If you have ever read any interviews about Jars of Clay, there is a common answer to the question about why we started playing music together. It was simply that we were all fans of music. Music allows even the most unadventurous the opportunity to be an explorer.
The mechanisms for exploration have taken many strides. Nearly gone, but not entirely, are the days when I could just drop in to my local record shop and gamble on an album based solely on the cover art, and hopefully, be pleasantly surprised by what I heard.
Even as the influence of a radio deejay who finds a band worth liking and champions them, goes the way of the buffalo, there are more ways to discover new music than ever before. The technology is changing. It means that we will be forced to adopt new ways of hunting and gathering. And no one truly loves change. It is the reason we don’t simply rent our clothing. It is why most of us live in homes that have concrete foundations. We like things the way they are.
I can’t even imagine what it must be like for generations before my own. If you want to see how terrifying technology can be, spend a couple minutes explaining a push button flip phone to my grandfather, or testing out Netflix with my grandmother. Technological advancement is a scary proposition. But we can’t let these things scare us. After all, what’s the worst that can happen?
We are celebrating an anniversary this year. “Celebrating” is not the correct word. Perhaps, “acknowledging” is a better word. We won’t be sending cards or thinking romantic thoughts, or raising a glass as we release sentiments like, “we hope the next 30 years are even better than the first. “ It was 30 years ago that the first cases of, “The Gay Cancer,” were reported. We have come to know this disease by a different name. We know it as AIDS.
I still remember sitting in the corner office of our Rendy Lovelady Management as I listened to a man describe what was happening in Africa. He was not hopeful in that conversation. His words held no silver lining. How could it? He was in the office because he needed help. A poll had been commissioned by World Vision to find out what the general state of knowledge and understanding was in the church surrounding HIV/AIDS. They asked a simple question of Evangelicals. “If you had the chance to help someone with AIDS, would you?” Only 3% said yes.
AIDS is complicated. Just as relationships are complicated, or medicine is complicated, or humanity is complicated, or being a Christian is complicated. So, for many people it was necessary to find reasons to disengage without feeling implicated in the work that needed to be done.
The poll suggested that Evangelicals blamed HIV/AIDS on a lot of things. One of the loudest critical voices speaking about HIV/AIDS was the one telling us that Africans were reaping what they had sewn. AIDS was the way God was acting out his wrath on sinners, and so our job was simply to ignore Africa and let those infected with AIDS die.
AIDS is complicated. And the church was immature. And the act of pulling the covers over our heads and hoping that the monster would simply go away, well… , It didn’t work. The monster grew. The next approach was better. What could we learn from people struggling with HIV/AIDS? Our approach was to listen and observe.
We found that the reason for HIV/AIDS rapid spread was not entirely due to an influx of homosexual activity. We learned that it was transmitted through breast- feeding, and ceremonial circumcisions, and wife adoption, and a host of tribal practices meant for healing, and childbirth. We also learned that our response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic was selfish and fearful. We, as a culture, found the human story trapped under the umbrella of mega-statistics and impersonal numbers. We found a foothold to re-engage. And even with a massive push by musicians like Bono and world leaders like, Bishop Tutu, we saw the effects of HIV/AIDS continue to rise.
We built initiatives, and peace plans, and watched the development world truly rally to the call of ending HIV/AIDS. And still we saw the disease hold it’s ground. We saw pockets where an idea or an education campaign made a significant difference in the number of new transmissions of HIV. And still, we find ourselves 30 years into a great war, unable to fully end HIV/AIDS.
From Stephen Mason:
"Stay" is a re-imagining of the song "Forgive Me" from our last full-length Jars of Clay release, The Long Fall Back To Earth. This is a favorite of mine on the record. It's been really fun to change the melody and add some different textures.
I love remixes, and the opportunity to approach our music like this was a cool opportunity. It revealed the DNA of the song and presented an opportunity to highlight musical and lyrical pieces that challenge and inspire me personally.
It's been quite a busy and exciting season for the band... we are just rested up from two back-to-back tours. Roadshow was a new experience- we had an absolute blast with MercyMe and a handful of other bands playing on the Roadshow tour this year. We did enjoy the "big stage" but had some pretty special moments playing acoustic songs for a number of you that came out early and got your requests in. We played songs that we literally have never played since recording them... like Scarlet, Redemption, River Constantine, Forgive Me, and more... a good brain exercise for us, but it was truly a treat to hear stories of how these songs have connected with you over the years... thank you!! We hope to do more of that in the future. Following the Roadshow tour was our Shelter headline tour- all through the making of The Shelter, we knew that the songs would really take form live- hearing you sing along with us, as these songs were written to be sung by "the people"!! We toured with Derek Webb, Matt Maher, and Audrey Assad, who all sang on the record with us. It truly felt like family (if not camp!) out there, which may sound like a bit of a cliche, but we say it with honesty and gratitude. If you don't have any of their projects, please check them out!
Right now, we're doing just a handful of tour dates in the next month, but primarily starting to write for the next project, whatever that may be! We really have no idea what is on the horizon until we get in the habit of gathering, turning our chairs toward one another, and seeing what is waiting for us. It's an odd combination of scary and exciting! We have enjoyed the acoustic sets lately (if you haven't seen it, here's a nice intimate version of "Closer", acoustic at a club in Nashville opening for Burlap To Cashmere last month: (VIDEO), and may do some select dates this fall in that vein- stripped down arrangements and stories about songs...
As always, thanks for listening and coming out to see us in concert!! It's a great season to look ahead and anticipate what is next, what we are passionate about saying and creating, and expecting God to meet us in unexpected ways, as is most always the case!
May you find joy in your journey today-
Jars of Clay