Rae Jefferson, Copy Desk Chief
For almost two decades, singer and songwriter Jon Foreman has made music his life. The talented musician has found time to front alternative rock band Switchfoot while producing music in solo projects on the side.
Foreman will perform songs from his newest project, “The Wonderlands,” at 8:45 p.m. Thursday at Common Grounds. “The Wonderlands” is a collection of 24 songs divided among four EPs, “Sunlight,” “Shadows,” “Darkness” and “Dawn.”
Foreman spoke with the Lariat about his love for music, his fans and Common Grounds coffee. The show will also feature musician Jillian Edwards.
This won’t be your first time in town. Are you excited to be coming back to Waco?
Oh, man. I remember the first time we ever played Waco. It was a while ago. We’ve probably been there at least five times. Common Grounds is a really, really special place.
I get to play shows all over the world, and I love those little hole-in-the-wall places that have great coffee and great people. That’s a very special thing that you guys have there.
What is your favorite venue to play in Texas?
I’m looking forward to, of course, playing the coffee shop. I’ve got a friend who lives just outside of Austin and he has a yurt and an airstream and a fire pit. We have a day off, so I’m going to go up there and just [play] acoustic by the fire. I’m really excited to reconnect with my friend and spend the night in his yurt or airstream.
I don’t quite know what a yurt is. I’m saying it like I know what it means, but really it could be anything. I think I know what it means.
How are things different when you’re performing solo as compared to when you’re working with your band?
With Switchfoot, you’ve got a drum set and electric guitars – it’s a little more of a celebration. It’s like a megaphone. That’s what rock feels like to me. Whereas with the solo stuff, it’s exactly what we were talking about, kind of a camp fireside chat – questions, doubts, confessions.
What themes do you deal with in your EP series, “The Wonderlands”?
The moment you start talking about doubts, I think faith is the flip side of that coin. A lot of songs on “The Wonderlands” are wrestling with light and darkness. I thought a day was a perfect analogy for that. There are 24 songs for 24 hours. There are various shades of sunlight and shadow. “The Wonderlands” is an attempt to tap into those doubts and questions.
Will you be doing more solo projects in the future, or can fans expect to see more things from Switchfoot?
I’ve had the incredible gift of playing music with some of the best people on the planet. I have such respect for them, not just as musicians, but also as people. We love making music together and that is still intact. The only difference is, for me, there are things within that context that I couldn’t say in a solo project, and vice versa. Fiction Family, the solo thing, Switchfoot – they’re all just various ways of expression. Fortunately, there’s no conflict between any of them.
For the time being, you are touring solo and billed alongside artists like Jillian Edwards, who will be at Common Grounds with you. Have you ever worked with her before?
This is the first time. I know her husband, Will Chapman. I’m hoping we can talk him into coming out with us or something. We’re on tour right now with Needtobreathe, Colony House and Drew Holcomb with Switchfoot. It’s been just an amazing run of shows to have together.
Speaking of shows, during Switchfoot’s concert at Baylor last fall, you seemed to be really invested in the crowd as you performed. Do you feel like fans are important to live performances?
I don’t see any delineation between the stage and the crowd. I feel like the idea that we’re all in this together, singing the same songs, that’s what I love about music. I grew up listening to punk rock bands where you were playing for 50 people and they were all in bands. Most of the people in the crowd were opening acts, and the music was an expression, not a hierarchy.
Whether I’m playing an after-show for free across the street from the venue, a coffee shop or the bar next door, those are all attempts to express with music and with action that the human soul is a huge part of what I do and why I do it. It kind of levels the playing field and says we’re all in it together. These are my songs, but I’m interested in hearing everyone.