Lifehouse for the Long-Haul
By Andy Argyrakis, senior editor, gmclife.com
For the past ten years, Lifehouse has conquered modern rock radio, become a consistent touring presence, and popped up in countless facets of pop culture. In 2001, the band’s breakthrough single “Hanging By a Moment” became the Billboard’s Hot 100 “Single of the Year,” spawning over two million albums sold, followed by a trio of gold-selling CDs throughout the remainder of the decade. But the Los Angeles-based players have stayed fresh throughout 2010, releasing their fifth studio CD Smoke & Mirrors (Geffen), featuring guest collaborators Chris Daughtry (from “American Idol”), Richard Marx and Kevin Rudolf. Here’s more from frontman Jason Wade during a phone call with gmclife.com’s Andy Argyrakis on the group’s growth over the years, its exciting new direction, songwriting inspirations, and his ultimate dream collaboration.
gmclife.com: It’s been three years since Lifehouse’s last CD. Was it a conscious decision to take your time in the recording studio?
Jason Wade: It really was. I think we were at a pivotal point in our career with our fifth record. It would’ve been really easy to go back and reduplicate the blueprints of the last record because it was successful, but I think that would’ve been to the detriment of the band and really stamped us in a certain genre and certain time frame. We wanted to make sure the band was evolving but still managing to stay true to our roots, which was a tricky thing. It got to the point where we’d finish a song, scrap it the next day and start over. We set the bar line a lot higher and we really pushed ourselves sonically to do something different.
gmclife.com: What are the main differences between this disc and your previous projects?
Wade: Well for me there are a lot more collaborations. I’ve predominately done most of the songwriting by myself, though I co-write every once in while with a producer. I felt like I was at a point where I needed to take a different vantage point outside of personal experience. I reached out to Chris Daughtry, who’s become a good friend, and he hooked me up with Richard Marx [for the song “Had Enough”]. I did a lot of writing with Jude Cole, our manager and producer who’s extremely talented, and did some songwriting in a different genre by reaching out to Kevin Rudolf, who co-wrote “Halfway Gone” and is known more in the pop/hip-hop world. Sonically there are quite a bit of differences, but the biggest are electronic drums, synth basses and vocoder effects where we try to mix pop and organic rock with some more modern sounds.
gmclife.com: Who’s your audience at this point?
Wade: I’d say it’s anywhere from 15-year-old kids to 50-year-olds; at least that’s the audience I see at our shows.
gmclife.com: I read that you guys wrote 35 tracks for this album and wound up including 12. Is that a general average or was that more than usual?
Wade: If we’re in a hurry to get the record out, we average 17 to 20 songs, but in this case, it was a little bit extreme. We refused to release it if we were not happy with it and it was almost like we were writing and recording two separate albums at the same time. It became apparent the best idea would be to take the best of both worlds, which are both true to the band. One is the organic rock side of what we do. At our shows, we’re fairly simple with two guitars, bass and drums. But there’s the other side that’s a bit more polished and radio [sounding], so we kind of split that down the middle.
gmclife.com: A lot of your songs seem to have a really uplifting and inspirational tone. To what degree does spirituality play a role in your songwriting?
Wade: That’s definitely a part of it, especially a lot of the stuff on the first record. For instance a song called “Everything” became a big YouTube phenomenon [with people] interpreting it as a spiritual song, but also to a whole other group, it’s like a wedding song. Everyone always asks which is better and I just like the fact it can be ambiguous enough that it can inspire two different people and they don’t have to fight about what it’s about. That’s what music is all about to me. You’ve gotta interpret it however it’s reaching you.
gmclife.com: Out of all the hits you’ve written and recorded, what’s your favorite?
Wade: I still have to say “Hanging By a Moment” because that started everything for our band. It took us from playing in front of nobody, to shows with Matchbox Twenty and opening for The Rolling Stones, so that song really opened up a lot of doors for the band.
gmclife.com: What are your coolest celebrity encounters over the years?
Wade: I got to meet Bono and hang out with him for 20 minutes after one of his shows on the Elevation Tour. Getting to meet Mick Jagger and Keith Richards was probably the other.
gmclife.com: You seem like a really down to earth guy, but I’m sure you get recognized a lot as well. What’s it like to take in all that attention?
Wade: We definitely go out by the tour bus and sign [autographs], but it seems like it’s a lot of the same people who’ve been following our band, so we’re familiar with the faces of our hardcore fan base. We’re lucky in the sense that we’ve been really successful on radio and videos, but we’re not the same type of celebrities you might think. We can walk down any street and not get bothered. It’s kind of nice.
gmclife.com: Who’s your dream collaborator?
Wade: To sit and write a song with Bono is one of my dreams and you never know because anything can happen. I never thought I’d be where I am now, let alone even sit down with Bono and have a conversation.
gmclife.com: How do you account for the band’s longevity thus far?
Wade: I really have a strong affinity and connection to Pat [Monahan] from Train and we got to play a show with them in Mexico the other day and had a great conversation about that. They’ve never gotten caught up in the hype, done anything embarrassing or tried to be something they weren’t and I feel like we’ve done the same thing.
gmclife.com: What does the future hold for Lifehouse?
Wade: We want to keep making our records and playing our live shows and see if we get to the point where we’re playing arenas. We want to take it as far as we can and our goals right now are to continue to keep a high bar line and play in front of as many people as possible who want to hear us.
About the Writer
Andy Argyrakis is a Chicago-based entertainment writer/photographer who appears in the Chicago Tribune, IllinoisEntertainer, Daily Journal, Concert Livewire, Hear/Say Magazine and Image Chicago (to name few). His record label writing credits include Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Curb, EMI and Universal, with additional photo credits for Fuse TV, Live Nation, Nikon, Pollstar, Celebrity Access, Paste Magazine, MTV.com and Vibe.com. He’s also the author/narrator of "Access Matthews" (an audio CD tracing the career of Dave Matthews Band) and spends considerable time on tour, including outings with Arlo Guthrie, The Guess Who, Madina Lake (on Linkin Park’s Projekt Revolution) and Gospel Music Channel’s very own "Gospel Dream" (where he served as season one judge).
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