Nathan Tasker Interview
"Being a Christian is not about pretending ... it's about real problems you can take to a real saviour and find real hope."
Nathan Tasker’s latest album The Bell Tower contains classic hymns re-imagined to modern music. It’s his most personal hymn album to date, with each hymn being a genuine lifeline that got Nathan through two of the roughest years of his life. Fervr was fortunate enough to chat with the Aussie-turned-Nashville-dweller about tough times, being honest about your problems, and what it’s like when it feels like God’s not there.
How did you become a Christian?
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a Christian home, so both my parents were believers. My dad was actually in full-time ministry – he worked for Crusaders, a camping ministry in NSW. So I grew up going to church and having the Bible read to me. During my high school years, I did wander from what I believe, pretty drastically. And then my parents gave me a book about Keith Green, another great Christian artist, called No Compromise, and I read the book and by the end of it … made me want to get stuck back into the Bible and meet Jesus for myself. So I did exactly that. I think I was 17 and I remember praying a very simple prayer and asking God to guide me. I wanted to follow Jesus. So that was kind of the beginning. I guess that’s been my prayer ever since then but that was really when I look back and think, ‘Wow, my heart was open to the truth and I made it my own’.
Do hymns have a special significance for you?
Yeah they do. I first started getting into hymns when I was in university; my best friend died in a car accident and I really struggled to deal with that – I had a lot of questions and a lot of doubt. [My friend sent me a hymn book and] encouraged me to read the lyrics … And I found a lot of help in those. And my first hymn album called Prone to Wander – which is a line from Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing – was years of having wrestled with some of these hymns and my friend’s death. Then, when my wife and I went through a tragic year in 2011, losing twin babies and her dad as well, I went back to the hymns once more. And The Bell Tower is really the outworking of that period of grief and sorrow. It’s probably more personal than any hymn album I’ve done because every hymn genuinely brought me great comfort.
The album takes its name from St. Philips in York Street, Sydney?
That’s correct. One of my really good friends, Justin Moffatt, is the senior minister there. And we were visiting him about a year and a half ago and he invited us to go up the bell tower with him onto the roof. We were a long way up and we stared at these skyscrapers that surrounded us in that moment – and it made me think that church has stood there for well over a hundred years. And yet, every Sunday, and through the week, the truth continues to ring out, just like the bells of that tower.
And in many ways I think of the hymns in the same way: you can read a hymn that was written 400 years ago and it still has the same truth even in our modern age. So that’s how The Bell Tower name came about. And it’s kind of cool that we get to do one of the major concerts actually in St Phillips on Saturday night. We’re really excited about that, it’ll be a full circle … That building sounds amazing when people are singing, so it should be a really awesome night.
How do you deal with the tough times?
I think I probably do what everyone else does and that is I cry out in pain and I shed tears and all the usual kind of responses. And I rely on deep friendships to lean on during those times. I get stuck into the Bible a bit more and really rely on promises I read there. And I think what’s helped me through the last two years is seeing some of the really great promises – especially in Revelation which ironically I’d written an entire album around, my latest album Home – and I technically finished that album just before my father-in-law died and just before we lost the twins.
One of the surprising things was, as I’ve shared my story – and Cassie [my wife] has as well – the amount of people we’ve met who have similar stories and it’s really broken our hearts and it’s also reminded us that often times we’re most bound together in our suffering, it’s not just in our joys. And a lot of people come to church and feel they need to hide that. I hope that me sharing our story and singing these songs enables people to be able to share and realise they aren’t alone, and that being a Christian is not about just pretending that everything’s okay but about real problems that you can take to a real saviour and find real hope.
What advice would you give to someone who feels angry or distant from God because of something that’s happened?
My hope is that, first of all, other friends would notice that and be praying for a softening of the heart. And then I also think that there is absolutely nothing wrong with earnest cries to God in the midst of darkness and doubt, and saying, ‘Where are you?’ and genuinely meaning it – and then giving him an opportunity to actually show up. And I see that when you look at the Psalms, most of the time you’re dealing with two questions: ‘Where are you?’ and ‘If you are loving, why would you let this happen to me?’ – two of the major questions of the lament Psalms. I think we’re allowed to do that as well. In over one third of the Psalms, the Psalmist is crying out going, ‘I don’t get it. Why are you doing this?’ and … the Psalmist cries out and hangs on long enough to enable God to respond, and it always leads to a point of praise towards the end of every Psalm – except for one. I think I would share that; that he is near for any of the questions that you might want to throw at him. He’s not going to hide in shame. I would cry out honestly, that’s my advice.
I like what you said that as Christians, we shouldn’t hide our struggles at church …
We’re in a post-Christian society and I think that as that continues on, the only way we’re going to remain true within society is to be really, very honest instead of pretending, so I’m all about the honesty. And if you read it in the Bible, and you see that kind of honesty there, then you’re allowed to be that honest, that’s how I view it.
What do you hope your musical career will achieve?
My hope for what I do is that God will use it for his glory – whatever that might look like. At the moment it looks like: me still having a job which is really great, and being able to sing about Jesus and share the truth creatively. But if his glory is better served by me not doing anything more, then I’m happy for that to be the case as well. I really feel I have very little to prove these days, I genuinely just love the fact that I actually get to do something that hopefully brings encouragement to people. So my hopes are tied up just in that, that none of it would be in vain.
Nathan Tasker will be touring Australia from 2nd – 25th August.
To buy tickets and his latest album The Bell Tower, visit: www.nathantasker.com