Jon Foreman: Creating The Wonderlands
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Fronting Switchfoot has to eat up lead singer Jon Foreman's schedule till there's not much left on the clock for much else. Even so, the San Diego-based husband and father still finds time to lay down some very interesting, introspective and personal solo projects. He follows up his '07-'08 seasonal delights (Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer) with a set of four EPs he's titled The Wonderlands.
This new extended play series contains 24 songs, each relating to the different moods of a single day. Foreman concludes his 24-hour musical mission with the fourth and final EP, Dawn (which releases this Friday, October 23).
The relentless creator spoke with CBN.com over the phone about this noteworthy project and the songs that speak to him from the first two EPs, Sunlight and Shadows, as well as, a few words on the third and fourth, Darkness and Dawn. Here are excerpts from that conversation:
On his past comparison of how rock and roll is like a megaphone and solo projects are like a whisper, and what he wants to whisper through The Wonderlands...
Jon Foreman: Yeah, so I feel like whispers are reserved for doubts and questions and confessions, and in many cases those lead us to deeper answers than having what we already know about. I feel like the unasked question is dangerous to answer, and so for me to shout the answers to questions that no one's asking can be a dangerous pastime. But my hope with these solo projects is to talk about faith, and doubt, and love and all these anchoring elements of my life in song, in a way that feels like it's authentic and maybe almost like a campfire chat, you know? Because I feel like some of those moments around the fire, late at night, asking questions of the meaning of life can be some of the most pivotal moments of my existence, you know? So I figure The Wonderlands is my attempt to create that moment in song.
On one of his new favorites, "Terminal", the first track off the first EP, Sunlight...
Foreman: "Terminal" is one of my favorite ways to start the record. I wanted to start it with an eye on the clock, the idea that this whole record represents the clock, right, 24 hours, songs for 24 hours. And if that's the case, then I want to keep the end in mind, the idea that the clock is significant mostly because of our death, and that every second is a second that we will never have again, leading us closer to the grave. And I don't mean that to be a morbid thought, but rather how will that inspire us to live, to truly grow and reach beyond ourselves. So yeah, so "Terminal" is that story, for me, of compassion for ourselves and the rest of those around us, we the living, dying souls.
On recording the EPs in bits while on the road, touring with Switchfoot...
I would send a demo to a friend and they would lay down the drum part, bass parts, guitars, trumpets, flugelhorns, whatever it is, you know. Then they'd send it back to me and I would record backstage in a dressing room.
"Terminal" was actually recorded...I remember recording that one in Oklahoma. We have these protestors hanging out outside our venue, the theatre we were playing, saying that Switchfoot music will lead you straight to the devil. So, I remember recording that vocal, kind of recorded this soft, delicate vocal while people were shouting in a megaphone outside.
On "All of God's Children", the final track on the first EP, Sunlight...
Foreman: Yeah, so "All of God's Children" was inspired by the front page of a newspaper, day in, day out atrocities. Today, there's some mosque that's just been blown to pieces... and, you know, some famous spokesmen pleading guilty to pedophile charges and just awful things that happen. But today's no different than any other day. That's the news; that's what happens every day. And so for me, "All of God's Children" is thinking, 'Wow, these are my brothers and sisters on the planet, these are fellow human souls, and as much as I might disagree with a lot of them, we're going to have things that we can find in common as well.' The biggest one is that we were made in the image of the unmade maker, and that if you truly believe in the liturgy of the church, He loves us. That kind of changes the perspective on all of those atrocities.
On "Your Love is Enough", a worshipful song off of the ShadowsEP...
Foreman: Believing in God feels like...I can mentally assent to the idea of an omniscient, transcendent, all powerful being that creates, that the matter of our universe comes from somewhere, that color and the vibration, the eyes and ears, and bodies pick up these vibrations in the form of light and color and sound, that this world that we sit on, and breathe, and consume daily, it comes from somewhere and the idea that it comes from someone, that feels like something that I can mentally assent to pretty easy. The hard part for me would be that He loves me, that God loves me. That feels like it's a difficult jump. I'm aware of the darkness within me. I'm aware that the things I do wrong, the things I say wrong, the insignificance of my own existence against the backdrop of millions of stars and galaxies, and all of that. So to me "Your Love is Enough" is...the verse that talks about those doubts and wrestling with those fears which you're carrying, of course, is kind of meant to be this response to all of those doubts and fears reminding us all that God's love in action ascends all of that.
On fear, doubt, and faith...
Foreman: Sometimes just throwing out your fears and your doubts, that ironically is not what we do very often in the church. So we kind of cover it up and "let's not talk about it," but that which is hidden is empowered. I want my life to be reflecting a relationship with the God that is actually bigger than any of my questions. If God is smaller than my fears, then He is not God. But it's not just with our doubts and fears, it's with so many other areas of our life as well. We think God can't handle the truth of who we are so we make Him smaller than He really is. I think sex is a great example. We push God out of our physical attraction, we don't talk about these elements, and I think that that's been a detriment on the church as a whole. We create a dichotomy within us, a divorce between who we are as believers and who we are as unbelievers, living in the same body. But that's an impossible life to live. Either God is big enough to shine in these dark places or He's not God at all. That for me, that's sort of what these songs are, attempting to just bring light into these dark places.
Foreman: Yeah, so for me Shadows is almost a little bit more frightening than Darkness, because darkness is the moment you no longer see, and I feel like there's a comfort there where you are into a form of faith and trust, and ultimately that moment is actually a reassuring thing. So for me, Darkness actually might be a little bit more...I know I've heard a lot of people say that Shadows was really, really dreary and dark for them. And I want to just tell everyone don't worry; Dawn is coming.
Sara Watkins from Nickel Creek sings on a couple of them and plays fiddle on a couple of them. We've got Taylor York from Paramore producing. We've got Jeff Coffin from Dave Matthews Band playing bass and clarinet on some of these songs. And then the whole thing ends on another song about the clock called "Before Our Time", talking about things before our time runs out. And so that's the way it ends, kind of the way it began, focus on the clock.
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