Jars of Clay is not your typical boy band. Classmates who met in a relatively new major, Contemporary Christian Music, at Greenville College in Illinois, the group consists of Steve Mason (guitar, vocals), Charlie Lowell (keyboards), Dan Haseltine (vocals) and Matt Odmark (acoustic guitar).
Whether funding jail ministries and homeless shelters, or speaking on behalf of international organization Prayer for the Persecuted Church, to winning the coveted Grammy Award twice (they received their latest for Best Pop/contemporary Gospel Album for "If I Left the Zoo") and appearing on Late Night with David Letterman, The Tonight Show, CNN and other top venues, their message comes from every corner of real life.
According to Charlie the group started out as an "unband". Just four guys going through the typical testing of faith, friendship and the familiar as they adjusted to life in college. The music came out of their experiences together, and lyrics (they all write) emerged from lessons learned and bridges burned.
Although their last few years have been a touring whirlwind, this past year has been more of a maturing time for them. Dan explains, "With our first record, we were pretty green in a lot of respects. God was gracious to put mature people around us, a strong church community and seasoned pastors, who could help us with the tough questions. But this season we have come full circle, examining ourselves why we do what we do, and making sure our priorities are in order. The world doesn't need another band - it's got to be about more than just going out to have a good time at the expense of our families and relationships."
Matt echoes the sentiment that led to the name Jars of Clay, which was to be an ever-present reminder that it's the treasure inside - not the person carrying it - that is to be lifted up. "God's really given me freedom to enjoy the music while appreciating that we need to be uncompromising at every level. It's an exciting place to be, yet it has humbled me, too. The past year I have come to have such respect for the group members both as musicians and as godly people."
With the decision to self-produce their next album, Jars of Clay hope to take excellence to the next level. Charlie believes it will be a true picture of what God is doing with them, not someone else's interpretation of that. Dan agrees. "It's not about record sales, or how good a guitar sounds, or how well we perform. As important as the music is, what's more important is making sure relationships are in the right place, and pursuing each other as we all pursue the heart of God.
So exactly what keeps Jars of Clay on the edge in the overcrowded boy band arena?
If you ask Matt, it's because they appeal to the artists in every age group. According to Dan, most boy bands don't write their own music, so there is often a powerful element of experience missing. Steve sees the group's unique bond of friendship as key. And Charlie? "It's hard to answer that. I think we are better dancers."-- Sandy Bloomfield
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