The Sea in Between Navigates the Ordinary and Extraordinary

Credit: Sasha Arutyunova


“We’ve all come into contact with people who are really, really good at what they do,” says singer-songwriter Josh Garrels in The Sea in Between, an uplifting new documentary produced by Mason Jar Music. “What they are doing is inviting you into their joy.”

Shot on a remote island in British Columbia, Canada, and featuring stunningly beautiful photography, the inspiring film follows an experiment in friendliness that became a discovery of joy for the musicians and locals who helped make it happen.

Garrels, a Portland, Ore.-based independent folk musician who’s also raising a young family, relies on a strong Christian faith and overwhelming drive. Doing everything on their own, he and his wife built their own record label and have released six albums in total. The most recent, Love & War & the Sea in Between, was fan-funded and distributed online for free.

After discovering Garrels’ music and message, the Johnson family of Mayne Island, British Columbia, became fans and eventually wanted to help. That led to an invitation to their home for a week of lounging and maybe making a music video. Eventually, though, the plan would swell to include a half-dozen musicians and a camera crew, many of whom privately felt boxed in by mounting pressure and negativity in their lives.

Over the course of a week on the island, all the musicians would connect with the beauty of their surroundings and find a new guiding light for their work.

“I think it’s important, not only for artists but for everybody, to spend time in nature,” said Sharon Johnson, Garrels’ hostess for the trip. “But it’s not just nature. It’s taking time to actually settle into the deeper part of who you really are because that’s where creativity comes from.”

Interspersed with high-quality field recordings of Garrels’ songs, listeners learn about his journey from a drug-abusing teenager to devoted father and artist, watch as the crew collaborates through film and song and meet some of the island’s compassionate locals.

After the group managed to remove themselves from the anxiety of their normal lives, they began creating some of their best music ever. The film argues that a pursuit of spirituality and togetherness — among people and with the world itself — is the true function of an artist.

Serving as an inspiration for others to follow in Garrels’ footsteps and find their own inner artist, it’s a family-friendly look into the most beautiful and uplifting aspects of a life in music.

Being screened on a cross-country tour, you can catch the film and a performance by Garrels in select venues, including Sunday (Feb. 24) at the Loveless Barn in Nashville. In the meantime, check out this joyous trailer from The Sea in Between documentary.