GREENBELT 2009: Festival banks on sixpence

by
18 August 2009

by Jude Adam

THE FOUNDERS of Sixpence None The Richer, Matt Slocum and Leigh Nash, began their partnership in the early ’90s as teenagers growing up together in New Braunfels, Texas.

Their first couple of albums, The Fatherless & the Widow and This Beautiful Mess, established the band’s sweet sound, and a small but perfectly formed fan-base. It also put the band in that strange box where they were not quite Christian enough for the CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) marketplace, but were just a little too Christian for the mainstream; they seemed destined for mid-sized indie contentedness.

Then a couple of things happened. First, their record label folded (they were swiftly signed by Steve Taylor’s new independent, Squint), and then they wrote “Kiss Me”.

Everything changed. “Kiss Me” was a brilliant slice of sunny, sweet, innocent pop music. Radio loved it, but, more importantly, the film and TV industry loved it, too. It was placed in the hit teen-flick She’s All That, and on several TV shows (including Dawson’s Creek). But their biggest placing was when the BBC played the song during the wedding of Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys Jones.

Almost overnight, the band became an international household name, and one of the small handful of Christian bands to make it in the mainstream.

Not ones for rampant evangelism, their name — taken from C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity — meant that Nash and Slocum were constantly asked one simple question about faith. In The David Letterman Show, for example, Nash — after cutting off Letterman’s request to squire her home — explains the meaning.

“A little boy asks his father if he can get a sixpence to go and get a gift for his father. The father gladly accepts the gift, and he’s really happy with it, but he also realises that he’s not any richer for the transaction.”

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“He bought his own gift,” Letterman said.

“That’s right,” Nash continued. “C. S. Lewis was comparing that to his belief that God has given him, and us, the gifts that we possess. And to serve him the way we should, we should do it humbly, realising how we got the gifts in the first place.”

“Well, that’s beautiful,” Letterman said with uncharacteristic earnestness. “If we could just keep that little sliver of enlightenment with us, things would be so much better.”

After “Kiss Me”, the band had a couple of decent-sized hits with their covers of The La’s “There She Goes”, and Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, but because Squint went out of business, their follow-up album The Divine Discontent took a while to hit the shelves, and, in 2004, they parted amicably.

Thankfully, the split was far from perma­nent. Guitarist and songwriter Slocum explains: “Leigh and I had been making music together since we were teenagers. As we approached our 30s, there was a bit of rest­lessness to explore other things; but in the midst of this exploration, I felt a void open up, like I needed to be making music with Leigh.”

Since reuniting, the duo have released a collection of Christmas songs, The Dawn of Grace, and a (very) independent EP called My Dear Machine, through the Nashville-based music-sharing website Noizetrade.

After their headline slot at Greenbelt, they expect to record a new album in early 2010.

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