In the wee morning hours, in an eastern Dallas suburb, two college kids would get up before the sun and open the local Starbucks.
With medium and dark roast coffee percolating in the background, and the smell of freshly ground beans wafting through the air, Josh Havens and Matt Fuqua were known to break out their guitars when business was slow.
It was the late 1990s and Starbucks hadn’t completely put a stranglehold on the hot beverage market in Mesquite, Texas, so there was ample downtime for Havens and Fuqua to practice their strumming.
Quickly, the two became friends.
“When it was slow, we’d pull our guitars out and make up songs or sing out drink orders,” Havens said. “People thought we were singing baristas and they came to expect it.”
Double Tall Soy Latte?
Who knows? It could’ve been a huge chart-topper had Havens and Fuqua not taken the advice of people around them and start a band now known as The Afters.
“People started saying we sounded good together,” Havens said, “so we started writing songs and booking shows.”
More than a decade later and they’re still performing. In fact, The Afters will play three times this weekend at the Red River Will Graham Celebration in Gainesville, Texas, about an hour up the road from Havens’ hometown.
Along with the Rend Collective Experiment (Friday, Sunday) and Tedashii (Saturday), The Afters will be playing and Will Graham will be preaching the Good News of the Gospel all three nights (March 16-18) at Gainesville High School.
For Havens, it was a no-brainer to partner with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association on this youth-oriented outreach.
“What we love about working with BGEA is they put so much intention into everything,” said Havens, who has played in many BGEA outreach events, including last year in both Milwaukee and Denver. “They go into a place, they’re there sometimes a year before, setting the ground work, getting connected with the community. They really want the entire community to be involved.
“And then they stay and get people connected to the local church. We just love that. It’s all about building the Kingdom.”
When you hear Havens share his testimony and he starts talking about his parents being “hippies,” you can almost picture him as a child growing up in a tie-dyed shirt.
“My dad met my mom traveling through Holland,” he said. “My dad had a big Jerry Garcia beard.”
After getting married, moving back to the States, and traveling around the U.S. and Mexico for about a year, his parents finally settled in Wisconsin, where his dad milked 30 cows and built pipe organs to make a living.
Both were born again around the same time Havens was born.
“On the day I was supposed to be born, a local pastor came out and witnessed to them and my mom accepted Christ,” said Havens, born Aug. 30, 1980. “Two weeks later when I was actually born, he came back and my dad accepted Christ that day. I heard the midwife also accepted Christ.”
Those days surrounding his birth would leave a lasting mark on Havens’ life as he would move to Dallas as a child to follow his dad’s journey into seminary.
“From that day forward they were on fire,” he said. “I grew up in a Christian home, never knew anything but that. They said my first word was ‘Jesus,’ we were at church so much.”
But it wasn’t until high school and into college that Havens “made my faith my own,” and “fell in love with apologetics.”
“I’ve been on a journey to defend the faith,” he said, “and talk about it in a way that makes sense.”
The father of four children, Havens had the recent opportunity to be involved in a project supporting the sanctity of life, recording a song for the upcoming movie “October Baby.”
The movie is inspired by the true story of an abortion survivor and deals with issues of forgiveness and choosing life over abortion. The movie’s producers are donating 10 percent of the proceeds to the Every Life is Beautiful fund.
Call it coincidence or providence, but The Afters, working on their new album set to release this fall, wrote a song called “Life is Beautiful.” When the October Baby producers heard it, they figured out a way to include it in the movie at the last-minute, placing it as the show’s closing song over the film’s rolling credits.
Havens and The Afters agreed to record that single months before their other songs on the album to make it into the March 23 release of “October Baby,” which will be shown on 400 screens nationwide.
“It’s a really personal song,” Havens said. “Just a snapshot of life.”
The 2012 album will mark the band’s fifth studio album, including Dove-award-winning “Never Going Back to OK” (2008) and “Light Up the Sky” (2010). The Afters have had three singles crack the Top 5 of the Christian charts and seven peak in the Top 25.
But Havens is especially proud of the band’s most-recent work.
“I’m so excited about the new songs,” he said. “I feel like we’ve been in a really good head space.
“I don’t journal or keep a diary but I write songs and that’s how I deal with life and sort through those things that most people put in a journal.
“Sometimes music says things that words can’t.”
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