Wide-Eyed and Mystified is the title of Canadian band Downhere’s latest album. It also refers to how Marc Martel says he felt the first time he was “confronted” with the Gospel.

"It is a line that comes from the first song on the album,” says Martel, the band’s vocallist and one of their primary songwriters since the members met at a small prairie college in western Canada several years ago (the other being Jason Germain).

Downhere

DOWNHERE: (L to R) Jason Germain (piano/vocals), Marc Martel (lead vocals/guitar), Jeremy Thiessen (drums) and Glenn Lavender (bass).


"I think the song 'A Better Way' is the song that I have been trying to write for a long, long time,” says Jason Germain. “It's the Gospel. It's a love song. It has all that I want to say. I don't think that I will (ever) write another song that has that."

“The name of the track is called The More. The song talks about the Gospel and how it struck us the first time we were confronted with it. The sentiment being (that) we were in awe and in wonder."

Describing the song as "fun and whimsical", Martel says the inspiration for song comes from the Apostle Peter's writings and his emphasis on growing in our faith.

"The song says 'The more You show me, the more You grow me; the more Your glory becomes all there is',” he notes, adding that, for him, “faith is like a muscle" and needs to be exercised.

Now based in the US music hub of Nashville, the Canadian band’s latest album - released in May - features rock tunes, ballads and worship songs.

Bassist Glenn Lavender says that fans of the band’s first album will be happy to hear the piano is back in ballads such as A Better Way, I Will Follow Your Voice and the beautiful tapestry Unbelievable.

"I write on the piano and it just feels natural (to write ballads),” he explains. “I love songs that are up tempo and rock and roll but my vocal style doesn't lend itself to writing with an electric guitar. My vocals just can't cut over top of it. When you write you want to be moved by the thing that you are writing to. When I am writing with an electric guitar and I am singing I just can't push it over the top because I don't have the range like Marc does. I think my nature is a little more subdued and classical so that is where I go."

A Better Way is a song that originally started out as a love song written for Germain's wife, Heather. He recalls her saying selflessly that while she appreciated the heart behind why he had written the song, she believed there was a “better song in there” and that he needed to rewrite it.

"I think the song A Better Way is the song that I have been trying to write for a long, long time,” Germain goes on to say. “It's the Gospel. It's a love song. It has all that I want to say. I don't think that I will (ever) write another song that has that."

At the time he was reworking the original piece, Germain was going through an Old Testament study.

"I was trying to understand the heart of God and how my story intercepts it. The song talks about how God's plan couldn't be worked out in a more poetic and beautiful way than the way He did it. (The song) talks about my response to His love. The title comes from the fact His love couldn't be expressed in A Better Way.”

Wide-Eyed and Mystified represents the first album the band has recorded with the intimate American west coast label Centricity Records after saying goodbye to Word Records in 2005.

Martel says the biggest difference in being at a smaller label is the allocation of staff to look after the band's publicity and marketing needs.

"Everybody involved with the label takes much more ownership over the artists compared to a bigger label which will have 20 or so artists,” he says. “This label has three artists (Downhere, Circleslide and Jaime Jamgochian) and everyone they hire becomes an integral part of promoting us."

The band has also leaned heavily on the direction of talent spotting guru John Mays in setting the tone for Wide-Eyed And Mystified and responded to his challenge to raise the bar. Songs that would have appeared on previous albums just as they were submitted were sent back for rewrites.

"On this album we are presenting life from Christ's point of view and the difference He makes instead of saying you guys need to wake up,” says Marc Martel.

There’s a sense that the members of Downhere are finally home, having found a place where they can relax and enjoy the atmosphere created by the management of their new label.

"We go to John's house and watch episodes of 24 together. We also go on retreats together. I think it is turning out to be a cool family type of environment," says Lavender.

The band's maturity shows up in the approach they took to creating the tunes for Wide-Eyed and Mystified.

"With the last CD, we tried to take on a prophetic voice,” says Martel.

“I think the way we handled it on the last album was more of a finger pointing kind of way saying, 'Hey this is what we are doing wrong, let's try to do better’.

“I think over the last three years we have learned to lead with our own example instead of pointing out wrongs. It is much more effective for people to follow. On this album we are presenting life from Christ's point of view and the difference He makes instead of saying you guys need to wake up.”

~ www.downhere.com