by Matt Conner
It was 1998 when two Starbucks employees —Joshua Havens and Matt Fuqua—decided to officially brand their musical talents in Mesquite, Texas in the hopes of something bigger. Twenty years later, The Afters have topped the charts, toured the world and grabbed numerous Dove Awards with their infectious pop/rock melodies and encouraging heartfelt lyrics.
These days, The Afters (which also includes Jordan Mohilowski and Dan Ostebo) are reflecting back just long enough to release their first greatest hits compilation, The Beginning and Everything After, but to hear them talk, they’re just as excited about the future as they are thankful about the past. We recently asked Havens about the incredible run enjoyed by The Afters to this point and the musical moment that makes him most proud.
CCM: What made this the right time to pull back a bit and think about a career-spanning set?
This year marks 20 years since Matt and I started making music while we worked together at a Starbucks in Mesquite, Texas! Early next year, we’ll be releasing our sixth full-length studio album. We thought that after five label records, two indie records, over 1,000 shows, countless cups of coffee and 20 years of making music, it was time to celebrate our journey!
CCM: Has putting this album together or planning around it brought about a bit more reflection among the band’s members than normal?
It has been really fun to look back at the road that has brought us here and all the people who have been a part of our journey. I was just out of high school when we started the band, so I have spent more of my life in this band, than not in it. I feel like the luckiest person on the planet to be able to travel the world and make music with my best friends! I think part of the reason we’ve been together for so long, is that we really do love being around each other. Even when we’re not on tour, we love to hang out.
CCM: How much of the songwriting process still feels akin to the way things felt when you were first getting started—when there wasn’t even an audience to pay attention to what was coming out?
When Matt and I started the band, our goal was to write music that would help make the world a better place. Most of our songs come from real life stories, experiences and conversations. That has always been the way we write. I don’t keep a diary or a journal, so songwriting is how I process life. It’s been that way since I started writing songs in middle school. We really try to be transparent and focus on Gods presence in the midst of everything.
So many of us struggle with the same things and it’s comforting to know that we’re not alone. There’s a song on this new project called “Fear No More” that started with a very honest conversation about our struggles with anxiety. Our drummer Jordan and I have both had that struggle throughout our lives. I said, “Lets write the song that we need to sing over all these fears.” The song came from such a raw and real place that it just poured out.
CCM: From the placements to the tours to the awards or acclaim, is there one particular achievement that you are most proud of so far?
My daughters once came on tour with me and were with me when a man shared an amazing story about how God used our song “Broken Hallelujah” to save his life. As we walked away, my oldest daughter said, “Dad, now I understand why you have to go on tour. It’s so important that you keep doing this.” I was so grateful they got to hear that story. That is the reason we do what we do.
CCM: Do you guys feel ready for another 20 years of this?
I am so grateful that we’ve been able to do this for so long. When Matt and I started making up songs in that coffee shop in 1998, we never imagined we’d still be making music together 20 years later! I can’t imagine doing anything else and truly do believe that our best is yet to come!