MOMENTOUS MONDAYS: INFLUENTIAL ARTISTS OF ALL TIME – WEEK 5: LIFEHOUSE

To say that I’m a very big avid fan of indie rock band Lifehouse is a very, very big overstatement. Let’s just say that for many, many of these artists I’ve placed here on my influential of all time list, I’ve barely listened to. And yes, apart from a song here and there from this guitar driven rock band (‘Hanging By A Moment’, ‘Broken’, ‘Everything’, ‘All In’, ‘Between the Raindrops’, to name a few), I haven’t really explored Lifehouse…until now of course. And we all know that this year-long project for me is as much as it is introducing to the world artists that I think have influenced and shaped music history, as it is very much an introduction for me into the realms of music that I may not have touched or even experienced, had it not have been for this project altogether. Nevertheless, Lifehouse as a band is very much like Switchfoot in a similar respect- they are indeed a band that deliver songs that probe at the human condition, asking questions that are deemed to be too personal, or even too taboo, to discuss in forums and public settings without music as the helm and delivery of transferring such ideas.

And while for me this blog post isn’t going to be as long as previous ones (frankly because I’ve realised that the more you write, though it can be therapeutic to myself, people may not read it because of such daunting lengths!), what I’m still going to say about the band as a whole is never going to change- that they are in fact, one of the 2000s most impactful rock bands, ever, and because of such touting (by myself, and I’m sure others would agree), they have been overlooked within the popular music industry circle for much of their career. Aside from a few chart topping singles that everyone should know (‘Hanging By A Moment’ for sure, ‘Broken’, ‘All In’ and ‘Between the Raindrops’ if you are more of a fan of their music), I don’t think Lifehouse as an entity was highly publicised in an industry looking more for great riffs and repetitious melodies rather than reflective moments of questioning and asking things that may not have been uttered if the medium of song wasn’t involved in the very nature of expressing these moments. Nevertheless, being immersed in Lifehouse and their music for a good majority of this week, in preparation for this blog, has led me to appreciate not only Lifehouse as a whole, but be reminded that you don’t have to look within the confines of Christian music for God to speak. Switchfoot, whom I discussed a few weeks back, treads very lightly and decisively along the Christian-mainstream divide, while these other artists I’ve unveiled, Avril Lavigne, Delta Goodrem, and now Lifehouse, are primarily centred within mainstream music culture. Regardless, God has used these artists to broaden my own horizons of what good, inspirational music really means, that God can (and I’m sure He does!) use music from all forms, genres and walks of life; to spark a catalyst or undergo a change in someone, and this is very much the case over these last few weeks (today inclusive) for me!

Having their humble beginnings in Los Angeles, the band comprised primarily of Jason Wade, lead singer, and a lot of other musicians coming and going from their inception in 2000. Nevertheless, the band has stood firm in their beliefs to create the music that asks the questions that maybe mainstream music society doesn’t ask, for whatever reason. And while for me, I’ve felt that Lifehouse has always been a band that has never shied away from wearing their heart on their sleeve, it is this notion that has caused them to be very much underrated and dare I say it, underappreciated and even undervalued by the music industry of today. Still, we see bands come and go, and bands release songs that are just pop melodies that you can listen in your car and that will be the extent of it, or you can hear songs that really pierce into your soul. Lifehouse falls into this second category. Much of their earlier songs, especially on their first two albums No Name Face (2000) and Stanley Climbfall (2002) have a lot of spiritual undertones to them, and while the band itself doesn’t consider themselves to be a Christian band, I’ve always felt that such a band as Lifehouse, for me, has ministered to me over this last week much more than a variety of Christian artists I’ve heard at the moment. Why? I’m not really that sure.

Maybe within the Christian music scene, to act vulnerable and to ask the difficult questions can be seen as a form of aggressive backsliding in your faith, and therefore, asking questions that would otherwise have not been asked can seem frowned upon. I mean, within CCM at the moment, I’ve never really come across songs that expressed struggle and uncertainty, and aside from the most recent EP from Tenth Avenue North The Things We’ve Been Afraid to Say alongside For KING AND COUNTRY’s Burn the Ships, much of the current landscape of CCM, though it’s not bad by any means, just doesn’t seem to scratch the itch we have of hearing vulnerable music and delves deep within the psyche of asking the question ‘why’. But, I digress- what I will say is that Lifehouse (and Switchfoot for that matter) is that they have opened up a plethora of issues, and their music, being embraced by the CCM community and the mainstream music circle alike, has challenged and encouraged, has inspired and comforted, and even confronted, people in their own spiritual journey walks, and their own lives where asking questions doesn’t really mean doubt, but rather, to solidify your own beliefs you already know to be true.

‘…you don’t really know the biggest moments of your life while they’re happening to you. But I think that’s a really common thing — the songs that have the most impact happen when you least expect it, and that inspiration just comes out of nowhere. It’s inherent in humans to overthink things — I’ve done that so many times with a song that I think is going to be amazing and then I end up ruining it because I just obsess over it. Sometimes when it happens quicker than your mind can get involved, it can be a really special moment. So I’m always really sensitive to those moments when I feel like something magical could happen. That’s happened to me maybe three or four times since then, but they’re really few and far in between…I didn’t really think about it [‘Hanging By a Moment’] when I was writing it [if it could be interpreted to be about God]. I knew at the end of it that it was a love song, and I kind of come from that world, so it can be interpreted as a spiritual song or a love song. I feel like people have just been taking it for whatever they want it to be through the years — which I’m totally fine with, because I think that music should be interpreted how the listener wants to interpret it…’ ‘Hanging By a Moment’ is by far the most impactful song Lifehouse has ever recorded. Period. Anyone can debate me on that one, but for me, as I’ve listened to their whole discography over the last week or so, I’ve come to note and observe- that a song like ‘Hanging By a Moment’, as referenced in the above quote, has the ability to have multiple meanings for multiple people, and because of such, is what I reckon has made the song have such a universal appeal, years later. I’ve always enjoyed the song and knew of it years ago, but for me, it was only this last year that I myself started to check out a few of their other melodies that they’ve created, realising that ‘Hanging By A Moment’ is not their only inspirational song they’ve recorded.

‘Everything’ is by their most raw and emotional song they’ve ever recorded, and if you look at the lyrics, we can see the littered Christian imagery in this song…but the beauty and great thing about ‘Everything’ is that all the imagery is done in a way that the song itself is emotive and heartfelt, that the message of singing about a love and dependence on God is one meaning out of many that people can decipher from hearing this track. One such strong meaning is that of being that of a worship song to God (and looking at it that way, it is by far one of my favourite worship songs of the 2000s decade, period!), but another meaning is that it can be sung about human love as well, and many listeners have used this song as their wedding song over the years. As Lifehouse’s Jason Wade divulges in an interview in 2015 about ‘Everything’, ‘…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. It’s interesting that we’re still not tired of it. We can still play it and it still feels fresh every night…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…’ And the hits don’t stop there.

[Note: This song above is not by Lifehouse, but rather, a cover of ‘Everything’ by CCM artist Colton Dixon]

‘Spin’, from their 2002 album Stanley Climbfall, invites us all to partake into a theme of surrendering and understanding that we don’t know as much about life as we believe we do, and that, regardless of whether the song itself is singing to God or to a loved one, we’d rather not know about life and be content with our loved ones and God Himself, than be alone and pretend to know we have it all figured out. ‘Take Me Away’, also from Stanley Climbfall, can also be seen to have double meanings, but, regardless of whether we are singing to God or to another loved one, with lyrics like this (that I’ve placed below), who could not love this song?

This time all I want is you, there is no one else who can take your place
This time you burned me with the way, You see past all the lies,
You take it all away
I’ve seen it all and it’s never enough, it keeps leaving me needing you
Take me away, take me away, I’ve got nothing left to say
Just take me away
I try to make my way to you but still I feel so lost
I don’t know what to say, what else I can do, I’ve seen it all and it’s never enough
It keeps leaving me needing you
Take me away, take me away
I’ve got nothing left to say just take me away
Don’t give up on me yet, don’t forget who I am
I know I’m not there yet, but don’t let me stay here alone

‘Take Me Away’ Lyrics, from the 2002 album Stanley Climbfall

As with the band Switchfoot, I’ve admired Lifehouse for coming out to say the things that mean much to them, and to deliver real, raw, emotions for us to grapple with. There’s a lot of relationship-style songs throughout their career, as there are songs that can be seen as spiritually influenced. And that’s ok. We’ve been told throughout our whole lives that the mainstream industry is over here, and the CCM market is over there, and that no way, can they coincide and co-exist with each other…well. But here I say boldly that a band like Switchfoot before, and Lifehouse now, are bucking the trend. Bringing the love that is far beyond the human-human love, the love that every person feels for a creator, to the fore in songs, can seem risky, but nevertheless, it is definitely worth it. ‘You And Me’, arguably the band’s most famous single after ‘Hanging By a Moment’, has lead singer Jason inviting us to look into a song about love in its purest form, stating it’s just ‘you and me’ in a crowd of many, that everything else just fades away and becomes a non-issue when Jason is with this person. A song like this is as emotional as it is needed in a society where true love is hardly ever discussed in song. Then there’s songs like ‘Broken’, a song written for a friend of Jason’s who was in need of a kidney transplant, but in reality, the song could’ve, and does, become interpreted in a myriad of ways by listeners of the song, while ‘Falling In’ is a reassurance song that a boy (or girl) is singing to their significant other (a girl or a boy, I guess we don’t know in this time right now- it can be interpreted in a spectrum of ways), reassuring them not to be scared because ‘…it’s only love that we’re falling in, I will never do you wrong, or let you down, or lead you on, don’t look down it’s only love, baby that we’re falling in…’

‘Whatever it Takes’ is a song about saying sorry to a loved one, and to make amends for things done wrong in their life, whatever it takes from them to trust and to love again, and songs like ‘All In’, ‘First Time’, and to some extent ‘Halfway Gone’, all speak about going in headstrong into relationships, and to believe wholeheartedly that the gift of being in relationships is something worth holding onto and fighting for, to go all in for something so passionately believed in is often considered by a worldly standard as being reckless or even foolish- but as I’ve listened to over the week, Lifehouse and their music is about not doing things halfway, and thus, ‘Halfway Gone’ is a warning for everyone who doesn’t do things in a way that is all in, to reconsider and to ask themselves why that is. And though songs like ‘Hurricane’ and ‘Between the Raindrops’ are some of the only hits to come from their latest two albums Almerica and Out of the Wasteland, their later material is still as emotive and riveting, as Lifehouse continue to allude to themes that would otherwise be swept under the rug if executives and management companies had their way.

‘…It’s surreal to think we’ve been around for 17 years. In our minds we think we are still 18. It’s humbling. We were just kids that picked up guitars and played in our garage. You never think that it’s going to last. When the first album took off and then the second one didn’t, we were hit with the peaks and valleys right away. It wasn’t always smooth sailing. We lost our record deal, we lost A&R people, we had songs on the radio, then got completely overlooked. We are very thankful that we got to play music for this long. It’s a real gift. It’s going to make a difference touring too. We’ve always been on the road trying to make a new album or a single. To tour on a Greatest Hits record is going to be a calming experience and allow us to be reflective. We won’t be at radio stations playing acoustic versions to get songs in rotation. It will be more of a celebration where the pressure is off. It takes so much energy to try and be current and stay ahead. At this phase in our lives, it’s going to be so nice to have a mellow tour with a great band like Switchfoot…’ If you are a fan of anything Lifehouse, like how I have become, then a great place to start is their 2017 album Greatest Hits, that take their biggest hits throughout their career and place it all on an album. It is literally a one-stop shop for Lifehouse and their best-of music, and a great way to start if you are longing to listen to an artist that isn’t as vapid or empty as many that are currently active, but rather, an artist that can influence and inspire, to challenge and even confront, as healthy discussions can be made by listening to a variety of their songs throughout their career.

Belief in the song and belief in the artists for singing the song is paramount for me, and as Jason has articulated well in a recent interview (from 2017), where he shares his own secrets of success, I’ve decided what better way to sound off than to hear from Jason Wade, the lead singer from the band, himself. So as we carry about our weeks, let us be immersed in the music of our lives that ask us questions, that challenge us to think outside the box, that is about love and loss, about hope and belonging, about being immersed in a love that is so much bigger than we can even fathom! Jason and co. have crafted a band that is as needed in both the CCM and mainstream music industries, as they are needed in society, full stop. So let us sit back and enjoy Lifehouse and their music, and what they have to offer. And be reminded that influential need not be the same as popular.

Does Lifehouse make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Best Influential Artists of All Time’ list? Is there any song (other than ‘Broken’, ‘Everything’, ‘Take Me Away’ and ‘Hanging By A Moment’) that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!

Probably just staying together [is the secret to success]. When you’re on the road, you are on stage for 10 percent of the time, and 90 percent of the time you are actually interacting with each other and hanging out with your brothers – it becomes a very familial thing. So, the music is important, but so is keeping that bond and the communication lines open and just learning how to live with each other and not go crazy. That’s what breaks most bands up: They just get to the point where they hate each other, and they can’t be in the same room. We’re closing in on 20 years and we’ve had pretty much the same lineup, the same nucleus, for most of our career and we’re still enjoying it. We still have that childlike-ness about the music and still it feels fresh and new every time we step on stage. I think that’s our biggest accomplishment. It’s not just having radio hits and selling records, it’s about still having a good quality of life. I feel like the fans know when you’re phoning it in and you’re not having fun anymore. We can still get excited to come through a town and play a show and give 100 percent and enjoy ourselves. It still feels alive.

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