On August 6, The Civil Wars will be releasing their second and self-titled album, produced by Comment friend Charlie Peacock. While there is excitement for this release, there is also a sense of brokenness, an uneasy culmination of something—the two members, Joy Williams and John Paul White, have called a hiatus on the band. It's hard to make music when you're not even talking to each other.
Last week, NPR released a behind-the-scenes video of the duo where they talk about this tension between them, about taking a break, and about the music of the upcoming album. Williams says that "great art is birthed from great tension." Later in an interview, she explains,
"This album chronicles loss and regret and anger and victory and sweetness and loyalty and I hope that people get the chance to listen to it . . . What I've noticed is people may be curious about it, but once they listen to it, they are hooked. . . . It's so honest and it's so rich."
What is it about honesty in music that draws us in? White says that the beauty of a great song is that, "it doesn't have to be intensely personal, because when it is everyone else is left out . . . If you can leave it just vague enough for people to see themselves in it, it seems to be a little bit more timeless." We're drawn in because we are able to connect with it in our own lives and experiences.
In John Steinbeck's East of Eden, Adam Trask's servant Lee muses, ". . . People are interested only in themselves. If a story is not about the hearer he will not listen. And here I make a rule—a great and lasting story is about everyone or it will not last. The strange and foreign is not interesting—only the deeply personal and familiar."
We're drawn in by honesty because we crave truth. Last month it was reported that in Norway "Bibles have been flying off the shelves." A new Norwegian translation has become the secular country's No. 1 best seller. Religious leaders don't see it as a spiritual awakening so much as a sign of the thought patterns of the people. One of the translators said, "Thoughts and images from the Bible still have an impact on how we experience reality." And how can it not, when it is the Word of truth itself?
Peacock draws from this truth when he says of Williams and White, ". . . My number one hope is forgiveness and reconciliation for the two of them. One of the most satisfying and uniquely human actions is the ability to forgive and receive forgiveness." Forgiveness is the climax of the story that not only draws us in, but brings with it freedom, life, and the ability to flourish.