After a nearly 3 year hiatus, THE AFTERS return with their sixth studio album "Fear No More", available everywhere May 31. The album's debut single "Well Done" continues it's radio chart dominance with over 90% of Christian AC stations playing the poignant, emotional hit.
While the radio single picks up steam, the title track has found a grassroots life of its own. An instant fan favorite, "Fear No More" has found an incredible viral audience that resonates with its powerful message, picking up over 2 million views on Youtube over a couple months' time.
Q: Thanks guys for doing this interview with us. It's been nearly three years since your last full-length, what's happened during this time?
We've been incredibly busy - with both music and life. For work, we have toured all over the world, and we did a lot of writing and recording for the new record. Personally, our families are growing and getting older which takes up more time as we reach new milestones (like teaching them to drive!). In a lot of ways it doesn't seem like three years since "Live on Forever," but a lot of real life has happened in the last three years, so it's gone by quickly.
Q: How and when you know it was time to make an album?
From a personal and artistic perspective, we know it's time to make a new record when we find that we have something to say. In the past, we've done a lot of writing about things our friends are going through, but this time we have tried to be a lot more honest and vulnerable about what's happening with us personally. When we got to the point where we were actively writing more about our own struggles, we knew it was time to do this record.
Q: Did you approach the making of this album any different from your other records?
The titles and subjects of our previous records have been very hopeful and happy, but as we approached writing and recording over the last couple years, we realized we all struggled deeply with fear and anxiety - things that aren't happy. We went into this record wanting to be more vulnerable about the things going on in our personal lives - to pull back the curtain a bit and share some of our own struggles in hope that it starts a conversation. Ultimately, we wanted those who listen to realize that they're not alone. In sharing our own personal struggles, it's been incredible to see how many people have reached out and have shared the same pain. Through telling our stories, we can encourage each other and remind each other of the hope that we have in Jesus.
Q: Why did you call the album "Fear No More?"
Usually when we write songs, we try to make the titles and lyrics sound like we would say the same message to a friend. "Fear no more" isn't the phrase you'd use to encourage someone but there's something almost hymn-like about it. Hymns are old and have stood the test of time - people have sung these words forever throughout the centuries. In the same way, struggling with sin and anxiety is not new. One of the things we've realized as we've grown older is that these are things that humanity has struggled with forever. So, the thing we wanted to communicate with the record is that you're not alone - you're not even alone where you live, in this time. Our tendency is to isolate and think "no one else knows what I've going through" or "I'm defective" and it's just not true. We wanted to communicate that we're all broken and we all struggle with these things. And it's going to be ok.
Another inspiration for this record is the 365 times we are told to "fear not" in the Bible. Josh brought this to the table when we were writing as he looked back at a season of anxiety after his father passed away at age 37. At the time, Josh was young and he began to be a bit of a hypochondriac. He would get sick and take himself to the doctor, fearing he had developed cancer himself. His wakeup call was when a doctor bluntly said, "Get out of here. There's nothing wrong with you. You're perfectly healthy. There are legitimately sick people here and you're wasting the time I could be giving them." This shook Josh up and made him realize that he WAS fine - and began to lean into scripture. He started reading the verses about fear and anxiety a lot and he discovered the 365 "fear not" commands in the Bible. One for each day of the year. He took this intense warning from the doctor and God's assurance as a way to cling to truth. That inspiration became "I Will Fear No More," which can be an anthem for people to sing over their lives as they go through similar circumstances.
Q: You also got to work with MercyMe on this album. How did this come about? What was it like working with them?
MercyMe has been a part of our story since the very early days. They were a local band in Texas when we first started in the late 90s early 00s. In 2002 we played a show with them (to give some context, no one had heard "I can Only Imagine" at that point!) and we kept in touch. Years later in 2005, Bart Millard signed us on their label and took us on tour. One night the whole band came out and sang with us on stage. It was a special moment that we always remembered and wanted to recreate it. So, we asked if they wanted to join us for this record. One of the new songs "Lightning" was actually written with Bart, which is something we wanted to do for years. we've been friends for so long and it was like a big party when we got together to record - it was so hard to get working because we were having so much fun hanging out in the studio. At one point, hours into being there, someone said, "we should probably get recording!"
Q: Talk to us about your single "Well Done." What's the story behind this song?
"Well Done" was particularly heavy for us - we began to feel the weight of the words long before we even really knew why. For example, my grandfather passed away a few years ago, and my dad said that he would pray each day for not only his kids, but his kids' spouses, and their kids, and his grandchildren. My father was struck by this profound amount of prayer, and committed to do just as his father had done for the rest of his life. When we were writing "Well Done" I remembered this and it became an inspiration for us. This song isn't about the END of life, this is a song about LIVING. Following Jesus every day and in every moment. Ultimately, it's about living a life that at the end Jesus would say "well done." That was the hardest song to write from an emotional standpoint as I thought about a whole lifetime of the men in my life praying for me.
Q: Many of us face fear and anxiety. What advice can you offer to our readers suffering from fear now?
If someone is reading this and thinking "I can't get through this fear and anxiety alone" we would say, "You are right, you weren't made to do it by yourself." God created us for community - and community points to him. Our fellowship with fellow man is a shadow of what Heaven is made of. We need other people, and we need to intentionally seek this out. Getting involved in the local church is the first line of defense for battling isolation. We have, to a great degree, underplayed the role that our church body should have in our lives. We've decided that we want the Kingdom without the King - and we've taken that central part of community and removed it entirely by letting social media affect how we feel about ourselves. So, if you're feeling beaten up and anxious, seek out a local church congregation and get involved. Volunteer, go to Bible studies, meet others. We are ALL struggling and you don't have to do it alone.