By Bill Sanders
Switchfoot lead singer and songwriter, Jon Foreman, on:
Bible characters he relates to
Who he writes for
The new album, Vice Verses
Working with Habitat again
For Jon Foreman, lead singer and songwriter for Grammy Award-winning band Switchfoot, inspiring people to action through music is a gift not to be taken lightly.
But writing songs and singing about hope is not enough for him, he said. It is partly the “faith without works is dead” theology. But to Foreman, it just seems disingenuous to sing about hope and not get involved.
For years, Habitat for Humanity has been one of Switchfoot’s favorite ways of putting their faith into action.
“There are a lot of great organizations doing great things for people, but one of the things I love about Habitat is it’s a way for people to connect with the heart of what we’re singing about, which is hope. A lot of organizations need money or need skill. Habitat will teach you how to swing a hammer, how to put up siding and put in sinks. I love that. With Habitat, you can directly connect with the organization with your sweat rather than pocket.”
Switchfoot gained critical recognition and popularity in 2004 with the release of The Beautiful Letdown, which included the singles Meant to Live and Dare You to Move, both of which were top-20 songs on pop radio and contemporary Christian stations. The group toured the world and won Dove Awards, which recognize the best Christian music each year.
Then, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Foreman went to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to work on some build sites. He met a woman who had to relocate from New Orleans and had lost not only all her possessions, but also one of her legs.
“I’ll never forget her hope in her faith,” Foreman said. “She told me on a Habitat build, ‘I walked out of my house in New Orleans on two feet, and I’m going to walk into this new life even in Baton Rouge on my own two feet, even if it means one of them is a prosthetic limb.’ What a sign of hope.”
A few years later, Switchfoot released an album that won them their first Grammy. It was titled Hello Hurricane and was inspired largely by the band’s work on Habitat sites in the Gulf.
The chorus of the title track reflects that:
Hello hurricane, you’re not enough
“Hello Hurricanewas inspired by Katrina as well as other physical storms that hit around then, but also storms in my own life as well.” Foreman said.
The bigger and more successful the band became, the more it wanted to be part of charities that put faith into action. In September, the band will release its eighth studio album, Vice Verses. Switchfoot recently toured in Australia, and in the fall, they will do a U.S. tour before heading to the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland.
But the band’s heart for Habitat has not changed as its schedule has gotten busier.
“I think when you sing songs about hope and perseverance and the struggle with hope versus disparity, it’s almost dishonest not to be involved with an organization like Habitat.
“For us it comes down to not just singing about it, but doing it with our own two hands. The kids who connect with our music are looking for that — for hope and for something worth investing their time into. Acquiring more net worth in bank accounts means very little. A compilation of physical wealth, cars, houses, guitars — that’s all transitory. We’re all looking to make our lives count. I’m so encouraged when I see people catch on to lyrics and five years later, you hear someone say they moved to Africa or are helping out in their own backyard.”