Jars of Clay takes its name from II Corinthians 4:7:
"We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."
Four years ago, a band
of eager, but completely unprepared, young musicians came together in a sort of
"dormitory acoustic group" at Greenville Illinois. Not even thinking about an
actual career in music, they began to write songs more for the fun of it than
anything. For even a little more entertainment, they decided to submit a demo to a
national new artist competition. Three million records later, the music of that unassuming
group of buddies is heard around the globe. And the band, filling store shelves and the
hearts of millions, is Jars of Clay.
Comprised of Dan Haseltine, lead vocals, Stephen Mason, guitar/background vocals, Matt
Odmark, electric and acoustic guitars/background vocals, and Charlie Lowell, piano and
keyboards/background vocals, Jars of Clay comes together with an excitement and
spontaneity that is reflective of their youthful spirit and creative risk.
If I Left the Zoo, the bands third album for Essential/Silvertone
Records, grabs hold of the unexpected and stands it on its head. Incorporating a unique
blend of organic and playful music - reminiscent of the groups self-titled, debut
album with inspirational and witty lyrics, If I Left The Zoo refreshes the
spirit and ignites the soul.
"If I Left The Zoo asks the question, What if? What would
happen if I left this comfortable place? What if I woke up one day and decided to do
something completely different?" says Charlie, commenting on the theme of the album.
Practicing what they preach, Jars of Clay left the typical Nashville recording scene
behind in order to record with Dennis Herring in Oxford, Miss. near the campus of
University of Mississippi. Most of Jars of Clays fans are college-aged, yet the fact
that the band was in town recording was kept secret. The experience of recording in a
small, Southern college town seemed to lend a bit of magic to the process, also evident in
the records outcome.
"Dennis really made us work hard and do things we werent used to
doing," recalls Dan. "He reviewed the lyrics, said they were great. But then he
told us to go back and write them as if we werent Jars of Clay, but individuals
exploring the possibilities of a completely new direction of sounds and styles."
"We didnt want anyone to hear the process of the record because to us it
sounded terrible," laughs Stephen. "And then one day its like, hey, this
is pretty great!"
Another pattern in the making of the album turned out to be "relying on
friends." Jars of Clay enlisted the help of some longtime pals, such as bassist Aaron
Sands and drummer Joe Porter (another Greenville College alum), and some very important
new ones, like producer Dennis Herring (Counting Crows) and drummer Ben Mize (also
Counting Crows) to assist their new effort.
Although the If I Left The Zoo project was lengthy and challenging, it was those
experiences that the band felt allowed them to make real creative progress. The result is
a record infused with enthusiasm, character-adding imperfections, and total personality.
"Dennis made the band explore all the possibilities of music-making. I think
theres more on this record than new songs, theres a new attitude," shares
Stephen. "We were each taken out of our comfort zones and pushed to be more playful
and dedicated to being different where we may not have done that before."
Dan continues, "We try to challenge ourselves to not grow as Christians, but to
also enjoy the moment we are in. Because what we learn during our experiences, gives us a
better understanding of the direction in which we are heading. This recording process has
been a tremendous exercise in embracing and learning from the moment."
The first single from If I Left The Zoo, "Unforgetful You," is
elevated alternative rock with quirky musical components and dramatic lyrics that express
the failed attempts of humanity to handle lifes changes without remembering
"This song serves to remind us of how forgetful we are and how
Unforgetful God is," reflects Dan. "Its amazing the extent God
will go to in order to show us who He is on a daily basis."
Regarding "Im Alright," which includes backing vocals from a
gospel choir, Matt comments, "Our perceptions of ourselves and why we believe we are
alright, and the reality of why we are alright in Gods eyes, are usually polar
opposites. Its important that people remember that God doesnt make
"This is a record that expresses Gods relentless pursuit of us as human
beings," remarks Charlie on the overall motivation behind the project.
"Its because of His unconditional love for us that we are allowed to be exactly
who we are."
And exactly who is Jars of Clay? Theyre still a group of good friends making
music for the fun of it and letting God take it from there.
- "Unforgetful You," Drive Me Crazy, Fox Pictures
- "Five Candles," Jack Frost, Warner Brothers/Mercury Record
- "Everything in Between" original song for The Prince of Egypt, Dreamworks/Dreamworks Records
- "Flood," Hard Rain, Paramount Pictures
- "The Chair" original song for Long Kiss Goodnight, New Line Cinemas
- Performance at 1999 Sundance Film Festival Music Studio