I wrote this song near the end of my 24th year on this planet. Wherever we run, wherever the sun finds us when he rises, we remain stuck with ourselves. That can be overwhelming. Sometimes I feel like my soul is polluted with politicians, each with a different point of view. With all 24 of them in disagreement, each voice is yelling to be heard. And so I am divided against myself. I feel that I am a hypocrite until I am one, when all of the yelling inside of me dies down. I've heard that the truth will set you free. That's what I'm living for: freedom of spirit. I find unity and peace in none of the diversions that this world offers. But I've seen glimpses of truth and that's where I want to run.
The Beautiful Letdown
Physics tells us that everything on this planet will fail us eventually. Trust someone, fall in love: your scars will tell the same story. Entropy, pain, beauty, love, hope... mix them together and call it living. The choice that remains is where we go to find meaning and truth. The biggest failures and disappointments in my life have led me to look beyond what money or power or friends can buy. When you're face down at the very bottom of who you are, and there is no formality or pretence to cling to, all your masks fall off. In this broken place, our lives can be seen for what they are, no more no less; we are ourselves. The question is this: What happens after the twin towers in our lives fall? Do we become bitter and hateful or does redemption come into focus? I've been on both sides...only one is beautiful.
Song Stories from Jon Foreman, the songwriter.
Meant To Live
A while back I read a TS Elliot poem called "The Hollow Men." The imagery in the poem continues to haunt me: "we are the hollow men / we are the stuffed men..." I look at our planet and I see a horrible, beautiful world... where love and hate breathe the same air. This is where we wake up everyday; this is where we live. Maybe the kid in the song is me, hoping that I'm bent for more than arguments and failed attempts to fly. Something deep inside of me yearns for the beautiful, the true. I want more than what I've been sold; I want to live life.
If a modern rock radio anthem of 2003 were to be declared, Switchfoot's spirit-affirming "Meant to Live" would certainly be in the running for the honor. Given its grungy guitars spread over husky backbeats and frontman Jon Foreman's uplifting vocals, the song has been a true standout on the group's most recent CD, The Beautiful Letdown (Sparrow/Columbia) and will undoubtedly become a catalog gem. "That track is tuned in 'drop D,' which, for those of you who aren't guitar players, is a heavier tuning reminiscent of bands like Soundgarden or the Foo Fighters," explains Foreman of its arrangement. "The aggression really works with this song because I really want to drive home the point of having unshakable hope in this world."
Partially inspired by Foreman's personal failures and soul searching, along with C.S. Lewis' musings about not finding fulfillment within worldly confines, Foreman passionately presents lines seeking out more than "the world's got to offer." "It's not meant as a resignation or a backing down from the environment around us but rather a 'stepping up to the plate' sort of motivation to get us living life to its fullest," Foreman says. "The goal of the song is to get people thinking a bit more about what their priorities are and, hopefully, point them away from emptiness and closer to the Light."
This Is Your Life
Music holds her cards close to her chest; she always maintains the element of mystery. Sometimes everything feels so right and you can't explain why. This album felt that way for us. We only spent around two weeks in the studio but I wouldn't have spent another minute. This tune is a good example of the mystery of sound. We started messing around at my house with different low-end synths and lo-fi beats and this mellow acoustic song became transformed. I'm not quite sure how we got here but I'm glad that the song arrived.
I flew out to South Beach in Florida, (where Tom Lord-Alge's studio is) to be a part of the mixing process for this track. We could only afford one ticket so I went solo. Stayed at a funky hotel a few blocks from the beach, delirious from red eye flying (and a crazy conversation with the cab driver), watching a guy I've never met mix our song. I remember thinking, "This is crazy. This is my life!?" Sometimes the simplest questions are the hardest to answer; kind of like the way the night sky can still shake me up.
More Than Fine
I spent much of my childhood watching surf videos, fixing dings, and looking for waves. Taylor Steele's videos were always supercharged with a punk rock soundtrack that would fuel your next surf, becoming the background music of my high school years. Several of the short-lived garage bands that I was in wanted to play only punk covers. But I never really wanted to be punk rock; I just liked the energy in the music. I think part of what attracted me to bands like Op Ivy and Minor Threat was their commitment to change. But so much of what I hear today is content with things the way they are. I feel like contentment can be a dangerous thing in the wrong hands. Now is the time to change. If punk is dead (and I'm not talking about whether it sells!), maybe this is a punk tune disguised as pop.
Einstein said, "Without belief in the inner harmony of the world there would be no science." Maybe. I say without the dissonance of our modern age there would be no rock and roll. There lies the tension: between the harmony and the dissonance. We're the problem, we're the issue. I can pin the blame on whomever I want but the mirror still points my direction. This is a tune that really feels great to play live: step on a distortion pedal and scream about the dissonance.
Dare You To Move
I love to write songs; I've been at it since I could reach the piano. It's one of my favorite ways to pass the time. Music helps me sort out who I am so my songs usually end up being somewhat autobiographical. I've always felt the deepest connection with honest songs so I try to write with sincerity. This song is an attempt to honestly face the gap between who I am and who I want to be; between the way the world spins and the way it should be. I've heard that we only use a small part of our brain. Maybe our soul is the same way. And maybe we're half asleep most of our lives, simply reacting to the stimulus our brain receives. Action, true action is rare indeed.
4 AM is a great time of night. The day before is long dead but the morning is yet to come. All the commotion from the night before has died down and every sane upstanding citizen is asleep. It's a great time to go for a walk. You've got the planet to yourself for an hour or so, so peaceful... even the stars look different: waiting for the dawn. I feel the same way that the stars do sometimes. Anticipating... the night is nearly over, the day is almost here.
When we're not on the road, we spend a lot of time working on the next batch. After the song is written, we try and figure it out: fooling around with different arrangements, different sounds... messing around with electricity so to speak. The voice at the beginning of the song is off of my answering machine, (which by the way, can be a great thing to record; I record my answering machine often) We chopped up the message and threw it in. Actually, come to think of it, I don't think my friend has heard the tune yet! Anyways, to sum up what the song is about: it's a fun, catchy tune about how we're all going to die someday! Life is so short, live well.
Daniel Heavenward, a friend of mine from Canada, came out to California and stayed at my place for a day. We went out for pizza, wrote a couple Remy Zero-ish songs, and called it a night. In the morning, about an hour before I was going to drop him off at the train station, this song flew out. We threw it down, I burned a CD for Dan and we raced to the station. This song is so personal- it feels great to play live. On a good night, I feel like I can just throw myself into this song and drift off over the crowd through the PA.
Adding To The Noise
Being on tour is totally different speed. Hurry up and wait... lots of time in planes, trains, and automobiles. You find yourself leaving cities that you never really saw. The funniest part is that we rarely get to play as a band on the road. You spend all your time getting there, setting up, and tearing down. So the show and the sound check, (if you get one) become your only chances to practice and work on new ideas as a band. The rest of the time you find yourself waiting around looking at cold pizza and an accoustic guitar that's got 4 strings, which is a great time to write a song. I think I wrote this one somewhere near Dallas. Four strings is enough for rock and roll...