Fans of Starfield will be happy to know that there is a new CD on the horizon and the tentative release date is set for mid-May 2006. The band was in the studio back in November, working with producers Ed Cash (Bethany Dillon, Chris Tomlin) and Matt Bronleewe (Rebecca St James, Natalie Imbruglia, Michael W Smith). This will be the second consecutive album they have worked on with Bronleewe.
Continuing with their focus on writing music for the church as Tim Neufeld says, they will have a heavy emphasis on worship, something that has in the past drawn rave reviews from people such as Casting Crowns' Mark Hall and Chris Tomlin.
During my recent conversation with Tim he reflected on the type of album this project is shaping up to be. "Our prayer is they (the songs) would be able to translate into that kind of environment (worship). It's something that we have been focusing on. We are trying to write about where we are at, which is the best way to write. We are trying to write about our experiences. We want to be authentic and just as real as we can be before God."
Another theme he says that he and brother Jon have been writing a lot about is being part of the body of Christ. "I have been really hungry for community. I have been on the road and away from a church setting." You can hear in his voice the appreciation for that fellowship when he says, "Now we have a church here in Nashville that we are getting plugged into."
As the dynamic of Starfield shifts so does the sense of community as it was only two years ago that the entire band was single. Tim married his wife Carla about one and a half years ago and last summer two more Starfielders bassist Shaun Huberts and drummer John Andrews tied the knot. All three couples live in the same general area of Nashville. With that change in marital status has also came a shift in priorities as the band is more careful about scheduling gigs that take them away from their families for extended periods of time.
Isn't that a little difficult at this stage of your careers? "We have had our music out there for the past year and one half. The CD is doing pretty well in the US." He says now the CD and ticket sales to their concerts are brisk. Combined with radio play it has made it a little easier to be able to choose gigs that are easier to plan from a travel perspective.
Thoughtfully Tim says, "The biggest challenge for us is not being able to stay connected with friends and family while we are on the road. It's just hard when we are on the road to have that kind of community. Community needs to be found within ourselves (within the band) and that is what by the grace of God we find. We just want to make sure that we are there for each other and accountable to each other.
For Tim and Carla personally that sense of community has also been met by the new friends they have made in Nashville, people such as Jason Roy of Building 429 and his wife Courtney, Reuben Morgan and some of the Hillsongs United ensemble.
"Jason Roy and his wife Courtney are one of our regular double dates." He says they met while Building 429 and Starfield were touring together. We just love the Building429 guys and Jason (Roy) and I have a lot in common. We are both primary writers and being the ones who were instrumental in starting our bands. It was great for us just to be able to learn from each other and to be a shoulder to cry on."
Tim continues, "I have taken joy in being able to write about the essentials and talk about the pillars, the blood of Christ and the body of Christ, the freedom that we have through grace and all of the things that make this relationship what it is."
When you sit and talk with Tim Neufeld you get the sense that this is a man who knows he is clearly in the centre of God's will for his life at this moment in time. You also sense a calmness that comes from knowing God is in control. You get that same sense from talking to Carla who wears the hat as road manager and from Tim's brother Jon. Perhaps this is why Tim's response to my question about what advice he would give to an aspiring artist came as no surprise.
"I would ask them to check their motives why they want to be a fulltime musician. I just feel the musicians who stick around especially in Christian music are those who really never set out to do that but started off to be followers of Christ, took the advice of Jesus and took the little things seriously. They allow Him to open doors so they can do their thing. A lot of people come up to us and say, 'how do I get involved.' I get emails that ask, 'how do I get a break in the Christian music industry?' To me it is not asking the right question (which is how can I serve God in my community? How can I be part of something God is doing here? God will choose whether it is something that you will be given full time. It's not like it is this great illustrious career."
Tim digresses for a few moments, "I was actually talking to Jason (Roy) about this a few days ago, the myth perception that this (music career) is a great thing that completes your life. Jason has a child and another one coming. He is away for weeks at a time and doesn't get to see his little guy and his wife. It is a sacrifice. It's not the glamorous life a lot of people think that it is. I mean there are a lot of benefits but it is a matter of determining what it is that God has put inside you."
Back to the subject of people who approach him for advice. "I will ask them questions like are you involved in worship right now and they will say, 'yes I am leading worship in my church every week, I'm writing some songs and people are singing them.' My next question to them is how are you not doing what I am doing? It's exactly what I do. It is just on a different level. It is no less important than what I do. God doesn't give a rip about what I am doing above what you are doing. It is exactly the same thing in His eyes. In fact nothing that is ever attempted for his kingdom work or the body of Christ is any more important than what I do and what I do is no more important than what someone else does. You can be a janitor cleaning toilets after hours for God and it is not going to in the grand scheme of things be any more important or hold any less weight in God's economy than what Martin Smith does with Delirious."
With a career that has spanned several years in their homeland of Canada and now firmly entrenched in the United States I asked what type of age demographic he sees the group having. He says the fans the band has in Canada tend to be older than their American fans because, "The youth who were 14 and 15 when we were playing a lot of youth conventions in Canada are in their twenties and in college or have graduated. That has been really cool to have them grow up with us." In the United States the fans tend to be younger because, "Youth groups love to check out my music. They are a lot more open to that. Unless you are marketed in a specific genre to the college crowd, that's where you start (with youth) no matter what kind of band you are. In Canada we have been able to have almost a couple of different generations of fans."
"If you were to ask me what my fantasy was as far as who we would play for, what kind of room it would be and what kind of environment it would be I would probably say a mix of all ages with a lot of people at our own stage in life. Those are the people I relate to best, in college, just out of college, still in their teens, those who are asking serious questions about who they are and who God is."
In my conversations with Tim over the past year I have never been left with the impression that he would have a lot of patience with someone who doesn't consider matters of faith seriously. He told me his ideal person to play for is, "The person who doesn't come to a concert or put in a CD just to be entertained or rock out but the person who comes and asks serious questions about their relationship with God."
Although sonically and culturally different some day you will be mentioning Starfield and the brothers Neufeld in the same breath as other great modern worship maestros such as Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman.
This spring Starfield is headlining the Dare2Share tour that encourages students to share their faith (www.dare2share.org). They will be making stops in ten major American cities. Keep your eye on their website for news of next spring's CD.
Check out www.starfieldonline.com for more information.
Writer: Joe Montague