Today Jackson released some new music and I’m so excited for everyone to be able to hear it. He is releasing this as a collaborative project with his close friend Pat McRight. Jackson and Pat will be recording and releasing music under the name “The Band Hiraeth” and you can find them on your favorite streaming platforms: Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music, Amazon Music. Just search for “The Band Hiraeth” and you can listen to their first two singles: “Once by the Pacific” and “Magnolia.”
I interviewed Jackson (as I do for each of his musical releases) and asked him about the new music. My interview with him is below, along with a Spotify preview of the singles:
Jason: First of all, tell everyone why you decided to release this music under a new “band” name rather than as a continuation of your solo music?
Jackson: After working with Pat for so long, I felt our music was it’s own project. It didn’t need to be under my name alone because it’s OUR work. My solo work will continue to stray into lyrical and fuller productions. But this music continues to be primarily instrumental.
The songs for The Band Hiraeth are inspired by many classic works of art, especially mediums such as poetry and paintings. Pat and I are heavily influenced by these things and that was the inspiration behind starting this new band.
Tell everyone what it’s like to compose and record with Pat. How do the two of you compliment one another as artists?
Working with Pat is really interesting because he comes from a classic piano background, playing at weddings, these very regal sort of performances. But I come from a very “electronic” background and a “house” inspired background, listening to Aphex Twin and Bon Iver. Working with Pat is great because I can usually come up with ideas and concepts for everything and Pat adds an element of elegance and depth to our music that I could not do alone. So we both bring different puzzle pieces to the table and combining them together is such a wonderful experience creatively.
Okay, explain the band name. What is the meaning behind “Hiraeth?”
The word “hiraeth” is a Welsh-derived word which means “being homesick for a place that may or may not exist.” Typically this is the kind of thing that is formed in your imagination, which ties in with so many of our inspirations for this music. Some of my early ancestors on the Bybee side are from Wales, so I’ve always wanted to somehow incorporate some Welsh influence into my music. Thankfully, Pat was kind enough to let me use that as our band name. (Also I am learning to speak Welsh, hahaha!)
These two songs are very different: “Once by the Pacific” is a quieter piano ballad while “Magnolia” incorporates a wider variety of sounds. Should we think of The Band Hiraeth as operating between these two styles?
With the first two singles for the band, Pat and I really wanted to display the two main elements of our music and the backgrounds that we come from creatively. “Once by the Pacific” was written solely by Pat and it beautifully demonstrates his capability as a writer and as a pianist. “Magnolia” was written solely by me and I feel as if it fully encompasses my capabilities as a producer and as an instrumental artist. However, both of us played a part in the production and editing of these songs, which is very similar to how most of our songs are formulated.
Talk a bit more about “Once by the Pacific:”
This is the name of a poem by Robert Frost, which is yet another introduction to our band because we are very heavily inspired by poetry: Frost, Dickinson, Poe. In fact, we were writing this song and we needed a title, so we just picked up a book of Robert Frost’s poetry and flipped through until we found a title that fit the theme. With many of the ballads Pat has written in the past, we have tried incorporating a new age sound. However, with this song, we were aiming more for Beethoven: a mathematical and harmonious composition. This is one of my favorites that Pat has written.
Talk about “Magnolia:”
I’ve actually always wanted to have a song called “Magnolia,” because for those who don’t know my music very well, I’ve always liked using trees as song titles and as metaphorical concepts in my music. This song was actually recorded in a single day after I created a drum beat and simply improvised everything else. Like most songs Pat and I have recorded, this one was very spur of the moment, out of the blue, and just me having fun in the studio. To me, this song has a very fresh and new sound compared to the darker themes of my “evergreen” album. Recently, with our new projects, Pat and I have experimented with more upbeat sounds and happier compositions, which I feel is strongly displayed in this song. I hope that everyone who hears it can dance to it!
When will we get to hear a full LP from The Band Hiraeth?
We’ve been working on an album recently. Actually, we’ve been working on three albums, but all in due time…everything will be released. Sadly, this summer is a bittersweet time for me because I really want to finish our LP and release it, but I will be out of town so much I don’t think I will be able to have it done within the next few months. However, I think that listeners can expect another single or two by the end of the summer.
Last week I had the chance to do something I’ll never forget.
Each year, our church honors our high school graduates with “Senior Sunday.” The young men in each year’s graduating class help lead our Sunday morning worship service. This year, our youth ministry team asked me if I would be interested in co-preaching the morning message with Joshua — and I was thrilled. We worked on a message for my current series on the book of Exodus entitled Out of Darkness. Joshua developed all of his own material and delivered it with confidence, grace, and passion. It was a joy to work on this with him, but even more joyful to sit back and watch him share his heart with our church family. He developed ALL of his own content, too; I just helped with a few edits. In our 25-minute message, I’m guessing he spoke for 17-18 minutes or so. I didn’t even have to do much of the heavy lifting!
In this season of special moments, this is one I will cherish for a long time. You can watch the message below.
Last night in our church’s Praise and Prayer gathering, I was moved to tears. Nothing “extraordinary” was happening at the moment: there was no powerful testimony being shared or heartfelt prayer being articulated. No, I was just struck by my good friend and colleague, Lee Milam. Lee has been a part of our Mayfair family for over 40 years. This church will be forever indebted to Lee for his many, many years of faithful ministry. He has influenced thousands of teenagers and families during his time as a youth minister. And he has led countless more to the throne of God in praise on a regular basis. I was just struck by this thought: “I wonder how many people Lee has led before the Lord in worship.” I pictured the generations of this church, some with eyes closed, others with hands raised, but each one lifting their burdens and their joys to the Lord in song and spirit, with Lee right there, so capably yet so humbly orchestrating these moments. Lee is an artist, a consummate creative, but he also possesses that most rare artistic quality: humility. He would oftentimes rather lead from his seat than standing before the crowd. And when he steps into the spotlight, he is always quick to share it.
I quickly fumbled for my phone to snap this quick picture of Lee doing what he loves the most. And I did so with a heart overflowing with gratitude.
I don’t know if there will be preaching in heaven. Some would say an eternally long sermon sounds more like hell than heaven! (I would agree.) But I know this: there will be praise. And I am grateful for this servant, one who has given his life to the eternal work of praise and worship. Hallelujah.
Jackson played his “Utopia” at a dinner party recently. When he finished, a few people had tears in their eyes. “Epic,” one person called it. It’s amazing how much emotion he has packed into this composition.
Joshua’s high school baseball career came to an end over the weekend. With graduation three weeks away, I was already in a reflective mood. But the end of this Senior season has me thinking about all the great things this game has given to my son.
Baseball has been Joshua’s unquestioned passion since his earliest days. His first word was “Dada” but it wasn’t long before he learned to say “ball” — and that immediately became his favorite word. I can still remember the jolt of joy that raced through me the first time he picked up a ball with his left hand and tossed it to me. I lost track of how many guests to our home were met with a ball of some kind flying toward their head in those early years. Give a boy a ball and you’re bound to suffer some broken glass and broken bones along the way. (Or in my case, a broken nose.) But keep putting that ball in his hand and it will also become one of the most important teachers he’ll ever have.
And from his earliest days, it was Joshua’s dream to represent Madison Academy on the baseball field. On the mornings I would take him to pre-K, we’d drive my truck the long way around campus to pass the baseball field and he would stare out the window with a look of wide-eyed wonder. In elementary school, his dream grew a bit more when one of our school administrators pointed to the mound and said, “I can’t wait to see you on that mound one day, Joshua.” And the dream became reality these last few years — middle school, JV, and varsity — and it’s been such a joy to watch him play the game he loves. For the school he loves. With teammates he loves.
These two pictures are from his last game on the mound for the Mustangs — and they capture the way I will always remember his high school days. First, as an absolute bulldog, a fiery competitor who never gave in. On days when he would pitch, he carried a ball around to all of his classes, keeping it in his hand as much as possible to maintain his feel. A dad once said to me, “It’s like Josh grows three inches whenever he’s on the mound.” And I know what he means. He always played with passion, especially when he pitched. That meant he occasionally incurred the wrath of the opposing team, but his teammates loved him. And that’s what I love about this second picture: his pure joy in celebrating the success of his teammates. After his catcher hit a go-ahead homer in Friday night’s playoff game, he’s right there in the scrum, sharing in the raw delight of the moment with his teammates. #32 has been a great leader and a great teammate — and I couldn’t be more proud of him.
This game is hard. As the saying goes, “Baseball is a game of failure.” Even Hall of Famers fail to get a hit 70% of the time. But these challenges also make this game great — and it does the same thing to the boys who play it. It makes them greater than they would have been otherwise. The painful moments have been pretty difficult — crushing at times — but they’ve also formed character that extends far beyond the diamond. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
Joshua has given a lot to this game, but the game has given him so much more in return: great teammates, amazing coaches, opportunities to grow, opportunities to lead. And it’s given me so many memories that I will always cherish.
Tonight was such a special night for me at church. I had the chance to sit back and watch as my son shared the teaching time with his good friend and mentor, Pat McRight. Pat has been a part of the Mayfair family for decades, so we’ve been part of the same fellowship of believers ever since we moved to Huntsville in 2002. But Pat came into our lives in a special way a few years ago. I’m not even sure how it began, but I’m 100% positive it was because of his initiative and the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Pat has become more than a friend to us: he is a constant encourager, a confidant, an honorary “Bybee” in so many ways — and maybe most importantly, he has taken on an important role in Jackson’s life. I am so grateful for the MANY ways Pat has been there for all three of our children, but I am especially touched to see the relationship he and Jackson have developed over the years. They share so many commonalities: from a love of music (and the craft of making music) to a thirst for knowledge and a deep appreciation for history, archaeology, travel…the list goes on and on.
It has been noted that one of the most important factors in the faith development of a young person is the presence of an older believer in their lives, especially someone outside their nuclear family. And Pat has become this for Jackson. Much like Paul mentored Timothy in the faith, Pat has been a faithful presence for Jackson, standing in the gap for a young man who is navigating these teen years without the benefit of his grandfathers, both of whom passed away years ago. Maybe the most telling sign of Pat’s importance to Jackson: when he decided he wanted to be baptized a few months ago (in the Sea of Galilee, no less), Jackson asked Pat to join the three of us in the water for this special moment.
So you can imagine the joy I felt at the opportunity to watch these two share the teaching time at our church tonight. They spoke about our recent trip to Israel with a particular emphasis on the Psalms of Ascent we read together as we visited the southern steps to the temple in Jerusalem. Jackson spoke with such confidence and conviction. I know God used his words to bless many. My heart swells with eternal gratitude as I give thanks for the special bond these two share.