Lifehouse is a rock band that continues to put out hits that start as singles and turn into templates for shared experiences and backdrops for successful relationships. The songs are always on the radio without sounding tired or repetitive. They seem to have picked up the baton that Toad the Wet Sprocket tossed aside in the last decade. Their new album, “Smoke and Mirrors” is out and the first single “Halfway Gone” is a smash. This record is strong from start to finish and avoids the disappointment fans feel when their favorite bands turn in underwhelming projects.
SIL. Why the name Lifehouse?
JW. It was a last minute thing, our record was finished. Our original name was Blyss, and we trying to clear that name and it was taken by some band in Europe. Someone threw out the name Lifehouse, and to be honest, it wasn’t our first pick. We ended up clearing it on the net, and that’s when we found out that Pete Townsend had a project called Lifehouse. But he didn’t clear it. So we rushed to do that before he did.
SIL. How big did you think the band would become? Did you have huge expectations?
JW. We had no idea. We were born and bred in the studio. It all started with me playing guitar and writing our first songs in my bedroom. I met a producer who took me straight into a studio. I had no live experience. After the record was put out, we were on the side stage opening up for Pearl Jam and then “Hanging By a Moment” came out and did extremely well. All of a sudden, we’re opening up arenas for Matchbox Twenty. We were definitely flying by the seat of our pants. We were holding on for dear life at that point.
SIL. Before Lifehouse, do you recall some of your earlier shows?
JW. I do. I had a friend book a couple of shows around Malibu. I did some shows at Pepperdine University.
SIL. Let’s start with the first song everybody heard from you, “Hanging By a Moment”.
JW. I was doing a vocal for one of the other tracks on the record, but couldn’t get a different melody out of my head. So I asked the producer if I could take ten minutes off, and went into another room with an acoustic guitar that was in drop D tune. It was almost like channeling something from another place. I’ve done that before where I start with a melody, and seven to ten minutes later, I’m done. I played it for the producer and we recorded it the next day. It was one of the last tracks to go on the record.
SIL. That first record is ten years old and has a newfound life because of the song ”Everything”. Have you noticed that?
JW. I definitely have, it’s great. The lyrics are kind of ambiguous and people fit their experiences to the song. We’ve heard of it being used in weddings and some religious skits. The show “Smallville” has used it a couple of times. It’s an anthemic song that really resonates with people.
SIL. When the band starts cranking up, are you the primary songwriter and catalyst?
JW. Yeah, I am. On this record, I co-wrote every song with Jude Cole, who produced this record with us. (He is also their manager). I’ve become good friends with Chris Daughtry and wrote a song with him for this album. Richard Marx co-wrote a song, he’s amazing. Chris is the one who hooked me up with him. We recorded it in L.A. and it will become a single at one point. It was Jude’s idea to bring in Kevin Rudolph. (He shares credit on the first single, “Halfway Gone”).
SIL. Jude had some success as an artist. How advantageous is it to have a manager who is also that gifted?
JW. We wrote “You and Me” a few years ago and developed a really strong partnership. We have a strong connection.
SIL. Since Jude has shown you the ropes, would you like to pass that knowledge onto some younger artists?
JW. Yeah, I would. I’ve been hanging out with Jude since I was fifteen and learned every aspect of what we do from him. I’ve turned thirty and have a hard time believing this is the tenth year of Lifehouse. I meet younger guys now that ask advice, and it is definitely a different time for music and musicians now, but I try my best to give any advice or encouragement if I can.
SIL. Armed with that experience, would you be interested in producing other bands or even signing them to a label?
JW. I would love to produce. I’d also love to write songs for other records.
SIL. After ten years of success, is there a pressure to keep turning out hits?
JW. Not really. The success kind of takes the weight off. I remember our first record being huge and the second one wasn’t considered a commercial success, a lot of people wrote us off as the “Hanging By a Moment’ band, just one hit wonders. Then “You and Me” turned into a hit, and the pressure was really lifted to do what we want to do.
SIL. Did this record, “Smoke and Mirrors”, start as a live record?
JW. It did. We spent two and half years promoting the “We Are” record and when we came off the road, we wanted to capture what we were doing for the past three years. Our first attempt was to create a live sounding organic record. Halfway through that, it became apparent that we were missing what Lifehouse is, and that is writing and recording songs for the radio. We shifted our focus a bit, and started focusing on the creating aspect of it. That’s how the whole concept of “Smoke and Mirrors” came about, with this record reflecting the two sides of the band. There’s a commercial side and the side that plugs in the guitars and just rocking.
SIL. Let’s talk about the first single, “Halfway Gone”.
JW. It’s very similar to “Hanging By a Moment”. We were finished with the record and didn’t feel like we had the first single, a leadoff track. We were big fans of Kevin Rudolphs’s song, “Let It Rock”, which merged modern sounding rock with top 40 radio and asked Jude to reach out to him. It turns out he was a fan of ours, and he flew out from Miami to come in the studio with us. We hit it off and had a really strong connection. It felt like a fresh sound for the band that still retained the integrity of what we do.
SIL. When “Hanging By a Moment’ came out, you did a radio interview with a station from Birmingham, Alabama. I heard the DJ ask you which bimbo this song was about, and you simply said “God”.
JW. I don’t remember that, but I’m sure it happened. But I did write that song from that perspective. Over the years, people have taken it and made it their own, but it definitely started from that place.
SIL. Best burn on a DJ ever. Thanks for your time, I really appreciate it.