Mike Rimmer and Tony Cummings quizzed JON FOREMAN about his recent stripped-down, low-fi EPs
The decision by Jon Foreman, the lead singer of Switchfoot - one of the most successful bands ever to emerge from the Christian scene, to release four solo EPs is exactly the kind of thing that would have been impossible if Foreman and his fellow San Diego rockers had still been ensnared with Columbia Records. The EPs 'Fall', 'Winter', 'Spring' and 'Summer' are the kind of art-for-art's-sake projects which would completely confuse the suits of a multi-national looking for the next platinum CD. In fact these low-fi CDs, stripped of the stadiums and stacks, bring to light a more reflective, more introspective songsmith than anything heard on Switchfoot's recordings. On Cross Rhythms' Rimmerama programme recently the singer/songwriter spoke about his season-themed releases.
Mike: Somebody doing a solo album within a band is normally a portent of the band splitting up. Would you like to reassure us that the future of Switchfoot is secure?
Jon: Yeah, man. We're going to make a record in a few. Actually we just moved into a new studio yesterday. We're on the move, man.
Mike: That's good. I'm a bit confused why you would need to do some solo recordings because you have a pretty free rein of what you write about in the band already, don't you?
Jon: Yeah. I think the reason why I wanted to put the EPs out without the Switchfoot label was because they didn't really fit with the rest of the catalogue that we'd come up with over the years and none of us played the cello, bass clarinet and things I wanted to feature on the songs.
Tony: Jon, you said in a recent interview that you wanted the songs on your EPs to be "like conversation amongst best friends." How possible is that? There are tens of thousands of people who are going to buy these EPs - well, we hope, anyway - therefore they don't know your back story, the myriad of things which shape our thoughts and perspectives. Without people knowing your personal subplot, isn't there a danger that some of your songs will be obscure and unfathomable?
Jon: That definitely is a danger. That is the danger and the blessing of music, you know. Everyone is going to be able to take what they want from the songs and provide what they want. I believe the moment you put something for sale that's artistic, you essentially say well, it's yours now. You can do with it what you want.
Mike: So doesn't that mean that as a songwriter you haven't really got a hope of communicating anything. It sounds very wonderfully post-modern, Jon, everybody getting from a song whatever they can.
Jon: Everyone's going to take something that doesn't belong from a song. I think the idea of conversation is an incredible concept. You can actually converse with people through a medium like song. You say your point of view and then of course, no matter whether you like it or not, they're going to have the other side. For me it's been an amazing journey to see people taking different things from the songs, applying it to their own lives.
Tony: I would consider you an artist and a serious artist but don't you think it ironic that much of pop and rock music is shallow and banal yet whenever an artist tries to bring a more thoughtful and creative dynamic to his or her music critics are lining up to call it overblown or pretentious or things like that?
Jon: Yeh. I think that is a tendency right now. The easiest thing to do is throw a rock. It's a lot harder to create a stained glass window. I used to get upset at the people who threw rocks but now I'd rather spend my time building the stained glass windows.
Tony: But it's a bit surprising that there is so much criticism from within the Christian community, isn't it?
Jon: Well, on the one hand I think that it's kind of unfortunate but I think ultimately well-based criticism is a wonderful thing. The problem with much of the things that I read about my current band is I feel that it is very poorly thought through and very reactionary. A lot of people basically just want you to fly their flag and ultimately I don't want to fly anyone's flag other than Christ's.
Tony: Did the songs on 'Spring', 'Summer', 'Fall' and 'Winter' actually get written in those seasons?
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