[ switchfoot interview @ purple door 02 ]
Since we last met 2 years ago at Purple Door, Learning to Breathe was released, both John and Tim have gotten married, Chad became a father, Jerome was officially added to the band, they've walked the red carpet at a Hollywood movie opening, and have signed with Columbia Records for an upcoming album. About an hour before their set, we sat down with Chad and Jon and Tim and Jerome to talk a little more about what's in store for Switchfoot, and about their upcoming release, The Beautiful Letdown.
cMW: Is there an official date set for the release of A Beautiful Letdown?
JON FOREMAN: Not officially but it looks like around January 15th.
cMW: Is there a main theme for "A Beautiful Letdown"?
Jon: Well the title track is about the idea of entropy. In this life everything is moving toward disorder and things will always fail you. Like this mic, if I use it long enough it will break. I am going to let you down. This water bottle if left around long enough is going to crack. And all of these things that fail us, even the beautiful aspects of life - relationships, even the church itself - all these things are not what we can put our hope in and what we can put our trust in. And that can be a very disappointing thing. But when we discover, the beautiful letdown, the idea that all these letdowns lead us to things that can hold water. It is beautiful indeed. So that's the idea of the title track, "The Beautiful Letdown." I think a lot of the songs are about entropy and love. I think to believe in love, there is something in us that we have to somewhat believe in the spiritual realm. And that is a great way to open the door to talk about the abundant life. I guess that is kind of a conglomerate answer of all of the themes in that one song.
cMW: How many songs are on the album?
TIM FOREMAN: 12
cMW: Is it the usual mix of the rock and the acoustic ballad type songs?
Jon: More rock. Less talk, more rock.
cMW: Is there any change musically or is it pretty similar to the other CDs?
Tim: I'd say it's still very Switchfoot.
Jon: Yeah, I think it is a progression forward, and we are still just figuring out who Switchfoot is, what we are today. I mean we have more people here today then the last time we were here. It's good to have Jerome on board. He definitely adds a lot, you can definitely see a little spice in the mixes.
cMW: How did you get involved with Columbia records?
Jon: A lot of bad decisions. No, they kind of pursued us somewhat. It's a dream for us to be salt and light in the world. So from the very beginning that was always a part of who we wanted to be. When the opportunity came to do a couple of showcases for various labels we said yes. That's the other half of what we want to be. We want to be relevant in the church and also outside the walls of the church. It's kind of one of those things where they call you, you don't call them. So, they called us. I don't know, it's not very exciting. But you would think it would be one of those. "Well that's when we met, you know, Julia Roberts and she said, 'Come with me and get signed with Columbia Records,' and Miles Davis is alive." It's pretty uneventful. Actually it's a lot of waiting. We're still like, "Two weeks and we will have the mixes." But it has been like that for like two months. You see that everything happens in it's time, and you just have to trust that your management is not simply a man behind a desk. But it is in trusting in God that He will be working through the people that are working for you.
One thing that you guys can be praying for us this fall, just as we venture into clubs and other areas, it has been evident to us that a lot of people are not completely on board with what we are doing. Several people misunderstand our desire to play in a club instead of in a church, for example. When we have a chance to talk to those people face to face and say, "Hey listen, here is what we are about and this is why we are doing what we are doing." Then it is a lot easier to make people understand where you are coming from. But when it comes to people just hearing one thing and making an assumption that you are doing something else, it's hard. So if you guys could be in prayer for us that we would be truly serving God in all that we are doing and listening to His voice because at the end of the day, that is what is important. I guess all along we have been just kind of stressing the fact that we are all one Body. We need your prayers just as you need our prayers and we feel like this is the part of the Body that we are called to be. So it is really exciting for us.
cMW: Do you know what song is going to be released first, and where it is going to be released?
Jon: That's a good question.
Tim: It's going to be a rock song, with guitars. But seriously, it's going to be one of two songs that are the most rocky that we have ever put out. It's going to be released to Rock Radio first. So we are excited about that.
cMW: You guys play a pretty good rockin' live show. Have you ever thought about doing a live recording?
Jon: We are still working on the B sides first. (laughs) I guess we come from a song standpoint. We love playing live, but the more songs we can get out, the better. So it's like, "These songs are already on albums, let's put out a new one."
CHAD BUTLER: That would be fun to do that.
cMW: You have been touring off and on for several years now, and you are starting to tour with some younger bands, what kind of encouraging words do you have for these younger bands?
Jon: One example of a band that has stayed joyful and have stayed true to who they are is Relient K. It has been awesome to see them just get bigger and bigger. I think so many times people become jaded and faded along the way and they lose what their initial vision was to begin. So that would be my advice, to stay humble and stay true to who God has called you to be from the beginning, because that calling never changes, no matter how big you get. You are always called to be the same person, to be a servant.
cMW: I have met you guys before, I have seen you backstage a lot. You seem very humble to me. How do you keep so humble?
Jon: Having a brother in the band is definitely helpful. And being married is another good humbling factor. I don't know. I think trying to follow Christ is a humbling thing.
cMW: When is Switchfootage going to be released?
Jon: Actually, we are hoping to release it simultaneously released with the new album. It is actually finally nearing a close where we can go, "Yeah, it might even come out." We are on the third cut. Probably by five we will be ready to go. That's exciting. We might do like a DVD/CD for the first however many people.
cMW: Has your ministry or music changed since your exposure on "A Walk to Remember"?
Chad: It's amazing how many people have seen that. Going into it, we really did not realize just what a neat opportunity for people to hear our music that otherwise wouldn't get a chance, or wouldn't walk into a Switchfoot show, per se, but to see that really have an affect on people watching the film. I think it fit pretty well. It was a neat thing for us. I feel like there are definitely kids who come to a concert like this one because of that, and that is a good thing. To be able to see your music reaching out to people beyond the length of your immediate touring and stuff like that. So it is a great extension of what we have been trying to do, and we are really grateful for it. It is something that turned out better than we thought it would.
cMW: One of the kids in my youth group says that she does not listen to Christian music because Christian bands want to sell out. So, knowing how much she loved the movie, "A Walk to Remember", I put on one of your CD's when she was riding with me in the car, and she said, "Wait a minute," knowing that I generally only listen to Christian music, "are they a Christian band?"
Jon: That's cool.
cMW: Which brings me to another question. A lot of people think Christian music is only "Jesus" like you have to have the word "Jesus" in the song so many times in a song, and that makes it Christian. What would you say to that?
Tim: I read a quote from C.S. Lewis recently, and forgive me if I misquote it slightly, but it basically said that we don't need any more little Christian books. What we need are little books of all aspects of life written by Christians. And I thought that was a really good quote because it captures a lot of the problems involving creating the Christian subculture, if you are only writing for Christians. I mean it is definitely a needed thing, we need to be ministering within the church. But if that is all that is taking place, then there is no light escaping that.
Jon: That's kind of the question for the church for the new millennium. Who are we? What do we write songs about? What do we write books about? How are relevant to this world. I think as a Christian, certainly we should write songs about our Savior. But because of the groundwork we have, we have a philosophy base that is so broad reaching and so complex and so sound. All of life, you can put anything on top of it and write about it. So from the idea of being a Christian, I can write about a war or a tree or a relationship, and all of these things have a contact which is so rich and meaningful. I think we should be the ones to write relevant music about all these things, not simply about the conversion, which is a huge part of our lives, but also about everything. The aspect that makes it a Christian song - this is the question that is facing our industry. Because where do you go now that we are a multi-million dollar industry? What happens next? So I think all of these questions need to be asked for sure.
cMW: Do you have anything else to share with us?
Jon: Just, be praying for us. This is the most exciting time in our career right now, and we are really excited to see what God does, and just that we are His servants.
- Kim Flanders
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