Christian rock group
The Southern California-based Christian rock band Switchfoot never thought their music would reach tens of thousands of fans worldwide—or that it would propel them to fame. It just worked out that way.
Wanting to express his feelings and spirituality, singer/songwriter Jonathan Foreman formed Switchfoot with his brother, bassist Tim Foreman, in 1996 while the two were attending the University of California, San Diego. A year later, the pair was joined by their mutual friend, drummer Chad Butler. After playing only 20 gigs together the trio signed with the Christian re:Think record label and released their debut album, Legend of Chin. Their alternative rock/pop blend and insightful, Christian-inflected lyrics have catapulted the band to the top of the charts and earned them a place among top rock acts of the early millennium. Keyboardist/backing vocalist Jerome Fontamillas joined the lineup in 2000.
Avid surfers from childhood, brothers Jon and turned to the sport when it came time to choose a name for their band. Switchfooting, Jon explained on the Jesus Freak Hideout website in 2000, "means to take a new stance facing the opposite direction." They chose the term to express the band's philosophy, he continued, because "[i]t's about change and movement, a different way of approaching life and music." Jon, who plays lead guitar for the group, is also its sole songwriter. In addition to surfing, attending school and playing in the band, the boys held odd jobs—Jon worked as a sound-company employee, Tim worked in coffee shop, Chad was a surfing instructor, and Jerome milked cows.
After spending seven years on smaller Christian labels and being marketed solely as a Christian rock band, Switchfoot was ready for a change. "We're Christian by faith, not genre," Tim told Rolling Stone in September of 2003. Standing by their word, the band's sophomore effort, New Way to Be Human broke musical barriers and the won fans for the band across the musical spectrum. The title track won a Dove Award for Song of the Year in 1999 and other songs from the album were featured on teenage dramas such as Dawson's Creek, Popular, Jack and Jill, Felicity, Party of Five, and Time of Your Life. The band also made a cameo appearance in the made-for-TV film, Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye in 2001, which also featured two of their songs.
With their lineup complete, Switchfoot recorded their third album, Learning to Breathe, in 2000, which earned the group their first Grammy nomination and won two San Diego Music Awards that same year. In 2002 Switchfoot contributed a handful of songs to the soundtrack for the film A Walk to Remember, including a duet by actress/singer Mandy Moore and Jon Foreman.
Switchfoot released their best-and fastest-selling album to date, Beautiful Letdown in 2003 on Columbia/RED Ink. Unlike most bands with a major label deal, the band had complete creative control over the album because it was written and recorded it independently (the preproduction was done in Jon's bedroom) before it was purchased by Columbia. It was produced by John Fields (who has worked with artist Andrew W.K.) and mixed by Chris Lord-Alge (Goo Goo Dolls and Michelle Branch), Tom Lord-Alge (Blink-182, Rolling Stones), and Jack Joseph Puig (John Mayer, No Doubt).
Beautiful Letdown entered the Billboard top 200 albums chart at number 85, while the single "Meant To Live" (inspired by T.S. Eliot's poem "The Hollow Men") helped break the band into the mainstream, peaking at number five on the Billboard modern rock chart and number two on the top contemporary Christian chart. That same year Switchfoot headlined a three-month sold-out American tour. Averaging about 150 shows a year the group has also appeared as musical guests on several television shows, such as Last Call with Carson Daly and The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn.
Perhaps what sets Switchfoot apart from their peers is that despite their level of fame and success, they remain loyal to their roots. The quartet is heavily involved in helping with San Diego's Sudanese refugees, volunteering their time to speak with them and the their pastors. "Our goal is to write about the entire spectrum of humanity. To look at the beautiful aspects of life without looking at the letdowns is not being honest," Jon told the Dallas Morning News in March of 2003. Still, the band is not so quick to reject the benefits that come with major rock stardom. In December of 2003 Jon Foreman realized his dream of meeting the Irish rock band U2 when Switchfoot was invited to attend the Nashville summit for Debt, AIDS, Trade for Africa (DATA)—the charity organization founded by U2 front man Bono to promote AIDS awareness and debt relief for developing nations.
For the Record …
Members include Chad Butler (born on March 24, 1974, in Amsterdam, Netherlands), drums; Jerome Fontamillas (born June 20, 1970, in the Philippines; joined group, 2000), keyboards, guitar, backing vocals; Jonathan Foreman (born on October 22, 976, in San Bernadino, CA), guitar, singer, songwriter; Tim Foreman (born on August 15, 1978, in Lake Arrowhead, CA), bass.
Group formed in San Diego, CA, 1996; signed with re:Think Records; released Legend of Chin 1997; released New Way to Be Human 1999; released Learning to Breathe on Chordant Records, 2000; released Beautiful Letdown on RED Records, 2003.
Awards: ASCAP San Diego Music Awards for Best New Artist, 1997; Best Pop Album and Best Pop Artist, 2001; Best Adult Alternative, 2002; Album of the Year and Best Pop Album of the Year, 2003.
Switchfoot looks forward to an even brighter future. Beautiful Letdown had neared platinum status by the end of 2003 and the single "Meant To Live" spent 14 weeks on the Billboard top 40. In March of 2004 Switchfoot released their second single, "Dare You To Move" before heading out again for a three-month tour. Jon Foreman told Rolling Stone in 2003 that despite the glory and album sales, the band is determined to fulfill their musical purpose "to glorify God in our personal ways and to grow" explaining that "[m]usic that hits me the hardest touches me on a spiritual level."
Legend of Chin, re:Think, 1997.
No Lies, EMI Christian Music, 1997.
Listen: Louder, Sparrow, 1999.
(With others) New Way to Be Human (soundtrack), re:Think, 1999.
No Lies, EMI Christian Music, 1999.
Learning to Breathe, Chordant, 2000.
(With others) Walk to Remember (soundtrack), Sony, 2002.
(With others) American Wedding (soundtrack), Universal, 2003.
Beautiful Letdown, RED, 2003.
Boston Globe, January 9, 2004.
Dallas Morning News, March 15, 2003.
National Review, July 17, 2003.
North County Times, March 31, 2001, p. 2; May 3, 2003, p. D04.
Orange County Register, February 23, 2003.
Rolling Stone, October 16, 2003.
San Diego Union-Tribune, October 10, 2001.
USA Today, January 6, 2004.
"Switchfoot," All Music Guide http://www.allmusic.com/ (May 10, 2004).
"Switchfoot," Rolling Stone, http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/bio.asp?oid=2976&cf=2976 (May 10, 2004).
"Switchfoot Biography: Who Is Swtichfoot?" Learning to Breathe, http://learning2breathe.homestead.com/sfbio.html (May 10, 2004).
"Switchfoot: How God, Surfing and Bono Inspired This San Diego Band," Rolling Stone, http://www.rollingstone.com/news/newsarticle.asp?nid=18717&cf=2976 (September 24, 2003).
"Switchfoot Learns to Breathe," Jesus Freak Hideout, http://www.jesusfreakhideout.com/interviews/Switchfoot.asp (September 25, 2000).
—Kerry L. Smith
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