Formed in Edmonton, Canada in 2009, Zerbin continues to blow fans away by their complex yet anthemic melodies. They’ve shared the stage with The Flaming Lips, FUN., Said The Whale, and AWOLNATION. We were able to catch up with lead singer Jason Zerbin on making it as a creative, and what it’s like to be a Christian in the music industry.
Why did you decide to make music your profession?
I knew that it was the thing I wanted most. It’s such a cheat at life to get to turn what you love into something that supports you financially, and I knew I had to at minimum try it out. I remember listening to an artist I liked, and the thought occurred to me: if he could do it, I could. The rest from there is history (and a ton of frustrating days and hard work).
Do you have a side job to pay the bills?
I’m a little bit of an ADD person by nature. We’ve been so privileged to come to a place more recently where the music alone could probably support us. I’ve got a number of things on the go that provide income streams as well as different outlets of creativity and value.
When you’re working on something creative, when do you feel God’s Pleasure?
Probably the highest points would be in songwriting. It’s in those moments when something comes into existence that just a couple minutes before was a thought or an inkling. The ability to step back and look at something of beauty and value that you had a hand in creating is a euphoric experience. Especially if it’s a song that hits me deep in the heart. It’s in these moments that the whole of my person feels alive. Some of the most profound moments of worship I’ve experienced have been in these times.
What do you do when you need inspiration?
A year ago I moved from Alberta to Vancouver Island, so having this gorgeous landscape at my doorstep helps. The whole journey of creative business can be a very difficult road, and for me it’s usually the moments where I get away by myself and am still that I find renewal. I also find that a huge help is exercising. It helps get the stress out of your system, and puts your head in a way better place.
Do you have any practical advice for other artists?
First and foremost, love what you create. In the Genesis narrative you see God taking a moment after every time he created to bask in the goodness of what he made. Comparison is the biggest killer of creativity. Many profound ideas are aborted before they ever are given a fighting chance. It’s a tragedy, really. When you take the time to value what you create and celebrate it, I think you give other people the permission to do the same.
I’d also say treat your work with high value from the beginning, and look for ways to monetize it. Don’t under value what you’re worth, but be confident and it will work out well.
What do you think “Christian artist” means, and are you one?
The label of a “Christian artist” is something that I have had to make a conscious effort to disassociate from. It’s a label that was created by an industry to put people into boxes of action and definition.
If someone creates art for the context of corporate worship it may be OK to allow that label. However, we are first and foremost human beings who are made in the image of God. Intrinsically within that is found the necessity to create. That’s part of having God’s image. I would say art is a human thing, not a Christian thing.
It’s the responsibility of followers of Jesus to create art that is honouring to God and engaging to people.
How does your artistic community help or hurt you?
This journey can be super lonely if you let it. I think musicians perhaps lean towards self imposed martyrdom, believing the world is against them. I used to wish that I had friends in the industry. People [who] were famous or had great connections. But I quickly got over that, and realized that this journey has to be walked with a hard head, soft heart, and open hands.
Embracing others who are on a similar road as you is imperative. It can be easy for us to get jealous of the success of others, but I’ve learnt to celebrate when things go right for people. Instead of resentment I try to celebrate and learn. And trust that my journey is unique. There are tons of bitter people in the industry. It’s best to just “keep your head up, keep your heart strong,” and keep rolling.
This originally appeared in the September – October issue of Converge Magazine.