We featured them on the site not too long ago with a preview review of their eleventh studio album, and now Grammy Award winners Jars of Clay have released their latest offering to the world, something that’s bound to excite and please both new and hardcore fans. Lead vocalist Dan Haseltine spoke to us about what the new album means for the band and what’s influenced their sound over the years.
Inland is released today! Tell us about the album.
Dan: Inland is the culmination of a couple years of purging the unwanted voices that had tainted the creative process. It started with a hard look in the mirror, waking up and realizing that Jars of Clay was not our own anymore. We couldn’t recognize our own voices in the songs because we had let so many other voices influence us. Voices like, radio, relevance, and trendiness should be left outside the door. It took a long time to find our unique voice. We kept writing songs, and a bad influence would creep up, so we would start over. It was about remembering that we are good at what we do, and standing confidently in our ability to write great songs. When Tucker Martine agreed to jump into the tall weeds with us, it was another piece of the confidence puzzle. He was so excited about the songs, and was hearing something in them that we could not. He brought so much passion and energy to the process. We left Nashville, went to Portland, OR to record and set up a place where we could close the door and let the recording studio be a sacred space. The sounds and performances we captured while we all played together were the kinds of recordings that reminded us that we were a band, not just a commodity. It was like starting over, being giddy about performances, being emotional about lyrics, and being impassioned by a sound or melody.
Describe your sound in one sentence.
Dan: I have started using the term, “electro-folk” to describe the music of Jars of Clay
Who or what are your musical influences?
Dan: Jars of Clay has always been influenced by a wide range of music. Even when we began in the 90’s, we were listening to a lot of records coming out of the folk and alternative scene at the time, like Indigo Girls, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Innocence Mission, Love & Rockets. And on the other side of the spectrum, the electronic music world had swung into Rave culture. We listened to it all. We would say our current musical influences include a lot of music from the new folk scene, bands like Mumford & Sons, Alt J, Lord Huron. We also like a lot of the electronic music artists like Washed Out, The Naked & Famous, Trentemoller. Lyrically, I was interested in the tone and delivery of writers like Bruce Springsteen, Neil Finn, Iggy Pop, and Peter Murphy.
What is the best album ever written?
Dan: I’m a child of the 80’s and I know I should pick Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde or The Beatles Let It Be, OR Nirvana’s Nevermind. One of my all time favorite records is Depeche Mode’s Songs of Faith and Devotion. Tomorrow I will have a different answer and the next day another.
What’s been your best gig so far?
Dan: We opened for Sting in Austin, TX in front of 20,000 people. We received a standing ovation that night, Sting was watching from over at the monitor console… as a 21 year old, that was a magical night and seems like one of the better gigs we’ve done.
Who’s your dream duet partner?
Dan: I would love to duet with Imogen Heap or Sinead O’Conner or Paul Simon OR Zooey Deschanel.
What TV show would you like to hear your music featured on?
Dan: My favorite television shows are currently The Walking Dead, Downton Abbey, New Girl and Parenthood. I tend to love it whenever a show uses a song of ours because it usually adds a unique perspective to the songs meaning. It always surprises me how they get used.
Where in the world would you like to perform?
Dan: Jars of Clay has never performed in Japan, and I would like to go there. I’m a fan of smaller more intimate kinds of theaters and clubs. That said, we had a fantastic performance years ago at Shepherds Bush. In the U.S., I would love to play at Red Rocks.
What’s your fondest musical memory?
Dan: Stephen and I were invited to do some songwriting at Miles Copeland’s Chateau in France. It was 8 glorious days with Carol King, Paul Carrack, Mark Hudson, Greg Wells and many others. I was only 21 years old and was mostly scared to death and in a state of shear euphoria at the reality I was living at that moment.
Finally, who are you listening to at the moment?
Dan: Washed Out, Alt J, Vampire Weekend, Lord Huron, The National, Lourdes, Leagues.