My history with Dan Haseltine and Jars of Clay goes back to around 1996, when JOC was visiting the “alternative” radio station in Augusta, Channel Z, and did an in-studio performance, which me and a couple of friends attended (that’s the photo from above, I’m in the striped shirt and Goofy hat.) I had already become a huge fan of their folk-rock sound heavily influenced by many of my favorite artists at the time, people like the Indigo Girls and Toad the Wet Sprocket, and they were sincerely some of the nicest guys I’d met. Their song “Flood” would make it to #16 on the Mainstream Rock charts, and the album went Double Platinum. Despite primarily playing in and around Christian events and venues, the guys have spent their time writing songs that (while influenced by their faith), tackled serious issues, speak of life and love, fear and redemption, and the current state of society. The guys in JOC have constantly written songs birthed out of a desire to do life better, and to use their faith not as a weapon for war, but as a bridge of hope, while asking many of the same hard questions everyone else is asking along the journey.
It’s out of that mindset of not being afraid to ask the hard questions that Dan recently found himself in the middle of a social media firestorm surrounding his desire to see Christians treat our LGBT brothers and sisters with the same dignity and equality they desire for themselves. He asked some hard questions that have needed to be asked in that arena for many years, and to see someone of his credence asking these questions, and siding with love and equality, I earned a new level of respect for Dan. In spite of my support, MANY in the Evangelical Christian community shunned Dan and Jars of Clay. Folks said they’d burn their JOC albums (of course, fuzzy logic always causes stupidity), many called their radio stations and asked them to pull their music, and the backlash on social media was not anything that reminded me of any teaching I’d ever seen from Jesus himself. Yet, even in the midst of the firestorm, Dan showed great grace and a desire for more understanding, even writing a blogpost to follow up and help others understand the context.
This week’s Five Questions features someone I’m proud to call “friend.” A great father, family member, band member, and questioner of things. He’s been someone who has led the charge for greater transparency and honesty, and someone who is more concerned with moving forward than staying back. He also founded Blood:Water Mission, the organization April and I have been so proud to support over the years, which helps fund the building and maintenance of clean water wells and funds clinics and medications that eliminate and treat HIV in Eastern Africa. A fellow sojourner, I give you Five Questions with Dan Haseltine-
1. What is the one thing you’ve most learned in founding and working on/with Blood:Water Mission?
It is difficult to boil it all down, this work of Blood:Water. One of the major recurring themes has been the act of affirming dignity. It is all about the human side of an issue. It is the hardest part of the work. I came to the issues of clean water and AIDS through human stories, and it has been a continual struggle to keep the momentum of the work and conversation tightly connected to those human stories. There is a gravity-like force constantly pulling us out of relationships and into a disconnected conversation about theories and broader economies and it strives to keep us disconnected.
2. What is your all-time favorite album?
This is the most difficult question. Probably Depeche Mode’s Songs of Faith & Devotion. But I have equal love for Peter Gabriel’s SO, and Radiohead’s In Rainbows and M83’s Saturdays = Youth.
3. What’s one thing most people would not know about life on a tour bus?
Most people fail to recognize that you cannot poop or throw anything into the toilet. It is an unfortunate thing when either of those things happens. Try living in a porta-Jon for a similar experience.
4. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from being a Dad?
Vulnerability. Being able to admit when I’m wrong and say I’m sorry. And learning the art of saying “yes” more than “no.” Trying things and being adventurous with my boys helps us all experience more of this wonderful life.
5. Spotify? Friend or foe?
I am for mechanisms that diminish the barriers between artists and their audience. I don’t like the current economics of Spotify. I think it perpetuates the belief that a person is supporting an artist when they are simply supporting another gatekeeper. But this is simply a matter of the pendulum swinging too far in the other direction. In time, even Spotify will need to adapt or the artists creating the content they rely on will keep falling off because they can not support their livelihood in any manageable fashion. I always encourage fans to consider what music is worth to them. If it has made a difference, and you want the artist to continue, go see a show, buy a recording, get a t-shirt and tell people about them. So many artists are bound to the Spotify models because they offer exposure. And if people are not telling others about their music, then the only artists in the public conversation are the ones with major label $$ and pop radio presence. Support the musical middle class.
You can connect with Dan on Twitter at https://twitter.com/scribblepotemus
You can find Jars of Clay’s latest album on iTunes here, and I highly recommend it, it was my favorite album of 2013- https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/inland/id684305876
You can find music from Dan’s side project (and another favorite of mine) The Hawk In Paris here- https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/freaks/id719050257
You can find out more about Blood:Water Mission here (and I can’t recommend support for this organization enough, having gone to see their work in Uganda ourselves)- http://www.bloodwater.org
Check out the other Five Questions posts:
Chef Asha Gomez of Cardamom Hill
Jen Hidinger of STAPLEHOUSE and The Giving Kitchen
Chef Hugh Acheson, of Empire State South
James Martin, of lots of things
Julian Goglia, of The Pinewood
Erin Zwigart, of Georgia Crafted
Chef Homaro Cantu of MOTO in Chicago
Kyle Brooks, aka BlackCatTips
Emily Myers of Emily G’s Jams
Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni’s Ice Creams
Jonathan Baker of Monday Night Brewing