Also in 1994, Charlie suggested to the band that they enter a talent contest he had seen advertised in a CCM magazine. On April 27th, Jars of Clay performed at the Gospel Music Association Spotlight Competition, and met with great popular and critical praise. April continued to be busy as the band released its demo album "Frail", (which was limited to a run of 1000 and is now the most highly sought after piece of Jars of Clay memorabilia). This demo, combined with their GMA win, garnered the band a lot of record label interest, and eventually they signed with Essential Records (3), then a small, fledgling label that nevertheless had the distribution power of both Brentwood Music and Silvertone. By this stage, Matt Bronleewe had decided to leave the band and continue his studies, rather than move with the others to Nashville to record their debut album. This left a hole in the group that was filled when Charlie called an old school friend of his, Matt Odmark, and asked him if he would be interested in the spot. Matt accepted and in May 1995 they released their self-titled debut to massive critical and popular acclaim. The first single to be lifted from the album, 'Flood', became a No. 1 hit on both secular and Christian charts, helping the album go 2x Platinum, and seeing the band tour with the likes of Sting, Sheryl Crowe, Michael W. Smith and PFR.
Jars of Clay are considered to be one of the most creative and artistic bands in the US, and not only amongst Christian audiences. Though their name is not as prevalent in the secular scene as it once was, it is still associated with the very highest of production values and creative output, and the band still maintains a very loyal and dedicated fan base, and have performed all over the world, including Australia, the UK, the Philippines, and Singapore. In 2001, Jars of Clay received Honourary Degrees from Greenville College, since Dan, Charlie and Steve never finished their original degrees. The band has always been open about their Christian beliefs, but do not consider themselves to be a 'Christian' band, more a band whose members are Christians. All four men are now married and most have started families of their own. When touring, the group is expanded to include a drummer (formerly Scott Savage and Joe Porter (2), currently Jeremy Lutito) and a bassist (formerly Aaron Sands, currently Gabe Ruschival), and on occasion has included string players. Jars of Clay continue to be one of the most influential bands in the CCM industry as well as maintaining a high degree of respect in the music industry in general.