Indie duo The Gray Havens just released their new album, She Waits, so Jesusfreakhideout.com's Josh Balogh took some time to chat with the duo about the deep topics that make up their latest back of songs...
Dave Radford: This was the first record where I set out with a definite theme in mind. I think I told Licia, "I think I want to write a heaven record." Heaven has been a consistent theme throughout our writing. I only had a few months to write, and I felt at the time like I should write a heaven record because it was a deep well for inspiration. That wasn't always the case, though. I think I was saved at 17 years old. Growing up, I'd heard the gospel proclaimed clearly by my Dad each Sunday from the pulpit, but it wasn't til a series of events during high school that I really felt like I needed a savior and that Jesus was Lord. Even then, I didn't really think about heaven that much at all. It wasn't until junior year of college where I experienced a major paradigm shift that has lasted to this day. I remember doing laundry in my dorm room (a rare occurrence) and listening to a Randy Alcorn talk on heaven. What was once ethereal and abstract all of a sudden started becoming real and concrete. I'd never heard anyone talk about heaven like that. It made me excited, hopeful, and expectant. I started seeing heaven everywhere in the Bible and began to view things in light of eternity. Everything became more weighty and somber, but also much more hopeful and joy-filled. So I guess you could say this album, She Waits, balances both aspects of this tension during the "in-between."
The title track, "She Waits," was written specifically with creation in mind. However, there are elements throughout the record where "She Waits" seemed to fit as well. In the second track, "See You Again," a wife waits to see her husband again in the new Jerusalem. On "Three Birds In Babylon," the church stands waiting at the gate as she witnesses to Babylon. There are other examples, but those are the big ones.
Dave: Is the song "She Waits" a reference to creation longing for the return of Jesus in Romans 8:19-21?
Definitely. We were at the last Desiring God conference, in which John Piper gave a talk entitled "Groaning Saints, Groaning Creation." About an hour into the message, I experienced a huge paradigm shift moment with regard to that passage. I never understood how creation's story of redemption is directly tied to the redemption and glorification of the sons of God. Quoting the passage first and then I'll just quote John Piper's commentary afterward.
"19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God."
"It was subjected to corruption and bondage, but with 'hope.' Hope that it will 'obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.' The creation is waiting, like on tip toes; waiting with eager longing for that. I had it in my mind for years that God would make a new creation like a playground and then he would fit me for that. In a sense that's right, but it's the other way around. The creation is waiting with eager longing 'til we shine like the sun and all the galaxies say, can I get it in? That is amazing. So the glory that is about to revealed to us is our glory. That's in no sense a belittlement or a diminishment of the centrality of the glory of God. It just means God means to share it." The song "She Waits" is an attempt at putting this idea to song.
Dave: I'm afraid this to say this is such a boring answer. We wrote a song and thought it would be cool to have Propaganda take a verse. Our manager reached out to Prop's manager and they said yes. I have admired Propaganda's lyrics and artistry for a while now, but I was still a tad nervous about how everything would turn out. I remember when we got the recording back from Prop, jumping out of my chair, asking (forcing) our producer to listen (before me) through headphones while proceeding to pace nervously around the studio, shooting over anxious glances every ten seconds or so to gauge his reaction. First an enthusiastic nod. Then a thumbs up. Good signs both. Then my turn to listen...It was perfect!
Dave: It was definitely in my mind as I was writing the song, yes. The first sin was believing that something else could satisfy more than God. The song "High Enough" looks back toward Eden with mankind's history in full view, as it recounts just how enticing, deceptive, and ultimately hollow this lie has repeatedly been. The good news of the gospel is that God is infinitely satisfying, and because of the cross, we can one day experience fellowship with him in the new Eden forver.
Dave: Haha, man you guys are deep. I really had never thought of that 'til now. Would have been cool if I did tho!
Dave: "Three Birds in Babylon" was partially inspired by The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis, and also borrows from his famous lair, lunatic, Lord argument. The church is portrayed as witnessing to Babylon (which, in Revelation, is symbolic for "Godless society"), and she (the church) gets three responses. The first is that she's a liar and the second is that she's a lunatic. These first two attempts at witnessing are accompanied by different morning birds - a lark, and a nightingale and are ultimately ineffective. The third attempt, accompanied by the song of a dove, is effective and leads to repentance. No Shakespeare - sorry! :)
Dave: I usually say that the Bible, sermons, and theological books have taught me what to say, and that novels or good storytellers have taught me how to say it. I'm afraid my list of literary inspirations are probably cliche, BUT I'm a sucker for all things Lord of the Rings and Narnia. I recently got into the Simarillion and thought "Ok, Tolkien wins for world-building. Nobody is close." They're amazing. But Lewis is my favorite writer.
Dave: Bon Iver's record "22 A million" was on heavy rotation. Coldplay is always on. Probably was listening to The Oh Hellos as well. I'm notoriously bad at listening to new music and just sticking with what I know.
Dave: The unsung hero of this album is our producer and good friend, Ben Shive. Our records wouldn't be half of what they are without him. He makes the songs come to life.
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