Everyone is on a journey, and every journey has a direction. Signposts mark the way, but it’s up to us to follow them. For Hyland the journey’s been a little crazy lately.
In Finding Our Way, Hyland’s second major release, the band has crafted a rich, accessible collection of songs that will speak to anyone longing for a bit of direction on life’s journey. They’ve created a gorgeous modern sound, infused their songs with the wisdom gained from a rediscovered reliance on God, and invited their listeners to come along for the ride.
“We’re right there with you on the journey,” says drummer Steve Weigel, “finding our way through life and our way through this band.” Weigel, alongside frontman Jon Lewis, guitarist Mitch Hansen, and keyboardist/guitarist Ben Early, knows firsthand the value of companionship, experience, and collective wisdom.
Consider lead single “Beauty In The Broken.” It’s a sparkling mid-tempo pop ballad based on Jeremiah 29:11, scripture that speaks of God’s perfect plans for us.
Lewis explains: “As humans we spend so much time thinking about what we want to accomplish. ‘What do you want to do when you grow up? Where are you going to college?’ We spend our whole lives contemplating our plans, and comparing our plans to our dreams. It’s great to know that when tragedy strikes, or when something causes us to lose our focus, God is there saying, ‘I have plans for you. I have dreams for you.’ It’s sometimes hard to see it, but God is there. He has a bigger plan for you than anything you’d ever dream.”
The song also represents a bit of an ideological shift in Hyland’s approach to making music. It’s always been their goal to write songs born of personal experience, but as they’ve grown in the last year, they’ve become aware that those sorts of songs can become a little self-indulgent.
“Being a songwriter, and writing music just because you love to write it, you write songs for yourself. If that relates to people, that’s awesome, and if it doesn’t, you have a tendency to say, ‘That was for me, anyway,’” Lewis says. “On this album, there are still a couple of storytelling songs, songs about my life, and I hope people can relate to them, but there are also songs – and this is a new thought for us – that are about something we know people are going through, topics we want to really attack, to bring some hope to some people.”
Weigel believes this new approach stems from a long recovery period following the theft of the band’s gear in 2011. “It humbled us as a band, really showing us God’s grace, and how much God was in control. It made us give up, and say, ‘Alright God, we can’t actually do anything. What can You do?’ And then, based on the amount of people that gave to us and supported our ministry, it made us realize how much people were invested in us. It made us see the responsibility that we had to those people, so we wanted to be more focused and intentional about what we were saying. That process made us hone in spiritually and evaluate not just what we want to say as a band, but what we want to say to the people who are listening.”
The theme is established on the album opener, “Power And Love.” It also quotes scripture, 2 Timothy 1:7, which says God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love. Lewis recalls writing part of the song in a parking lot outside a studio, which happened to overlook a cemetery. Gazing at the tombstones, he was struck by the concept that life here on earth is not over until you hit the grave, and that a spirit of fear can hold you back. A lyric was born: “Your story isn’t written in stone.” In that spirit of coming alongside listeners in their own journeys, Lewis notes, “A lot of times we look at our past and our failures and say, ‘Oh well, God can’t use me. I’m too fearful to move forward.’ I don’t want people to be timid. The second verse says, ‘The mighty have fallen, but you are still here, so learn where they lacked.’ You see Christians failing all over the place. They’re everywhere. You don’t have to be one of them. God is calling you to more than that.”
Musically, this stage of Hyland’s journey finds the band embracing new ideas. Lewis notes, “The first song on the album doesn’t even have a guitar in it until the second verse. At the same time, these still sound like Hyland songs, they still have all the Hyland melodies and the heart, and the structure, but we really just wanted to make music that we enjoyed listening to. It didn’t have to follow some set of rules of what we were. This music is interesting to us, and the content’s there, so let’s just have fun with it.”
In the hands of producer Jeff Schneeweis (Number One Gun, The Make), Hyland sounds vibrant, with bountiful pop hooks and beats, clever layers of guitars and keys, and a particular shine to Lewis’s vocals. Undergirding the music is a strong ministerial message, and the songs that do tell personal stories do so in a most moving and relatable way. “Lucky In Love” is the touching song Lewis wrote for his wife for their wedding day. And “Well Done” is an extraordinarily vulnerable and honest look at Lewis’s relationship with his father.
Lewis says of “Well Done,” “It was written at 3 in the morning, with a heavy heart. We’ve found that as we started playing this song on the road that people were really reacting to it. It’s a personal story song, but the more we play it the more we realize people need to hear it. That relationship has been healing a lot in the last couple of years, and I’m thankful for the way it’s headed. But the song is also a good reminder that at the end of the day, the relationship we must value the most is the one with our Heavenly Father.”
Ultimately, no matter where our paths take us, that’s the goal: to hear the Father say, “Well done.” With that in mind, Hyland will carry on finding their way, and what a privilege it is that they’ve chosen to be our companion.