02 November 2010 | MIKE RIMMER
Steve Mason from Jars Of Clay is on a busy schedule. He’s in New York filming with the rest of the band and is rushing to make a 6.15am appointment as he talks on the phone.
Their newly-released 11th studio album The Shelter builds musically and thematically on a new burst of creative energy which saw the release of the albums Good Monsters and The Long Fall Back To Earth.
Those who saw the band perform at Greenbelt (a music festival in England) will be interested to hear that the theme of the new album was inspired by Greenbelt’s resident poet, Podrick.
Mason explains, “He gave us this great quote: ‘In the shelter of each other, people live,’ and it has been a great context for jumping off into a new project and speaking about how in a community people take care of each other and the Henri Nouwen idea of being a wounded healer; we are seeking refuge but also being a refuge to each other.”
He continues, “As a band, we’ve been doing music for 15 years and there were tipping points in our career where we realised that we weren’t meant to do certain things alone and were trying to make things work doing it that way.
“And yet the upside-down kingdom aspect of the gospel is leading with weakness and finding strength there.
Musically, the band have been stretching out for a while, as Mason observes.
“I think things have continued to progress. I think we wanted part of the writing and recording of the record to mirror the ideas of community that we discovered in the writing process,” he says.
“Others have been involved in the collaboration and recording of it and that does have a lot of sonic value and it brings a different energy.
“It’s not entirely a Jars Of Clay record because there are a lot of different voices on it and small pockets of choir here and there, so it has a congregational feel, so quite different!”
Does Mason think that one of the problems is that we’ve been sold a Christianity that’s only about an individual relationship with God and we’ve not really been taught particularly well about the community aspects of faith?
“Absolutely,” he responds.
“And that is my story specifically because the real change happened when I started telling my story to the guys in the band and telling the truth about who I was in my entirety.
“The idea of communities knowing each other in an authentic way; that’s when power comes in relationships.”
Obviously a relationship like that has helped the band stay together and strengthened the four members of Jars Of Clay.
Mason shares, “Certainly it’s the case with the four of us and continues to be, not just in the strength we’ve found but also in the work we have to do with regard to being together because it doesn’t really stop.
“There’s no point where we’re done, there’s new work all the time and no standing still. It’s rather exhausting.
“I think the sense we got after recording The Shelter is that there’s something really important that we need to get out to our community as well as the global community about what it means to follow Christ and to love and serve others,” Mason says.
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