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Tag Archives: Hawk Nelson

  • The Afters - Life Is Beautiful

    Posted on June 17, 2013 by John van der Veen



    The only true alchemy in this world occurs when trials turn to gold, the debris and heartbreak of life transformed and polished into shining beauty by a loving, unseen hand. We try to catch a glimpse of this remarkable change in action, yet human eyes fail us. However, once these storms of life pass, we see the afterglow through signs as sure as Noah's ancient rainbow. A loved one overcomes. Morning breaks after an impossibly long night. Grace thunders through spiritual drought with a mighty downpour of living water. All of this, and more, affirms the fact that yes, life is beautiful.

    Such was the thought going into the new album from The Afters. I sat down with lead singer, Josh Havens to discuss the lines between the lines of what made up life and it's beauty.

    Josh Havens

    John: New record. Life is Beautiful. Josh, what is underneath the title? What is the theme of the record. When you guys are singing about the idea of life as being beautiful, what does that mean for you guys?

    Josh: Well, this record is really a collection of stories that comes straight from life. It's little vignettes that come straight from our lives. It's the beautiful things that we experience in life, the things we're thankful for and the good things, but also some of the pain and the struggles that we go through. What ties this record together is how God is present in every moment of it. He's with us on the beautiful sunny days and the good times in life, but he's also there when we face the valleys in life and walk through the harder things too. That's why the stories on this record are a real collection of some of the joy and the sorrow that we've walked through and just God's faithfulness through all of it. Ultimately, I think no matter what situation we find ourselves in, God can make beauty in anything. That's definitely been our experience as we were walking through the making of this record.

    John: Was there ever a moment in the recording process where either you, individually or the four of you guys together, after a lyric is written or a song is recorded, you kind of just step back and go, "Okay, this is a God moment." Where the song almost becomes outside of who you are and God is speaking to you?

    Josh: Absolutely. Yes, there's definitely been songs where it's almost like you blink and you're like, “Okay, where did this come from? Where did this song that did not exist just a little while ago come from, because there is no way we could have just done this ourselves?” There were moments for instance in the song called “Broken” where I remember looking up, and we were all in tears as we were writing that song. The subject matter was so personal to us, and you know, I think writing in a way is therapy for the people who did the writing because you're dealing with the harder things that you go through and you're facing some of these things that are sometimes difficult to confront. For instance, with the writing of “Broken,” we were all discussing different losses that we've been through. I had just come out of being in the hospital with my son. When my son was born he had some unexpected complications and had to spend quite a while in NICU, and that was a pretty crazy experience. We saw other children there who never left the hospital. Parents that never brought their children home, and it was a difficult thing to be there and see all the suffering. We also saw God do some pretty amazing things and he really did show us His faithfulness in those times. I remember being in the hospital and reading the book of Job for comfort and seeing a man who lost everything in his life. I mean he lost his family. He lost all of his possessions, and then in the midst of that loss and brokenness he shaved his head and took off his clothes so he truly had nothing left, and then he fell to his knees and worshiped God. I just remember being so inspired by that and just thinking, “Wow, that's the man I want to be.”

    John: You guys had the opportunity to partner with the Erwin Brothers on their film October Baby. Then you made a music video for the song "Life is Beautiful" that was in correlation with the movie. What kind of experience was that like seeing your song being such an integral part to the message of that movie?

    Josh: Well, the way that that all came about was pretty interesting. We were actually on tour with Casting Crowns and we were working on songs for the new record. Most of the venues were these sports arenas, so we would have stinky locker rooms that were basically our dressing room for the day. So we would bring out equipment into these locker rooms and set up kind of a little mini studio. The idea for “Life is Beautiful” is one that's been kind of in my head for a while. I've wondered about that song and thought even about maybe doing a record with that scene for a while. We started discussing the concept of it and it just flowed out. It was one of the fastest songs we've ever written. We had it written and demoed within a day. Sent it to our manager. It was almost like once we started talking about the idea of things that we're thankful for in life and things that make life beautiful and those little gifts from God, it just started flowing. I remember sending it to our manager the next day after we had demoed it, and he said, "I've got to send this to the Erwin brothers because they just did a movie that this would be perfect for." Well, they had already finished it and turned it in, but they actually pulled it back and asked if they could make a tweak on it and they put the song in the movie because they felt like it would be a perfect fit. Then we did the music video for it. They had a whole campaign surrounding this film called “Every Life is Beautiful.” They didn't know about our song and we didn't know about the campaign. It just happened to be the perfect blend of ideas and the right thing at the right time that got put in place. It's been cool to see. It's such a great film. It's been cool to have a song that was a part of it and see the lives that were impacted by that movie.

    John: Josh, are you always writing songs?

    Josh: Try to. Right now we're writing songs, but not necessarily for us. We're working with some other artists on some songs. I try to keep fresh. It's one of those things like a muscle. If you don't work it out it gets flabby and you've got to work it back up and tone it again. It's better to not get out of shape. Songwriting is the same way. You don't want to lose it because it seems like once you practice the songwriting muscle as they say, you get better at it and faster at it and you're able to collect your ideas a little better. I definitely feel like once we're in the songwriting groove it's easier to finish songs and to channel ideas. I try to stay up on songwriting. I heard Charlie Peacock, he said he writes a song everyday whether it's good or bad. I think that's a great discipline to have. I'm not that disciplined, but I definitely try to stay up on it.

    John: What does this year look like for you guys? You're going on tour?

    Josh: Yes, we just finished a tour that we did together with Francesca Battistelli, and then during the summer we're basically just traveling all over doing festivals and fairs and things like that. Then come fall, we're doing an exciting tour. We're partnering with our friends Building 429 and we're going to bring out Hawk Nelson, some good buddies of ours as well. We're going to do a big fall tour so that's going to be really fun.

    John: Awesome. Josh, when you look back at The Afters touring experiences through the years, through all of your records that you guys have done, is there a most embarrassing moment that comes to mind?

    Josh: Most embarrassing moment. We've had quite a few numbers of them. We've had a number of embarrassing moments. I think for me, I've had some pretty epic falls on stage because I'm pretty mobile. I move around a lot and I go into the crowd and I climb on my piano and things, and I've had a couple of instances where I’ve had some pretty big falls. One of which was actually collected on video and somebody put us on You Tube. That's always fun. I think just the shear length of time that we've done this, we've all had our fair share of embarrassing moments.

    There's been times when I walked on stage and said the wrong city’s name and that's something I think most singers have done at sometime or another, and that's always something that's hard to recover from. And it’s like, no really, I am glad that I'm in your city.

    John: Yeah, wherever we are.

    Josh: Wherever it might be.

    John: Have you ever broken a bone on stage?

    Josh: No, I've been fortunate to not break a bone, thankfully. I have broken equipment before. My guitar has suffered through my falls.

    John: What has God been teaching either you personally or the band in the last month? You had mentioned a few minutes ago in looking at some of the songs you guys were wrestling with the fact that God is present in all things, both good and bad.

    Josh: Absolutely.

    John: What about today? What would you say ... you're a married man who has children. Speak to other guys that are just kind of hitting the daily grind, attempting to love their wife well, love their children well, and pursue Christ. What does that look like on a daily basis for you, Josh?

    Josh: I think that the reality is we all struggle with very similar things. We all want to be better husbands. We all want to be better parents. We all lose our temper at times. We all say things that we regret. We all make mistakes. I think what God has really taught me on a family level here recently has really been showing me through having kids is a little glimpse of the picture of grace. It's kind of given me an understanding of grace that I didn't have before being a parent, because anyone with kids knows that kids can be rotten sometimes and I have great kids, but they can still be rotten sometimes. No matter how rotten they are, it's not going to change my love for them. If they lie or if they hit their brother or sister or if they do something that I've asked them not to do and are disobedient, that's not going to change my love for them and they can't make me love them any less than I already do, and they can't make me love them anymore than I already do because I already love them as much as possible. That's given me a little glimpse of what God's grace for us is like and His love for His children. That no matter what we do in life even though we can be rotten sometimes and we make mistakes, that doesn't change God's love for us. He loves us so much that nothing we can do can take away even a single bit of that love.

    John: Amen. That is a good word, Josh.

    Josh: On the band side of things, I think gratitude has been something that God has really shown us through the years. We feel really fortunate to have done this as long as we have. Matt and I have been playing music together for going on 14 years. As a band, we've been touring full time since 2004. So we feel really blessed to be able to do what we do. I always remind my guys, if there's a day where people are complaining or maybe the bus breaks down or we miss flights or things happen that make the day difficult, I always remind them even on the worst of days that we're living somebody else's dream and we're so fortunate to be able to do this day in and day out. We definitely feel gratitude. It's cool to be able to see the fruits of what we're doing because when you write music you never know how God's going use it. Through touring you get to see a little glimpse when people come up to you and tell you these stories. We'll never hear all the stories, but when we do hear those little glimpses of what God has been using the music for, it's definitely encouragement to keep going.

    So what are the beautiful things in life? Havens sums it up thus: "Our hope for our record—and a lot of heartache went into this album—is that it will encourage people to see how God is working in their lives. He's not just there on the sunny days. No matter what we go through in life, God is still with us and life is beautiful—God is beautiful."


    This post was posted in Music, Movies, Interviews, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, October Baby, Francesca Battistelli, Jon Erwin, The Afters, Hawk Nelson, Building 429, Josh Havens

  • Winds of Change - an interview with Jonathan Steingard

    Posted on December 26, 2012 by John van der Veen

    Hawk Nelson

    After nearly a decade of success as a band, Hawk Nelson has entered a new era: new lead singer, new label, new mission, new music. But as Jonathan Steingard assures us, you can expect the same up-tempo you’ve always gotten from the band… with a slightly deeper meaning.

    Family Christian: Ok Jon, before we get into the really tough “Barbara Walters style” questions, I sent out a message online and a mutual friend of ours responded by asking the question “do you have any pet chickens?” Does that ring a bell?

    Jonathan Steingard: The only thing I think that would be referencing is that our manager, Ryan, has six chickens and we did a photo shoot recently where we actually were holding some of the chickens. It was pretty random. (laughs) So no, I don’t have any pet chickens but Ryan does.

    FC: Alright. Ok, second question is from Twitter today… “When will Hawk Mart re-open”?

    Jonathan: Oh, that’s a good question. So Hawk Mart is how we branded our online store. We’ve been going through a bunch of changes as a band the last year or so, and I think somewhere during that time we took it down. It may go up as a re-branded thing at some point. I think the biggest trick with that is finding someone to run it. Not a very interesting answer, I know… (laughs) so, I don’t know exactly when that will be back up, but hopefully sometime in the new year.

    FC: Ok, now on to the ‘fun’ questions. Did you join the band right when they signed with Tooth and Nail Records, or did you join a couple of years after they were running?

    Jonathan: I joined just after they signed. They recorded [the first] record with Aaron Sprinkle in Seattle in 2004 and then I joined mid-2004, so I joined right around the time that record was coming out. So I wasn’t on the record, but I toured for it and I was involved with every record after that.

    FC: As a band they were doing some stuff before they signed, so they’ve been together about 10 years, which is pretty remarkable.

    Jonathan: Yeah! Definitely, and that’s one of the things we’ve talked about recently. We feel pretty blessed to have had that much time. It’s not lost on us that a lot of bands don’t get to be around for that period of time. So that’s kind of special to begin with and then now we feel like we have a new lease on life in this new season…

    FC: I was reading something in your bio that Daniel Biro, your bassist said “This time around we’re going through all this emotional and physical change and God breathed some new songs that channeled all those feelings and doubts and emotions into the lyrics.” So Jason Dunn, the former lead singer, is on his own now. Two-part question… Why did he leave? And what changes can we expect from Hawk Nelson?

    Jonathan: I’ll try not to give you the super long answer. Basically when you start a band that young (right out of high school), there’s not necessarily a plan in place, ya know? You’re making music, having fun and it’s a great adventure. And all of that stuff is true and good. But as things progressed and we were getting older, I think we started to feel like we were growing apart. It definitely felt like Dan and Justin (who drums for us now, he joined us in 2007), the 3 of us were on the same page and we always found ourselves kind of on a different page than Jay [Jason] a lot of times musically, business-wise, spiritually sometimes, just not always seeing things the same way. But a band is like a marriage and so we were always trying to find as much common ground as we could. I think, about a year and a half ago it kinda became apparent that it just wasn’t going to work anymore. He knew it and we all knew it, but we didn’t know what to do with that, so we’re like, “what does that mean, what do we do with it?” So Jason I think decided to take the initiative – because he really wasn’t very happy – I think he wasn’t really where he wanted to be, and so he took the initiative and told us he was going to move on and do his own solo thing. I think he just wanted something that was his, where he could have the freedom to have it be whatever he wanted it to be.

    FC: Was it hard for you guys to accept?

    Jonathan: Oh, it was really difficult! I mean, we had been together for almost a decade. On so many levels it was all we knew. So now it was just this big unknown, like well, “what now?” For the most part if you’ve been in a band for a decade and your singer leaves, you’re done. I mean, there can be life for a band beyond that, but it’s very difficult. So we were processing all of that stuff. We had a little time off last Christmas to process this and figure out, “do we still want to be a band, or do we move on to other things?” We really felt like the answer to that question when we prayed about it was that we still really wanted to be a band and the idea of moving forward without some of that tension internally – to all be on the same page – was really exciting. Like what’s possible if we all actually want the same thing? So once we decided to move on as a band, that just meant finding a singer. We were talking to three different guys, and I think any one of those guys would have done a good job and I think it would have been great, but it just didn’t feel like it was ‘it.’

    FC: Was one of them Michael W. Smith?

    Jonathan: (laughs) Yeah, he would have been a good one.

    FC: Kidding, of course.

    Jonathan: So yeah, we were just kind of in this weird spot where we really felt like this was what God wanted us to do, and we just didn’t know who it was going to be with. We were so caught up in the notion that we had to bring someone in that it didn’t occur to us that maybe we didn’t, until we were on tour with MercyMe, Tenth Avenue North, Lecrae and a few others on Rock and Worship Road Show this spring.

    So Bart Millard [lead singer of MercyMe] had gotten a hold of a record I had done on my own 5 or 6 years ago. I had put out the record mostly because I started producing and I needed something to work on. I had really no aspirations to be a full-time artist on my own, I love being in a band. So he was playing it in his dressing room and he hauled me in there and he’s like “Why are you not the singer?” And I was like, “I just don’t think that’s my role, I’m more of a support role” and he was like “Dude, you don’t need to bring in a singer, you’re the guy.” I argued with him for awhile and eventually he kinda persuaded me to consider it. So I started talking to the guys about it and all the guys were like, “this is brilliant.” It was this idea of starting a band with guys you’re already in a band with. Because we’d already talked about how much unity we felt between the three of us and that idea that we didn’t have to bring another unknown into that was amazing. So we started doing rehearsals as a three piece kinda secretly backstage while on tour still. We’d find little dressing rooms that weren’t being used and we’d set up a little tiny recording rig and just go through songs as a three piece… and it didn’t feel weird! It felt totally natural, which was just bizarre to us. So that’s how we got to this lineup. And then we started writing for this record. I think everything that had been pent up just came out. A bunch of the songs are just really fun pop songs, there are a few rock songs on the record, but there are also a few really aching, heartfelt God-what-are-You-doing type songs. I actually wrote a song with Mike Donehey from Tenth Avenue North called “Through The Fire” that will be on the record. It’s one of those songs that basically says “God I know that You’re there and I know you love me, but I don’t see that right this second, and I want to.”

    FC: So you touched on the songwriting process for this new record. How is that different than the previous process with Jason involved?

    Jonathan: Well, in the old Hawk, Jay was the main songwriter and so much of the personality of the band came from his personality, sort of goofy and quirky. Those who know him know he sometimes has a hard time being serious and that’s part of his charm. That sort of quirky thing he’s really great at. So a lot times when we sat down to write a record, the rest of us would kind of search for ways to go beyond that, and that was one of the things that was difficult. On this record there was so much going on in our lives. Sometimes I really feel like (for people that write) God uses those times to really do things that are redeeming. So when Jay left the band I moved into the role of the singer and the main songwriter. I’ve written a ton for this record. I actually did a count the other night and I’ve written fifty songs for this record. (laughs) Part of that was [because] for the first 20 or 30 songs we didn’t know what we were! We are rediscovering who we are as a band. Ya know, we’ve always been a really fun band and we still really love that. This record has tons of songs that are just a blast. But we were also sort of going through this really difficult time and God was shifting things in our lives and in our hearts that were heavy. I know that we’re not alone in that feeling. I don’t know why but I feel like the last 3 or 4 years with the recession… there’s been something about 2012. I have so many friends who are just going through massive life changes this year and I don’t know what God’s up to, but I feel like we can all identify with that. Times when the tables just turn in our lives and we go through stuff that we never saw coming. In those moments it’s like, God what are you doing!? But then you look back and go, wow God, You really had a plan and I just didn’t see it. So I think all of those feelings are pretty injected into this record for sure.

    FC: So, would you say you guys are growing up?

    Jonathan: I think we’ve been in the process of growing up for the last few years and this is a big part of it. I think this is a period of accelerated growth – we’re relearning some things, we’re learning things that we didn’t know before. Justin’s wife just had their first baby in May, the first Hawk Nelson baby, so that’s a new phase of life for us. Justin’s a dad and Dan and I are honorary uncles.

    FC: So, would you say that Hawk is still a youth group band?

    Jonathan: Definitely. We’ve been playing under the new line-up for about 20 or so shows, we’ve been mostly writing and recording this record, but we’ve been playing a few shows this year. Ya know, we’re still the band youth groups will book when they want to have fun night where they can let loose. Or if we’re playing conferences or festivals. We still are that band. The way I kinda look at it is the DNA of the band is still the same. [But] when the record comes out and people hear it, it definitely sounds different. Ya know, my voice is different than Jay’s and I think that a lot of the substance is a bit more grown up but I still think it’s something our audience will connect with. There are moments that are really fun that you can crank in your car and then there are moments that will hopefully connect in a way that we haven’t before.

    FC: So, not only are you going through a lot of transition as a band, you’re also on a new label. How has the transition from Tooth and Nail to Fair Trade Services been for you guys? They’re local to where guys live as opposed to in Seattle where Tooth and Nail are located. Do you find yourselves interacting with them more?

    Jonathan: Definitely. It wasn’t a bad parting of ways with Tooth and Nail at all. We had a five record deal and we fulfilled that record on our last album. It was honestly just when Jay decided to leave and we decided to move forward with the sort of new version of Hawk Nelson, it was just a natural turning point to have a clean slate in a few different areas – and one of those was the label area. We always had a great relationship with Tooth and Nail, but we had sort of been getting to know some of the people at Fair Trade casually over the last little while and we really just love the way they operate. They’re all about people; they’re relational, thoughtful and very purposeful. They’re a small company, independent – just really smart and purposeful about what they do. They really believe in the power of music to influence lives for the better. It just has been a really productive relationship. I would say they are more involved in the process than we’ve experienced with a label before, but because of who they are I really enjoy that involvement honestly. The A&R guy, James, he and I are talking probably every other day or so. We’re just in constant communication about how the record’s progressing. I can’t say enough good things about them honestly.

    FC: So besides the new record being available on April 2nd, what else are you guys most excited about this year?

    Jonathan: We are just really excited [in general]. It feels kind of bizarre because we’re technically on our 6th album, but it feels like our first in a lot of ways. We kinda have that honeymoon phase thing going on right now. The three of us have always enjoyed hanging out – we’re not one of those bands that don’t like each other. We love hanging out – we’re best friends. We really genuinely are. We’re going to do a tour in the spring. We’re taking Hyland and The Wrecking so we’re excited about that, but honestly, I think we’re just really excited to get this music in people’s hands. We’ve been crafting it for almost a year now. There’s so much going on behind the scenes that we can’t wait to get out there. The record is called Made and that comes from the title track. It’s basically this idea that when something is fashioned intentionally instead of just sort of happening and everything about it is on purpose – it comes back to the way that God made us. If something is created with purpose, the only appropriate response to that is to live with that same amount of purpose. On a personal level that is true, and then also as a band, it’s really what we feel right now. More than ever we are really enjoying having a purpose behind what we do and I think the record will show that. We’re also reaching out to a few people that we haven’t worked with before to maybe do some cool things we haven’t done before. It’s not official yet (I don’t think), but we have been talking with Food for the Hungry about getting involved with them to help build infrastructure in a specific community, probably in Central America. The cool thing is that they work through a child sponsorship model, but that money doesn’t go directly to that child, it goes to the community [they live in], and Food for the Hungry has a 10-year plan to build up infrastructure so that the community is completely self-sustaining by the time they leave. It’s a pretty cool process and the idea that we could partner with them to help one specific community and maybe over the course of a year see the funding go from start to finish is pretty cool.

    Also, I told you the story of Bart encouraging me to step up and be the singer, so we asked him to sing on our first single. It’s called “Words” and we’re really excited about it. It was kind of a function of us wanting him to be a part of it because he was such a big part of really encouraging us to move in this direction and he’s been a huge part of our lives this year. It’s really a special thing for us.

    FC: That’s great. We’ve heard the track and it’s awesome. So knowing your audience, when you’re up on stage, what are you hoping they see? What’s your goal as a band?

    Jonathan: Mmm, that’s a good question. I feel like on any given night it might change in small ways but more than anything, man, I just want people to know that they are loved and that right where they are God has a plan for their lives. That even if it doesn’t look like it right this second, God is always working behind the scenes. And that they could just take a step forward in life joyfully and confidently knowing that God goes before and behind them. That purpose might look a little different each night, some nights the show is just an absolute party and those nights I wonder if maybe God uses those times to just give people a night to let loose and remember that life is full of joy. And other nights… There was a show recently where we did an encore acoustic song and we’re not a band that normally does worship music – we love to partner with other events that have that element in them, but it’s not usually what we do – but on this particular night, for whatever reason, I just felt super prompted that we were supposed to have a moment of worship and so we did that… and it was awesome. It was unplanned and we just sang through a couple of songs and it was a special moment for me, maybe because it was unplanned. We all grew up in youth group and I see a massive amount of value there, it’s such a crucial point in the lives of people that grow up in the church. There’s so much to figure out because not everyone’s church experiences are all that awesome, sometimes they’re scarring, so I love getting to know youth pastors and coming into churches and serving them in a unique way where we’re hopefully able to bring something new to what they do. I really think that youth groups are an area we feel pretty passionate about. We’ve always kinda connected with a younger audience and we haven’t always been good at growing with that audience. We’ve always sort of been that fun band that does that punk rock song or whatever, and while we still are that band, we are keen to really grow with our audience. A lot of songs on this record will connect on that level hopefully.

    FC: So what do you guys do to get ready for a show?

    Jonathan: (laughs) Well I’ve started warming up vocally which I didn’t used to do because now I’m the singer and I’m terrified of getting sick. When it didn’t used to be a big deal I was the guy that if I had the flu, would just put a bucket on the side of the stage and rock it… but now it matters. (laughs) So I have a few vocal exercises that I do. Justin does some rudimental exercises on a drum pad and Dan mostly just hangs out with people. (laughs) We do have a coffee road case and we told our road manager that it’s the most important road case in the whole lot, so he knows to keep it around so we can make coffee whenever we need to.

    FC: Have you turned into a coffee snob?

    Jonathan: I’m not a snob necessarily; I still do Starbucks and some of my friends who are coffee snobs feel more like that’s a corporate offense. Mostly it will be right before the show that we’ll connect with the youth pastor of the church we’re at or the promoter who may have brought us in. That’s a lot of times where the more personal connections and meeting people will be, right before the show.

    FC: Well Jonathan, thank you so much for talking with us today. We’re just thrilled for you guys and know that good things are ahead. We hope you guys have a great

    Bonus video:
    Dekalb High School Choir from Waterloo, IL performs Hawk Nelson's "The Show"


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews and was tagged with Featured, Tenth Ave. North, Lecrae, MercyMe, Michael W. Smith, Hawk Nelson

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