Jars of Clay

  • Christian rock band formed in 1993 from Greenville Illinois. Members of the band are Dan Hastletine (vocals, percussion, melodica), Charlie Lowell (keyboards, backing vocals), Stephen Mason (guitar, bass guitar, steel guitar, mandolin, backing vocals), and Matthew Odmark (guitars, banjo, backing vocals). All members contribute to songwriting.
  • Hastletine, Lowell, Mason and guitarist Matt Bronleewe met at Greeville College, a liberal arts school affiliated with the Free Methodist Church, in the early 90s. They started writing songs together as a project for a class they were taking. Their first song, Fade to Grey, featured drum loops and samples, giving it a techno feel. In 1994, they submitted a demo tape to a talent competition sponsored by the Gospel Music Association, and they were selected as finalists. They traveled to Nashville and performed Fade to Grey and another song, Like a Child. They won the competition, which generated interest in the group from record labels. After self-releasing the demo, titled Frail, they made the decision to drop out of college and move to Nashville. Bronleewe decided not to join them, and he was replaced by Odmark, who was a childhood friend of Lowell.
  • They chose their name from a passage from 2 Corinthians – “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
  • They signed a recording contract in 1994, and their debut album, the self titled Jars of Clay, was released in 1995. The first single, Flood, reached #1 on the Christian Rock chart, and then it was picked up by secular radio stations. It subsequently charted on Billboard’s Hot 100, peaking at #37, and several other Billboard charts, peaking at #12 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. Four other songs from the album charted on the Christian Rock chart, and the album ultimately was certified 2x platinum, remaining on the Billboard 200 album chart for over a year.
  • Their follow-up album, Much Afraid, earned platinum status, and it won a Grammy award for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album. The single Crazy Times topped the Christian Rock chart, and it reached #38 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. Four other songs from the album also topped Christian charts.
  • Jars of Clay’s next 2 albums – 1999’s If I Left the Zoo and 2002’s The Eleventh Hour – both won the Grammy award for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album, and 4 more songs from these albums topped the Christian charts. During the remainder of the 00s, they released 6 more studio albums, 4 EPs, and numerous contributions to Christian compilation and charity albums. Ten songs during this time charted on the Billboard Hot Christian Songs chart.
  • The band released studio albums in 2010, 2011 and 2014. Their most recent album, titled 20, features re-recorded acoustic versions of songs from the first 20 years of their career, as chosen by their fans.
  • The path of the band was derailed in 2014, after lead singer Hastletine went to Twitter in support of same-sex marriage. The topic was too controversial for the faith communities that previously supported the band. Subsequently, the band lost the support of the Christian music community. In 2019, an EP of Christmas music was released together with the folk band Shel, and Jars of Clay has performed an annual Christmas concert in the Nashville area for several years, but today the band members are focusing on other endeavors. Guitarist Mason owns a barber shop, Hastletine is fundraising for his non-profit that raises money and awareness for AIDS and clean water needs in Africa, Odmark is managing a creative space in Nashville for songwriters, producers and artists, and Lowell is a session musician, indie producer, and writer of music for television advertising.
  • Here’s the video of their crossover hit, Flood. It’s a great song…on my indie favorites playlist.

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