Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but Christmas is so delightful – especially for multi Grammy Award-winning group Jars of Clay. The band just came out with their first full-length Christmas album titled Christmas Songs; is in the middle of a Christmas tour with Third Day; and will be featured on Gospel Music Channel’s Christmas program throughout the holiday. But in the midst of all the excitement, Jars of Clay’s frontman Dan Haseltine wishes to spend Christmas Day quietly at home with his wife and two sons.
CP: I believe Christmas songs is Jars of Clay’s first Christmas album since an EP in 1995.
Haseltine: Yes, we did a Christmas EP with two songs – "Drummer Boy" and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."
CP: Why did you wait 12 years to do this?
Haseltine: We’ve asked every year of our record label if we can make a Christmas album. There was great momentum with "Drummer Boy" and everyone liked what we were doing, so we asked, "Why don’t we just do a full-length record?" Every year the label (Essential Records) kept shutting it down – now we finally finished our contract with the label and started our own called Grey Matters. The first thing that we wanted to do was to make this Christmas record. We had a pretty extensive record deal – it took us about 15 years to finish the contract.
CP: I read reflections on your website regarding your childhood Christmas memories – do you have any notable Christmas memories with the band in the past 12 years?
Haseltine: We actually did a really cool show in California for a radio station. It was really amazing. It was this pop station that has been playing “Drummer Boy” and it was the most requested song for their station, so they had us go out for this concert. We ended up sharing the stage with Duran Duran. I think that was a highlight for a “band Christmas” – to be able to go out and perform Christmas songs with a band that I grew up with and loved listening to as a kid.
CP: What’s behind the drawing in music video "Love Came Down at Christmas?"
Haseltine: We thought it would be interesting to take the concept from a kid’s head what the nativity story was really like. So we took all the different elements and had them done in animation style that was like little kids’ drawings.
Our overall concept with this record, kind of with the artwork, was that Christmas, especially now and this season where we’re at war, has this inherent tension to it. We’re at war and most of the themes of Christmas are peace on earth, and you kind of go "What does that really mean in a day and age we are at war?" Peace on earth is kind of a childish notion, or there really is an opportunity for peace to enter into chaos. We really wanted to capture that innocence from the childish quality of Christmas – the mystery and magic. No matter what story you gravitate towards, whether it is Santa Claus or Frosty the Snowman or it’s the birth of Jesus, you’re having to remove some elements of the plausible. To believe that, who does that better than children? The children are usually what become the passion and excitement of Christmas.
CP: I believe you have children of your own.
Haseltine: Yeah, I have a 6-year-old little boy and a 4-year-old little boy.
CP: Do they believe in Santa Claus?
Haseltine: They do! I love it. I know there are a lot of people, especially Christians, that can sometimes dilute Christmas and make it about commercialism - but to me it’s really about imagination and about giving and generosity.
CP: I believe you and the band are on the "Christmas Offering Tour" with Third Day?
Haseltine: Yeah, we just did the first show last night (Nov. 29) in Rome, Ga., at The Forum venue. It was great! We’re good friends [with Third Day], but we do different kinds of music, so it’s interesting to see how well it fits together.
CP: And you guys will be featured on Gospel Music Channel's "Christmas at Union Station?"
Haseltine: Yes, it’s at a beautiful hotel at the Union Station in Nashville. We performed three Christmas songs ... I got to see some footage of it not long ago and it actually looks like it was shot really well.
CP: Is Blood:Water Mission doing a Christmas outreach this season?
Haseltine: Yes, the Blood:Water Mission is actually one of the beneficiaries of the Christmas tour we’re on right now. We’re taking donations, and even just encouraging people and reminding them that there are non-traditional ways of giving in Christmas.
CP: What do you plan to do on Christmas Day?
Haseltine: I plan on really enjoying the day with our family. The tour is going to take us up to mid-December and it’s always crazy right before Christmas. So we’re actually going to have a nice Christmas together and play some games.
CP: That actually sounds like a lot of fun.
Haseltine: Yeah, especially since now my kids are old enough to play games together. I love being with my family.