10 Questions with ... Zach Bolen
October 28, 2013
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- Zach Bolen - Lead Vocals
- Nate Garvey - Keys, Vocals
- Bryce Covert - Guitar
- Nathan Furtado - Bass
- Adam Skatula - Drums
- 2012 Already/Not Yet Mars Hill
- 2013 Citizens BEC
1. Brief history....birthplace, childhood, schools, jobs, current hometown
I was born on a cold night in March and much to my parents alarm, the entire lower half of my face was covered in hair. It wasn't quite that soon, but I pretty much could grow a beard by the 7th grade. I was raised in a small town in northeast Maryland. Most of my childhood was filled with a lot of sports and music. My dad died when I was 5 so both of those things became a pretty helpful way to cope with that loss. It wasn't until I was 14 that the gospel began to take root (in fact it was actually at the grave site of my dad that the Holy Spirit awakened me to the good news of Jesus). As I got older I slowly shifted from sports to just focusing on music. I loved to write songs, to clarify, bad songs. I'm not sure how people were able to stomach some of those early performances but I'm thankful they did. It was through lot of that encouragement that I began to develop a huge desire to serve the church. When I graduated high school I moved to Savannah, GA to go to art school. Little did I know it was really to get plugged into a local church down there. God used that experience to totally alter my mindset. I went from being a dude who wanted to have a successful career in music to a guy who just wanted to serve the church. A few years later I met my wife through some people at the church and from there the rest is history. We've been married for 7 years now (2 moves, Savannah to St. Louis to Seattle) with 2 kids and another on the way.
2. What does a normal/routine day at home look like for you, when you're not on the road?
To be honest I'm not on the road a whole lot. To sum it up my life is mostly split into 2 junks, loving my family and loving the local church. Most of my days look like (I emphasize trying to) wake up before my girls get up. Spend some time in the Word and then make breakfast with my girls. My oldest daughter is now in school so its usually a crazy circus just trying to get her fully fed, dressed and out the door. After we drop her off my wife and other daughter drop me off at the church (Mars Hill U-District) and I hang there the rest of the day. Most of my days are filled with planning for Sunday services, getting the production and stage all lined up, meeting with interns and other members of the church, study, prayer. Etc. Usually around 5 my girls come and pick me up and we go home eat dinner and hang out for a bit. We try to end each night with reading a bible story or me making up some absurd story about "the princess Veronica who lost all her teeth because she wouldn't let her parents help her brush her teeth and now when she says her name it sounds more like 'Bawanica'" (got to teach those kids to brush their teeth!) Then my wife and I will take turns praying for/over each of the girls. Any parent reading this knows by that point, you are pretty wiped, but my wife and I are kind of night owls, so we usually get some pretty awesome hang times in. Love that girl.
3. What's the song that you just can't get out of your head right now?
"Reflecktor" by Arcade Fire. At first I didn't know what to think of it since its a pretty big departure from earlier stuff, but it's turned in to one of my favorites right now. I love the trade off of the vocals between Win Butler and his wife. A lot of times when you hear bands do that it can come across a little campy but they do such an incredible job of really blending well together. Not to mention, I think they have successfully, well.....brought the congas back.
4. How do you juggle life on the road with wanting to be home?
Thankfully I don't really have to travel that much. The biggest priority for the band has been and will remain the local church. As soon as that gets compromised we've been rendered useless to the church at large. We are always stoked to go to other places and play, but it's definitely not top priority for us. To be honest too it's never easy to leave your family. So that definitely plays into the equation as well.
5. What's the biggest "God moment" that you've ever experienced, personal or professional?
When my Dad died I carried with me a ton of lies. I really only saw Jesus as this way to my earthly dad in heaven. Because my view of salvation was so skewed I never had any peace. It wasn't until going to my dad's grave at the age of 14 that the gospel became the clearest it had ever been. I had gone a couple times but really didn't like the idea of going to a grave site to visit someone who wasn't there. Nevertheless, I can remember getting out of the car and beginning to walk over to the grave and couldn't even make it 10 steps without starting to sob. At first I thought it was because I missed my dad or something but as I began to just wail it became very clear that I was mourning my sin, to be more specific idolatry of my dad, basically making him god in my life. My whole life had been spent in pursuit of a dead man. In His grace, God convicted me of sin at the grave and opened my eyes to the great joy that is found in God the Father through Jesus.
6. What's the last book you read?
Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It's probably the shortest book I have ever read, with one of the most profound impacts. The basic idea of the book is that our prayers and what we say to God is at it's greatest when we are allowing the word of God to be our guide. To paraphrase, the richness of the word of God ought to determine our prayers, not the poverty of our heart. So often it is easy to throw ourselves into praying at a very shallow level with the focus primarily on us and our needs. In Matthew 6 Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray. Bonhoeffer makes the point that essentially what Jesus is doing is pointing the disciples back to the Psalms. It is in the Lord's Prayer that you can find every theme used through out the Psalms. What Jesus is basically telling them to do is use "my Word to pray this way." It is the Word of God, particularly the Psalms that the Holy Spirit continues to use to express that which is most appropriate in regards to our current circumstance. All in all, it's a great book that calls us a way from petty pleas but rather to robust biblically saturated Holy Spirit led prayer. Essentially, God's word helps us to pray that the things he wants us to pray.
7. What caused you to want to serve God in full time ministry?
To put it simply, when God saved me, He gave me a church community and a desire to love and serve them. I had some jacked up views along the way, but by the time I graduated college God really made it clear to me that he wanted me to commit my life to serving the good of the bride of Christ and build His kingdom. From there I never really considered not using music as the main method I would use to proclaim His good news.
8. Take us thru a couple songs on your debut album.
The two songs that have probably had the most impact have been Made Alive and O God. With Made Alive we (Brian Eichelberger and myself) we sat down with some guys at Mars Hill who we would consider to be theologians and one of the guys told us we should really consider writing a song based on Ephesians 2. The biggest thing that kept popping out was "by your grace I'm saved." It was the gospel and total proclamation that it is only through the work of Jesus alone that we have been made alive. Writing that song was a ton of fun. The whole time I had our 8pm service in mind, which is filled with a ton of University of Washington students. They always pour so much out during our services that I wanted to write a song that would be an anthem for them. A song that we could sing corporately but also one they could use as a guide for sharing the gospel with their friends. It's been amazing to see how much further that reach has gone. I'm constantly getting stories of how that song was used as an instrument in leading a person Jesus or even how much singing a song like that in their church has helped to shift the participation within their congregation.
With 'O God' I never intended for that song to be a corporate song. I wrote it as I was wrestling through a ton of stuff. God used that song to minister to me a ton. When I came out to Mars Hill I showed it to a couple of guys and they really encouraged me to consider using that song as a corporate song. I did, and it's been really amazing to see what God is doing through it. I have gotten so many stories from people who have experienced loss, pain and to be more specific, a ton of people battling through some pretty significant health issues. I think the message that God is present through out every season is one that is often forgotten. It's encouraging to see the way the Holy Spirit allowed me to write that song in the midst of my own pain, as a way to minister to others.
9. If you could go back and change any events/decisions in your life, what would it/they be, and why?
Getting my ear pierced in the 7th grade was a pretty bad decision. Still getting over that one. On a serious note, I think a few years ago I would have told you I would change things so that my dad had never died. On the flip side though I see all the fruit that has come as a result of his death. God used so much of that suffering to lead me to Jesus. As hard as it's been, I wouldn't want to change all of the good that has come as a result of that tragedy.
10. Person you'd most like to have a discussion with, living or dead.....Deities are excused from this question
Hands down Sister Rosetta Tharpe. That lady was probably one of the most influential people to impact early 30's and 40's rock n'roll and it all began in the church. To have Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash both attribute her as one of their biggest influences is pretty sweet. I would love to hear her take on how she contextualized from playing in the bar on Saturday night and then leading people on Sunday a lot of times playing the same songs. She definitely wasn't a saint, but I think she did a great job of engaging the culture outside the church.
Favorite Bible verse....or life verse.
1 John 1:7 is one of my all time favorites. It's one I say/sing to my girls all the time. As Christians we must continually walk in the light if we want to be in true community with one another. We need to known. (Editors note: 1 John 1:7 "We should live in the light, where God is. If we live in the light, we have fellowship with each other, and the blood sacrifice of Jesus, God's Son, washes away every sin and makes us clean." ERV)