- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 13, 2002

Dan Haseltine lives in the 11th hour. Mr. Haseltine is the lead singer of the Grammy Award-winning band Jars of Clay. Tomorrow night, he will perform at the Towson Center Arena in Towson, Md., along with band members Charlie Lowell, Stephen Mason and Matt Odmark. The group is touring its fourth studio album "The Eleventh Hour," which was released March 5.

Unlike the past two albums Jars of Clay released, "If I Left the Zoo" and "Much Afraid," the band decided to self-produce "The Eleventh Hour." The group produced its 1995 self-titled debut album, which yielded the hit single "Flood."

During a phone interview while traveling to Austin, Texas, for a concert, Mr. Haseltine says self-producing is less complicated than weighing opinions when others are involved in the process. Although the band learned a great deal from producers such as Steve Lipson and Dennis Herring, it built its own studio in the basement of guitarist and bassist Mr. Mason.

"It was a great creative atmosphere, and we were appreciative of it," Mr. Haseltine says. "We were thankful for the chance to regain some of our confidence in being able to produce a record."

Not only did the band self-produce the record, but Mr. Haseltine is responsible for photographing the picture used for the cover, which features the skyline of Seattle. Although the photograph was chosen before the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Arlington, he says its image applies to the circumstances of the country, as do the themes of the songs on the project.

The lyrics of the album reflect the questions that arise from the Christian faith of the band members, Mr. Haseltine says. Contrary to many contemporary Christian bands, Mr. Haseltine says, Jars of Clay does not use music as an evangelical tool, but as an artistic expression of members' perspective on life.

"It was a conscious choice on our part not to write songs that necessarily explained Christianity or explained our faith," he says. "The songs are more about our experiences and the things that we know or do because of faith."

Of the 11 songs on the record, "Fly" stands out as an example of this method of songwriting, Mr. Haseltine says. It chronicles the story of a couple who became engaged and got married, only to find out the wife was dying of cancer.

"We tried to present the song in a way that was a lot like their days in the hospital room," he says. "They really struggled, but there was also a sense of hope."

The reason Mr. Haseltine approaches writing music this way is because he is trying to dispel the stereotype attached to many musicians who are Christians.

"Christians have been pegged as people that can't get past their agenda to love a person," he says. "It's said that they love somebody, but only to the end that the person would be converted to Christianity. The end of loving someone well is to love them without an agenda."

Jars of Clay has championed efforts against religious persecution of all faiths, Mr. Haseltine says. Working with Amnesty International, a worldwide movement that promotes human rights, and Prayer for the Persecuted Church, a Christian organization, the band has been exposed to the spiritual climates of other countries.

Unlike many American Christians, their focus is not on moral issues, such as smoking, drinking or cursing. Mr. Haseltine says he would like to see Christians in the United States broaden their horizons in many ways, such as allowing artists to address topics that are usually taboo.

He wishes people of faith would be committed to excellence in their work, honing their craft and perfecting the use of their medium.

"I really hope that being a Christian and believing in such a powerful Creator would push me to be the best artist I could ever be and do the best art I could ever do," he says.


WHAT: Jars of Clay

WHERE: Towson Center Arena, Auburn Drive, on the campus of Towson University, Towson, Md.

WHEN: 7 p.m. tomorrow

TICKETS: $27

PHONE: 410/481-SEAT, or group sales 800/861-0850


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