Q&A with Jason Wade

Lifehouse dominated mid-2000s pop radio with hits like "Whatever it Takes" and "You & Me," but if you've ever caught yourself wondering "Whatever happened to those guys?" you'd be forgiven. An unsuccessful foray into Americana folk and a hiatus has kept Lifehouse out of the spotlight the past couple years and left the band reevaluating the kind of music they want to make. For singer and songwriter Jason Wade, the answer was in the basics. The group's upcoming seventh album, Out of the Wasteland, finds them going back to their original sound, playing the sort of rock and roll fit for garages and teen angst. We caught up with Wade to discuss Out of the Wasteland and hear his favorite things.

--Adam Downer

GGM: Your upcoming album is called Out of the Wasteland, and of course this is your first record coming off hiatus. Can you go into why you went with this album title?

JW: I think the title represents a new era for the band. There are so many parallels between this and our first album, even sonically speaking. "Hurricane" and "Flight" remind me a lot of our earlier stuff. It’s nice to try and return to that sound. I think we’ve always been a band that strives to create an album that’s different every time. On our last album, we really pushed it to an Americana direction, and I’m not sure how well-received that was for a lot of our fans (laughs). But coming off that album, not touring, and taking time to get clarity and look at the landscape of where the music business is, we decided to make the music that we really wanted to make. It took us two years to make this album. That was unprecedented for us. We weren’t on a major label and to put that much love and energy on an independent record I think is a testament that we still love doing this and still take it seriously and still want to make music that inspires us and hopefully other people.

GGM: I read that on this album you wanted this album that energy of playing rock in your garage as a teenager. How do you think that translates musically to Out of the Wasteland?

JW: I tried to keep everything simple. Since this is our seventh record and we’ve been doing this for sixteen years, it’s really easy to become complacent or jaded or cynical at the songwriting process because you start thinking “oh you need singles,” or songs that are good for this or for that. There wasn’t any of that at the beginning. Everything was written almost like therapy. The songs needed to be written. They were moving me at the time, and they were expressing things from my first sixteen, seventeen years on the planet. You start to lose little pieces of that doing it professionally over the years. My goal for this record was to go back to capturing the moments that really had a visceral effect on me, whether it be a certain chord, lyric, or melody that was giving me the chills. Getting back to those basic elements based on how music inspires rather than writing based on singles or how it’s gonna sell.

GGM: Which I think gives me an idea of how you’ll answer my next question, which is: at this point in your career, are you looking to return to the top of the charts or are you content to play with the band to your already-large fanbase?

JW: I think I know myself. I would be miserable if I had to sing songs that I didn’t believe in or they didn’t move me. I know I’d be miserable, and I think the band would be too. I think the only way to achieve happiness in this stage in our career is to be true to ourselves, and I truly believe that if the music we put out resonates with us, it’ll resonate with our fanbase as well.

GGM: So what music are you playing nowadays?

JW: I really like Imagine Dragons’ record. As far as newer bands, I’d have to say them. I love listening to soundtracks. Getting to work with James Newton-Howard on this record was a dream come true for me. I own and listen to all of his soundtrack, and I think he’s a genius. And also, I really love vintage jazz music from the 30s and 40s like Billie Holiday and Benny Goodman. That’s what I listen to when I’m not listening to pop music.

GGM: Do you have a favorite album of all time?

JW: Oh gosh, any of the Beatles albums. Maybe The White Album? But still, to this day, Elliott Smith’s XO is one of my all-time favorite records.

GGM: Have you seen any good movies recently?

JW: Oh, Birdman! I just saw that and I loved it.

GGM: You’d mentioned film soundtracks before. Can you tell me any favorite film soundtracks?

JW: Anything Thomas Newman. Cinderella Man has an amazing soundtrack. So does American Beauty. Field of Dreams was one of my all-time favorites growing up. Braveheart as well. James Horner is an incredible composer.

GGM: Do you watch TV in your downtime? What shows?

JW: I do! We just did KTLA in LA, and Freddie Highmore, from Bates Motel, was there and he was a really nice kid! I just finished season 2 yesterday, and I thought it was a great show. House of Cards too, and Sons of Anarchy is amazing.

GGM: Do you have any favorite books?

JW: Anything by Malcolm Gladwell. The Tipping Point I thought was a really, really great read.

GGM: Do you have a restaurant you have to eat at every time you visit a certain city?

JW: We do, actually! Whenever we’re in Tampa we go to a steakhouse called Bern's. It’s one of the coolest places you’ll ever be. The steak’s amazing, and they take you on this tour where they have a hundred bottles of wine, they show you how they prepare the meat, and then after dinner they have sort of this smokey lounge where they have these amazing desserts. Every time we’re in Tampa, we try to go there.

GGM: Do you have any favorite clothes?

JW: Yeah, sure! Anything by RRL. Me and some of the other guys love their jeans, and Allsaints has really nice leather jackets and shirts.

GGM: Out of all your hits with Lifehouse, can you tell me which your favorite is?

JW: It wasn’t our biggest hit, but a song called “Broken.” It was written at a really magical time when I was in Nashville for a friend who needed a kidney transplant. I spent a couple days with him, and this song just sort of fell on me. It was such a heavy moment where the song was finished in a couple minutes. I played it for him the next day and he had tears on his face. He had a studio and I recorded the first draft, and that original vocal ended up on the finished recording. Every time I play that song live, it has some energy that’s different and I can feel it really connecting with people. 

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