Interview with Tim Foreman from Switchfoot
Last week I had the amazing opportunity to talk to Tim Foreman, the bassist from popular rock band Switchfoot. I can say right off the bat I was a little star struck, as I have listened to Switchfoot from a young age, but Tim calmed my nerves with his easy-going personality. We talked about the upcoming concert here in Eugene on November 13th and the band’s new EP that is soon to be released titled Fading West. A movie of the same name will also be released soon, and this movie is shown before every concert. I am posting the trailer to the new film at the bottom of the article if you wish to check it out. Concertgoers who buy the EP at the show will receive a 4th song that will not be on the digital album. Be sure to get your tickets soon, as Tim assured me this would be an experience you wouldn’t want to miss. Let’s get right to the interview!
Why a movie?
It was a combination of a lot of things we have been talking about doing for a while, one of those being colliding music with surfing and trying to bring people along on the journey that we have been on as a band. Another thing we have always wanted to do is to score a film and so we figured “well let’s do both at the same time, let’s make our own film and score it”. It was a lot of fun, we picked a lot of our favorite surf spots from all around the globe and the concept was chasing songs and waves around the world. I think what we didn’t realize was the journey it would take us on was pretty unexpected, and it was actually a really heavy plot that would unfold as we were rolling the camera. I think it ended up capturing the highs and lows that we experience as a band and the brotherhood that we have that carries us through it all.
How different was it to be in a film than in the studio making music?
It was definitely an unfamiliar process for us. I think none of us are the type that really thrives in being in front of a camera. It took a little bit of allowing ourselves to forget the cameras were there and learning how to still be ourselves. I think it was something we were able to do, and the film really captures a lot of honest moments where the camera just drifted into the background. At the same time I don’t think that any of us are eager to make another film any time soon. It was really a huge undertaking, but we are so proud of the end result. You know, maybe it is something we may do every ten years, but not every year. As an actor you get to play somebody else; when you play yourself it’s a bit more of a weighty task. It’s kind of an essential thing to be looking at yourself through the lens of someone else and realizing that it’s really you and asking yourself what story do you want to be living.
Were there ever times you were upset by what you saw recorded?
We were really intentional with this film. We didn’t want to make just a band promo video. We wanted to capture the honest journey and so that includes the low moments as well. There are absolutely things that are on the film that really show the imperfections of who we are. I think in that sense it is an extension of who we are in music. In songs, we have always tried to tell an honest story and see the hope against the backdrop of what we all live through, see both sides of it. I think the film accomplishes that as well.
Why show the film at the concert? What is the rationale behind that?
We really wanted to hand-deliver this film and it seemed like a unique opportunity before we have released the film to have a special premiere in each of these cities. It’s really been an amazing tour for us. I think that because the film is so personal in nature it sets the tone for a really unique personal concert experience. After starting out the evening with that kind of a film, you can only go further in that direction. So with the concert it’s been a real lively experience back and forth with the crowd. People are asking questions, shouting out song requests, and it really feels like we are playing in someone’s living room.
What was the inspiration for the new album Fading West?
We have never been more intentional about putting ourselves in inspiring environments as we are writing. I think definitely being inspired by the ocean and the infinite feeling you get from staring out at the horizon and feeling small in the context of a big space. I think that’s a really inspiring place to be. It’s a great environment, we wrote so many songs on this journey. I think musically we were really excited about taking the songs into a different space. We’ve been known for our aggressive guitars leading the charge and we wanted to do things differently this time and allow guitars to be more atmospheric and less of the focal point. We leaned towards big, melodic arcs in these songs vocally and I think it’s one of the more melodic records we have ever made. I really love it; it allows the melodies to come through.
Which new song is your favorite?
Ah gosh it changes for me every day. I think right now it’s probably the first song on the record “Love Alone is Worth the Fight”. It’s definitely one of my favorites. That song really captures a lot of the journey we have been on this past year–the film wresting with the struggle of doing what we love to do, but also feeling the costs of now having families and leaving them behind when we head out on the road, and we want to make it count.
How has the road experience changed for you over the years now that you have families back home?
It adds a weight to what we do. Really wanting to be intentional with our time on the road, make it count and to be singing songs that feel important to us. That will still feel important to us ten years from now. I think when we first started out we were writing songs about what was important to us as 18 year old kids. Hopefully that has grown a little bit. It’s important for us that we are singing songs with hope and meaning when we are halfway around the world from our families.
What do you think the “secret sauce” of your success is?
I can only speak for myself and what I am drawn to in music. I have always been drawn to melodies and honesty. Those are two things I think we have always tried to combine. I think whether it’s Bob Dylan or Johnny Cash or Bob Marley, whoever it is, music that I am drawn to tends to be songs from the heart. That’s the recipe for good art and we have always tried to be true to ourselves and honest. I think our songs are very personal with expressing the human struggle. That’s something that I relate to and it seems that it is something other people can relate to as well.
As you have gotten more successful have you ever felt the pressure to make that hit song and just “cash out”?
I think the kiss of death for any band is to start listening to their music through someone else’s ears–to be second-guessing what the masses are going to like or not going to like. I just don’t think you can successfully do that, or at least we can’t. For us the only barometer we have to go off of is whether we like it or not. You can’t be making decisions off someone else’s thoughts or feelings; you have to believe it yourself.
Has your success influenced your faith in any way?
We have always been really honest and open about our faith. We sing about it and talk about it as well. I think probably the struggles we have are the struggles that anyone has, whether they are a bank clerk or playing a rock guitar on stage. The struggle to be yourself in a world that is trying to turn you into someone else. I do think that those challenges are magnified with attention of the public eye. For me it’s helpful to be surrounded by people who can remind me of who I am. Within the band there are obviously the two of us who are brothers, but I feel like all five of us are brothers. We are a really close-knit bunch and we value that through the struggles we have been though over the years. There is some real solidarity and unity that we have because we have weathered the storms many times as a band.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by your popularity?
Yeah we definitely have. We were drawn to the music and the songs, not because of the hype. I think that is the casualty in playing songs that connect is that along with that come the public eye and the hype. That’s not something that we thrive off of. We do love meeting people, and we value the connection that we have with people through music. We are just trying to break down that barrier between the stage and the crowd. I think my brother John does that really well every night by actually going into the crowd. After the show we like to hang out with people. I think people treat you the way you treat them. We try to have very normal conversations with people afterwards and that’s disarming and creates an environment where people feel that they can treat us normal as well. We can move forward from there. If you act like a rock star, people treat you like one, and that’s never been our goal.
What is your favorite band out there right now that you really enjoy listening to?
There is a lot of good music out there right now. There are some newer bands that are emerging. There is a band from southern California called Delta Spirit that I really like a lot. I think there is so much good music out there, it is really an inspiring time because anyone can make a good sounding record from their bedroom with technology the way it is nowadays. It’s pretty exciting for art.
For someone just starting out in music, what advice would you have for them?
I would say enjoy it for the reason that you started getting into music in the first place. Never lose that child-like innocence. I think the goal is the longer you have been an artist, still pick up your instrument as if it was the first time. Look at it with those innocent eyes, where there are no habits that have been formed at all and keep it fresh.
Which song is your personal favorite out of all of them?
There are a couple that I come back to time and again would be “Daisy” and “The Shadow Proves the Sunshine”, both from Nothing is Sound.
Which song do you think is the crowd’s favorite?
Fortunately for us I think the songs that are our “hit” songs, “Dare You to Move” and “Meant to Live,” are songs that we still enjoy as well. I’m so thankful that the songs that we’ve had that have played on the radio tend to be songs that carry a lot of meaning as well. That we were not writing about a relationship that is no longer valid. I think that would be a really frustrating thing to be playing a song about a girl that you are no longer in love with, but you have to play it every night. For us “Dare You to Move” and “Meant to Live” are songs that carry a lot meaning and have stories behind them. I think if anything they have only grown with their meaning through the years.
Who do you look up to in the industry?
I think there are a lot of examples of people who are making excellent art and living it out both on and off stage. I think U2 is definitely one of those bands that really has a legacy of singing about important things and also living those things out.
Do you see yourself continuing to do music in the future as long as possible?
I wouldn’t say as long as possible. I would say as long as it feels like the fire is there. We feel inspired right now, and we’re really enjoying making music together. I think the moment that that no longer feels the same it would be a shame to keep going and to be going through the motions if you didn’t really feel it. I don’t think we are a band that could fake it very well. I think we really put our hearts on our sleeves and the moment it feels like your faking it, that’s probably the time to step away.
Last question, what is the coolest venue you have ever played at?
Gosh we have been to so many amazing places. One place that comes to mind is a place in London called the Brixton Academy. It’s a pretty large venue but it doesn’t feel large, I think its maybe 5,000 people. It’s got so much history, just a lot of legendary shows that have gone on over the years. For us to get to play there was really an honor.
Well thanks for doing this interview and we will see you here in Eugene on the 13th for the show.
Yeah thanks for the questions. We’re really looking forward to doing a show up there. I like the town, had some good memories there. We’ll see you then.