After three years, The Afters has returned with a brand new album, Fear No More. NRT's Jasmin Patterson had the opportunity to speak with lead singer Josh Havens about vulnerability, community and the release of their sixth album.
Catch us up on life and what's been going on with The Afters since your last album!
Absolutely! We put out our last album three years ago. We've been doing everything from family life to touring, we're all really involved in our home churches. We partner with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association quite a bit, so we've traveled all over the world with them doing outreach events. It's been a great couple years, but this last year especially, we've been focusing on writing and recording this new album, Fear No More, and we could not be more excited to release this collection of songs.
You mentioned you guys all being involved in your local churches and having family life now, and I know that local church involvement has become even more of a value for you guys more recently. How has that shaped what The Afters music and ministry will look like as you head into the Fear No More album cycle–both spiritually and practically?
I really believe that God created us to have community with one another and it's important to give yourself the space to grow in that community. Early on we traveled so much on tour that we really didn't have the time and space to pour into our community. I remember coming home from tour one year–and it was a year that we had played about 250 shows–and I remember realizing that nobody at my church knew that I was my wife's husband, nobody knew that I was my kids' dad, and it didn't feel very good. I realized that I'm not plugged into my community the way that I should be. I'm not being the father that I need to be and the husband that I need to be, so we changed everything about the way we tour.
We made really strict rules about how long we'll be gone, how many days a year we'll tour and travel, and we really stick to it and God has blessed us. I really believe that if we prioritize our lives and put the right things first then God is going to bless all the rest. That's something that became really important to us as a band: putting God and family and community first, and then God really did bless the band in amazing ways.
What are some of the things that lead to this album and the theme of Fear No More?
When you're plugged into the community, you're doing life with people. And when you're doing life with people, you experience all the good and the hardships. You experience the blessings but also the struggles. Seeing some of the struggles people have been walking through and then realizing we have some of those same struggles, we wanted to make a record that was so encouraging that it would lift your spirits when you're going through life's hardest struggles, and also give you tools and weapons to use when the enemy is attacking. When anxiety is creeping in when fear is building, when you're going through loss...to give you tools in your life to remember that God is with you and you can trust Him.
You've mentioned before that vulnerability is a huge theme with this record.
It is! For me, it's long been hard to talk about the hard things that are going on inside. I tend to try to avoid pain. In the last couple of years I've become more aware of my tendency to do that. What I've realized is the more I become vulnerable and share my struggles, share the hard things that I'm going through, the more I realize I'm not alone. There are other people who are going through this just like I am and we need to encourage each other. We need to remind ourselves of God's faithfulness through all this and if we don't talk about it, we can't encourage each other.
It really did help me to realize that vulnerability is one of the great keys to joy. When we let out some of those painful things and share our struggles, it helps us to deal with them and find others who are dealing with the same thing. I've had anxiety since I was a kid. Talking about my anxiety and finding tools to battle it, I've been able to find joy in a way that I never have. There have been years when anxiety has robbed so much joy from my life. Talking about it and sharing those struggles and having other people pour into my life as well, it's really helped me to experience joy in a new way and to be present at the moment in a new way. Anxiety has a way of taking us out of being present in the moment because we are worried about the future, we're worried about things we can't control. It is definitely a robber of joy.
So with the record, we titled it Fear No More because I read an article that historians say this is going to be known as the age of anxiety, and I definitely see that is such a huge issue these days. It makes me realize we need more and more tools to combat fear, anxiety, and depression. We hope that this record will be a voice reminding people that God has a purpose for this life, this life really does matter and that you don't have to live with the fear and anxiety that's controlling you now but you can give those over to God. There's a lot of songs that point to that hope. I hope this record lifts people's spirits and really does remind them of God's faithfulness.
Was there a specific event or conversation that inspired you to want to take that extra step and be more vulnerable with this record?
There was a moment of insight for me where I realized that when I'm vulnerable, it opens the door for me to have conversations I never would've had otherwise. It opens the door for healing for myself and other people that never would have happened otherwise.
It started with a conversation with my bandmates in the studio. Jordan, our drummer, he had been really upset and struggling and had some health issues he had been dealing with and realized that it was all anxiety induced. And I shared with him, "you may not know this about me but that's been one of my deepest struggles since I was a kid." And I shared with him some of the stories from my life when it was almost debilitating and where so much joy was robbed from my life, and he broke down. It was so comforting to him to know that he wasn't alone. [To know] my brother's been through this too, I have friends who have gone through this, and there is a way out. It doesn't have to always be like this.
That's when I realized when we talk about these things it starts a conversation that can lead to healing. And then at one of our next shows, as we went into a song I felt led to talk about that. We had so many people come up to us after the show and say "when you were talking about your struggles with anxiety, I felt like you were talking directly to me because I deal with the same thing." That really started this conversation that we need to be open and vulnerable, share some of the painful things going on inside, share some of the hardest parts of our lives, pull back the curtain a little bit and just be real. We tried to be as real as possible with these songs and share straight from the heart.
Was there a particular song on the record that was the most challenging to open up and write?
There's a song on the album called "Forever and Always." It was written after our dear friend and long-time sound guy and his wife lost their daughter at birth. It was such a devasting and painful time. After the funeral, I saw him and his wife and didn't know what to say. There are no words for that moment. I just hugged him and we cried. I remember thinking, what words would I want to share with him that would be a comfort to him right now, so I started writing the words to "Forever and Always."
I remember thinking, "I don't know why this happened!" There are no words that can explain why he lost his daughter. But I do know that God is close to the brokenhearted. He tells us that in Scripture. God is with us when we're hurting and broken, and that's a comfort and hope that we can cling to. So that's where that lyric, "I just know He is close to the brokenhearted" came from. What I wanted him to walk away with was God is with you forever. Always. Through everything. There's nothing we will go through where we will ever be alone, even the hardest and darkest and most painful moments of our lives.
This might be on a more lighter note, but one of the lyrics I'm most intrigued by on the album is from a song called "What Home Feels Like" and the lyric is: "for the first time in my life I know what home feels like." I'm curious if you could tell us more about that lyric and the meaning behind that song.
Yeah! That song came out of this feeling that I've had after years of touring and traveling the world. Home is not necessarily a location. Home is not four walls and a foundation. Home is where your people are. It's where your friends are, your family. We've experienced that again and again. Sometimes home is in the middle of the outback in Australia. Sometimes home is in a small town in the Midwest. When we tour, we feel like we're with family and every night feels like a little piece of home. As long we're with our people–our friends and our family–that's where home is. When you're with the people who love you and the people you love, the people who will wrap their arms around you even when you don't deserve it–that's what home feels like.
Before we wrap up, what should we look out for following the release of Fear No More? Are there any plans to tour coming up?
We have an exciting year ahead. We have some tour plans that are coming together right now, playing shows all over the world from Europe, all over the United States, Canada. So lots of shows coming up. We also have some exciting things we're going to be doing online. We're going to be releasing a new vlog series called Around The World With The Afters. We travel so many cool places and I love experiencing new things. I love finding out the best things about each place that we go to. The guys call me the travel guy. So I'm always figuring out what the best food is, what are the best sights to see, what do we need to do while we're here.
We brought a film crew along and we started filming in Europe. We're going to take you along to all our favorite sites, you're going to get to know the band a little bit better, see everybody's personalities. But you're also going to find out what's the best chocolate in Belgium? What are the best sites to see? And that will be released to our social media and to our YouTube channel. We're doing a series within Around The World called Coffee Talks With The Afters. In it, we go to our favorite coffee shops in these places and we interview each other. It's like a conversation with the band. We ask each other different questions and get to know the guys a little better.
Fear No More releases is available now. Buy the album on Apple Music or stream it on Spotify.
NRT contributor Jasmin Patterson is a lifelong fan of Christian music who is passionate about helping others connect with Christ. She lives in Kansas City where she serves in college ministry and runs a blog to help seekers and believers discover and live biblical Christianity.
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