Backing a video of teens driving in a single-file line through the desert is Lifehouse singing "From Where You Are," a song specifically written for Allstate's Safe Teen Driving Campaign. For Jason Wade, vocalist/guitarist of Lifehouse (also in the 3-piece alternative-pop rock band are bassist Bryce Soderberg and drummer Rick Woolstenhulme), this was the first song composed for a commercial.
Wade describes the video's ending, which flashes the statistic that "6,000 teenagers go out for a drive every year and never come back." "I instantly connected to it," Wade says, "because I had a friend when I was 16 that died in a car accident, like two months after he got his license. Also, I started kind of feeling what it must be like from a parent's perspective to lose a child. The song basically wrote itself in like 30 minutes. I always find the best songs that I've ever written happen really fast, when I don't expect it and I'm not over thinking it."
The songwriting process that Wade refers to is also that which has delivered hits from 2000's No Name Face, 2002's Stanley Climbfall, 2005's self-titled album and most recently 2007's Who We Are. Off of the latter, the song "Broken" was written after Wade visited a friend who had just undergone an intensive operation.
But Wade says speedy songwriting isn't always the case. "It's different every time," he says. "A song on our second record called 'Spin,' which was our first single off that record, I wrote the chorus like five years prior and I gave up on the song and finally dug it back up and finished it up.
"So, sometimes they take five minutes and sometimes they take five years," he adds with a chuckle.
Wade continues by explaining that in order to write such emotionally driven songs, he must dig deep into his personal life and relationships. This inspiration has scored him hits such as "Hanging by a Moment," "Spin," "You and Me" and "First Time." "Usually when that gets boring, I start kind of borrowing and picking from other people's life, friends and just watching people sometimes," says Wade.
"The Joke," off of Who We Are, was written from another person's perspective, a writing process Wade also succumbs to. It's about a boy who hung himself due to the ridicule and bullying he received from classmates. The song is surrounded by eerie pop melodies that back up an aggressive guitar-ridden stream of sounds with dark and angry lyrics. "It is a big deal -- especially online bullying -- things that kids have to deal with these days, that I definitely didn't have to deal with when I was a kid," says Wade.
As a child, Wade spent a few years in Hong Kong while his parents worked as missionaries. He learned to play guitar when he reached the age of 16, inspired by the Seattle stream of bands including Pearl Jam and Nirvana and later by The Beatles and other '60s-era music.
Thankful to remain rocking the music industry after nearly eight years, Wade points out that the journey hasn't always been easy. Only two or three years ago, he experienced inner-band turmoil, as he and longtime/former bassist Sergio Andrade began to grow apart musically. "When he quit the band, I just felt kind of a weight lifted off of my shoulders and I wasn't sure whether to keep the band going or to go do my own thing," Wade says. "Rick and I grew really close during that time and when we met Bryce we felt like he was the perfect match personality-wise and as a player. The three of us have really developed a strong relationship over the past 3-4 years."
While recording Who We Are, Lifehouse decided to take a different, more spontaneous approach. "I didn't have any songs when I went into the studio and I basically would write everything on the spot," Wade says. "Jude Cole co-produced the record with us and he wrote some of the songs as well, but we would record the songs after it was written that day and then I would write the lyrics over the next couple of weeks. It was kind of a cool process because we by-passed making demos and just captured the moments as they were happening."
Lifehouse will perform at Amos' Southend on Tuesday, April 8, with Matt Nathanson and HoneyHoney. Tickets are in $17 in advance and $20 on the day of the show.