"What have I become, my sweetest friend, everyone I know goes away in the end...and you could have it all, my empire of dirt, i will let you down, I will make you hurt" - Trent Reznor
As I sit here at 9:13 am, listening to the Johnny cash version of "hurt", I can't help but wonder what Johnny felt the first time he sang this song. Now, I'm in no way bold enough to make an attempt at the heart of "the man in black", but something stirs in my own heart that I'd like to think he felt at some point as well.
Have you ever experienced those surreal moments in life where you examine the very core of who you are? Well, those experiences usually hit me over morning coffee. I sit in the sun and try to sift through the barrage of thoughts that occur because of some music or conversation I had the day, week, or even month before. As our record gets closer to street date, I remember one of those times. That particular morning, I couldn't help break the feeling of regret for forgetting to burn CD's for my Quebecoise nephew a month earlier. Although he got over it and quickly forgave me, I'll never forget his initial disappointment. The realization of the "weight in our words" hit me like a ton of bricks. How much can you affect someone's heart with words?
Before I continue, I'd like to preface this entire blog with a statement. My goal in writing music isn't to force religion on people. It's to love people unconditionally. I don't care what religion you follow, or lack thereof, the topic of our "weighty words" affects us all.
Now, as a singer, I feel an enormous responsibility in the quality of what I say. People listen, people judge, but most of all, people absorb. Just like a kid watching a parent, we learn from experience. Can something I say change a person's heart? The answer is yes. What we say can affect people, for good and bad. The sobering part is we're responsible for the words we say. The title track on our record, "mean what you say,” touches on this topic. The fuel for this song was my encounter with the "extremist" Christians. They are the ones who preach hate while holding a book of love. "Boys with long hair are going to hell", "God hates Fags" are the statements that spewed from their mouths while hubristic smiles filled their faces as people shouted in disagreement. These people were absent love. They were hurting people. If I didn't know God, and this was my example, I would hate him too. But that’s the point, we as human beings are meant to love each other. At the very least, respect one another. How does hating someone like this feel right to anyone? Isn't there a little spark in most of us that says "hey man, that was wrong of me"?
The song "mean what you say" is about that spark - the point where you realize the weight in your words. We've all said things we don't mean. There is no way around it. My question is, "Once we realize what we've done, how do we fix it?" We learn love. I think back on my nephew and how quick he was to forgive me. I realize some people will never learn this. They'll never know how much they may hurt someone who is struggling. The good part is we don't have to follow their example. We can learn from our mistakes. We can make a difference with love.
"The Man in Black" sings another chorus. I'm still sitting here pondering my "empire of dirt". What have we become? I understand that I've said things that we're wrong, things not thought through. It will happen again. But with all these heavy thoughts, I continue to have hope. Life's a series of steps. Hopefully I can learn a little along the way
For “Mean What You Say,” the band’s second album they partnered with Producer Rob Hawkins (Fireflight, Disciple), and made a record that, frankly, few bands could even conceive of making. Front to back, it is a triumph in production quality, unforgettable songwriting, and uncanny passion. It is dark and disquieting, yet uplifting. It is contemporary without being derivative. Yet for Riner and company, Mean What You Say is not simply an exercise in flexing their sonic might, but a vital response to a spiritual crisis in our culture.
Read the full Biography
Zach Riner - Vocals
JJ Leonard - Guitar
Andy O'Neal - Guitar
Jon Arena - Bass
Dane Anderson - Drums