Switchfoot – Interview [2004]

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A Switchfoot interview with singer Jon Foreman!

Has touring been what you expected?

We’ve been at this for seven years so we’ve seen the highs and lows but this has been the best tour because we pick the opening bands and where we want to play.

Is it weird to have people buy the cd now and think you came out of nowhere?

Yeah, but that is going to happen no matter who you are. There are a lot of bands that have toured for seven years and never get their song on the radio. I’m just glad we’ve been able to do this for seven years.

Have you ever thought it might not work?

For the most part we’ve been friends for a long time and that presceded the band and it has had a big part to play in who we are. A lot of people underestimate the power of personality. They think if you click on a musical level that is enough, but if you have that behind the scenes it’s great. I know that thirty years from now when this has run its course we’ll be on the beach eating barbeque talking about rock shows.

How long were the songs around?

I feel like songwriting is something people mystify in a spiritual way and challenge. There is that and this mysterious element that you can’t pin down but then again as a songwriter I try to write a song a day and that is my favorite thing to do. I feel fortunate to be able to do that for a living.

What is it like to have people listening to your songs and they’re touched by them.

The songs that have hit me the hardest are the ones that have touched me on a spiritual level like Johnny Cash, Bob Dillon or Bob Marley. These are songs that make me question the way that I’m living. I am so honored when someone comes up to me after a show and tells me how it affects them.

What about interpretations? Do you like that there are different interpretations?

I’ll tell Johnny Rotten what his song means to me because I take something different from it. That is one of the most beautiful things in music. I’m glad everyone has a different take. I’m usually surprised by what people get from our songs, sometimes they are misinterpreted.

I was reading about this whole Christian connection to your music.

We have always been open about where we are coming from spiritually. But at the same time we have spent most of our lives trying to get out of boxes and that seems like a box that builds walls and music tears down walls so we try to stay out of a box.

I never thought about it when I listened to the record, but it does put people in a box.

Yeah, and it’s the same as musical genres. When we were teens we told everyone we weren’t a punk band because that puts you in a box too. I just hope open minded people are listening to this everywhere.

Did you always want to be the front man?

I wish I could play the drums. (Laughs) We were just downstairs working on a song and get behind the drums. But songwriting has always been fairly easy for me so I know that is what I’m supposed to be doing.

It seems like the group members who aren’t the front man dream of that, so how did you realize it?

It took me a long time to figure out how to be a front man. I have a ways to go. When you are a kid you don’t know what it means to write a song or be on stage. There is a lot to learn. Ever sine I started when I was nineteen and had these songs rolling around, we learned as we’d go. I don’t think of me as a front man, I’m more of a songwriter.

I had this thought when listening to album of the word lovely. In a good way.

I’ll take that. Maybe we should have re-titled the album The Lovely Letdown.

Rock seems to be lacking separation from other bands, whereas you have a different sound. It’s rock, but lovely. (Laughs)

I’ll take it. A lot of bands don’t care for the melody.

Yes, melody.

I think that is what drives the song home. Like the Beatles. You can whistle it on your way home.

The Beatles are a perfect example. Eleanor Rigby sounds dark but it’s lovely.

Exactly and the Who and Led Zeppelin have lots of lovely moments.

Is melody the first thing that comes?

For me it’s a thought that has to come out. The melody and the lyric usually come out at the same time. They lead each other around like a dance. If I were to say one or the other I’d say melody, but you have to have a certain melody to go along with a lyric. It’s a chicken and the egg thing.

What is the hardest part to writing?

Sometimes it’s really hard. You can have a lyric that you are really passionate about and you might have a gorgeous melody that you have no lyrics for it. Sometimes it sits on the shelf and waits.

How long ago was it that you were signed?

We recorded the album on our own and picked our producer. We went to L.A. and did the album in two weeks and then Columbia signed on afterwards. It took about six months for the record to come out and now it’s been out for almost a year.

Are you surprised that even after a year that the tent hasn’t folded?

We’ve done this for so long and this is our fourth record, but most records make an impact and dies away. It’s amazing that as many people are buying it now as they did when it first came out. The goal was to make a record that had longevity. What can be difficult for a band is to go through the process too quickly. We wanted to make a record that you heard about from your best friend and build slowly.

The slow build in a way is better than the quick riser that might flame out. This is an album, not just a single. For the album we spent a lot of time on each track. My favorite albums are ones we listen to for years and that is what we wanted for this album. Another big facet are the fans. When they are singing along is amazing. ou’ve been playing for so long and it isn’t a fly-by-night thing what are you pushing for next?

Our dreams have always been driven by something that is bigger than the numbers. To me a lot of bands set goals to be on TV and those things are things you have no control over, but you can have control over writing the best songs you can write. You can live a quality life and that is what we want to do. We want to be great people offstage as well and to be the best rock band we can be. I guess that sets up the question of how can you be the best rock band there is. It’s not cocky; we just want to do it the best we can.

You had a good point about bands doing it all for material things like being on TV. I wonder if that is why music seems to have lost its soul. It’s very superficial.

We went to a show with Granddaddy and Elbow and there was more passion in that room than from someone that might be on top of radio right now. They only had about 300 people there but you could feel the passion. You can’t fake passion. There is still passion in rock, but it’s a matter of being heard or not.

+ Charlie Craine

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