After a champion’s breakfast of 5 weet-bix, New Empire lead singer Jeremy Fowler took time out to chat with Fervr about the band’s upcoming album, what makes playing music worth it, and the highs and lows of being a Christian.
How is working on the new album going?
It’s going great. At the moment we’re recording the pre-productions for the new album in my home studio. We’re really excited about it because the style of our songs now is the journey we’ve been on for the last few years of really trying to hone our sound and figure out who we are as artists. We’ve been recording quite a few new songs and we can’t wait to show them to people because it’s definitely something new and something different.
What are the challenges and temptations for a Christian in the mainstream music scene? And what do you do when it gets tough to be a Christian?
A lot of drugs and alcohol and things like that are involved with the mainstream world. But for us it’s just about staying close to each other and caring for one another and loving each other as a band and keeping each other accountable with that.
Communication is just key. Say if one of us gets offered drugs, then we’ll obviously turn it down, then we’ll come back together and just talk about it and say, ‘Hey this is what happened and this is what’s going on’ so everyone can just be aware of the situation.
It’s also really good as well to have some first-hand contact with a lot of that world because as Jesus said, ‘Who needs a doctor, the healthy or the sick?’. So we feel like, in that battleground, when there’s a lot of crazy activity going on, you can really be a light in those scenarios.
Why is being a Christian worth it?
For me just being intimately connected with the source of all life is irreplaceable. My relationship with God is just the number one, the center of my life, it’s the compass. I feel that He just has me in His hands and it doesn’t matter if I stumble or if I fall or if I’m doing good or how my emotions are going, He’s just that constant steady rock that never changes. Everything else in life can change so quickly and we know that being in the world, things can be here one day and gone the next, but God is the thing that just stays constant and His love is the only thing that can actually really satisfy us to the point of overflowing.
As the main songwriter for the band, how does being a Christian affect your songwriting?
It affects it fairly dramatically. I basically just write songs as I journey through life, things that are on my heart. I will write about my relationship with God or how I see the world. It’s almost like a looking glass; whatever you believe in as a person, you’re going to view the world through that looking glass. For me, because God is the centre, I’m always looking through that glass and seeing things maybe a bit differently to other people.
On your tour blog, you explain that the song 'Long Way Home' came out of you questioning the worth of your music career and you decided that it was worth it as long as you were helping people.
Yeah definitely. It’s funny, when I look back at our career so far, the things that make it worth it for me - I was even just thinking about this this morning - it’s not playing in front of 10 000 people, even though that is super fun and we absolutely love that, but it’s when you look back and you go, ‘Would this really be worth it when I look back on it in 20 years or so?’. It’s knowing whether you’ve helped someone or not. I think that’s the main point of difference that keeps us going.
And have you heard positive stories of when your music has helped people?
There was a story of a young girl and she was having a lot of issues with life and she actually decided one day that she wanted to end her life. So she walked over to a cliff-side, ready to jump, and she decided to put on some music on her iPod. She just turned it on ‘shuffle’ and one of our songs came on that actually meant a lot to her and she just broke down crying. The song really helped her in that moment and she decided not to jump and she’s doing a whole lot better now.
The meaning behind your song 'Worth the Wait' involves the war in Uganda. The film clip for your song 'One Heart / Million Voices' features Julius Achon, an ex-child soldier from Uganda, and promotes the Love Mercy Foundation which helps war-torn Northern Uganda. Does Uganda have a special significance for you?
In 2003 I first heard about the Invisible Children campaign in Uganda. I was absolutely shocked about what was going on with these children who were being abducted and then forced to kill people and forced to be trained in arms. So for the last 7 or 8 years, it’s been a journey of trying to figure out how I can do my small part in helping people to realise the seriousness of the situation and encourage myself and others to act to try and bring an end to some of these atrocities that are going on.
Do you have any advice or anything you want to say to young people?
I know what it’s like to be young - and it’s not easy. It’s tough. It’s just really important to know that you’re valued, that you’re loved, that you have an identity in God that is just so precious no matter what the world will throw at you. And He’s the thing that’s going to be constantly the same when it seems like everything else is changing and everything else is going up and down. So I think it’s just really important to explore a relationship with God further and then just have friends and family around you that’ll love you and are actually going to have a positive impact on you and your future.