"We just felt like some sounds needed to evolve. We knew we had to shake things up creatively and go back to the drawing board, try something new,” commented Lifehouse lead singer Jason Wade. “It was a liberating experience; I feel like we can take all our different musical influences and they can kind of coalesce together and live in the same space without any rules or guidelines. This album was just very in-the-moment, or should I say letting moments happen instead of forcing something and trying to manipulate it."
Jason Wade recalls the beginning of Lifehouse a dozen years ago with warm nostalgia -- and a little bit of expos facto terror.
"You know, we recorded that first album (No Name Face, sold two and half million copies) and it resonated with a lot of people, and I don't even remember a lot of the shows back then because I never planned on doing that. I was just a kid in my room with my guitar and a couple of songs," Wade says. But after four more albums, a few hit singles ("Hanging By a Moment," "You and Me," "First Time,” "Whatever It Takes", "Halfway Gone" and sales of more than 15 million records, Wade and company are well-adjusted and have grown into a strong, tight and perpetually ambitious concern.
"I really enjoy the creative process," he explains. "For me, I think the more I move forward, the more I'm just reminded to protect and maintain whatever it is, where it comes from that you can channel an inspired moment and bring a song that resonates with you, because I really believe that if it doesn't resonate with you as the singer, it's not going to resonate with anyone else."
Lifehouse -- Wade, drummer Rick Woolstenhulme, Jr., bassist Bryce Soderberg and guitarist Ben Carey -- have made earnestness and soul-searching their calling card since emerging from Los Angeles during the late 90s, first as Blyss and since 2000 as Lifehouse. "Hanging By a Moment" was Billboard magazine's 2000 Hot 100 chart Song of the Year, while the group's music has been heard in TV shows such as "Smallville," "Falcon Beach," "Grey's Anatomy," "Scrubs," "One Tree Hill," "Criminal Minds" and many others, as well as in films like "The Time Traveler's Wife." Wade also composed "From Where You Are" especially for the All State insurance company's Teen Driving Program.
Clearly the bar has been set high, both qualitatively and commercially, and Lifehouse was well aware of the stakes when it entered the studio last year to make its sixth album, Almería. What transpired was a creative adventure that surprised the band but also resulted in perhaps it’s most daring and provocative release to date.
"This whole process was completely different," Wade acknowledges. Part of that, he says, is because the band "never unplugged the touring machine," alternating between recording sessions and concerts. That kept the quartet's chops sharp and brought an energetic urgency to the playing. "It's almost like we were reverting back to being teenagers in our parents' garages, which felt really good," Wade says. "We thought we were making this cool, 70s kind of rock album."
That approach can certainly be heard on Almería. But the polished craft and keen melodic sensibility that is at the heart of Lifehouse wasn't disappearing, either. As more songs were being written, the familiar blended with the fresh to create something entirely new. "There's kind of this confluence of all of these different musical styles," Wade says.
The big turning point for Almería came one day earlier this year, when Wade "stumbled into" the first single, "Between The Raindrops.” Lifehouse was hard at work on the album, but Wade happened to have some family in town and limited time to work on that particular day. Nevertheless, he "had this melody reverberating in my head." He made a short detour into the studio, "threw all these different instruments down on tape" and a half-hour later had "the bare bones of the track. It was that spark of inspiration you hear about." Working with Almería producer and cowriter Jude Cole and Jacob Kasher, Wade and Lifehouse further developed the track over the next three and a half months and honed the lyrics into a pointed and poignant dialogue that required just the right voice to dial in the message.
"Natasha Bedingfield's name got brought up," Wade remembers. "We met her five or six years ago and our paths kept crossing, so I sent her the song and she instantly had a visceral reaction to it. Within the next week she was in the studio doing vocals."
"Between The Raindrops" started yet another "surge of creative energy" that brought even more songs into Almería’s mix. Wade came up with "Nobody Listen" without a distinct melody line or lyric; he simply "went in with this blank canvas and started throwing stuff down on tape and this track just kind of came to life. I've never written like that before." "You're The One" came out of a similar process, with producer Cole helping Wade set a song atop a track he'd been working on.
"Everything was kind of backwards and unorthodox -- and it was working," Wade notes. "So it was just kind of about turning your brain off and not analyzing too much and scaring away the inspiration while I was having it."
Another key track from the album, “Right Back Home” features the legendary Peter Frampton on it. Long time Lifehouse manager, producer and collaborator, Jude Cole commented on the making of the track: “I had the great pleasure of meeting Peter when I worked for Extra some years ago. We had dinner recently and I asked him to bring his old but newly found '57 Les Paul "Phoenix", (yes the one from Frampton Comes Alive!) down and be a part of the record. He completely mesmerized the room as the band and I sat and watched him perform his solo and vocal like he was onstage at the Fillmore. Together along with Jason's vocal and the band's energetic sound, I believe we captured something very special here.”
With Almería finished, Wade feels that Lifehouse has crafted a "confluence" of the two approaches it took in making the album. And by doing that it's made something that sounds clearly different but not completely unfamiliar -- more like a seasoned band with a renewed sense of purpose and mission, which for a group like Lifehouse is an exciting prospect indeed.
"I think that as an artist you should always be in a state of becoming but never really arriving," Wade explains. "If there's no room to grow anymore and you're known for a sound that you kind of trademarked, then you're in a box and there's nowhere to go. We just wanted to experiment and shake off any of these imaginary boundaries that we had placed in our minds. I think you have to do that to survive -- not survive in a business sense, but for your own sanity and satisfaction."