Interview with Jon Foreman (Switchfoot, Fiction Family)
When Jon Foreman isn’t busy fronting Switchfoot or collaborating with Sean Watkins for Fiction Family, he’s quietly been writing and releasing a staggering collection of solo material. After his much loved Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer EP series and his Limbs and Branches compilation, Foreman is back with The Wonderlands, a multi-EP project featuring songs written to represent the movement of a full day - 24 songs for 24 hours.
We recently chatted with Foreman about the creative scope of The Wonderlands, its decade-long gestation, and what makes EPs such a cool format for this type of release.
(We're also offering Foreman's new Old Seasons, New Day EP, featuring new song "Terminal" and a few other classics from his solo catalog, so don't miss it!)
NoiseTrade: Your new multi-EP project The Wonderlands will spread 24 songs out over four separate EPs, with each song representing one hour of the day. What first sparked this idea for you and did you find yourself having to alter any elements of your songwriting approach to fit the creative slant of the project?
Jon Foreman: I've always been fascinated with the strong emotional ties that music can have. A song can bring you back to a place or a season of life like no other art form can. There are certain songs that I like to listen to at certain times of the day. For example, first thing in the morning I love listening to "Flamenco Sketches" off of Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.
A few years back, I began thinking about the idea of a 24 hour concert. What if you tied songs to certain hours of the day – creating a 24 hour world of lyric and melody. So that was the inspiration for this project.
NT: What can you tell us about the writing of “Caroline” from Sunlight, the first single from the first EP of the project?
Foreman: For me songs are born out of the gray space, the things I don't fully understand, the things that I can't put in my pocket. Until the day we die we are those question marks, those volatile souls capable of unknown acts of light and darkness. Who knows what is hidden behind your eyes? This song was inspired by a friend of mine that I haven't seen in a long time. I was wondering who she has become.
NT: You’ve said that The Wonderlands took 10 years to make. What all contributed to that lengthy timeframe and what made it finally feel completed?
Foreman: Some of the songs were written during other periods of my life, (say for example, while we were making the Switchfoot record Nothing is Sound) but never found a musical home. For me, I want to create a environment for the songs to live in. So one song by itself only tells a piece of the story, but in the context of the album, more of the colors are revealed.
As this record took shape, these songs from many different periods of my life felt like they found a common home.
NT: This is totally a music nerd question, but as a huge fan of EPs myself, I’d like to get your opinion on what you find significant about the EP format (as opposed to singles and full-length albums)?
Foreman: An EP is a much more manageable group of songs. To go back to the Miles Davis record I mentioned earlier, most copies of Kind of Blue only have five tracks. It's a complete musical statement.
Of course, music will always be judged by our subjective ears. Recorded music as a widely available medium has only been around for less than 100 years. But you have to look at the role that music services in our culture. To require someone's undivided attention for a long period of time is getting more and more difficult.
That's why in many ways this 24-hour project makes no financial sense! Many people would argue that the best way to make money with music today is to release one song at a time. To really grab everyone's attention with one single. But for me, I guess I already have a day job making rock 'n roll. So this project as a purity and the freedom that I'm truly thankful for. I simply want the music to to find its way to open-minded people.
NT: Finally, what are some of your favorite EPs that you’ve dug over the years that you would recommend listeners check out?
Foreman: One of my all-time favorite EPs is David Garza's 4-track Manifesto.