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  • Brandon Wiley

"An Exclusive Look: Switchfoot's Reflections on the Past, Present, and Future"

Updated: Jun 10

It's a hot Atlanta day; I arrived at the Shaky Knees Festival and received an email response to an interview request for Switchfoot in the morning. These things usually come at the last minute, and my preparation wasn't at its best. It's about six hours before Switchfoot is about to perform their set, and I was looking for the press area to interview them. I saw a golf cart and was about to try hopping on the back, not realizing Switchfoot was also on the golf cart looking for the press area. I ended up walking in with lead singer Jon Foreman, and my greeting was, "Hey, I'm interviewing you." It was not how I expected the day to start. Either way, I'm a person who values others' time, mainly when Switchfoot just played a show the night before. Switchfoot was set to take the stage at 7:30 pm, and our interview was scheduled for noon. I wondered why the band hadn't requested a later interview time. Lead singer Jon Foreman said the band loves festivals and enjoys getting there early and watching some of the other bands. I can relate to that and also enjoy attending festivals early, watching bands pour their heart into a set that few people have heard their songs or even know who they are. Every famous band or musician has been there before, and new artists usually display authenticity and vulnerability when trying to be the next big thing. Fast forward 7 1/2 hours when Switchfoot took the stage at the Shaky Knees festival; they came out as if they were playing at a stadium with 50,000 people. They still have that new band flare and authenticity, like those early non-headline bands performing when the doors opened. That says a lot for a band that has been together since 1996.

Switchfoot, true to form, created a vibrant atmosphere, their music resonating with the audience. This was my third time seeing the band live, and each time, they delivered a performance brimming with energy and authenticity that touched the crowd. When interviewing musicians, I strive to understand their mindset on stage and incorporate it into my musical experiences. It's that on-stage feel that concertgoers crave. Before starting the interview, I shared a unique Switchfoot memory from the day I first saw them perform at a festival in their hometown of San Diego in 2019, which still resonates with me today.

Jon Foreman Performing at KAABOO Festival in 2019
Jon Foreman 2019 KAABOO Festival.

After witnessing Switchfoot's electrifying set, I found myself near lead singer Jon Foreman. Still struck by their performance, I couldn't help but quickly let him know how great they were today. At that moment, with the band Chevy Metal, Taylor Hawkins took to the small stage in the VIP area, adding another layer of excitement to the already charged atmosphere.

Taylor Hawkins 2019 KAABOO Festival

That was the last time I saw Hawkins perform live. I was still coming down from being blown away seeing Switchfoot perform for the first time to being front and center and watching Taylor Hawkins sing a foot or so away. I said that experience would forever link Hawkins and Switchfoot together for me. After I shared my story, I asked the band many significant questions about their past, present, and future and show preparation.

The 2023 The Beautiful Letdown Tour and the 2024 World Tour.

The band toured in 2023 and played every track of their "The Beautiful Letdown" album, marking the 20th anniversary of the band's most celebrated album. We discussed playing songs they last played live over ten years ago. Bassist Tim Foreman said it was a little challenging not playing some of the songs for so long and getting back in rehearsals to play some of the tracks. A story that came to light during our conversation was that the band re-emphasized that this could've been their final album. Life, kids and a little doubt were getting in the way. Drummer Chad Butler said, "We were happy to have made three albums. Most bands don't get that opportunity." Little did they know the fourth album would be an absolute smash hit and propel them to a massive musical presence that allowed them to release eight more studio albums, including 2011's "Hello Hurricane," which brought the band a Grammy award. Lead singer/guitarist Jon Foreman said it was an exciting and memorable experience rehearsing and performing songs from the 2003 album we haven't played in years. Switchfoot just announced their "The Beautiful Letdown World Tour," which will start September 9th in Vancouver, B.C., and take them across the states and Europe with the final date on November 11th in Amsterdam.

How do you choose your setlist?

Asking a band about creating a setlist was a question I'd never asked. I've read a lot about how bands make their setlists. I've heard not to play your first crowd favorite until the 3rd song. I've even seen bands play their hit twice. I was interested to see how Swichfoot prepares its setlist. I was surprised to hear Jon Foreman's answer.  Jon said, "We always have one but don't usually stick to it. "I go off the crowd and the feeling"  'We change things as we go,"  I responded, having less than 1% of on-stage music experience, knowing the drummer in this situation would be reading the singer/guitarist like a defense reads a quarterback. I asked drummer Chad Butler if that situation was challenging. Before he could answer, Jon tapped Chad on the knee and said, "he puts up with a lot with us." If you haven't seen Switchfoot live, they always have that connection with the crowd. Some bands have it, and others don't. Switchfoot seems to love that connection, which truly resonates with the audience.  The crowd wants a feel-first approach to a setlist and the ability to switch gears. It's challenging to do, but Switchfoot manages to pull it off.

Solo Albums:

Brothers Jon and Tim Foreman have embarked on their solo albums. Jon released three previous albums, including Limbs and Branches in 2008, "The Wonderlands: Darkness" in 2015, "Departures" in 2021, and his newest album "In Bloom," which was just released.

Photo by: Roger Ho

The album was co-produced with well-known producer James McAlister (Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Sufjan Stevens); the album captures the subconscious and takes your mind in a direction for searching your existence from birth, life, death, God, and everything in between.  It did get me more interested in Jon's solo work. On my three-hour drive home, I continued to listen to his newest songs, In Bloom, I Propose a Toast, and Eulogy.  I realized after the interview the song "Your Love is Strong" was done with Brandon Lake, whom I hung out with a few mutual friends a couple of months back. I'm not a name-dropper, so I probably wouldn't have mentioned it. It's all about research, but I needed more time to prepare in this fast-paced world. Bassist Tim Foreman is working on his solo album, and the release date is unknown.

What's the future for Switchfoot?

Switchfoot went from possibly calling it quits before the "The Beautiful Letdown" album to producing eight more studio albums, one Grammy nomination, and one Grammy award. I never liked the fact that Switchfoot is sometimes considered a Christian band.  Most musicians' faith has some elements of the music they create. I haven't been a big fan of naming Christian rock as a genre. Plenty of great bands have lyrics about god, life, and anything considered religious. Switchfoot is an open Christian band that writes songs about many topics we face. I recently saw a quote from Jon Foreman in 2003 after they were on their whirlwind experience after "The Beautiful Letdowns release: "We're Christian by faith, not a genre," Tim Foreman explained to Rolling Stone magazine in 2003.[77]

I asked Switchfoot if they had any plans to release a new album. The band is busy with their world tour and headlining their "Help From My Friends Summer Tour."

Switchfoot will be touring with Blue October and Matt Nathanson and playing on the ticket for the Creed "Summer of 99 Tour." Although they didn't have an answer to my new album question, they didn't say no. I wouldn't count the band out for a 13th studio album. 

Switchfoot at Shaky Knees festival. From left Jerome Fontamillas, Tim Foreman, Chad Butler, Me, Jon Foreman


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