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08 January 2014

Switchfoot - who we are

Switchfoot - who we are

Online idea feature by Lucy Cooper

With fifteen years, eight albums, millions of record sales and endless global tours under their belt, you'd think that Grammy-award-winning rock band Switchfoot wouldn't feel they needed to tell the world who they are.

But the band's brand new album and documentary film, both named Fading West, not only tell of Switchfoot's 2012 tour, music inspiration, and life of rock 'n' roll and surfing - they give glimpses into the journey as a band, as individuals, and understanding their true identity.

Guitarist Drew Shirley explained to me that there are both epic and intimate moments: "When we looked at footage of the movie, we knew we had a story worth telling. It is more than experiences and the fabric of the band. You see into our souls, our families, our struggles, our successes as well as our failures, our grief and our joy."

As husbands and fathers, the biggest challenge for each member of Switchfoot is having to spend so much time away from their families while on the road.

While in Australia, lead singer and songwriter Jon Foreman's daughter was taken into hospital for emergency surgery. He had to fly home. "That is what establishes a brotherhood. It is when you face life and death as a family. It made us wrestle with what we believe and what we sing about. It's in the toughest times that the issues of faith and life come into perspective. You make a choice to believe rather than doubt," says Jon in the Fading West film.

The guys also speak about needing to press the reset button and keep things in perspective through surfing and time at home. "The stage is an over-inflated place. It is a fake reality. People don't really know you. They think they like you and they want to talk to you and listen to what you have to say. But the reality is that they don't know you. We have to detox from that. Family is a good way to do that – suddenly you're taking your child to use the potty," says Drew.

"I love what I do - but am I being a good husband? Am I being a good father? Those are the questions I ask myself all the time. Marriage in rock 'n' roll is a wasteland. You look around and a lot of them are tragically affected in negative ways by stress, success, travel, adultery or pressures. It is such a blessing to have our wives and families behind us 100 per cent."

"The song Who we are is all about knowing your identity and living from a place of security. Our kids sang the backing on that track – a beautiful moment. I am a father, a husband, a rock guitarist, a friend, a music producer. Let who you are determine what you do, not what you do determine who you are."

World tours include big gigs where they lose power and huge music festivals with tough crowds."We bring songs we believe in to uncomfortable places. That is where they can be heard. We want to share songs of hope," says Jon in the film.

Drew adds: "We will play music for anyone and everyone. We play in neutral venues. We play the same sets to very different audiences – whether a Christian festival or HFS festival in Baltimore"

"Being open to playing music in any environment is good because we want to be a light in darkness and we want to be fishers of men not keepers of fishtanks."

When asked if they consider themselves to be a 'Christian band', Switchfoot say they tend to shy away from that label. "Christianity is a faith and not a genre of music. God calls us to experience life and express who we are as a believer. Christianity is who I am and music is what I do." states Drew.

"Being a Christian is much more than just being in a band and maybe playing a song that someone might label as 'Christian'. It has to do with how you live. How you treat your wife, your husband, your kids or your co-workers. How you live life in private."

In a recent blog, Jon responded to similar questions: "None of these songs has been born again, and to that end there is no such thing as Christian music. Christ didn't come and die for my songs, he came for me. My songs are a part of my life. But judging from scripture I can only conclude that our God is much more interested in how I treat the poor and the broken and the hungry than the personal pronouns I use when I sing.

"An obligation to say this or do that does not sound like the glorious freedom that Christ died to afford me. My life will be judged by my obedience, not my ability to confine my lyrics to this box or that."

Switchfoot are well known for songs such as Dare you to move or Meant to live which were written 10 or 15 years ago. "We still enjoy those songs and glad we are known for them but I love our latest songs. They are the most exciting to me. I've told Jon I think some of those lyrics took all those years to write because they came from experience and not just knowledge or a good idea. He has lived it.

"We have struggled with our identity and so can now produce songs like Who we are or Worth the fight. The lyrics of Worth the fight sum it all up for me: 'Love alone is worth the fight'. If you are gonna be a lover you have to be a fighter because if you leave things as they are they fall apart, crack and crumble." concludes Drew.

Switchfoot talk of the journey as faith strengthening and a real time of growth and fruit in their friendship, careers and personal lives.

The Fading West film is available on video streaming sites including itunes or amazon and the Fading West album is released 14 January.

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