Aussie independent pop/worship singer/songwriter Nathan Tasker released his brand new album Man On A Wire this week! Full of heartfelt, poignant, emotional and impacting pop/folk ballads, and plenty of worshipful tunes, this album is one of the most personal and honest albums of 2014! I had the privilege of interviewing Nathan via email recently, about the new album. We discussed the album, which songs mean the most to him, what he hopes listeners will experience when hearing the new songs, as well as his goals and dreams for the year ahead. Check out the interview below.
1. It’s been 3 years since your studio album Home, and 1 and a half years since the hymns album The Bell Tower; can you tell us about recording this album and how God guided you through the process?
It’s definitely been a long few years since the release of Home and this new album Man On A Wire. It was around the time of the release of Home that my world crumbled with the death of my wife’s Dad, and then the loss of our own twin babies when my wife was 6 months pregnant. I have always tried to share my life through my music with as much integrity and honesty as possible, and I knew that writing an album of songs that speaks into those moments of sorrow and loss that we all can feel, whilst still keeping our eyes focused on Jesus, was going to be a difficult task! Thankfully, God graciously guided me to some outstanding songwriters in Nashville who entered into my story, and helped to shape songs that I believe in and trust God can use to encourage many others now. It took three years because the first year or two were full of a lot of lament songs (some that made it on this new album like “Sowing Tears”, “Nowhere to be Found”), but it’s really in the last year that new songs of hope and joy have started to appear. We decided to record once we knew we had an album of songs that covered as much of the Christian experience as possible – joy, sorrow, loss, hope.
2. Which song on the new album means the most to you? Describe how recording these 11 new songs has been for you, and what God has been teaching you throughout this process?
I think the most important song on the album to me is “Nowhere To Be Found”. It has always felt like a dangerous song to sing (I mean, not many people want to say to God “You are nowhere to be found”!). However, when you read the Bible you see that that is exactly what a lot of believers did say! In fact, over 1/3rd of the Psalms are laments. They are the author crying out “God, where are you? Why aren’t you here?”. One of my friends in Nashville reminds me that “prayers of frustration, and even anger, can still be prayers of faith”. The key is taking your sorrow, your pain to God, even if it sounds wrong. Job did this. Jesus laments on the cross. Taking your frustration to God is what makes lament such an important part of the Christian journey. the other alternative, to hide these emotions inside and turn our back on God, is actually an act of despair But lament can ibe the path back to true worship – all but one of the Psalms of lament, end in praise. “Nowhere to be Found” has a similar note of hope, as I sing about the empty tomb – a definite reason to hold on in the midst of suffering!
Recording all the songs on the album was a great experience. I worked with a producer named Paul Moak (Third Day, Mat Kearney, Matt Maher) and he brought such a great perspective to the songs. He wanted us to capture the best recording of each song, whilst retaining the immediacy and urgency of the lyrics. He always encouraged me to back myself, as I can be a master of second-guessing! God once again taught me about community, and that the best art always comes from great community.
3. What is the one thing that you hope listeners can gain when they hear Man On A Wire? If there is one song listeners should check out first, what would it be?
I hope that anyone who listens to the album will enjoy the songs, and find them to be an encouragement on their Christian journey. I especially hope that for people who have been through great moments of sorrow and loss, that they might find some solidarity in these lyrics, to realize that we are not alone, and that ultimately our God cares about and loves us more than we could ever have hoped or dreamed. Perhaps the title track “Man On A Wire” is a good first song to listen to.
4. The album contains some of your most personal and emotional songs, and some of my favourites, inclusive of the title track, “You Will Not Forsake Me”, “Nowhere To Be Found”, “Whole World”, and “Voice I Long To Hear”; what did the songs overall mean to you as you were recording it?
Great question! These songs mean so much to me. They have been a huge part of my own healing during these past few years, and each of them represent a moment of God’s mercy, and a fresh realization of His presence. One of my favorites to write was “You Will Not Forsake me”. It’s possible for the listener to hear this song on many levels, but I actually wrote it about my wife. Bonhoeffer, the German theologian, has a great quote (& I’m paraphrasing) “that Christ on the lips of my brother is often stronger than the Christ in my own heart”. All he meant is that we often experience God’s faithfulness in the faithfulness of His people. It’s one of the reasons why going to church, even when you are in the midst of suffering, is so important. My wife would often remind me of the truth of the gospel at times when I had forgotten, and in those times God was reminding me “I will never forsake you”.
5. Has there been a recent song that has been ministering to people on the road, and what are some of the encouraging stories you have heard from the impact of your songs (on any of your albums you’ve recorded, or on this upcoming album)?
I guess “Nowhere to be Found” gets the biggest response. I think that it expresses something that a lot of people feel but aren’t sure they are allowed to say. Another song that has been received well is “Closer”. I think people resonate with my own longing for God’s kingdom to come.
6. Were there any difficult songs to write, sing or even record, either because they were based on personal experiences of yourself or others?
I know I sound a little like a broken record here, but “Nowhere to be Found” was the most difficult to sing, and yet we actually ended up using the first and only take of the vocal for this song! I recorded my vocals in the studio control room because I wanted to be close to other humans! (Most vocals are recorded in the larger, acoustically treated live rooms.) I needed to be singing the song to people, and so my studio team sat around, and I sang the vocal for the song. It took everything not to break down in the middle of it, but I think we captured something special and real in that moment.
7. For those who may not have listened to your style of music before, who would you say you sound similar to at the moment? Personally, I reckon you have an acoustic, folk and pop sound, similar to artists like Josh Wilson, Jason Gray and Andrew Peterson!
Thanks for thinking of me in that category! They are all such great guys, and in fact Andrew Peterson and I share the same management team here in Nashville.
I guess acoustic, folk/pop is a god way to describe it. I definitely enjoy listening to a lot of British acoustic pop music, bands like Bears Den, and Matthew and the Atlas. Then again, I collect vinyl records, so my listening is extremely diverse – everything from Bob Dylan, Ed Sheern, to all the Aussie greats like Paul Kelly and Midnight Oil.
My greatest joy is still being able to sing a song with just my acoustic guitar – that will always be my favorite default.
8. Both musically and lyrically, how does Man On A Wire capture the experiences of yourself throughout the last few years of your musical journey?
I think that Man On A Wire captures my experiences in a very immediate and honest way. We decided to work with a few of the top musicians in America to record the album, and we did a lot of the recording together in the one studio. Before each song, we would gather in the studio lounge and I would play the song, just me and my guitar. We would chat about why I wrote the song, what it means to me, and then all go in to the studio to play. I think that by doing it this way, the musicians were able to enter in to my life and create out of my experiences. Which they all did exceptionally well!
9. Are there any artists/writers/producers you would like to collaborate and compose music with in the future? Who were your favourite artists you admired and looked up to musically in your earlier years, and is there any artist or band that you admire within the music industry currently?
Wow. I have had such a privileged life in music so far, and have got to work with so many of my favorites already. There are definitely some artists I admire, and would be interested in writing with. Guys like Matt Hales (Aqualung) & Brooke Fraser have always written great music. I’d also love to record with Charlie Peacock again. We’ve done two albums together, but I enjoy his friendship so much, it would be fun to do it one more time!
In the industry at the moment (at least, the CCM), I am on tour with Michael W Smith. He has become someone I admire, due to his graciousness, humility and kindness. What you see on stage each night is exactly what he is life off stage, and that is pretty refreshing. After 30 years, he is still so committed to leading people in songs that worship our God. I also really like Matt Maher’s music. He is another intentional and thoughtful artist… actually, now that I think about it, I’d like to write with him as well!
10. Who do you look up to in the music industry (CCM, or mainstream), either as a spiritual mentor, or someone you ask advice from?
I have always looked up to Charlie Peacock. He continues to be a great friend, and is definitely the first person I go to for advice and wisdom. I also look up to Michael Card, another great CCM legend. His books have influenced me a lot over these years.
11. As an independent Christian artist, can you tell us how you reconcile your calling to ministry, you reassurance that God has you on the right path, as well with the fact that signed artists are receiving more radio airplay and album sales that yourself and other independent artists? If a label opportunity came along, would you take it?
Great question! I was actually with a label for my last album. We did the radio touring thing in the US etc. It was a great experience but also not all it’s cracked up to be! The truth is, a lot of signed artists aren’t selling more albums then independent artists. And radio airplay in the USA is difficult for a new signed artist, with most not receiving any radio support at all. The difference for me is that I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had incredible support from my friends at Aussie Christian radio – they do a great job of playing a diverse range of music and artists, and I’m forever grateful for the way they’ve supported my music (& continue to support it too).
To be honest, I am really enjoying being independent at the moment… and it would have to be a pretty incredible (and I mean, incredible!) record deal to pull me away from the path I’m on.
12. Any artists you have toured with in the last few years that have impacted your life the most? Any new tours you are excited for in 2014 and beyond? Any artists you’d like to tour with but haven’t yet? As an Australian artist, do you keep up with the careers of your fellow Aussie CCM artists, like for KING & COUNTRY, Newsboys, Peter Furler, Hillsong, Rebecca St James and Charmaine?
That’s a big question! I’ve been impacted recently by Michael W Smith, but also by CCM artist Aaron Shust (we toured together this Fall). I will be touring with Michael during Spring of 2015 in the US, and I’m looking forward to being back with that tour. I don’t keep up with many other Aussies, although sometimes we bump in to each other at different events. I saw Peter Furler at a festival in June, and the guys from For King and Country were at a Compassion dinner. I also recently saw my friend Paul Colman too! A great Aussie CCM artist.
13. For anyone who is reading this interview and is feeling discouraged or down, either because of something in their life currently or something spoken over them, what can you say to them?
I would say I’m sorry that they are feeling discouraged or down. And I’d encourage them to take, even their disappointment to God in prayer. It can sometimes be hard to remember that what we experience is very rarely true reality – in other words, we might feel like God is nowhere to be found, but in reality He is closer than we could’ve imagined possible. A great theologian called Robert Murray M’Cheyne once said “For every one look you take at yourself, take ten looks at Jesus”. It’s a helpful way to remember how loved we truly are.
14. Is there anything in your life that keeps you grounded and places things in perspective as you travel and create music? Is there any song, or Bible verse, or even famous quote that reminds you about why you do what you do and why you chose music as a career and ministry?
Definitely! My family, my church family, my friends and mentors.. they all keep me very grounded. Definitely reading the Bible regularly, and other great Christian books, keep me grounded in the Faith. I definitely love remembering quotes to help remind me why I do what I do… ironically one of my favorites is from my mentor Michael Card “You are not what you do”. God doesn’t define you by what you do, but rather whose you are! And that’s a great reminder if ever I am feeling down about my career and ministry. God can easily accomplish what He wants in this world without me, but while He is willing to use me, I am His humble servant.
15. Is there anything else that you would like to add that hasn’t been covered in this interview yet? Any parting words, and encouragements that will impact the readers of this interview, either from your own life or from others around you? How can fans stay connected with you via social media?
I’d love to stay connected with people. Please connect with me – the best place to start is www.nathantasker.com
Be sure to check out Nathan Tasker’s new album Man On A Wire in stores now! Also, check out Nathan’s youtube page here, as well as a couple of videos below of some of his recent songs from this album!