Too often, we hold back on giving everything we have to our endeavors. Pouring all of our efforts into a goal, dedicating total investment to our passions doesn’t just require hard work and talent, it requires the utmost level of courage. It requires full belief in our callings and the necessity of pursuing them. Committing halfway feels less risky for our hearts. So we often stop short of giving everything. We give something, and we tell ourselves that’s enough.
“It’s easier to stay in the lines and play it safe- you’d know we’d all be fine. But I hear You whisper one more time: Love is everything.”
Indie-rock Christian band Carrollton sings those lines in the title track of their new album, Everything Or Nothing. The band has come to realize that halfway commitments may be a safe bet, but safe bets rob our lives of their full potential. Love is everything. Love gave everything. So we must do the same. This philosophy resonates from beginning to end of Everything Or Nothing, available October 6.
“For this album, we didn’t sit down, write a theme, and say ‘We’re gonna go after that,’’ lead singer Justin Mosteller explains. “But we looked at all the songs we had written over the last two years, and in discerning what were the best songs and how they fit together, that theme of everything or nothing was the anchor of this album. It’s that feeling that’s unified us, even through such an exhausting journey.”
That anchor has meant something different to each of the band members (Jordan Bailey, Michael Loy, Justin Mosteller, Joel Rousseau). Their lives have changed as a unit and individually over the last few years: they’ve welcomed Joel into the band, they’ve rejoiced the birth of new children, they’ve made vocational changes, they’ve toured more than ever…So it makes sense that the songs they were writing along the way unintentionally related back to that choice of devoting everything or nothing to their experiences. Living halfway, committing halfway, trusting God halfway wasn’t an option. In the chorus of “Everything Or Nothing,” they express:
“I will give You my all; there’s no hiding in the middle ground. Either fly or we fall…I surrender, I surrender, cause it’s everything or nothing at all.”
They’re quick to add, though, that this type of faith isn’t instinctual and certainly easy. They each bring their own stories to the song’s testimony.
“It’s a love song. But it can be heard in so many different ways wherever your heart is,” drummer Michael Loy describes. “Some people are going to hear it as a direct cry out to God, some people are going to hear it for their spouse or for their kids and family…It’s a love song, and I think that’s all you need to say about it. It engulfs this whole identity of what we’re trying to figure out both as a band and as Christians. And I think that translates to what people will hear.”
“With the idea of everything or nothing, we’re all figuring out how to actually walk that out in different ways,” bass player Jordan Bailey adds. “For me, it started when I was playing with my two-year-old son and realized in that moment I was totally thinking of something else…And I was just thinking what the difference would be if I was actually giving him all my attention, instead of half of it. And my walk with Jesus is the same, my relationship with my wife too. So for me, this song is about family and how to follow Jesus through everything and not just go through the motions….Every time we sing it, I feel myself waking up a little bit, thinking about what matters. It’s something I need to sing.”
Diving wholeheartedly into God’s promises, rather than simply dipping our toes into the water, is a bold surrender. But it’s one that ultimately yields freedom. In one of the final tracks produced for the album, “Giving It All To You,” the band sings to God: “If it’s not Your plan, I don’t want it, I don’t want it…”
Acoustic repetition of those vulnerable words finish out the song, like an echo reminding the guys of a deep truth they’ve battled to learn over the past few years. Because they’ve found we do have assurance in Something— it’s just not in the plans we route for ourselves.
“That’s what faith means,” Mosteller says. “It’s trust; it’s not certainty. Certainty isn’t something we have— in this band, in our own selves, even. And the moment we start thinking we do, I think we’ll lose something that’s precious and sacred.”
“I’m just thinking of the entire story of the Bible and how for every single person featured, at no point was anybody sure of anything,” guitarist Joel Rousseau explains. “Their entire stories are defined by God telling them to do something insane and they feel like ‘I don’t get it…but okay.’ That’s the way it happened so long ago, but nothing’s changed.”
The band also found another bold truth— that God stands as our protector amidst all struggles. That’s the powerful theme of the album’s first single “Shelter.” The lyrics hail from Psalm 91: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of The Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
“Those aren’t little pansy statements to say lightly,” Mosteller says. “That’s a strong declaration of people trusting God.” He goes on to describe how the power of this expression is reflected in the track. “It’s probably the biggest song on the album, sonically. I get told a lot when I sing Christian music to hold back, to kind of tame it down, but with that song, it was like ‘No, let’s just go for it.”
The song itself wasn’t originally part of the album, though. Centricity’s A&R Director brought the song to the band a month after they had already prepared the track listing.
“Before “Shelter” we thought we knew exactly what we were doing; it wasn’t part of the plan we had laid out,” Loy describes. “But we just had to go ‘Okay, we’re going to trust. Trust each other, trust our team, and trust that this song is here for a reason. So let’s give everything we’ve got and believe these lyrics can speak to us and also to other people.’”
With half of the album produced by Scott Cash (NEEDTOBREATHE, Passion, Chris Tomlin) and the other half produced by the band themselves, listeners will hear the exceptional musicality that Carrollton always brings to their projects. With tight-knit harmonies, intricate instrumental work, and a soulful sound, they offer an authentic warmth to both energetic melodies and tender ballads. But this album saw Carrollton stretch themselves to create a unique range of songs that take listeners on a journey, sonically and lyrically. Everything Or Nothing walks us through finding God’s glory in each day’s little moments (“Glimpses”) to believing He will redeem us in our brokenness (“Rebuilder”).
“It sounds like life and it sounds like love,” Rousseau reflects. “That’s all it is. There’s a lot of life in there.”
And the journey is ongoing.
“These songs are us wrestling with things at times. They’re declaring what we’ve found we can trust,” Mosteller states. “They’re not declaring that we know everything, or that we have all the answers, or that everything’s pinned up really nice for us…We share what we trust, and that’s all we can offer. Through that, it’s about finding community with people. Because you discover we’re all on the same search. And here’s what we’ve found: hope.”