Keyboardist for Jars Of Clay, Charlie Lowell, answered a few questions with his thoughts on digital music as well as gave some info on the band’s upcoming album. You can download a career-spanning sampler of their music from Jars Of Clay on their NoiseTrade page.
To catch our readers up on the present, what’s new since ‘The Shelter’ came out in 2010?
We have been writing for over a year for our next full-length project. We wrote close to 50 songs, and narrowed it down to 12 or 13 favorites. We haven’t worked with a producer since 1999, but were interested in collaborating with someone on this project. We tracked down Tucker Martine (Decemberists, My Morning Jacket, Laura Veirs) in Portland, Oregon and he was excited about the demos we sent him. We’re about 2/3rds finished with the record, which should be out in early 2013. We’re thrilled with the recording process and the collaboration with Tucker. In the meantime, we are going on a fall tour with Sleeping At Last and Mariah McManus, touring clubs and theaters mostly in the NE states.
As a band that started in a time when being played on the radio was a massive deal, is there anything that’s still a goal, that musically you’re working towards because it would be a cool accomplishment for the band?
Yes, those things still have their place. We are not disinterested in them, but they usually follow after some momentum or story about the band or the record. So it’s creating and messaging the story that becomes most important.
In your opinion what’s the best way to sell music? Is Kickstarter the answer, is iTunes or Amazon the best, or should people be giving it away on NoiseTrade? Maybe a combination?
As a music fan and consumer, I use them all. As an artist, we have seen value in using them all as well, maybe depending on where you are in a record cycle. There are different ways I consume music- as a loyal fan (iTunes, Amazon, direct order), or discovering new music (music blogs, NoiseTrade, Rdio). The more points of contact the better. It doesn’t hurt to have your music everywhere. We like the pay what it’s worth concept, not just giving it away, but developing more of a two-way street relationship with fans, or patrons, as we call them 18 years in.
Are people going to have to stop making money on the actual music and find other ways to make a living? (merch, shows, etc)
We sure hope not, though it takes creativity, efficiency, focus, and great artistry to get people’s attention, stay on their grid, and get them to come to your show. We believe authentic art still transcends and “wins” at the end of the day, but the mechanism sure is changing before our eyes.
[Possibly random] I’d love to here about the song “We Will Follow”?
That whole ‘Shelter’ project was about community – the good, bad, and necessity of it in order to walk as someone guided by faith. We liked the communal lyric approach – the acknowledgment of “we” is powerful. We are bound to one another, and in many ways indicted in each other’s lives as we walk together. So, “We Will Follow” is a declarative anthem, even when we don’t feel like it, or community lets us down, or people are jerks. There is still a leader and we are still followers. There is a blind trust to faith that is equal parts maddening and exhilarating. “Where you lead us, we will follow”.
How do you pick tour mates? Are you guys seeking out new bands and artists?
A combo of suggestions from our booking agent of what makes a good package, and new artists or friends that we want to spend time with and share the stage with. We love to put together an evening of music and artists that we would like to be in the audience for. There are so many artists and in a real sense, we’re all competing for the audience and market attention, but you have to go with your gut and associate with what feels authentic and what moves you. It has to be enjoyable or it won’t last.
What about new music discovery, what does that look like for you?
I have a folder of music blogs that I like to peruse when I have extended time, but mainly I check in with Hypemachine aggregate every couple days and see what is most popular on the blogs, and follow their links to stream songs on SoundCloud, etc… I like that you can see their newest added songs, and also the most popular from all the blogs combined. I just discovered the HypeMachine iPhone App which is interesting as well.