“There was a kind of unlearning with this album,” says Lifehouse’s Jason Wade. “We wanted to retrace our steps back to the beginning and really find the innocence, that feeling of being 17-year-old kids who get excited about playing in the garage.”
The result of this searching is Out Of The Wasteland, a record that captures the sound of a band going through a rebirth and finding the freedom that comes after a period of transition and regeneration. “Our communication really opened up—we’ve earned the right to really be honest with each other,” says Wade. “And we ended up with something that’s an amalgamation of all of our influences, a collection of everything we’ve done for 15 years.”
As the title indicates, Out Of The Wasteland is the work of a group that has some history. It was 2001 when Los Angeles-based Lifehouse broke through in a big way when “Hanging by a Moment,” from their debut album No Name Face, spent 20 weeks in the Top Ten and won a Billboard Music Award for “Hot 100 Single of the Year.” Since then, the band has released five more albums three of which made the Billboard Top Ten, sold over 15 million records worldwide and spun off such hit singles as “You and Me,” “First Time,” and “Whatever it Takes.”
After their last album, 2012’s Almeria, the members of Lifehouse decided not to tour and instead to take some time off and pursue separate projects for a while. “We had gotten so caught up in the rat race of making music a certain way and it got really draining,” says Wade. “We’d been on the hamster wheel for so long, we just needed a break.”
Drummer Rick Woolstenhulme toured with the Goo Goo Dolls, while bassist Bryce Soderberg put together a new band called KOMOX. Wade, meanwhile, immediately hunkered down in his home studio and started work on a solo album, but he found it harder going than expected. “I wrote 65 or 70 songs, and started three different solo records that I just couldn’t pull the trigger on,” he says. In fact, there were two songs—“Hurricane” and “Flight”—that sounded to the singer like they were really meant to be Lifehouse songs.
“Those songs were really the catalyst to bring the band back together,” says Wade. “They felt reminiscent of our earlier stuff. And I think everybody was in a place where they wanted to do it.”
After a year and a half apart, they reconvened to go through all of the compositions Wade had accrued, and when Woolstenhulme and Soderberg recorded their parts on top of his demos, the songs “started to breathe and jump-start.” And gradually—over the course of six months, a much longer time than Lifehouse’s usual recording process—an album began to take shape. But the genesis of these songs remained present and gave them a different feel than what the band had grown used to. “The biggest thing was having the freedom to reset and start over,” says Wade. “Thinking that this was going to be a solo record got us way outside of the box that people put us in. I had been experimenting with songs bordering on country, some are a little more singer-songwriter, something like ‘Alien’ is a little more playful. It allowed us the freedom to get outside of one genre.”
Other changes reflected this same open spirit. Lifehouse decided to leave their record label and release the new album on their own. Long-time associate Winnie (Chris Murgula), who had been Wade’s guitar tech, was brought in as co-producer on this project. And, of course, the ongoing chaos in the music industry has meant that a lot of the rules for success have been thrown out the window for everyone.
“It really helped to not always have the idea of making singles in the back of my mind,” says Wade. “I was 18 when I got signed and on our first record we were thinking about exploring, not about hits or success. Then you start to feel that you have to deliver, to make people happy—and because life gets easier when you have some success! So it was kind of challenging to separate the business from the music and go back to ‘Is this song giving me chills? Is it a good song, a good lyric?,’ back to where we were before we learned the ins and outs of the music business.”
The twelve songs on Out Of The Wasteland reflect the range that Lifehouse is capable of today. “There’s a bit of everything,” says Wade. “Some of it is a bit more mellow, but other songs like ‘Yesterday’s Son’ and ‘Hurt This Way’ feel like a continuation from the last album.” On several songs, including the harmony-heavy track “Hourglass,” Wade got to fulfill a musical fantasy and work with legendary movie-score composer James Newton Howard (a former member of Elton John’s classic 1970s band) to create more expansive string arrangements.
While most of the songs were written during the band’s hiatus, a few date back further. Wade wrote “Wish” in 2001, after No Name Face came out. “I was evolving in my songwriting and we went in a different direction, and that song always fell through the cracks,” he says. “I’m really proud of it and so glad it finally made its way.” The tender “Central Park,” meanwhile, was composed in 2007 when Wade did some traveling as a way to shake up his writing process.
For Lifehouse, Out Of The Wasteland is a culmination of their life’s work, a new chapter that serves as the pay-off for having the patience to reconnect with the musical and personal chemistry that took them to the top. “We were at crossroads, and it definitely could have gone a different way,” says Jason Wade. “Going through changes and restarting a brand new season in your life and your career can be scary. But I think everybody is really happy that right now, our hearts are in the right place creatively.”
“We try to approach every record like its our first and our last, but this one feels extra special,” Tim Foreman says of Where the Light Shines Through, SWITCHFOOT’s tenth album and Vanguard Records debut. “The process of making it was a huge struggle, but it was cathartic, and I think that comes through in the music.”
Indeed, the thematically ambitious, sonically adventurous dozen-song set—which marks the band’s return to the indie world after a lengthy major-label run—makes it clear that, two decades into their remarkable career, the beloved San Diego-bred quintet remains as compelling and uplifting as ever, delivering inspired, infectious songs that resonate with passion, insight and melodic craft.
Such vivid new tunes as “Holy Water,” “Float,” “If the House Burns Down Tonight” and the poignant title track address and illuminate timeless spiritual struggles and philosophical dilemmas, while boasting some of the band’s catchiest hooks and most imaginative arrangements to date. The resulting album is a significant addition to the rich body of work that’s already established SWITCHFOOT as a consistently vital musical force.
‘We’ve learned that the best stories to tell are the ones that are hardest to live, and that was definitely true with this album,” adds Jon Foreman, Tim’s brother, bandmate and songwriting partner. “The stories in this album come from experiences that weren’t really fun at the time, but I don’t think we could have gotten here any other way.”
Produced by SWITCHFOOT in collaboration with John Fields (who helmed the multi-platinum Beautiful Letdown), Where the Light Shines Through reflects the emotional gravity of its turbulent, yet ultimately rewarding, birth cycle.
“We went through a lot, individually and as a band, in making this record,” Tim states. “Not to be melodramatic, but it was a dark season for us, and this record became a source of light in the middle of a dark season. It rose organically out of the ashes of adversity and surprised us all. That’s how we landed on this idea that the wound is where the light shines through; this album is about being surprised by hope.”
“A thing that we talked about a lot with this record was moving forward while looking back,” Jon explains. “How do you arrive at a new place while also taking stock of where you’ve been? That can be very tricky to do, to look back and still feel like you’re arriving somewhere new.”
“We really pushed ourselves, almost to the breaking point, for about a year and a half, which is the longest we’ve ever spent on a record,” Tim asserts. “We wrote and wrote and wrote, not thinking about what was going to be commercially viable or what we thought other people would like. We just kept writing and getting lost in the music, and using the music to help us navigate our way out of this dark place we were in. Then we came up for air at the end, and we found the themes that connect all these songs.”
“The songs on the album were culled from a list of 80 or 90 songs,” Jon notes. “These are kind of the chosen ones, as it were. My favorite songs are the ones that feel like they’ve been given to you, where you don’t necessarily see your own fingerprints on the canvas. I equate songwriting with archaeology; some days you dig up a bottlecap, and other days you dig up a lost city.”
SWITCHFOOT has been unearthing all manner of musical gems since their 1997 debut The Legend of Chin, steadily expanding their global fan base and critical reputation through such releases as New Way to Be Human (1999), Learning to Breathe (2000), the multi-platinum breakthrough The Beautiful Letdown (2003), Nothing Is Sound (2005), Oh! Gravity (2006), the Grammy award-winning Hello Hurricane (2009), Vice Verses (2011) and Fading West (2014). The latter album doubled as the soundtrack to the band’s documentary of the same name. Along the way, SWITCHFOOT established itself as a world-class live act with a series of sold-out world tours, while racking up a string of radio hits, including “Meant to Live,” “Dare You to Move,” “Stars” and “Mess of Me”.
Beyond their career achievements, SWITCHFOOT has been active in a variety of philanthropic efforts, raising over a million dollars to aid kids in their community through the band’s own Bro-Am Foundation, a long-running annual benefit surf contest and concert that’s held every summer in Encinitas, CA. They’ve also maintained a deep commitment to a variety of humanitarian causes, lending their support to such worthy organizations as DATA, the ONE Campaign, Habitat for Humanity, Invisible Children and To Write Love on Her Arms.
In recent years, various SWITCHFOOT members have taken the opportunity to explore creative pursuits outside of the band. For example, Jon Foreman recently released a series of solo EPs under his own name, and recorded with Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek as Fiction Family.
“Where the Light Shines Through comes on the heels of various side projects and other little things that were taking away from the band’s time, for better and for worse,” says Jon Foreman. “We were trying to do a lot of different things, but to me this is a celebration of what we love and what we do best, which is play rock ‘n’ roll with this band.”
At 22 years old, Atlanta-born singer, songwriter, and musician Brynn Elliott, is incredibly self-aware.
Currently a philosophy major at Harvard University, Brynn is a refreshingly atypical pop artist whose studies and personal experience inform much of her songwriting process. She writes about the real themes of life: love, pain, redemption, friendship, romance. Since the Fall of 2014, when she entered Harvard as a freshman, Elliott has played some 70 shows per year, opening for such artists as Brandi Carlile, Alanis Morissette, Grace Potter, Allen Stone, and Switchfoot. A gig with O.A.R. found her performing for thousands of people at Colorado’s fabled Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the last stop on her summer tour, after which Elliott flew back to Cambridge to join her classes already in progress.
In addition, Elliott has been bouncing between Boston and Nashville to collaborate with songwriter-producer Nathan Chapman (Taylor Swift) on a collection of new songs, including her latest single “Might Not Like Me.” Serving as an ode to a break up, “Might Not Like Me” is an infectious girl anthem embracing the power of what it means to be a self-confident, unapologetic woman. The track is the first in a series of singles she plans to release this year with a debut EP to follow.
Fans can see Brynn perform this summer as she is set to embark on another major tour with Lifehouse and Switchfoot in over 30 cities nationwide that will kick off July 23 at the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver, CO and travel to major venues including The Taft Theatre in Cincinnati!
Rock fans across North America can look forward to Lifehouse & SWITCHFOOT together for the first time on the “Looking for Summer” Tour, delivering 30+ shows to venues across the U.S. and Canada. Up-and-coming songstress Brynn Elliott will open as support.