Asked what kind of music can be found on Lifehouse’s third album (simply titled Lifehouse), Jason Wade pauses and says, “the kind of music I like to write. That’s one of the great things about having done a couple of records. I don’t second-guess myself anymore. When I’m writing, I’m not trying to please everyone. My first question is: Do I like it?”
Wade proved himself a gifted songwriter with Lifehouse’s first record, 2000’s multiplatinum No Name Face, which spawned the #1 hit “Hanging by a Moment.” Calling that song a hit, however, is a bit of an understatement as “Hanging by a Moment” was the most-played song of 2001 and 2005 found Wade following that up with the hit “You and Me”.
We interview the frontman Jason Wade.
HIP: It seems to me that a lot of people wrote you off after the first album. Does it feel good to show them how wrong they were?
Jason Wade: It feels really good. Funny enough a show in Canada, MuchMusic, had us up as a one hit wonder and had to take us down. [We both laugh]
You should have sued them for slander.
Was there a lot of pressure to follow it up?
Not on the second record. Once we went through what was the usual sophomore slump I felt like we were alright. Our bass player left the band and it changed our chemistry and our record label folded so for a while I wasn’t even sure if we were going to get the opportunity to make another record. So I really felt like we were starting over and I felt inspired.
Do you read the reviews?
I did in the beginning and it seemed like people lumped us in with Creed and Pearl Jam. But with the last record we were doing our own thing and I felt that people would accept us for that.
I figure if you write more than one record people have to start giving you credit.
I just don’t think we’ll ever be the kind of band that gets great reviews in Rolling Stone. I don’t really care about that. I care about connecting with our fans.
At the end of the day they are buying the albums.
Absolutely. Getting amazing press doesn’t mean anything—it’s all subjective.
It is subjective. We get caught in a hard place when reviewing albums because we really often have only one day, maybe two, to listen to an album so it’s only a few listens and it is hard to fall in love.
Right, I get that. You have to write off the top of your head.
The first time I heard Ok Computer I didn’t like it.
It takes time.
People would have killed me over a bad review.
I was the same with Kid A.
It’s funny because I love bands like Blur and to read a bad review of The Great Escape would seem ridiculous—but at the same time I could see why someone would hate the album. It is pretty corny for the most part but it’s good after a while. So I would think someone was wrong if they wrote a bad review. But it’s subjective.
I’d rather do interviews—you don’t get flamed then.
[Laughs] It’s tough for both sides because it sucks to be a musician and get a bad review.
One thing we realize now is how die-hard your fans are. What is it like to go out and do a show where fans know all the words—the energy has to be amazing.
It’s crazy on this record, because “You and Me” became a huge wedding song, we’d get asked all the time to play weddings. And when we tell them how much it costs they can’t believe it. Really they think we should be able to come and play for free.
How much does the album cost? They could hire a DJ to spin it. [We both laugh]
It seems weird to ask a band to play a wedding—but do you have weird moments with fans?
I try to be as polite as possible. I am pretty even tempered so I don’t get frustrated. I think it’s funny. I know some bands blow up but I’m patient with fans. Super-fans intrigue me. We have this group of fans that went to like 49 shows and wait outside in the cold. It’s a different breed.
It has to be mind-boggling to think that you made a song that means so much to people that they become such devoted fans. I mean, some of these songs become a moment in their life.
I like to let listeners create their own interpretation of the songs—which are often different then what I was thinking about.
I rarely ever want to know what a song is about. I like to make that up in my mind.
Me too, I would never ask my favorite bands what a song is about.
When I was growing up I used to make up crazy ideas in my head what songs were about—especially with a band like KISS.
You know I was at a radio thing and Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley were right behind me and they didn’t have their makeup on—that kind of ruined it for me.
I read something that said you are married. Is that true?
Yeah, I got married right before our first record. So I never got to live the single rock star life but I think it kept me from going crazy. I know a lot of these guys who are single and hook up with groupies but when they go home they are lonely. It might be an unhealthy lifestyle but it does look like a lot of fun. [We both laugh]
[Jason and I went into an in-depth, personal conversation about children. He discussed his relationship with his father and how he felt like he’d make up for the relationship he didn’t have with his father.]
Did you write differently on this album?
I got really into writing on the Wurlitzer on the last record. Before I was all about the guitar but I’m trying to play with the piano more.
Did you know how to play the piano?
I’m not really that good. Because I’m not trained I can come up with some cool stuff that a trained piano player wouldn’t be able to.
You wanted play guitar all along so how did you get into the piano?
I was always of fan of the Beatles and Nirvana—but then I started to listen to Elton John and then it became cool to me. That’s when I started to want to write on the piano.
When you write a song like “You And Me” do you know it’s a hit right away?
I have no idea. As far as writing hits I’m always the last person to know. My favorite songs never get picked—I guess that is why you have a staff at a record label. I guess the record label knows best sometimes.
[We go into a conversation about Oasis and their B-sides and how great they are. Then we discuss how bad the Nirvana B-sides are. We talked days before the Grammys so the conversation goes into awards and wondering if Paul McCartney will win since they like to give awards to the ‘token old dude.’]
I’m curious. Is it easy for you to write a pop song?
I’ve changed my tune on writing pop stuff. Actually I think it’s easier to write something that goes over people’s heads. I think it’s hard to write a pop hit that has substance and isn’t a shameless pop song. I can feel it when I’m trying to write something poppy.
I think sometimes music critics—and I will admit to being a critic—shrug off pop songs that sound easy. I think at the end of the day it’s ridiculous because if it was easy we’d be writing freaking pop songs instead of writing about them. [We both laugh]
I listened to “You And Me” again today and couldn’t get it out of my head. I think some people would cast it off as a simple pop song but it’s easy to do that but I believe if you can hear the chorus once and not forget it then it’s a great song.
You know sometimes its just luck. If I can play and it feels like it’s happening by itself I know it’s going to be a good song.
+ Charlie Craine