Band blends music with opportunity to reach more people.
When Hawk Nelson isn’t recording music or traveling to perform at concerts and festivals, you can find them at home spending time with their friends and family. That’s because in the 14 years that they have been together as a band, they have learned what matters most. In 2006, Hawk Nelson was voted “Favorite New Artist” by CCM Magazine and they also won a No. 1 spot on VH1’s top 20 video countdown with “The One Thing I Have Left” music video. Their music has appeared in television and film including, American Idol, Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2 and Yours, Mine and Ours. Risen sat down with Jon Steingard of Hawk Nelson to talk faith, impact and influence.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine in Del Mar, California
Risen Magazine: When you were growing up, did you ever dream that you would be a musician?
Jon Steingard: Not really. I had a youth pastor when I was 15 that said, “You should be in a band; here, borrow my guitar.” I was kind of like the nerdy kid at school. I thought that band guys were cool and I wouldn’t be able to do that. I was into math and stuff. He said, “No, you should be in a band. I’m going to hook you up with these guys.” He hooked me up with my first band. We were terrible. That was it. That was almost 20 years ago. I guess it just stuck. I never did anything else.
RM: You have been fortunate to make a career of doing what you love. What advice would you have for someone who is looking to get into the music industry?
JS: I think when I meet people, even other artists who are doing it professionally, I think the most important thing you can do is to take some time to think about what are your true motivations. I don’t think there is necessarily a wrong answer as to what your motivations are, but I think that we lie to ourselves a lot of times. Here’s a true motivation that no one really wants to admit to, if someone deep down says, “I want to be famous.” That’s a different motivation than, “I really want to reach people with what I believe.” Or, “I want to encourage people.” Or, “I just really love music because it is fun and inspiring.” Whatever your reasons are, the more honest you can be with yourself the better you can set goals. The desire to be famous tends to not be a very fulfilling reason. You will tend to not be very happy if that is your true motivation.
RM: What artist or group has had the biggest impact on you?
JS: I think early on there’s this band from the U.K. called Delirious. They influenced me massively because they were a worship band so they were writing worship for churches, but in the U.K. they were a mainstream rock band at the same time. So the same year that they put out some of their biggest worship songs that are sung in churches, they were also putting mainstream rock songs on the radio in the U.K. The idea that the same band could do both blew my mind and I think ever since then I have always had a little seed of what they do in what I try to do.
I need to be aware of my need for grace and what that feels like and let that flow out of me and extend it to other people
RM: How would you describe your spiritual journey?
JS: I grew up in the church. I’m a pastor’s kid. I feel like I grew up in a very charismatic church so my family and my church was very Holy Spirit focused. I think as I got older I started to feel like something was missing in my life and I ended up at a Baptist church really diving into Scripture. It was a whole different aspect. I feel like I took a different journey then people that grew up in a traditional church and then became more focused on the Holy Spirit and things of that nature. I kind of took the opposite approach. For me, I feel like my walk with God has gotten a lot healthier as I have unworked a lot of things. I feel like the simpler my relationship with God gets, the healthier it seems to get. So instead of thinking, “I have to do this.” I think, “Oh, it’s grace.” I need to be aware of my need for grace and what that feels like and let that flow out of me and extend it to other people; just being aware of my need for God on a day-to-day basis. I have seen Him more presently in my life as I have leaned on Him more and trusted in Him.
RM: How has your relationship with Christ impacted the music you create?
JS: When we first started, we were just looking to make music and have fun. We didn’t have any grandiose plans. As time has gone on, we have gotten to see God work in people’s lives in ways that used our music and that blew our minds. I think that has become our main motivation. Because we have been doing it for 14 years as a band, it is getting harder and harder each time to leave home. When we leave home, we are always asking ourselves, “Is the thing we are doing significant? Does it really matter? Is it making a difference? Are we putting ourselves in a position where God can use us?’ And if we’re not doing that, then we probably all just want to stay home. But when we see God in action, that motivates us to keep going. It is becoming a big part of what we do.
RM: Is there one story or something that you’ve heard from a fan that has impacted you personally?
JS: Yeah, it’s kind of cool how God uses one thing and it leads to another. An example of that for us is that we have a fan that was listening to our music and got into us because she had a rough patch in her life. She was struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. God used a couple of songs to really remind her of her value and her worth. God has been doing a lot of healing in her life. She’s in a much better place now. Recently, we had a situation where she saw a comment from someone else on one of our social media posts. She recognized that comment as someone reaching out for help, saying, “goodbye world” type-of-thing. It was a comment that I saw and didn’t think too much about it because there were things in there that I didn’t recognize, but she did because she had been there. When she saw that [the comment] she reached out to friends [of the girl who posted on social media] and they managed to get over to her house and help save her life. It was this crazy scenario of God healing someone and using them to reach another person. The ripple effect was pretty cool.
RM: Being on the road can be a pretty grueling schedule. Practically speaking, how do you spend time with God and how do you find time to connect with your family and friends?
JS: It’s a struggle. It really is. I think anyone who gives you an easy answer to that one is being optimistic. Every single time that we have more than 24 hours off, I go home. Even if I am only home for 12 hours, that is where I want to be. As far as my relationship with God, I have a lot of podcasts that I like to listen to. Honestly, the guys on the road, we are always keeping each other accountable. Sometimes people ask us, “How do you stay accountable on the road?” We have no privacy. Trust me. Especially within the band we have a ton of accountability.
RM: Several of your songs have been featured in television shows and movies. What is your hope or vision for audiences who hear your music through this platform?
JS: I don’t think people necessarily watch a television show or movie and hear a song and say, “Oh I want to find that band.” I think that more than anything the more places we can have our music, the more opportunity we have to reach people in different ways. We don’t change our show whether we are at a Christian festival or a mainstream concert. It is the same show and we talk about the same things. Sometimes I actually love being at fairs where there are a lot of nonbelievers walking by. I can say, “Hey this is what this God stuff is all about. We think it’s real.” I really enjoy that.
RM: Looking back on your career, what has been your favorite show?
JS: Spirit West Coast Del Mar is actually a favorite. Eleven years ago, I asked my wife to marry me out in the parking lot. We were little babies. I’m pumped to play this show again. And now I live in San Diego so it is even more special.