Listen: Josh Havens of The Afters chats to Hope 103.2’s Laura & Duncan
When Josh Havens of The Afters sat down to write the songs of his new album, Live on Forever, he was in a tough place.
He’d been to ‘way too many funerals’, after losing numerous family members in a short space of time, and had watched one of his best mates lose a newborn child.
It was that kind of grief that drove him and his fellow band members to lift their thoughts towards heaven.
In a chat with Hope 103.2’s Laura and Duncan, the lead singer of the Texas band said writing the album was a journey through emotional highs and lows.
“In some ways this is my favourite record that we’ve ever done,” Josh said. “But it was also one of the hardest to write.
“Over the last couple of years there’s been so much joy but also a lot of pain. It’s been one of the more difficult times in a lot of our lives – me and my band mates. After being through the things that we’ve been through, I just wanted to make a record that would encourage anyone who’s in a hard place.
“Our goal was to make a record that you could put in and no matter what was going on in your life, it would encourage you and remind you that God’s in control and you can trust Him.”
‘So We Wrote a Song That Points to Heaven’
The album is filled with songs and anthems of hope, like the title track, Live on Forever.
“We had been to way too many funerals…I felt like I was going to a funeral every month,” Josh said. “Then on top of this one of my best friends who was our sound guy, who is like a brother to me and the band, he and his wife were expecting their daughter to be born and when she was born she passed away at birth.
“The casket was way smaller than any casket should be…our minds turned to heaven.”
“We went to the funeral and the casket was way smaller than any casket should ever be, and at that moment, our minds turned to heaven. So we wrote a song that points to heaven: This place of hope that Jesus has gone to make for us, where there’s no more pain, no more suffering.
“One of my favourite [Bible] passages about heaven is in Revelation where it says that heaven is a place where there’s ‘no more death, no more crying, no more suffering’, and then it says ‘these things will be gone forever’.”
Best Music Video of 2016
The music video to the song Live on Forever is, like many of The Afters videos, cinematic in its style and based in a fictional story about a man who dies in an accident and then experiences heaven.
So inspiring is the video that it won this year’s Dove Award (Gospel Music Award) for Short Form Video of the Year.
“One of the inspirations for the music video was a book from C.S. Lewis called The Great Divorce, one of my favourite books,” said Josh.
“In the book you see a little glimpse of what C.S. Lewis thought heaven might be like. And everything was so real, that people couldn’t even grasp it. The colours were so vibrant, the grass hurt their feet because they’d never experienced grass that was that real…we had this idea of ‘what about this place where we know no bounds?’”
Art Transforming Pain into Hope
Songs like Live on Forever went through several versions before they reached the form we hear on the radio today, says Josh.
“It is a journey,” he told Hope 103.2. “If you look in my itunes folder, I have versions of the song from when it started, to the finished product for radio, and it changes so much along the way. I feel like every song is a journey like that.
“Live on Forever started with this pain of seeing our friend lose his baby and the pain of losing people we love, but then finding the hope that ‘Jesus is in this somewhere’. I truly believe that no matter what we go through in this life, no matter how painful it is, that God is right there with us.
“So many times looking back on situations that seemed so scary, and awful, I see God’s fingerprints all over it.”
Tour in 2017
After years of touring the United States, The Afters are finally making their way to Australia in March, 2017. They’ll be touring with Australian-born band, the Newsboys, with five shows planned across the country.