Jars of Clay writes great songs, thatís what theyíve done well for over two decades and thatís whatís kept them going all of this time. Theyíre not the touring group that they used to be, their focus now is creating albums. They love to get inspired to try new things in the studio and take their sound to new places. Their new album, Inland has them going to more new places than usual. Thatís because the band started far differently with their new record compared to their past few. Talking with Jars of Clay vocalist Dan Haseltine about the bandís new album, Haseltine commented first on how many songs the band wrote for the new record.
ďWe wrote about fifty or sixty songs and narrowed it back to the ten or twelve songs that we really wanted on the record,Ē said the longtime Jars vocalist. ďWe donít normally write that much. Before, weíd have five or six songs that were really well defined and then develop the rest in the studio. This time we wanted to go in ready. We wanted to write songs that were very human. Because our background is with spiritual music, thereís a tendency for us to use a lot of lofty metaphors in songs. We were trying really hard to make these songs speak on a down-to-earth level. Thatís where we challenged ourselves the most. We also had to challenge ourselves not to make a concept record. We still write for an album. But we didnít want a central theme, we wanted to write and pick the best songs. Thatís an unusual process for us. Itís different when you write a song about young love and then you write a song about heart break. For us, it was a bit of shock, but in the greatest way. It was challenging to write a song and let it exist on itís own without connecting it to an overarching theme of a record.Ē
Thatís not the only difference on this record, Haseltine also talked about how different this record sounds for a Jars of Clay record because of producer Tucker Martine and his knack for layers in the studio.
ďItís interesting because when I listen back to this record I hear it as a very layered album. There are songs that Iím really proud of. One of those songs is ĎLove in Hard Times.í We kept layering it with all of these different noises; adding bizarre organ sounds and synth pieces, and vocal textures. On their own there were noises that didnít make a lot of sense, but Tucker wove them all together to create this really cool wall of sound. I was surprised and I like it when Iím surprised in the studio. Thatís the creative process at itís best; when you have no idea how something happened and you canít figure out how you came to the final result.Ē
Further talking about the layers and sounds on Inland, Haseltine said that to him, the music was inspired by new wave music and some dark pop music of the 80ís. Obviously, those are new sources of inspirations for a band like Jars of Clay. He said thatís the whole point of making albums for the group.
ďWeíre such big music fans,Ē said an excited Haseltine. ďMusic is still about discovery. Thatís hard for us, but we donít let it limit us. Who gets to discover a band thatís been around for two decades? Not as many people. But we try to come in with a blank canvas with every record. We consider ourselves a song writing partnership instead of a band. That gives us the opportunity to write songs and then find the right skin to put them in. That gives us a lot of freedom. We donít have to make the same record twice.
ďThere are bands that have a really cohesive sound as a band and they make the same record over and over. Hopefully they improve their songwriting but for the most part they keep their tone and texture. We feel like we have the privilege to not have to do that. That allows every record to be a discovery, even for our hardcore fans. Theyíre not sure how a Jars record is going to sound each time around. We lose some fans that way, but for the most part I think it keeps them connected and wondering. As long as weíre still pursuing innovation and striving to be the best song writers, producers, and performers we can be, then it seems like we should still be able to make great records.Ē