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Switchfoot Plays Music Without Walls

June 24, 2008

By Adams, Helen Colwell

Flip on the Disney Channel. It won’t be long before you hear Switchfoot. The band’s video for This Is Home, from the Prince Caspian soundtrack, has been playing steadily since the Disney/ Walden Media movie was released last month.

When the filmmakers approached Switchfoot about a song, drummer Chad Butler said, songwriter Jon Foreman just picked up the paperback copy of the book he had owned since age 8.

Butler also grew up with C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia books.

My dad used to read those stories to us every night, Butler said. It was a no-brainer when we had the opportunity to be involved.

Switchfoot has a history with the Creation festival, too, and so it’s a no-brainer for the San Diego band to be traveling to Mount Union this week for the 30th edition of the three-day Christian music extravaganza.

We’ve been coming back for years and years, Butler said last week. It’s a beautiful part of the country.

Switchfoot, the band that crossed over from Christian music to the mainstream with hits like Meant to Live and Dare You to Move, will be one of the headliners playing the main stage at Agape Farm for what’s now called Creation Northeast – a festival that had its beginnings at Muddy Run Park in southern Lancaster County.

In recent years, Switchfoot has had mixed feelings over being labeled a Christian group, though. After its breakthrough album, The Beautiful Letdown, in 2003, Switchfoot took a break from playing Christian festivals.

But Butler doesn’t feel any tension with Christian music fans.

I’ve been amazed at the support, he said. Our audience that has been with us for 11 years is very like-minded in seeing no walls to the music that we make.

The Beautiful Letdown was a major step in breaking down walls, although Switchfoot – the name comes from a surfing term – had never been the kind of band that wrote obviously Christian lyrics. Butler called the group’s songs honest music for thinking people.

That double-platinum album was followed by Nothing Is Sound and most recently by Oh! Gravity.

Now Switchfoot is at work on another album, this time in a new studio the band has built in San Diego. And the group is doing it independently. In 2007, Switchfoot cut its ties with Columbia Records.

Butler said Switchfoot, despite fans’ concerns, absolutely is staying together. The concerns arose because Foreman has been releasing a series of solo EPs that represent a musical departure from the Switchfoot sound.

We’ve been encouraging him for years to put out some of these leftover songs that didn’t fit on a Switchfoot record, Butler said. It’s a lot more stripped down and real honest songs. I think it’s real personal for him.

Now that we’re an independent band, we had a chance to finally put out his stuff. It’s a dream come true that we can actually put out music how we want and when we want.

The band also is preparing for a late summer/fall tour with a deliberately eclectic assortment of musicians: Third Day, Jars of Clay and Robert Randolph & the Family Band. It’s a change from the homogeneous approach of most concert bills.

Butler has posted a note on Switchfoot’s Web site about the tour that concludes, We invite you to put differences in musical taste aside and focus on our commonalities: we all want to see this world change for the better.

The Music Builds Tour, which benefits Habitat for Humanity, is sort of a dream come true, Butler said.

Last year, Switchfoot also toured with Relient K to raise money and awareness for the home-building charity. Butler volunteered for a Habitat build, too.

It was a real introduction to construction for me, he said. I’m not really good as a handyman.

Switchfoot was on a break in San Diego last week before heading to Creation, where the band will play with such artists as tobyMac, Chris Tomlin, BarlowGirl, the David Crowder Band and Jeremy Camp.

The audience at Creation will be overwhelmingly Christian, but Butler said Switchfoot usually draws a more diverse crowd: At concerts, I look out and see people of all different racial, cultural, religious backgrounds.

I think people are excited when they hear a song in a movie or on TV, somewhere outside of a Switchfoot show. I get excited when people have an opportunity to hear our songs who wouldn’t pick up a CD or come to a concert.

People watching the Disney Channel, maybe, or hitting the multiplex to see Prince Caspian.

It was an honor to be involved in a C.S. Lewis project, Butler said. The moviemakers were looking for a song for the movie. I think they had heard we were fans of the book.

This Is Home, Butler said, was inspired just by that theme of that sort of longing for a place we haven’t seen yet.

The funny thing is, now I’ve got kids – a 7-year-old [Evan] at home. He’s just all about Prince Caspian,’ running around with a plastic sword, singing This Is Home.’

So is Switchfoot a Christian band?

I just view it as a rock band, he said. I’m a believer. I’m a Christian myself. But that’s my faith, not my genre of music. Our goal is to make music for everyone, across all walks of life.

Creation Northeast runs Wednesday, June 25, through Friday, June 28, at the Agape Farm, just south of Mount Union near Shirleysburg. The tentative schedule has Switchfoot performing Wednesday evening. Tickets at the gate cost $45 for a one-day pass or $110 for the whole festival. For more information and directions, visit www.creationfest.com/ne or call (800) 327-6921.

(Copyright 2008 Lancaster Newspapers. All rights reserved.)

(c) 2008 Sunday News; Lancaster, Pa.. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.