talk about the struggle to find balance.
Reeling off how the bandmates—singer Dan Haseltine, lead guitar player Stephen Mason and Matthew Odmark on rhythm guitars—now juggle 11 kids between them while finding time to tour, run the business side of the band and write music, one can almost feel the delicate jars jostling.
It’s almost worth throwing it out there as a song suggestion just to see what he thinks. Charlie Lowell, who handles the keyboard for the band, says the group finds inspiration in the stories they bump into along the way—and by simply sitting down to see where they’re at with one another.
“We’ve toured a lot this past year, so we’re going to go quiet for a few months now and February will be nothing except for songwriting,” said Lowell.
Jars of Clay made a splash onto both Christian and mainstream music scene in 1995 with their hit song Flood, which made it to No. 37 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 12 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart.
It won them the right to open for acts like Sting and presented a seeming fork in the road with the opportunity to pursue mainstream status and give up their gospel roots.
But where their music winds up has never been a main concern, said Lowell, noting the question really sorted itself when they sat down to write.
“It’s something that we still care about, but we try to not force it or not be ourselves. We write what feels important in the moment and then we throw it out there,” he said.
Of late, that’s meant a series of tight, thematic albums that have piqued mainstream radio’s interest once more. Where The Long Fall Back to Earth (2009) focused on relationships, ones that work and ones that don’t, The Shelter (2010) returned more to the church, writing about community with a community of musicians behind them. The album had a guest artist on every song, including big name gospel star Brandon Heath who stepped in for the song Small Rebellions.
Heading back to Canada for the first time in four years, the first time in Kelowna in five, they’re not bringing them all along, Lowell said. A six-piece band will hold the show—they borrow their percussion players when touring live from Disappointed By Candy—which should prove a mix of old and new.
In honour of their 15th anniversary, the band had tried a rerun concert of their original self-titled album, but found it hit with some members of the audience, but plenty wanted to hear their newer work, having little familiarity with the album that made their name.
“The fact that we’ve been around for about 17 years now and are still playing, we do meet quite a few young musicians and young families that literally have grown up with us,” said Lowell, adding “…It can be a bit of a head trip.”
Lowell says they’re still interested in opening for big-name bands and would like to pursue writing for film and televisions some more.
They will also talk about their charity, Blood Water Mission, which builds clean water projects (wells) and has established three health clinics to help deal with the HIV/AIDS crisis.
Jars of Clay plays Kelowna Community Theatre Jan. 28. Tickets are $38.64 available through Select Your Tickets (www.selectyourtickets.com) or (250) 762-5050.