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Concert Preview: Lifehouse

Grant Walters Grant Walters Concert Preview: Lifehouse
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Catapulted to success by their iconic debut single "Hanging By A Moment" seventeen years ago, Lifehouse brings their co-headlining tour with Switchfoot to Columbus on Wednesday night in support of their new "Greatest Hits" compilation

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If you were listening to the radio in 2001, Jason Wade’s arresting, sabulous wail was essentially everywhere. With their very first single, “Hanging By A Moment,” Lifehouse ascended to heights of commercial success that most music veterans only dream of. It was named the number one song of the year by Billboard, one of only three in chart history to receive that designation without actually reaching the pole position on the magazine’s Hot 100 singles tally. It also received the most airplay of any other track in the country in 2001. The band’s debut album, No Name Face, subsequently landed in the US top ten and sold over 2.5 million copies.

The band’s strength is undoubtedly its pursuit of melodic excellence, something it achieves regularly with its big, explosive choruses that interplay adeptly with pensive verses. Wade is just as effective a lead singer at a deep whisper as when he reaches for the vocal stratosphere.

“Hanging By A Moment”‘s infectious urgency may have put Lifehouse on the map, but crafting consistently well-made records and remaining self-effacing about their place and position in the business has kept them there for almost two decades. On July 14, they released Greatest Hits, an 18-track compilation that encompasses a deserving body of work, including hit singles “You and Me,” “Sick Cycle Carousel,” “Breathing,” “Spin,” “Halfway Gone,” and “Whatever It Takes.”

When I caught up with Wade and bassist Bryce Soderberg via telephone last week, the fact that Lifehouse has persisted through a radically and rapidly changing industry is an accomplishment that isn’t lost on them.

“Man, it is so surreal. We talk about that all the time,” affirms Wade. “We can’t believe it’s been 17 years, because it really…I don’t know, on one hand it feels like a million years ago (laughs), and the rest is just like a blink of an eye and we’re here, you know? I still remember touring with our first record just being kids, and everything we were experiencing was completely new and fresh for the first time. And then you sort of get on that roller-coaster, and you’re seven albums in.

But, you know, I think we’re at the point in our career where we’re just looking back with a lot of gratitude and really feeling grateful we’ve been given the chance to be able to play music for a living for that long. It’s such a gift. We’re not taking anything for granted, and we’re just going to go out there and play songs that people know. Our set’s going to be comprised mostly of singles, so it’s really going to be kind of reflective.”

To support Greatest Hits, Lifehouse will co-headline a 36-city tour this summer with San Diego-based alt-rock quintet Switchfoot.

“Switchfoot actually contacted us late last year or early this year; their management hit us up with the idea of doing a co-headlining tour,” Soderberg shares. “And we’d been kind of playing with [that] idea for quite some time. The line-up just seemed like it would mesh really well — we have similar fan bases, we carry similar positive messages lyrically. And they’re great guys. We’ve been fans of Switchfoot for a long time, and I know Jason had listened to their record Legend Of Chin long before we ever became a band. We had toured with them about 10 years ago, and it was a really great opportunity. They’re really nice guys and they give back.

We did a charity show with them a couple of weeks ago in San Diego where they raised $200,000 for kids in need. They really give back in their music, and I really respect them for doing that, especially them being around as long as they have, too. It’s going to be a really positive summer, and we’ll get to play for our audience and connect. That’s still what music means to us right now, and we’re really grateful for the opportunity.”

The tour stops in Columbus on Wednesday night at EXPRESS LIVE! before continuing on to Dayton’s Rose Music Center at The Heights on Saturday. Tickets and VIP experiences are still available at press time.

Lifehouse has become a fully independent band in recent years, and I remember reading some press in which you expressed relief in finally being free of the confines of top 40 radio. What was that pressure like for all of you, because I’m sure those of us outside the industry probably don’t understand it fully?

Bryce: “It’s definitely a different chapter for us. Between 2000 and 2010, we were very much kind of under the gun to follow up with records that were as good as our last record, at least from record industry standards. We pressured ourselves to certainly keep our integrity and write songs that we felt were conducive to what we were going to do at the time, but also keeping in mind and tipping the hat to top 40 or hot AC radio, or whatever it was. We had to work with the industry, you know? We had labels that were expecting results from us and we were trying to deliver to them and also trying to deliver to ourselves with as much integrity as possible. It’s just part of the job, especially in that sort of day and age in the industry.

Our last record, Out Of The Wasteland, came out in 2015. That was our first record that we put out independently. So we kind of did it on different terms; we did them on our terms and our way. We’re still kind of feeling that right now, and it’s very freeing creatively to kind of call the shots and make the decisions ourselves. And, you know, fans can really feel that. And this summer, when we go out on the road and we play our greatest hits with Switchfoot, we’re really gonna be still feeling a piece of that freedom. But we’re really grateful to have what the industry do what it did for us at the time, because they got our songs on the radio, and you have to give them credit for helping build our career. We have that career now and we can continue to do what we do because of that work we did with them. It’s a really good position to be in.”

You’re both involved in projects outside the band. Jason, I know you’ve been gradually releasing songs from your own catalog of recordings and sharing them with fans. What prompted you to finally let those tracks see daylight?

Jason: “I kind of feel like it’s better to be…I mean, I’m not promoting them or anything — I’m just putting them on my Facebook page and my website — but it’s just nice to have an outlet, you know? Because there were, like, 40 or 50 songs that were just kind of sitting around that were finished that didn’t really have a home. So it’s nice to just be able to share them with people. I feel like our main focus right now is Greatest Hits and the tour, but it’s good to have a creative outlet during our downtime.”

Bryce, you front another band called Komox, a name reference I greatly appreciate as a former British Columbian. I had a chance to listen to some of the tracks from the band’s Dreaming Awake EPs today and I really liked what I heard.

Bryce: “Thanks, man! Yeah, I just finished a record with Komox and I’m just waiting for an opportunity to do something with it. I’d love to release it in Canada at some point, and I’m really proud of that project. And I’ve learned a lot and grew a lot and got to see my position in the industry and how things work even more so. And Jason, too, I think — if I can speak for him — the more we do individually, the more we can bring back to the table with Lifehouse. Right now our focus is this band, very much. But it’s really cool to have different outlets musically, because that’s just what we do, and it’s a beautiful thing to have different options.”

Jason, you’ve been playing guitar since you were five years old, and you’re self taught, correct? How did you accomplish that?

Jason: “I have very vivid memories of my mom playing guitar in the middle of the night, and I remember sneaking out to watch her playing and writing songs. So those are some of my earliest memories. She got to the point where she stopped playing. She had this twelve-string Washburn guitar, and it was just sitting in the corner and I picked it up one day and she taught me two chords, you know — E minor and D. Just from there on, it was just, like, friends that were learning how to play. You would kind of swap information and try to kind of teach each other. And then it was hours and hours alone in my room playing four or five chords; I realized I could turn some of these lyrics that I was writing into songs.

I’m not classically trained by any means. I don’t read music or anything. I kind of taught myself different chord formations, and it’s just trial by error, you know what I mean? You’re just discovering…and then when you feel like you’ve, well, not mastered it, because I don’t think I’m a great guitar player, but when you have your foundation on guitar, then you can try and mess around on the piano and try and come up with more chord changes. Or it might be the same chord changes that can inspire a different idea for a song. I kind of wish I would have taken guitar lessons, but I don’t know — it’s kind of nice to be the accidental tourist with some of the chord changes you’re not even familiar with.”

And Bryce — what made you decide to pick up the bass?

Bryce: “My parents started me on the piano when I was 4 years old, and I took that for quite a few years. My mom also had a nylon-stringed flamenco guitar that I picked up around [age] 10 and played that for a couple of years. Then I heard this kid at a school assembly play Nirvana’s ‘Come As You Are,’ and I heard the way that the bass sounded on its own and it just called to me. It was like ‘Wow, this is the coolest thing I’ve ever heard!’ I asked my parents for one for Christmas, and ever since then it was…I just became obsessed with it. And then in my early 20s, I got into songwriting and production and stuff like that. So music’s always growing and evolving still to this day with me, but the bass has always been my ‘home.’ And I also like saying that it only has four strings, so it was easier to learn than guitar, a little less work. I joke about that. (laughs)

Lifehouse’s musical accomplishments speak for themselves, but what would you say is the most important practical lesson you’ve taken away after seventeen years of playing in the band together?

“Probably just to never take anything for granted, because it’s always changing. The music business is so interesting in the fact that you could be on top one minute, and the next you’re just gone. So you don’t take any record or song for granted — just live in the moment, you know? For better or for worse. I really believe in the valleys. The valleys are just as important as the peaks. When you’re going through times when your records aren’t successful, or your tours aren’t successful, it’s really challenging, but you grow as a person and you really kind of learn to appreciate everything in its entirety.”

Lifehouse will take the stage with co-headliner Switchfoot on Wednesday, July 26 at EXPRESS LIVE!, 405 Neil Avenue in the Arena District. Doors open at 6:00 p.m.; seating is outdoor, general admission. Tickets are $37.50, plus taxes and fees, and are available via Ticketmaster. Lifehouse’s “Greatest Hits” is available for purchase via the band’s official website.

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