They’re rock stars with legions of fans, but life isn’t about fame and fortune for San Diego band Switchfoot. With the release of their album Where The Light Shines Through, Jessica Morris looks at how the Grammy Award-winners gave hope—and faith—an anthem.
Jon Foreman stands in the spotlight, arms spread open as he holds the microphone out to the roaring crowd. Dressed in ripped jeans and a band T-shirt, this man is every ounce the rockstar. Behind him stand his bandmates—his ‘amigos’ as they are better known. Their faces are alight with passion, their fingers dancing across guitar strings.
This is Switchfoot, the multi-award- winning rock band known for hit songs like ‘Dare You to Move’ and ‘Meant to Live’. Since their inception in 1998, they have travelled around the globe and performed on some of the biggest stages in the world. Yet if you attend one of their concerts, you’ll notice the atmosphere differentiates from the obsession that follows their peers. Rather than singing about themselves or doing some sexy dance sequence, they sing about faith.
‘As a band, we’ve come to the conclusion that we sing these songs night after night because we believe hope deserves an anthem.’ Foreman told CCM Magazine. ‘We want these songs to open the windows and doors of the soul, to see a horizon bigger than just a mirror.’
With such a unique message, few bands have travelled the peaks and valleys of the music industry like Switchfoot. They sidestepped their way to secular success by entering the Christian market as gangly teenagers and 20-somethings. Pastor’s kids from San Diego, Foreman and his brother Tim formed the band in their garage. Their friend Chad Butler joined them as a drummer, and their debut album Legend of Chin set in motion more than a decade of success.
‘We grew up playing in clubs and churches and frat parties and youth groups and coffee shops, and I didn’t think it was strange,’ said Jon to CCM. ‘I grew up with the idea that tonight we’re playing the bars, and we’re playing for hurting people that need love and need hope and need joy. And tomorrow morning we’re playing at church, and we’re playing for hurting people that are looking for hope and love and acceptance. What we’ve been doing all along is just trying to tell the truth, just trying to tell our story, because I think that’s the story I’ve been authorised to tell.’
With the addition of multi-instrumentalist Jerome Fontamillas and Drew Shirley on lead guitar in 2002, the band became known for their world-class vocals and iconic melodies. Now, with nine albums under their belts, a Grammy award to their name, and their own record label, Switchfoot takes a new direction.
In Where The Light Shines Through, the band pushes the envelope on what it means to live a life of faith. ‘We want these songs to be like a knife that cuts through the darkness,’ explains Jon. ‘It’s strange to make a record of light out of a really dark year. But the pain, the struggle, it’s what defines us, makes us human—the wound is where the light shines through.’
Described as their most ‘focused work to date,’ it was penned in response to the world’s chaos—ISIS, the San Bernardino shooting, the attacks in Paris, and American politics.
Whether it is the poignant ‘The Day That I Found God,’ about losing oneself and discovering faith, or the provocative ‘Looking For America’ where they plead, ‘Do away with your ignorance and arrogance, America the land of immigrants.
Check the green card and pedigree, Bless the Choctaw and the Cherokee that we’ll never see,’ nothing is taboo in album 10, politically or personally.
‘I realised I was building this “Berlin Wall” that was dividing myself into two sides,’ Jon explained to CCM. ‘So with this record, I decided, “Okay, let’s get in there, let’s start talking about it.” I was trying to face up to the darkness…the questions, the pain, the doubts—all those things that you kind of shove to the side. When I was doing that, it created this schism, this duality, that isn’t healthy or normal.’
Taking the notion of ‘facing the darkness’ literally, after each recording session, Jon would sit beside the Pacific Ocean at 3 am and grapple with his own demons.
‘It felt like this realisation that often the first step towards healing is acknowledging that there is something wrong. For me, that meant singing about it.’
In an industry obsessed with self, Switchfoot channel their own struggles, directing listeners towards God.
‘Hope isn’t always easy to find, and sometimes I feel like it’s forgotten me,’ shares Jon. ‘It isn’t always in the headlines or on the TV screens or in the faces of success… Hope sits in the shadows and it shines in the dark and broken places.’
In Where the Light Shines Through, Switchfoot gives voice to the desolate moments in our lives, daring us to confront our struggles and experience healing.
‘Not only does the healer of souls want to heal the wounds within us, but sometimes those are the very places that he wants to shine through and actually enlighten the rest of our world.’