In the midst of their Pieces Of A Real Heart Tour, Jesusfreakhideout.com caught up with Sanctus Real to discuss their new album, Pieces Of A Real Heart, family, and touring...
This interview took place on: 4/7/10.
JFH (John DiBiase): So how has the tour been going? You guys are playing the full record, Pieces Of A Real Heart, right?
Almost every night.
It's gone well. The nights we've played the whole record, it's cool because the response has been attentive. I don't feel like we've lost anybody. We were kind of fearing that might happen before we got up and actually did it.
On nights when we can, we've put up all the lyrics for the new record on video screens and I think that really helps keep people drawn in with songs they're not familiar with.
JFH (John): Yeah, I saw the Switchfoot tour where they played the whole album of Hello Hurricane. It was amazing. More bands should do it.
Pete: It's cool. I'm surprised more bands don't do it. It's not that common to do it.
It is kind of disappointing if you go and they say they're going to play the whole record and they don't, because it's like you just don't finish... but we probably should if we can.
JFH (John): I saw the video with the deer costume for "Dear Heart." Do you do that every night?
Matt: Yeah, pretty much.
Dan Gartley: But the heart balloon has lost most of its helium. *laughter*
Pete: We need to get a new heart balloon!
JFH (John): What was your reasoning for the album title?
Matt: Well, we had a lot of different options. They were all pretty simple. We were trying to do something that people would hopefully get right off the bat. But then, it didn't totally end up that way. *laughs* We kind of mixed the idea of wanting to portray the heart of the band and the idea that these are songs that really make up a lot of who we are over the past couple of years. Definitely pieces of our real hearts. But also, pieces of an honest heart, too. I guess you can spin it either way and it makes sense - to us in where it comes from. I think that these songs definitely have even gone deeper in terms of digging up the personal elements of what we go through in our lives. We've always tried to do that, y'know, but I think this is definitely throughout the next level of being transparent people.
Chris: What were some of the other options we had? Cause we were in California [and our friend] Jason was throwing out a bunch of ideas.
Pete: Oh yeah! I forgot 'em! There were some good ones, man. It's funny because we've already gotten a lot of "Pieces of a Broken Heart." People think [it's] that all the time.
Matt: Well, they just say it. "Yeah, yeah, my pieces of a broken heart!"
JFH (John): I like the album cover.
Pete: Yeah! I think it turned out really cool.
Matt: The artist did a great job.
Pete: And one thing I didn't even know till later on is that all the little pieces are actually clippings from the photos from our photos shoot I guess? It's cool.
JFH (John): Now, you guys started writing for this record earlier in 2009, right?
Matt: Yeah. We started pretty early.
JFH (John): And you were originally aiming for a late 2009 release...
Matt: Yeah. [But because of] Steven Curtis Chapman, Toby -- all those other artists at the label [releasing records at that time], we all kind of wanted to put out albums at the same time and the label said, "OK, we gotta spread these out a little bit to give everybody the proper love." So that's actually how it really ended up. They were kind of like, "Well, let's make sure that we release it at a time when we can really make sure that we make the album a priority at the label. Not be too tied up with other things." And, at the same time, also give us that much more time to set up the record, just let people know about it before it came out. It was nice to actually have an album done in a decent amount of time before it came out. Cuz usually it's kind of a pretty tight process of barely finishing before it hits the shelves.
Pete: It was kind of weird just having the single out and then we had to still wait a few months or whatever. *laughs*
Matt: The single went number one before it even hit! It's kinda funny.
JFH (John): Did you approach the writing any different than with previous records?
Matt: I guess on a few of the songs, right? Was it four songs? We took some of the song ideas to cowriters which we've never done before. That was like a foreign idea to us. We just thought, "Hey, if there's ever a time to try it, let's try it now!" So, some of the songs that we thought had a lot of potential to be better, we thought "let's take it and see what happens" and good stuff happened. We're pretty excited about tapping into some other writers' brains, y'know? Cuz you kind of get stuck in your own realm of writing for years and years and years. Then you step in a room with someone else and you're like, "Wow! They're really good!" *laughs* "How do you do that or think like that?" It's almost like you turn into a bit of a sponge, too, to become a better writer. It was cool to do a little bit of that on this record. But the rest of it's pretty much the same. Either I have an idea and bring it to the guys, or they have a musical arrangement and I'll put lyrics over it. It's kind of half and half. But I will say I think there was a lot more care-taking from these guys, ahead of time even, as we were working through the process, to get parts down. We decided this time - like these guys - that we don't want to just stack guitars and have this huge wall of music and you can't distinguish, necessarily, each part musically. They were really focused on actually having a part that they can play on the album and play live. And actually, I think it turned out to make the album sound bigger in essence because it has more intentional texture going on, as opposed to just stacking ten guitars and sometimes having a producer pick which pieces they want to put in the mix.
JFH (John): You used the same producer for this record?
Pete: For the most part. We also did two songs with Jason Ingram and Rusty Varenkamp.
JFH (John): Which two songs?
Pete: "Lead Me" and "I'll Show You How To Live." And actually, those two songs were ones that Matt and Chris went and cowrote with Jason [Ingram].
Matt: Yeah. He's good, man. Guy's got a natural feel for songs.
JFH (John): Now, last year when you released "Forgiven," was it planned to be released so much ahead of time before the album release?
Matt: Was it? Oh yeah, it got bumped an extra month.
Chris: It was still going to be quite a ways out, but yeah, it ended up being an extra month...
JFH (John): It was pretty cool with the phenomenon behind it too, where fans and listeners were sharing stories. Do you have any favorite stories from that?
Dan: I think we were all pretty overwhelmed. Like the weight of all the stories. We didn't really know what to expect.
Pete: To see people open up as much as they did!
Dan: Yeah. I mean, people were talking about abuse and divorce and adultery, just all kinds of stuff. But just the fact that this stuff happens as much in the church - because that's our audience, is the church - and all these things happening. I think it was helpful for people to just be able to create that community, which is really cool. I'm trying to think of a specific story in particular, but they all were heavy.
Matt: It's hard for any one to stand out, because there were so many. It was just like an on-going list of depth in people's lives. And a lot of them were similar in the depth, y'know, like you were saying - abuse or adultery - things like that deep over and over. It almost felt more like a scroll. Almost how God might have this massive list of people's burdens that He sees. I almost felt like it was a tiny, tiny dose of that.
JFH (John): Can you talk about the music video for the song "Forgiven?"
Matt: Yeah, that was awesome.
Pete: That was great. The guy that directed it, his name is Nathan Corona and we hadn't worked with him before, but we'd heard a lot of good things about stuff he's done. It ended up being such a fun process because, I feel like technology just keeps getting better and better with cameras and he had this Canon photography camera that also shoots HD video on it and it's just amazing because it was such a simple setup that he had going. It was hardly anything. All of the stuff could have fit in the back of a trunk, basically. And we went to a location outside of Atlanta and started super early in the morning. It was freezing cold outside. He wanted to get a sunrise kinda shot. So if you look, you can definitely see in some shots the cold air breath. But it just ended up having a very clear message with the song. Usually, videos to me when I watch them are kind of confusing, "I don't really get what that's supposed to mean..."
JFH (John): Or they're completely pointless, too.
Pete: Yeah! I just felt like the two people who also acted in it did such a great job. It was a great experience. LOVE the way it turned out. It looks great!
Matt: Yeah, it looks good. What was the town it was in?
Pete: Maysville, Georgia. It was like a quaint little town. It looked like a movie set, seriously. I think they've filmed stuff there before.
JFH (John): Any other video plans?
Pete: We talked about doing one for "Lead Me" maybe.
Matt: Something... We have a little thing being edited by a friend right now that's more like a story piece, kind of a behind-the-song. It's really short, like a four-minute video. It's just a quick version of the story. But I'd like to do a music video for it at some point. I think we will. It's just a matter of seeing what happens with the song, how it's received. It's kind of funny, the label used to say, "Well, let's do a music video for the song we're about to put out." But now they say, "Let's see if the song gets really popular, then we'll do a music video." *laughs*
JFH (John): Can you talk about the story behind the song, "Lead Me?"
Matt: Yeah! I love singing this song because there are so many people going through different seasons of marriage. People go through seasons of life and marriage in different ways. Everybody experiences stress or strain in every relationship they have. But I think this is a song that really hits home because marriage is the most intimate relationship you have in life. You've committed your life to this person, you desire to be closer to nobody else in this world than your spouse. And when that's feeling fragmented, then that's crappy, y'know? Basically, a couple years ago, my wife and I were going through this time where it was really hard for us to resolve conflict. I wouldn't say we were thinking about divorce, but you get to that point where you're just so stressed out where you're just like, "What are we going to...
JFH (John): But "Don't Give Up!"
Matt: *laughs* Exactly! Exactly. You get to the point where you're so stressed and tired of the crazy cycle or whatever they call it. *laughs* You get to the point where you know that some people would say for sure, "Hey, let's just call it quits." But we were like, "Let's fix it." *laughs* So, I'm definitely not shy, but I tell people we went to counseling, because I think everybody should that have a good or bad marriage. So we went to some seminars and really started digging in and saying "We're going to fix this. We're going to figure this out and get back on track."
JFH (John): How about the song, "Dear Heart?"
At some point, during that first several months of just making these decisions that we were gonna work hard at our relationship, she sat down and just told me, "I need you to be a better leader, specifically spiritually, just creating a home environment that's really stable spiritually and emotionally - just be a rock in our family and this crazy life that we lead because of your job." *laughs* So I just kind of went before God and I cried, and I said, "Lord, I have a desire to be an incredible husband, an incredible father, and I just need You to help me to find the strength and the discipline to give 100% in all these areas." Y'know, men - and women alike - we're just stretched so thin between work, family, and all this. We're called to give 100% at work and 100% at home and be there for our wife and kids and not just financially providing, but especially spiritually and emotionally. So that day, I actually wrote the guts to that song -- just the cry of a wife to be lead by her husband and from kids, call out to their father to be lead. Ultimately, it ends up as the prayer of a dad and a husband to be lead by God, to build a home on the foundation of Christ. So, that's really the heart behind the song.
And later on, that's one of the songs me and Chris took to Jason to help finish. Loved how it turned out, man. And now that my wife and I are in a place where our marriage is really thriving, where we feel really connected and really strong, it's kind of a blessing for us to be able to share what we went through because I'd say the majority of marriages are either going through that, have been through that, or will! [We just want to] let people know that they're normal, y'know? Cuz I think a lot of dudes don't wanna be like, "Yeah, my marriage is on the rocks." *laughs* Y'know? They're not just going to say that! Or if it's not on the rocks, they're not going to say, "Yeah, my relationship with my wife's pretty broken." I had a buddy tell me just recently that his wife really wanted to go to counseling and he didn't know anything was wrong and the counselor was like, "So if you had to rate your marriage on a scale of 1 to 10 what would it be?" And he was like, "Mmmm I dunno? 8 or 9?" and she was like, "2." *laughs* And he was like, "What?!" A lot of men don't even know what their wives think. And then a lot of times people are in the middle of the storm and they know very well what the problem is! But just starting the dialog about it and saying, "Man, look, it's normal, but that doesn't mean you give up. Keep plowing and seek the resources you need. Don't be ashamed to get help in any relationship, especially marriage."
So that's kind of our goal with this song, to open that dialog and tell people what we've been through, give fathers and husbands a song to sing and pray and encourage them to be everything that we're called to be.
Chris: Well, I'll tell the real origin whether you want me to or not.
Matt: I don't even know what that is! *laughs*
Chris: Our very first song ever that we wrote as a band, well Matt wrote, when we were sixteen was called "Coffee Of Life." And there had been people along the way saying, "You guys need to bring that song back!" It's not a song worth bringing back. *laughter* But one day, we were sitting in my Dad's studio where we always rehearse and Matt will sometimes come up with these crazy ideas and we're all just kind of like, "Eh, that's cool." *Matt laughs* But he was like, "I think we should at least bring the music back. We can use some of the music!" And he started playing the bars and we were like "oh man..." and I don't remember if he came up with some kind of lyric there for it...
Matt: I had the "Dear Heart" idea for it. The theme idea for what it would be. The first few lines.
Chris: The theme. Yeah. And we said, "Y'know, that might be cool." And then we had time to go to Nashville. I don't know if that was the song we knew we were going to take to Allen or not. Anyways, Allen Salmon had worked on our Fight The Tide record with Tedd T. so that's how we met him, and since then, he's been producing his own stuff. Somehow we started working on the idea there and finished it that day, just the lyric and everything. The music was actually very close to what our old song was. And, I don't know, it ended up being a kind of fun -- it's reminiscent to me of our more youthful stuff because of where it came from, but I think the lyric is actually pretty clever and it's pretty neat how it came about.
Pete: It's a fun one live, for sure - especially when we have the [deer] costume and the [heart-shaped] balloon. The original idea was actually to get a heart costume and a deer costume and have them interact with each other. We haven't quite made it that far yet, but I think the balloon thing ended up being really fun.
JFH (John): Do you have a favorite or most meaningful song to you on the record?
Pete: I think, for me, the one that's kind of become more of my favorite... We found out that we are going to have our first baby this August, and the song we mentioned earlier, "Show You How To Live," just became way more special to me personally just because, obviously, anyone can relate to that song because it's talking about God's perspective of all these things in life that we see as these huge accomplishments or big moments in our life, but God sees those as little things along the way but there is so much more and He wants to show us how to live our lives. But from the start of the song, it's talking about God looking at a newborn baby. That song just became way more special because of that.
Chris: Mine changes. I don't know if I have an absolute favorite, but I really like the song, "The Redeemer," I love the lyric and I love the music, so as a whole, I really like that song for both those qualities on the record. I love "Forgiven," just because of its honesty, I guess, and its simplicity. And the music, I like the arrangement of that too. It goes between those two for me.
Matt: I'd say "The Redeemer" for me, cuz it kind of speaks to the heart of a lot of the other songs on the record, but kind of defines it to me. That feeling of the pieces of your life scattered behind you on the road and you're kind of thinking of all the things that maybe you wish you could have done, dreams you wish you could have seen come true... little things that we never understand why certain things happen and certain things don't, and trying to navigate God's will for your life in the middle of what can be disappointments and stuff. But in life, there's still those revelations where you see God's hand in all of it and you kind of have these revelations where you're like, "Man, I'm still seeing God as the ultimate fulfillment of your dreams - what He's done for us." In some sense, it's like, what more could you ask for that He's redeemed us?
Dan: I would say "The Redeemer" also, but I'll also say I like "Keep My Heart Alive" to change it up. It's a good song.
Matt: It's got a sweet bass part in it!
Dan: I know. I like to play the bass part, but it kind of has a similar - maybe before you get to the idea of the song in "The Redeemer," you get to the idea of the song in "Keep My Heart Alive," where you kind of hit just the end of your rope or something and you can't do anything on your own anymore and it's just like, "Jesus, keep my heart alive." And He comes and does that and He's "The Redeemer," so I kind of feel like those songs go hand-in-hand.
JFH (John): Now, I really like the acoustic tracks you guys did for the iTunes Deluxe Edition! When and where did you record them?
Matt: *laughs* We did them in one day.
Chris: We did them in one day, but was that before the music video? **everyone agrees it was** Was it really?
Pete: Basically, the label had the idea to do some acoustic versions and it actually worked out a lot better because, originally, it was all going to be on me! *laughs* to go in... Cuz they were all in Ohio and I was in Nashville, cuz that's where I live, and so it was basically, "Hey, you want to go into the studio to record all of these acoustic versions?" But it ended up working out great because I got started on them that day, but they were coming through town and so they came down and me and Chris kind of finished them. I think Matt recut a couple vocals and stuff too. It actually ended up being a lot of fun. Especially doing "Forgiven," that was fun, just cuz it's so different.
Chris: Yeah, I loved the way these turned out. I mean, we'd done some acoustic tracks for the last record, and I liked the way "Black Coal" turned out acoustic. That was definitely a highlight. I was like, "Man, we should just do an acoustic record cuz that sounded really cool!" And then this time around, it was funny because the label had songs they wanted us to do, but they were like, "Ah, do these and then maybe throw in another one," so it was very loose. We just did what we could and it turned out that way pretty much.
JFH (John): Yeah, I like it when acoustic tracks are ACTUALLY acoustic versions and not just remixes of the studio versions. So I was pleased with the way they turned out.
Matt: Yeah, I was too.
JFH (John): Any last comments or anything?
***For Sanctus Real's advice for new parents, visit our spin-off site for parents, LittleJesusFreaks.com!***
Sanctus Real's new album Pieces of a Real Heart is available now!