In the year 2001, it was completely impossible to avoid “Hanging By a Moment.” The song, from Los Angeles-based rock/pop band Lifehouse, announced their arrival in an infectious, can’t-get-it-out-of-your-head way and led their debut album No Name Face to sell nearly three million copies in the United States alone.
It became the most-played radio song of the year, and looking back that’s easy to believe — considering its ubiquity on the dial at a time when FM radio was king.
Now, 16 years later and a handful of other chart-topping hits under their belt, Lifehouse are out on the road with Switchfoot on the Looking for Summer Tour, while also promoting their Greatest Hits record that came out in July. In between tour stops, singer Jason Wade and bassist/vocalist Bryce Soderberg spent a few minutes answering some of our questions.
Rock Cellar: You’re out on the road with Switchfoot this summer, playing some pretty decently-sized venues from the looks of it. How’s that tour going?
Jason Wade: It’s amazing, man. We share a lot of the same fans, so joining forces together is nice since we get to play some bigger venues, get out of the clubs. Most of these are sheds. And the vibe is just great. Some really great music every night, we love those guys.
It’s appropriate, too, since as many hits as the two bands share it’s probably a fun atmosphere at these outdoor summer gigs.
Bryce Soderberg: And we’ve been gone for a little bit, too, we haven’t done a United States tour since 2011. So for us it’s kinda overwhelming to come back and see the new fans that have come on board, and the Switchfoot fans. The vibe is very cohesive. We’re having a blast doing what we’ve done, especially being a band as long as we have.
Back in 2000, you know exactly what my first impression of the band was. It was the same first impression everybody had, “Hanging By a Moment,” the song that is still in strong rotation today. When that song was taking off, and you could sense something big was happening, did you feel pressure — internally or externally — to follow that up with another hit of that size?
Jason Wade: To be honest, back in the day we probably said we didn’t feel the pressure, but we were just saying that to say it. I felt a lot of pressure. I had people from the label coming to me, before the record came out, giving me stats of how only one percent of every band is going to “make it,” so they were kind of preparing me for failure, to help ease the blow I guess.
So when it happened, suddenly everybody’s paying attention to us, our budget increases, we can do more expensive music videos. So I did, you know they say you have your whole life to write your first album and four months to write your second. It was a lot of pressure, and we were put in this position where we weren’t sure if we were a pop band or a rock band, and we ended up making more of a rock record (with 2002’s Stanley Climbfall).
Once Lifehouse put out a couple other songs that also became big hits, then, did you have a sense of, “OK, well we’re not going to be a one-hit wonder, we’re not going to be one of those late ’90s early 2000s bands that has its big moment and then falls back to earth”?
Jason Wade: Well, after our second record didn’t perform the way everybody thought it was going to, we went through a hard time. Dreamworks went bankrupt, they folded, so we were without a record company for about a year. I just went back into the studio and started writing song after song after song. I believe we were on the One Hit Wonder countdown on MuchMusic in Canada, actually, for a little bit.
And then “You and Me” came out and put us back on the map, and we rode that for another six or seven years.
And you proposed to your then-girlfriend to “You and Me,” right? That’s pretty perfect.
Jason Wade: When I was writing it, it just felt perfect. The song is really old, it didn’t come out until 2005 but I wrote it around 1999, I believe, so it missed our second record. But yeah, it always had a special meaning to me, I got to propose to Braden with the song, and now it’s kind of become a wedding anthem, which is pretty funny. But it makes sense since I was feeling it in that way, and I’ve always believed that if a song means anything to you it has a good chance of connecting to a large audience.
Earlier you said your second record, Stanley Climbfall, didn’t do as well as expected. In hindsight, if “You and Me” had been on it, would that have made a difference?
Jason Wade: I think it wouldn’t have been a success, really, because that first version of “You and Me” had a kind of avant-garde, circus vibe to it. But yeah, I believe timing is everything. The song had to come out when it did, the way it did.
Back in the beginning of the band, Jason, you’re writing a bunch of music and starting to get into band mode with Lifehouse. Back then, before everything took off, did you have any inclination or expectation that you’d still be doing this nearly 20 years later?
Jason Wade: I can’t believe that we’ve been doing this for 17 years. Back in the day I was taking it one day at a time. I moved to California with my mom and sister and wasn’t really pursuing music. I was writing songs, and I happened to run into a producer who gave me studio time, and I didn’t start with the ambition of being a rock star or being successful. I was just bouncing around to the right place at the right time, and it’s just like … “OK, so each album, we’re gonna release it and then we’re gonna go tour for two and a half years.” So we were basically doing it because it was all happening around us.
Now that you’ve been doing it for a while, you’ve seen the music industry change a lot over the years. Any particular observations or thoughts about the industry now versus how it was back in the early 2000s?
Bryce Soderberg: Well we’re trying to observe it as it goes, and keep our opinions neutral. Because we can’t really change the way the industry has morphed into what it is, and to be honest there are a lot of advantages today. Obviously, records aren’t selling like they used to, and social media has diluted a lot of things, but it’s a double-edged sword. We’ve realized we can reach our fan base on a different level through social media by having that direct contact, and we’ve been a band that’s seen the ups and downs and we’ve learned to roll with the punches and find our footing in times when it’s rough. So the industry’s been like that — ups and downs. We’ve been in it a long time, and it’s always changing and evolving. We’re trying to do the same as a band as well.
Lifehouse is not a “Christian” band, at least you’ve gone on record to say as much. Switchfoot, though, is a bit more lyrically religious, and Lifehouse has definitely covered some spiritual bases over the years. Both bands, then, seem like two of the more successful crossover acts at least in terms of bands who touch on issues of faith and spirituality.
Jason Wade: Yeah, definitely. When I was growing up writing songs, I started in that religious market, if you will. And when I was writing all these songs, I remember the youth pastor telling me that I couldn’t say a certain word or talk about this subject matter, and that really kind of turned me off. I didn’t want to be pigeonholed, I wanted to write what I felt inside to transmute some really negative things that were happening from my childhood on. I needed to document it without being put on a leash and told what I can or can’t say.
I have to ask about Lifehouse’s airplane concert incident from a few years ago.
Jason Wade and Bryce Soderberg: (Both laugh)
That was a very amusing story to read about, when you showed up on a Southwest flight to play a few songs. What happened there?
Bryce Soderberg: That was pretty hilarious. We were on a flight going to play in Napa at Live in the Vinyard, a festival that goes on once a year. The people who booked us for the show asked us to be a part of this thing Southwest Airlines was doing at the time, which was having bands perform on a plane as it’s in the air. We were promoting our single, so we figured, “Yeah, why not?” so we got up and played a few songs and seemingly everybody had a good time, seemed to enjoy it. We played “You and Me” and “Hanging,” (laughs) … but there was this sportswriter sitting on the plane, watching and live-tweeting the entire thing. We had no idea.
This Southwest flight has turned into some sort of viral video/flash mob/Lighthouse concert. Might livetweet the resulting passenger revolt.
— Jonah Keri (@jonahkeri) March 11, 2015
It was pretty funny.
PLEASE SOMEONE MAKE THOSE RABID POSSUMS STOP THEIR MATING CALLS. Oh my bad, that's just the band Lighthouse playing 3 feet from my face.
— Jonah Keri (@jonahkeri) March 11, 2015
Jason Wade: He made some hilarious comments, but you know what? If I wasn’t a fan of a band and I’m trying to sleep on a plane or whatever and they’re making noise, I’d be kind of pissed, too.
Lifehouse stopped playing. Flight attendants now coming around collecting trash to prep for landing. PLEASE THROW LIFEHOUSE IN THE BIN.
— Jonah Keri (@jonahkeri) March 11, 2015
Bryce Soderberg: He tweeted something along the lines of, “The trash lady is coming by, let’s throw Lifehouse in there too,” stuff like that. And then he actually took a selfie with us at the end, which was funny. In the grand scheme of things, we ended up on TMZ for it, so it’s pretty funny that’s how we landed on TMZ.
Hi guys, this is me posing with my new favorite band, Lifehouse. pic.twitter.com/qMcdBk1tjI
— Jonah Keri (@jonahkeri) March 11, 2015
I imagine the writer, Jonah Keri, saw that was going on and figured it’d be a great chance to get some funny commentary going on his Twitter account.
Bryce Soderberg: Oh yeah, he got us good.
What’s it like working with Jude Cole as much as you guys have? And you’re on IronWorks now, his label with Kiefer Sutherland. Have you seen him play any of his country/Americana music?
Jason Wade: I haven’t seen his show yet but I wrote a song for his record with Jude and Kiefer. And he’s coming to the show tonight, in Toronto. Working with Jude is like working with family. To this day, he’s managed us from the beginning, and we don’t even have a contract. It’s just a handshake. In the early days it was more of a management situation, but as we got closer I realized what an amazing songwriter he is so we connected on that level as well.
It’s hard to ignore the fact that music has lost a lot of big names over the past year or so, from Prince and David Bowie to the last few months with Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. From your perspective as a long-running band in the spotlight, so to speak, any reflections on any of that? Since it seems like it’s always pretty difficult for most folks to process losses like these.
Jason Wade: If anything we’re just really saddened by it. Depression is a huge issue and it can hit anybody, it doesn’t matter your status or how much money you have. I think it’s a thing that’s misunderstood by a lot of people, and it just made us so sad that it happened, and on Cornell’s birthday, of all days. It was a really sad time for music.
What’s going on after this tour? You’re basically promoting your new Greatest Hits record but what’s next?
Jason Wade: I think we’re going to do a new record next year, we’re leaning toward that.
The remaining dates on Lifehouse’s tour with Switchfoot:
8/4 – Hampton Beach, NH @ Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom
8/5 – Portland, ME @ Maine State Pier
8/6 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Fillmore
8/9 – Boston, MA @ House of Blues – Boston
8/10 – Asbury Park, NJ @ Stone Pony Summer Stage
8/12 – Brooklyn, NY @ Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk
8/13 – Vienna, VA @ Wolf Trap
8/15 – Baltimore, MD @ Pier 6 Pavilion
8/16 – Cincinnati, OH @ Taft Theatre
8/18 – Nashville, TN @ Carl Black Chevy Woods Amphitheater at Fontanel
8/19 – Williamsburg, VA @ Busch Gardens Williamsburg
8/22 – Greensboro, NC @ White Oak Amphitheatre at Greensboro Coliseum Complex
8/25 – Miami, FL @ Bayfront Park Amphitheater
8/26 – Orlando, FL @ Orlando Amphitheater
8/27 – Jacksonville, FL @ Daily’s Place
8/29 – Highland Park, IL @ Ravinia Festival
8/30 – Indianapolis, IN @ Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State Park
9/1 – DuQuoin, IL @ DuQuoin State Fair
9/3 – Springfield, MO @ Gillioz Theater
9/4 – Irving, TX @ The Pavilion at Irving Music Factory
9/5 – Houston, TX @ House of Blues – Houston
9/8 – Las Vegas, NV @ Mandalay Bay Beach
9/9 – Los Angeles, CA @Greek Theatre
9/10 – San Francisco, CA @ The Masonic