The Afters’ Josh Havens: Songs of Hope in Hard Times (Part 1)

The Afters’ Josh Havens: Songs of Hope in Hard Times (Part 1)

John FarrellBy John Farrell10 Minutes

John Farrell: When did you start singing?

Josh Havens: I have been singing since I was a kid. I started playing piano when I was six years old and then started singing in choir when I was about 10. I’ve been making music ever since. My guitar player from The Afters and I actually met when I was in middle school. We started the band right out of high school and have been playing music together ever since.

JF: You mentioned that you and your friend started playing together in middle school. How did that eventually turn into The Afters?

Josh: Matt and I just started playing music and writing songs. We played shows wherever we people would have us. People started showing up and we started building the fan base. One thing led to another and we ended up getting signed.

We played a show with another local band called, MercyMe. At that time, nobody knew “I Can Only Imagine.” They were brand new and Bart, their singer, really loved our music. A couple years later, they got signed by a record label and took us out on tour. That’s how we started touring.

We had a different drummer and bass player at the time, but after a couple of years, they realized touring wasn’t the life for them so they got off the road. We got two guys from other bands. Our bass player, Dan, played with a band called Mainstay. They broke up so he joined us. Our drummer was from a band called StorySide:B, which disbanded. So he joined us and they’ve been with us ever since. These guys are like my brothers; they’re some of my best friends in the world.

JF: Where does the name ‘The Afters’ come from?

Josh: It wasn’t our first name. We went through a few different names. First name was the Screaming Mimes, but surprisingly that was taken. Then we changed it to Blisse. We built up quite a big fan base in Texas under that name, but when we got signed we found out we couldn’t use that name so we went on a name hunt.

It was actually Bart Millard from MercyMe who threw out the name “The Afters.” He had heard the term somewhere and thought it sounded cool. We put it on our list of names and we kept coming back to it. I love the meaning behind it. It’s a term from the Middle Ages in England and Ireland. There was a time when there was a big separation of classes – you have the nobles and the servants, the rich and the poor – and they never really mingled. When there was a big celebration or some kind of formal event for the nobles, many times afterwards, the servants would celebrate by having their own party. They called it “the afters.”

Word got out that the afters was more fun than the formal event. So, some of the nobles started sneaking out and going to the afters. It was really the first time there was a breakdown in the class system and they started gathering at the same table. We loved the idea of everyone being welcome to the table. That’s how God is with His people; we’re all welcome to the table. Regardless of where we’re from or how much money we make or the color of our skin, there’s nothing that keeps us from the table. God welcomes all.

JF: How would you describe your band’s sound?

Josh: I would say a super-encouraging pop rock. The style is kind of pop rock. We try to write songs to encourage people and give them hope through the harder seasons in life and encourage them when they need it and then celebrate the good things that God has done too.

JF: What is the message you want fans to take from your music?

Josh: We’ve always written songs about what God’s doing in our lives. They’re like little journal entries. I don’t keep a journal or diary, but I like my music to deal with life. I think overwhelmingly what I hope people take away from our music is that God’s with us in every aspect of our life. There’s not one part of our life that God isn’t present in and involved with.

When you’re going through the joys of life, you’re on top of the mountain and you’re feeling blessed, God is there and He’s the reason for all those blessings. But when you’re going through the valleys in life and you’re feeling overwhelmed when you’re in the storm, God’s in the midst of that too. He’s at work right there.

I know there’s a lot of people who feel like they’re in the storm right now and are feeling just overwhelmed by anxiety and worry. My heart would be to encourage people to see that God is in the midst of that too. He’s not going to leave you right now when you need him most. He is present in all of this and we’re going to get through all of this together. We can trust in God’s faithfulness. His faithfulness will endure forever. He doesn’t want us to live in fear or with anxiety or worry. He wants us to trust Him and know that He has our best interests at heart.

JF: Absolutely. How has the Coronavirus pandemic affected your band’s plans and your day-to-day life?

Josh: We’ve had so many shows go away. Events are being canceled, tours are being canceled. Everyone in the country is feeling it on some level. People have lost jobs. People are uncertain about the future and what these next months are going to look like.

In a season like this, I’m reminded of a few things. First off, what is really important in life? Sometimes I lose perspective of that. What’s really important? It’s my faith, my family, my friends. We can lean on our faith and spend a lot of time with our families, which is a blessing to pour into family right now. We’re not seeing our friends as much right now and we need community. It reminds me how important community is and helps me remember what this life is about. This life is about Jesus and we as Christians during this time can change the narrative of what’s happening in the world. There’s a lot of panic. People are hoarding things, stocking up on toilet paper and all. We can replace that narrative of fear and panic with a narrative of love and generosity and show the world what it really looks like to be a Christian even in times of crisis.

JF: Amen! When this pandemic passes, what are your plans?

Josh: I have a feeling that every musician is going to be eager to play and that first show after all this is over is going to be one of the best shows. I think people are ready; they’ll be primed. Our nation and the world is going to need that hope to be brought together. I think Christian music is the perfect thing to do that.

I don’t know what it’s going to look like or how soon it’s all going to come back together, but we’re called to make music. I’ve seen concerts where people come together and it heals brokenness. God uses those concerts to heal those who are hurting. That’s what we’re going to need a lot of. So, as soon as we’re able, we will be back gathering with people and the community and encouraging them with music.

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