Jason Wade and Bryce Soderberg talk ‘Greatest Hits’, Songwriting & Touring with Switchfoot
“If a song is going to mean something to somebody else, it has to mean something to me first.” ~ jason wade
Lifehouse will release their first hits compilation, Lifehouse: Greatest Hits, on July 14. For frontman/guitarist, Jason Wade, bassist, Bryce Soderberg and drummer, Ricky Woolstenhulme, it has been an adventurous 17-year ride. After initially forming as Blyss in 1999 and attracting the attention of producer Jude Cole, the band was signed to DreamWorks and released their 2000 debut, No Name Face, which produced such hits as “Hanging by a Moment”, “Sick Cycle Carosel” and “Breathing”. “Hanging By a Moment” turned out to be a #1 Modern Rock hit, Top 40’s most played song on radio in 2001 and peaked at #2 on the Hot 100.
Since that time, Lifehouse has released seven additional diverse records, sold 15 million copies worldwide, been dropped from a label, signed to another, had a second monstrous song in “You and Me”, collaborated with Natasha Bedingfield and this summer will embark on a 32-date co-headlining tour with Switchfoot. Throughout it all, one thing has remained constant. The music has come first. A Lifehouse song is notorious for capturing an emotion. It’s this honesty that has served as a foundation that allows any listener to relate to the song on a personal level. Ultimately, you appreciate the sincerity and take comfort in applying it to your own life and experiences.
I recently had the chance to speak with Wade and Soderberg to reflect on the journey of Lifehouse to this point, how these powerful songs came to be and the next chapter.
What is the emotion of this stage in your career, having a Greatest Hits record? What does it mean to you?
Bryce Soderberg: It’s incredible. To have a 17-year career and songs that have reached so many people, we have people overseas that know our songs from TV Shows like Smallville, not just radio. We are getting this new reaction from a bunch of different generations. It’s overwhelming to be able to create and do what we love. We have 18 songs that have really connected. We’ve gone through so many peaks and valleys. We appreciate both sides of that. All the ups and downs, we’ve gone through them together. In the end, to be able to look at our cohesive work in one place is an honor to us. It’s all gratitude. We love that we get to play to the people that have been so supportive.
Jason Wade: It’s surreal to think we’ve been around for 17 years. In our minds we think we are still 18. It’s humbling. We were just kids that picked up guitars and played in our garage. You never think that it’s going to last. When the first album took off and then the second one didn’t, we were hit with the peaks and valleys right away. It wasn’t always smooth sailing. We lost our record deal, we lost A&R people, we had songs on the radio, then got completely overlooked. We are very thankful that we got to play music for this long. It’s a real gift.
It’s going to make a difference touring too. We’ve always been on the road trying to make a new album or a single. To tour on a Greatest Hits record is going to be a calming experience and allow us to be reflective. We won’t be at radio stations playing acoustic versions to get songs in rotation. It will be more of a celebration where the pressure is off. It takes so much energy to try and be current and stay ahead. At this phase in our lives, it’s going to be so nice to have a mellow tour with a great band like Switchfoot.
How did you decide which songs would be on the Greatest Hits?
JW: It’s every single we’ve ever put out and there are an additional three or four fan favorites. Basically, the most popular Lifehouse songs.
BS: It’s celebrating the catalog.
As songwriters, what is your process in creating a Lifehouse song? How do you know when it’s a song for the band vs. one to keep for yourself or another project?
JW: Usually I will just write and write and write until I have about 50 songs. The process happens organically. I’m always thinking about what would make sense to be on a Lifehouse record. I’ll seek Ricky, Bryce and Jude our manager/producer’s opinion when sorting through material.
When a song comes out of nowhere, that seems to be easy to write, it’s almost like you are channeling this certain place. Those are the songs like “Everything” and “Broken” that are the backbone to what we do. Whenever there is a song that is so in-the-moment and gives you this visceral reaction, we usually know that is going to be a good Lifehouse song.
BS: It seems the most inspired songs become Lifehouse songs. Sometimes they just pop out. There’s been different things that go into it each time we make a record.
Do you tend to come into Lifehouse sessions with complete songs or is it more of a collaboration where you build off a riff or melody you’ve written.
JW: We’ve experimented with all of us writing in the same room together. Sometimes I will come in and have most of the songs finished, then we will arrange it together. “Right Back Home” from Almeria, started as a piano riff that Bryce wrote then we all jumped in and collaborated from there. For us, it can come from anything — a thought, a riff, a lyric or even a beat sometimes can spark an idea.
BS: Collectively, we all know when something is working. If it isn’t, we know we have to go out and get margaritas.
I find it fascinating. Many Lifehouse songs seem to really focus on and appreciate a given moment. In turn, some of them, like “You and Me” have become an integral part of so many other people’s moments. How does that feel for you to know, a song that is very personal to you, is also a song that accompanies very special moments in other people’s lives?
JW: When you write a song that is very personal, it comes from that deep place inside of you. Usually it’s about another person or something you had gone through. Once you release it to the world it almost stops becoming your song. You detach from it a little bit. “You and Me” was the song I proposed to my girlfriend with years ago and long before it came out. I find it interesting how it coincides with other people’s lives. I always thought, if a song is going to mean something to somebody else, it has to mean something to me first. If its coming from a real pure and honest place, there’s a chance that it will resonate with somebody in the similar emotional field. I think it’s really interesting that “You and Me” ended up becoming one of those songs because it is mine in a way.
BS: I remember that song was originally called “You, Me and the People”. The label changed it to “You and Me”.
JW: I was kind of bummed, I wanted the long artsy title! I guess it all worked out.
Do you ever feel like you want to take a break from writing about something personal? Maybe it takes some the pressure off to write about something fun or tell a story. Or do you feel like you have to just go with whatever it is that is inspiring you? I’d assume there is a balance to it.
JW: I find I get in trouble if I try to manipulate the process. I have to go to the studio and write whatever is in my mind and in my heart. You have to just live with whatever comes out and what happens after that. Any time I try to write something specific, it always seems to backfire. Even if it ends up on the album, if it’s not coming from a genuine place then all of us are over it in a couple weeks and don’t really want to play it. It’s better to try and be present and write about what’s happening in the room at the time.
BS: I remember when Jason was writing “From Where We Are”. We had this teen drunk driving campaign that was looking for a song. You were telling us about trying to zone into writing for it. You have to craft a song differently when you are writing for a commercial or a campaign, but if you get yourself into that mode where you connect to the imagery of what you are writing for, that’s when the song comes through as having a personal connection.
JW: Bryce, you’ve been writing a bunch of your own stuff. When you are feeling like you have too many slow songs and you need an up-tempo one, what’s your process there?
BS: You can look at the outline of a record and examine if you need more of certain style that you haven’t hit yet. In the studio with any band, it’s equally important to have that right-brain creative thinking where you are getting the inspiration out, but you are also getting that left-brain logical stuff out. The two blended together is when I come up with the most inspired and best work.
JW: The cool thing that all of us love about music is that there are only so many chords that you can use. It’s amazing that music continues to change and evolve over something so simple. There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s how you interpret it and how you express yourself artistically. I love watching music documentaries. I’m always fascinated by hearing other artists’ process. It’s different every time.
Jason, you’ve traveled to different cities on your own, submersed yourself in the local culture, took photographs and then wrote about it. Where did that idea come from?
JW: A lot of the songs that came out of that time made it onto the Lifehouse record. The reason I started taking those trips was because I hit some writer’s block. When I first started writing as a teenager it was out of necessity. You don’t look at it as a job or anything that’s ever going to last. Getting six or seven years into it, you can run out of ideas. As an artist, it’s important to push yourself to grow as opposed to just settling on the same tricks. I found it helped to get outside of Los Angeles and travel around to places like Utah, Montana or New York and get out of my normal routine. The trip that I took where I started in New York and ended in Venice was scary. I was traveling by myself. I didn’t know anybody. I would just walk around the city. Part of it was really awesome and part of it was really lonely. It triggered a ton of emotions where I’d have to really dig deep into my past. I’d just go back to my hotel room at the end of the day and a lot of songs would come out of that process.
Were you writing mostly about the people you saw and the culture of that city or was it more taking a mental note and then translating to your own experiences?
JW: Most of the time I base the songs around what I am feeling. If there isn’t a lot of turbulence in my life, I love going into crowded places and just people watching. Even if you are making up a story on somebody’s life that is not accurate, sometimes just the expression on their face or how they interact is worth a thousand words. It creates a role-playing scenario where you become a different person. It’s fun to write that way too because you don’t have to carry a painful perspective of your own song, you can just become somebody else.
How did you determine where you went?
JW: I always loved New York. It seems like it can be the most powerful city in the world with all the people and energy, but it can also be the loneliest city if you don’t know anybody. You are surrounded by thousands of people, but you are completely alone. I wanted to really tap into that emotion. I would recommend the exercise to anyone who wanted to get creative and inspired. It was a really useful tool.
BS: One of my favorite songs you wrote coming out of that was “Central Park”. I think you wrote that in Central Park. right?
JW: Yeah, I was at the hotel sitting on this ledge. It was overlooking Central Park. It was snowy outside and really cold. I was writing it about my wife. It was this really lonely and beautiful moment. Capturing that pain and transferring to something positive is exactly why music is awesome
What else is on tap after the Greatest Hits release and tour with Switchfoot?
JW: I’m not totally sure. Going back on tour again is going to be great. I think we are going to be touring even more. I can see us putting some new music out if we end up doing another tour next summer. You never know, we are just getting things started again.
BS: Jason has also been releasing a new solo song each week. It’s fresh new stuff, which has been so cool.
JW: Yeah, I have 30–40 songs that I have been sitting on for years. I’ve been putting one song up per week. And Bryce is working on a new record with Komox.
BS: Yes! Always working and staying busy. I’m sure we will write with the Switchfoot guys at some point too. I know we were talking about that.
JW: That would be awesome. I would love to do that.
What does “Hanging By a Moment” and “You and Me” mean to you now? Looking back, how can you articulate the ride that it has taken you on to this point?
JW: “Hanging By a Moment” completely changed my life. I didn’t know what I was doing back then. I was flying by the seat of my pants. Ricky says he knew it would be a hit when he heard it. I had no idea. I didn’t even know what a hit was. As soon as it came out, it was like lightning in a bottle. It changed all of our lives. We went from playing in a small rehearsal space to opening for Matchbox Twenty in a matter of five or six months. It was incredible.
One of my favorite memories is — right when it started to get a lot of alternative radio play, we were going to a radio show in Jacksonville, FL. We completely had one of those That Thing You Do moments where you jump out of the car and go crazy when you hear the song on the radio for the first time. The entire band was in this minivan when we heard it. We stopped the car and it was just this surreal moment. You dream about things like that happening, but to get to experience it was unbelievable. We were just kids. It took us on a crazy ride from there.
BS: With “You and Me”, it basically served as a resurrection of the band. I had recently joined and we started touring. I got to experience the band breaking again. We put the song out, and it was the only ballad of its kind on that record. We didn’t have high expectations. We had just switched labels. I remember it stayed on the charts for a long period of time and reached a lot of people. It was overwhelming to see. It was the second chapter of Lifehouse and relaunched our career.
JW: That was an interesting time because many of us thought our career as we knew it was over. We were put on the Much Music, one hit wonder countdown. After “You and Me” came out, they had to take it down.
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In collaboration with/produced by Jeff Gorra