Switchfoot originated on the beaches of San Diego in the mid-1990s, when the Jon and Tim Foreman (brothers) and Chad Butler connected as surfers. But their real bond came from a common love of music. They formed a band, chose the name Switchfoot, put themselves through months of sweaty garage-band workouts, and then hit the road.
After 20 live performances, the three signed with re:Think records and released “Legend of Chin” in 1997. Their first three albums (“Legend of Chin,” “New Way to Be Human,” and “Learning to Breathe”) did well, selling almost 400,000 copies. With Jerome Fontamillas (who joined Switchfoot in 2000) rounding out the group, Switchfoot recorded “The Beautiful Letdown,” signed with Columbia Records, and released the album in 2003.
At the end of 2004, Switchfoot’s fourth album, “The Beautiful Letdown,” was certified Double Platinum. After reaching No. 5 on the alternative and pop radio charts with their debut single “Meant To Live,” Switchfoot’s second single “Dare You to Move” quickly reached top ten status at alternative and pop radio charts. “Beautiful” ended 2004 as the number one contemporary Christian album of the year. Since the release of “Beautiful,” the band has played over 300 performances worldwide, mostly sold out, in front of more than 1.25 million fans.
CQ: You joined Switchfoot in 2000. What was going on with the band at that time?
JF: I’ve been playing with Switchfoot for about five years now. I joined them right before the “Learning to Breathe” album was released.
CQ: What does the name Switchfoot mean?
JF: Switchfoot is a surfing term meaning to put a different foot forward.
CQ: Besides guitar and keyboards, what do you contribute to Switchfoot?
JF: I have some vocal responsibilities and I help out a lot with creating and formulating the songs to how they sound in the album. Everyone has input into where they think the songs need to progress. It’s great because you get to see how a song develops and you’re a big part of that.
CQ: It seems that you guys are very good friends. Are you really that close?
JF: We’re family. That pretty much sums it all. We feel we can confide in anyone of us and find support there.
CQ: Before you joined Switchfoot, you were a member of several successful musical groups, such as Mortal and Fold Zandura? How is being a member of Switchfoot different?
JF: Different people with different personalities. One similarity, however, is that each band has a passion for music that is rare with many bands today.
CQ: What is the best thing about being in Switchfoot?
JF: To be able to write and perform music you are passionate about. That’s why I play music, and that’s why I’m in Switchfoot.
CQ: Being in a band, especially in one as successful as Switchfoot, can be grueling. What are some of the challenges you have faced?
JF: Traveling and being away from family and friends is definitely a challenge. The other guys have wives and kids, and communicating with them while they are apart is in itself a challenge. Luckily, we have cell phones and the Internet. Traveling is great but to stay connected to family and friends back home makes it easier to do your job. We really need their prayers and support.
CQ: Switchfoot has had a breakout year. Pepsi Smash, Jay Leno, Letterman, songs in the Top 40, a benefit concert with Bono of U2, international popularity—can you pinpoint when the group started to become so widely-known? Why do you think Switchfoot has become so popular?
JF: It’s hard to say when we got so popular, if in fact we’re really popular. We just love to write and play music. We never would measure our success by how many album sales we have. It’s about connecting to an individual, or a few people, or an arena. We feel the music is for everyone, and if more people are listening because they feel connected somehow to the music and the songs, that is more meaningful to us.
CQ: Why are Christian “rock” groups important? Why do we need this type of music?
JF: We need more music that is passionate and meaningful and honest. Whether it’s “Christian rock”, Country, Jazz, Hip Hop or Rock. We need more music that is positive and uplifting. I’m an advocate for all kinds of music only because I love music in general. Sometimes, you have to sift through a lot of music to find those gems. It’s worth it, though.
CQ: In the beginning, Switchfoot was labeled a “Christian rock band,” and has, actually, garnered the top spot as the No. 1 Contemporary Christian album of the year, according to a 2004 year-end chart from Billboard. But now that the group has gone mainstream, you still share your faith through the music and lyrics. Do you think the message of Christ can get lost amid the drums, etc.?
JF: The message of Christ will get lost only if it’s not a priority in your life. You can’t blame the drums or guitar or the microphone or the guitar cable. If Christ isn’t a priority in your life, then it won’t be a priority in your music.
CQ: Some of your early fans may wonder if the band will sell out. What do you think about worries like this? How has this new-found popularity affected the group?
JF: Selling out can meaning a lot of things to a lot of different people. We just are focused on trying to play our tunes to people who want to hear them. We also are fortunate enough to have some doors open for us to play our music to a broader audience. I believe it’s providential. We as a band prayerfully try to follow where God is leading us.
CQ: How does your faith manifest itself in your day to day life—and in your stage life?
JF: When you live a life of grace, you have somewhat of an understanding of the depth of the death of Christ. You’re in awe of it. You just live your life with appreciation and wonder and thankfulness. You may have an opportunity to share it with someone. Those are awesome moments.
CQ: As a Seventh-day Adventist, how do you feel your beliefs have been accepted by Switchfoot? Do you feel you have compromised anything?
JF: Switchfoot has been very accepting of my beliefs because we share a lot of the same ideals. I feel like I’ve never compromised my beliefs—ever.
CQ: In a few words, sum up Switchfoot:
JF: It’s five guys in a band passionately playing music they love and believe in. Everything else that comes with that will eventually come out in the music and in the live performances.
CQ: What is some advice you can give to other young Christian musicians?
JF: To keep playing and to always try to get better in your craft.
CQ: What does 2005 hold for Switchfoot?
JF: We are recording for a new album scheduled to be released in the United States in July. We are also going to South Africa at the end of January. In February we will be visiting Australia; and we’ll be touring heavily toward the end of the year to support the new album.
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