A few streets over from the quirky, vintage clothing shops, rows of quaint fixer-uppers and eclectic eateries nestled in Nashvilles Berry Hill neighborhood, Jars of Clay seems right at home at Blackbird Studio this particular Wednesday. The foursome is taking a break this evening from putting its creative spin on a U2 track ("All I Want Is You") for the upcoming benefit compilation, In the Name of Love: Artists United for Africa (Sparrow).
While many artists in Nashvilles music community always seem ready for their close-up with a deliberate "rock star" look in place, even during low-key moments like recording, Jars of Clays Dan Haseltine, Charlie Lowell, Stephen Mason and Matt Odmark skip the fanfare on the fashion front. When they walk into the studios kitchen, they look as comfortable as people lounging in their Saturday-morning attire. Tousled hair. Baggy jeans. Wrinkled tees. Cool gym shoes. And with the exception of Charlies clean-shaven face, a few days worth of stubble completes the bands nearly no-frills appearance.
As the guys crowd around the rectangular wooden table, they amuse themselves by arranging magnetic poetry into clever musings. "There are never enough articles," Matt points out as he puts his wordsmith skills to the test, while his cohorts chuckle at a recent word pairing theyve concocted. Meanwhile, Steve is happily typing away on his Mac laptop as Charlie mentions Steves hidden talent of creating specialty icons for his computers desktop. "Just send him the pictures, and hell make you a computer icon of your family," Charlie offers in a pitch reminiscent of a late-night infomercial. Laughter ensues.
Throughout the course of the evening, its the bands easy rapport, non-stop humor (which often involves quoting popular movies) and the maturity that comes with growing older and raising families that really stand out. After 10 years of making music together and enduring a demanding tour schedule, Jars of Clay hasnt become the usual band statistic someone might read about in Rolling Stone or watch unravel on a VH1 "Behind the Music" marathon. Instead, they genuinely seem to enjoy and thrive off each others company; and this unique camaraderie and a return to musical simplicity are the prominent trademarks that shine through on Jars latest studio effort, Who We Are Instead (Essential).
"This record, for us, seems to represent something in the way of maturity." Dan Haseltine
With 15 No. 1 songs to Jars credit (along with three Grammy Awards, six Dove Awards and countless other accolades, including more than five million units in career sales), confidence in creating its art would almost seem like a given. But that reality didnt come to fruition until recently.
"Weve been a band for 10 years, but it was really strange to walk into the studio this time around, begin the process and actually feel a little different," Dan says. "I feel like we actually matured and walked into something we knew how to do. We went into the recording and writing process going, We have confidence; we know how to make this work."