Jason Wade Interview: Lifehouse Singer Talks ‘Out of the Wasteland,’ Favorite Lyrics, ‘Everything’ + More [EXCLUSIVE]
When I had the opportunity to speak with Jason Wade of Lifehouse, I pretty much flew through the computer and practically tackled one of my fellow PopCrush editors to leap at the chance. Lifehouse's music has been the soundtrack to so many milestone moments in my life -- both deliriously happy and devastatingly sad -- that I could. not. wait. to chat with Jason about his craft, the band's new single 'Hurricane' and upcoming album 'Out of the Wasteland,' and, of course, my all-time favorite song of life, 'Everything.'
Fortunately for our readers (and my journalistic integrity), I attempted to keep the fangirling to a minimum. Because I'm a professional. Kind of.
Check out our interview with Jason Wade below.
Tell me a little bit about your new single, 'Hurricane.'
'Hurricane' represents a new era, I think, of the band returning back to our roots. I think that the last couple of records we kind of departed from our sound -- I think [it] was important for the band to stretch out and try new things. But midway through this record I wrote 'Hurricane' and a song called 'Flight' that was really reminiscent of 'No Name Face,' our first record. So I feel like 'Out of the Wasteland' is kind of a collage and kind of a "best of" what we've recorded over the past 15 years. It was really fun to pull from all of our different influences.
I definitely heard sounds of 'No Name Face' in both of those songs.
Yeah, and it's been so long since we recorded in that fashion that it was really kind of refreshing for the band as well. Leaving a record company to kind of become more of an independent band is really exciting and I feel like it's really liberated us to kind of create without the fusion of the business aspect -- the music business kind of convoluting and getting in the way of the art that we want to make.
Kind of going back to basics.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. It was tough after 15 years to still kind of find that magic and that spark that you had at the beginning. The last few years for us were kind of going full circle and trying to find some clarity of, 'Do we still really enjoy this?' and I think we really found the joy in the creative process again which was really important for the band.
Watch Lifehouse's 'Hurricane' Music Video
You use a lot of powerful weather imagery in your music ('Hurricane,' 'Storm,' 'Sky Is Falling,' etc). What is the story behind that?
Maybe it's me moving to California from Seattle where it rains nine months out of the year to this place where it's sunny all of the time [laughs] … I've always kind of pulled from the elements of whatever is going on around me. I think there's such really powerful metaphors in nature that I've always kind of gravitated toward.
What made you decide to set the 'Hurricane' video in a prison?
That was Thomas Kirk (the director)'s idea. He also did the lyric video for 'Flight.' It's interesting: When you write a song, you have your [own] interpretation of it, but then guys who are more visual with photography or directing music videos, they have their own creative sensibilities that they kind of draw [from]. When he told us the concept we thought that it was a little dark, but also kind of cool at the same time. I think the jail is kind of a metaphor for going through a really difficult time. It's a live performance piece where the band is narrating this turbulent relationship between this guy and the girl who are resolving their differences towards the end of the video. The cast of characters that were in the cell right next to us were kind of intimidating, so it was definitely an intense day [laughs].
Did you film it in a real prison?
No, it was a set. But it definitely felt cold and scary [laughs].
And all three of you and your instruments trying to fit in one cell...
Yeah, it was definitely kind of challenging! And we had this wind-blowing machine with these pictures hitting us in the face while we're trying to perform so it was kind of a challenge, but I thought it turned out pretty cool.
Your new album is called 'Out of the Wasteland'. Where did you draw inspiration from for the title?
I think the title represents just what we've gone through the last couple of years. There were a lot of questions from a lot of fans whether the band was breaking up. Just taking two years off, we've never done that before so I think it kind of scared a lot of the super fans wondering if we were going to break up and go our separate ways. So, 'Out of the Wasteland,' to me, represents just a new time and a new era for the band. Sort of coming full circle and starting over again as independent artists, and kind of coming out of that dormant period with kind of a renewed sense of life for the band.
What is your favorite song on the album?
I love 'Flight.' I think 'Flight' really was a breakthrough for me. I really needed to write something that kind of inspired, that felt like some of my favorite Lifehouse songs like 'Broken,' 'Everything,' 'Storm'… Songs that really have that deeper meaning and really have that trademark Lifehouse sound, where it starts out kind of slow but it builds up to that climactic ending. Just going into the studio one day… I really had this sense of urgency that I wanted to write something special, but I was forcing it all day. I started two or three songs, threw all of them away, and right when I was about to call it a day and give up, I sat down at the piano and it was this really magical moment where I was kind of channeling the song -- it was just there. Those moments only happen every couple of years, and I really treasure them.
Watch Lifehouse's 'Flight' Lyric Video
I definitely could hear a lot of influences from 'Everything' in 'Flight.'
That's fantastic. It's good to get that feedback on it.
I have to tell you, 'Everything' is not just my favorite Lifehouse song, it is my favorite song of all time.
Is it really? [laughs] Wow, that's amazing.
What is your relationship like with 'Everything'?
I think that it's one of the backbone tracks to the band. To use an analogy, I think it's kind of the heartbeat of the band. It's 15 years old, but when we play it live, something magical happens every different night. You can kind of see this connection that people have with this song. And those are the ones that you probably will play for the rest of your career. It's interesting that we're still not tired of it. We can still play it and it still feels fresh every night.
Why do you think it resonates so much with fans?
I think it's probably the emotion and the vulnerability of the lyrics up front. And then just the dynamic ending. It almost feels like the ending of an inspirational film or something like that. It was just the time that I was in when I wrote and recorded it, too. I was so new to the recording process that I think we captured something really honest and real.
There's a lot of debate among fans about the meaning of the song -- if it refers more to a romantic relationship or a relationship with God. Can you share any insight on that?
I think I write most of my love songs to have a certain level of ambiguity to where you can take the song and take whatever meaning that you want out of it. I've definitely talked to a lot of people that view it as an inspirational worship song, and then some people have it as their wedding [song]. That's just kind of how I've always written, where it's a [concept] of love that you can take in your own way. I've never written songs [where I say] "this is exactly what it is, and it has to stay this way." That's what I love about music -- it can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people.
Listen to Lifehouse's 'Everything'
What is your favorite lyric you've ever written?
Until 'Flight' -- I think 'Flight' is probably my new favorite Lifehouse song -- before that it was probably 'Broken,' which I wrote in Nashville for a friend of mine who needed a new kidney and was really sick at the time. … It was very similar to 'Flight' -- I picked up an acoustic guitar and the song just kind of came out of nowhere. I played it for him the next day and we started the demo process … When I was doing the vocal, he was standing in the other room. it was one of these really rare, raw moments of connecting to another human, which is just an amazing [feeling] to capture on tape. And like 'Everything,' 'Broken' takes on a whole other element live, too.
Is there a particular lyric either in 'Broken' or 'Flight' that really stands out to you?
If I'm tearing up, or if I feel the chills up and down my arm, that's when I know a song is working.
Probably with 'Flight' it's the ending -- 'No more running, no more hiding' -- it just feels like you're breaking free from whatever you're dealing with. That's one of those songs that gives me the chills every single time. And that's how I know when a song is truthful and honest and coming from a good place -- to have kind of a visceral reaction to it.
Now that we've been talking about it, several of your songs have really climactic, cinematic-like endings. I think it's really interesting that you worked with [famed movie composer] James Newton Howard on 'Hourglass' on the new album.
Absolutely. Getting to work with James was a dream come true. I've been listening to his soundtracks since I was a kid. He's one of my favorite composers. Jude, our manager and producer, had been friends with him for over 20 years. So Jude started this song that didn't even have a title -- he played it for me one day; this was a couple years ago -- I really loved it and I loved the fact that James Newton Howard wrote the bridge. So I kind of helped them finish that song. And then we got to go into the studio with James … [he worked on] the string arrangement to the demo that we were working on.
It was so surreal because I walked into the studio and he had a huge screen and Jennifer Lawrence was up there 'cause he was finishing the new 'Hunger Games' [laughs]. Just watching him work was just amazing. He's on another level as far as I'm concerned. Getting to work with him for a few days was one of my favorite moments about making the record.
What is the sound of that song?
It's a piano song. It never really builds too too much. It's a beautiful love song about growing old with someone and kind of passing through this life into the next life with somebody you love. It's these hauntingly beautiful lyrics with these really warm-sounding strings accompanying the song. It's very cinematic.
I really believe that [your music] has to resonate with [yourself] first before you put it out there for anybody to listen to. … The songs that take you in that really deep place -- when you feel that, I feel like everybody else can feel it too.[/pullquotes] I'm really excited to hear that one.
It's one of my favorites on the record.
Can you tell me a little bit about your songwriting process?
It's evolved over the years. When I started, before I had my own studio and everything, it was just picking up an acoustic guitar and writing everything that way, showing it to the band and then making an arrangement of the song, going through pre-production and then recording the record. On this album, it was kind of backwards in the sense that I would go into the studio by myself or with an engineer and just experiment with sound. A lot of sitting down at the piano until I fumbled my way through an arrangement and then I would record it as that song and then it would transmute into something different.
Actually, 'Hurricane' started that way. I started the song on piano, so it started as this catchy pop song and as soon as I put guitars on it, it kind of turned into a song very reminiscent to our earlier work. It was really going in and using the studio as a blank canvas and trying to come up with different sounds and trying to come up with something fresh.
How do you know when a song is completed?
If I get a reaction to it. If I'm tearing up, or if I feel the chills up and down my arm. That's when I know a song is working and really close to being completed. I have to feel something, you know?
I think it's so interesting that you feel the same way that fans do when they listen to your music -- getting the chills from that hauntingly beautiful sound.
I really believe that it has to resonate with you first before you put it out there for anybody to listen to. If you're feeling like you're just writing a song because maybe it's going to be a hit or something like that, those aren't really the songs that last. The songs that take you in that really deep place -- when you feel that, I feel like everybody else can feel it too.
Switching gears a little bit, I saw that you recently started following Ed Sheeran on Twitter. Are you a fan?
I think he's brilliant. I think what he can do just with an acoustic guitar -- and his connections to his fans and his audience, it's just amazing. … I've seen some live YouTube stuff that he's done and it's just pretty incredible.
Can we expect any Jason Wade/Ed Sheeran or any Lifehouse/Ed Sheeran collaborations in the future?
Oh, I would LOVE that. I think he's kind of on top of the world right now, so I don't know how easy it is to get in touch with him, but I would definitely be into it. [Editor's Note: Dear Ed Sheeran, Jason Wade -- as well as a certain PopCrush editor -- wants to make this happen. Make it happen.]
Any tour plans for 'Out of the Wasteland'?
We're gonna be doing a promo tour hitting all of the radio stations through mid-March, and then we're still working on booking a summer tour. But we're probably gonna be on the road for a good portion of the year. [Editor's Note: Just a few days after this interview, Lifehouse announced that they are hitting the road with Nickelback this summer. Check out the tour dates here.]
'Out of the Wasteland' drops on May 19.