Goodbyes are never easy. Especially when one goodbye may very well mean a farewell for many others. This is where Hawk Nelson found themselves just a couple years ago when front-man, Jason Dunn, felt God pulling him in a new direction — solo.
“When Jason began to indicate in 2011 that he wanted to step away, it was a tough thing for us all,” says lead guitarist and new lead vocalist, Jonathan Steingard. “We felt that we needed to give him the freedom to go explore music in the way that he wanted to, but obviously that left a big ‘what now?’ question for us.”
The answer came from an unlikely source: a heart-to-heart in a dressing room with Bart Millard, the lead singer of MercyMe.
“He felt like I should be the new lead singer,” laughs Steingard. “I was completely unprepared for it and I totally disagreed. As we began to consider it, things started to feel really exciting. In retrospect, it felt like God had been preparing us to move in this direction.”
That direction pointed to a vast unknown, filled with surprises, fear and an utmost commitment to faith in things none of them could see. That first step of faith commenced their journey to renewed purpose and intentionality, all of which come through on the now-trio’s latest, Made. With a more grown-up sound in tow, the album brings to life their refreshed sound and message.
Drummer Justin Benner says, “We were all in agreement that if we decided to move forward as Hawk Nelson, we wanted to be very intentional with everything we did. So with this new album, we wanted to make sure that each song had a purpose and that comes through primarily in the lyrics.”
Steingard adds, “If I had to choose a favorite song, it would be Faithful… because it’s our story. It’s at the heart of where we are. We had confidence knowing that God knew what He was doing. And wow, has He been good!”
Featuring an appearance from their unofficial mentor, Bart Millard, the album also captures the band’s commitment to community and family…and vice versa. For the first time, Hawk Nelson looked to their fans for the financial backing necessary for the new project. Through Kickstarter, the fans not only poured forth the resources in droves; they affirmed that the band is as relevant and wanted today as it ever has been.
“Kickstarter was a real gauge to see if people wanted to hear more from Hawk Nelson, and we were blown away by the support,” confirms Daniel Biro, bassist.
As is often the case, the good deeds of their fans led to more good deeds from the band. Long-time supporters of single child sponsorships, the guys have upped the ante, challenging themselves to support an entire city in the Philippines through Food for the Hungry.
“We loved the idea of partnering with Food for the Hungry in one specific community and focusing all our efforts in one place,” explains Steingard, “We hope our listeners will embrace this cause and help us bring a lasting change for the better in Tanza.”
“The [child] sponsorship aspect is still there, but I think it’s much more tangible now,” adds Benner thoughtfully.
Biro affirms, “It’s a great community with a great church with a great pastor (Pastor Lido). We all want to see the kids there get what they need. They will grow, and they will be the ones to change their communities in the ways they need. We get to be a part of what God has already started.”
What God has started through them on the other side of the world, He is also continuing at home through the guys’ families.
“Our families have been so supportive through the years of touring, recording and promotion,” says Biro. “Often on the road, you give a lot emotionally, and when you return home there is just less to give, and the ones you love can get the short end of the deal. I’d like to say I have it down…. I don’t.”
Adding parenthood into the mix makes the sacrifices that much more complex. “This is all we’ve ever known, but there still are difficulties and hardships that we face,” Benner shares. “It’s about staying connected, which can be tough at times. But I’ve found that as long as I’m making the effort, it makes a huge difference. We haven’t embarked on a lengthy tour since the birth of my first child so I can’t fully predict how that’s going to effect things, but I’m sure it will add a whole new element and make being gone even more challenging.”
Never ones to walk away when things get tough, however, the challenges of balancing home life and life on the road are but the cost of being true to the call God has on their lives and the purpose of the gifts He bestows on them daily.
“Life is hard, but God is still good,” says Biro. “I’m learning to stop letting the ups and downs determine my outlook or happiness. Last year was tough, but God held me every step of the way. He’s holding me still.”
The newly-minted front man adds, “We’ve had ten years of Hawk Nelson so far, and I absolutely see no reason why we wouldn’t still be doing it in ten years. If this is still what God has for us, then I’m in! If anything, the recent changes have re-energized us.”
“Watching the past ten years with Hawk Nelson go by, makes you realize just how quickly time flies,” Biro concludes. “It’s been a roller coaster of a ride, and one I’m extremely grateful to God for. But looking forward, I think we need to make each day count. That means each decision, each song, each lyric and each note. They have to count.”
And so, as God continues to make good on His promises to support and sustain, the band continues to be molded, shaped and made-over again and again. The sound is new, the make-up is different, but the God who first called them out calls them still and daily renews their passion and gives Hawk Nelson the strength to soar.