The 700 Club | CBN News | Spiritual | Family | Health | Finance | Entertainment | TV | International | ShopCBN
from the artist

Switchfoot's Hello Hurricane, Song by Song

By Jon Foreman, lead singer of Switchfoot
Hoganson Media Relations The storms of this life shatter our plans. They tear through our world and destroy our hopes and dreams. They ruin sunny days, flatten the structures we depend on, and shock our world views. Hello Hurricane is an attempt to sing into the storm. Hello Hurricane is a declaration: you can't silence my love. My plans will fail, the storms of this life will come, and chaos will disrupt even my best intentions, but my love will not be destroyed. Beneath the sound and the fury there is a deeper order still -- deeper than life itself -- an order that cannot be shaken by the storms of this life. There is a love stronger than the chaos, running underneath us, beckoning us to go below the skin-deep externals, beyond the wind, even into the eye of the storm. "Hello Hurricane! You're not enough. You can't silence my love."

I've seen storms in my life. I've even seen them pass through on stage. I've witnessed chaos and dissonance overtake a song. But after the rain, some of these unsettling musical experiences become my favorite moments: the ones that can't be planned, rehearsed, or repeated. I've had a few of these unexpected elations up in a tiny LA club called Hotel Cafe playing cover tunes with a few of my friends/musical heroes. The organizer of the evenings was none other than friend/hero Tom Morello, the Night Watchman himself who would invite his friends (Slash, Ben Harper, Serj Tankian, Perry Farrell, etc.) to join him in the musical festivities. The nights would usually end with a memorable grand finale of cover songs with everyone onstage playing songs that were only partly rehearsed. Most the time the results were spectacular. Other times, we would have to stop the evening to figure out logistics like who was going to play what and determine what key we were going to be playing in. It was during one of these pauses that Tom said a quote about music that I'll never forget. He said music is like sausage. "Sometimes you want to enjoy it without knowing the details of what goes into it."

There may be some who want this type of experience: to enjoy the music of Hello Hurricane without knowing the back-story. Maybe the blood, sweat, and tears make you a little squeamish. I completely understand this sentiment. There were stormy, (though necessary) moments during the recording process that were neither graceful nor pretty. This was not an easy record to make; we were fighting to get somewhere we had never been. Looking back at the ground we covered, I'm certain that every moment (even the more difficult ones) were meaningful to the final push. But it certainly was a push... so if you want the shiny new music detached from the labor pains, turn back now! For everyone else, here are a few of the stories behind some of the songs. I'm so honored to have been a part of this record, to share these experiences with Tim, Chad, Drew, Jerome, and everyone else who helped in the struggle for excellence. In many ways, these songs are like children to me and I'm honored to be able to introduce you to a few of them first-hand.

"Needle and Haystack Life"

The world begins
with newborn skin
we are right now

you're a needle girl
in a haystack world
we are right now

you breathe it in
the highs and lows
we call it living

in this needle and haystack life
I've found miracle's there in your eyes
It's no accident we're here tonight
we are once in a lifetime

no, don't let go
don't give up hope
all is forgiven

you breathe it in
the highs and lows
we call it living

all is not lost
all is not lost
become who you are
it happens once in a lifetime

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." - Einstein

Here's a song that epitomizes the way that we recorded this record, pushing at every stage to reach a higher ground. There are several iterations of this song, each of them with a radically different approach -- a method we never had the time for until we built our own studio.

One of the reasons we built our own studio was to enable productive experimentation like this without paying for it by the hour. We first tracked this tune with a long time friend named Shane Wilson (we did our very first SF record with Shane). Then we revisited this song again with another friend of ours, Darryl Thorpe (Radiohead, Paul McCartney). For both of these versions the song was cut at half-time (rather than the frenetic double-time pace that's on the record). Upon reviewing the list of songs with Mike Elizondo, "Needle" felt too similar in tempo and feel to "Yet" (a tune on the final list for the record). So it was scrapped from the list of tunes for the record. Because we recorded more than 80 songs for this record, we had a lot of songs to push to the side. Mike's objective input on determining which songs not to work on was invaluable. I had learned to really trust his instincts and agreed whole-heartedly with most the final list that he had suggested. He was right that "Needle" and "Yet" on the same record made the record much sleepier. However, "Needle" kept coming back to Tim and I as an important track.

So we put it aside for a week or two to see if it would return (the best ones always come back around). I kept coming back to the content of the lyric. All of the concepts behind the song -- hope against the backdrop of chaos and meaninglessness, recognizing the value of every human life -- these felt so existentially motivating. "Needle" felt like a song that I wanted to sing every night. And I felt like it could be done with an element of the horizon built into the song. So, onstage in Vegas we worked up the song in sound-check, recorded the idea into a cell phone, and came back with a fresh direction for the tune.

Drew came up with an ingenious idea for a unique guitar tone. We played the electric guitar through an amp, hooked a mic to the amp with an acoustic guitar (in open tuning of the key of the song), plugged the acoustic guitar into another amp, and recorded the signal from that second amp. The result was so expansive and dramatic I felt like it should start the record. So that's what you hear at the top: a sweet amalgamation of electric and acoustic madness.

This song makes me think of abundant, overflowing life. The math involved for life to be possible at all is staggering. Let alone beauty. love. joy. forgiveness. To hold someone in your arms is to hold a living, breathing miracle. At any age, this life is a gift.

"Mess of Me"

Watch the Official Music Video!

I am my own affliction
I am my own disease
there ain't no drug that they can sell
there ain't no drug to make me well

there ain't no drug
there ain't no drug
it's not enough
the sickness is myself

I've made a mess of me
I want to get back the rest of me
I've made a mess of me
I want to spend the rest of my life alive

we lock our souls in cages
inside these prison cells
it's hard to free the ones you love
when you can't forgive yourself

I've made a mess of me
I want to reverse this tragedy
I've made a mess of me
I want to spend the rest of my life alive

"He not busy being born is busy dying." - Bob Dylan

"You were born a white man in mid-twentieth century industrial America. You came into the world armed to the teeth with an arsenal of weapons. The weapons of privilege, racial privilege, sexual privilege, economic privilege. You wanna be a pacifist, it's not just giving up guns and knives and clubs and fists and angry words, but giving up the weapons of privilege, and going into the world completely disarmed. Try that." - Ammon Hennessy

Lyrically, the song is yearning for abundant life to spring from past mistakes. The song attempts to explore the darkest parts of the human animal and transcend them, rising above these gloomy moments to find true life. If you're Freud, you call these darker urges the death drive. If you're St. Paul, you talk about doing the things you don't want to do. Whatever you call them, these dark places destroy us if we leave them unchecked. I feel that tension everyday, between the right and the wrong, between life and death. And yet there is no easy path to freedom from self. It’s a narrow road and few find it. We've all thought about the quick fix: that special something/someone that could take the pain away. Yet the problems in my life are much bigger than any temporary solution. We die a little everyday -- physically, spiritually; we are in sorry shape. Ain't no drug to make me well. Ain't no drug that can relieve me from the monster of myself. Ain't no one to blame. But my decision is made. I want to follow this through... I want to spend the rest of my life alive.

This tune has lived several lives all revolving around the guitar hook. It started out as a song called "I Saw Satan (Fall Like Lightning)" I wrote it a couple years back when I was stealing heavily from scripture. We dragged it into the studio with Charlie Peacock for a week of recording at Big Fish Studios and came out with a really great bridge. Then, we wrote a new chorus, called the song "There Ain't No Drug" and built the verse lyrics around the new chorus. We made the bridge the chorus after that. (And at this point I was about as lost as you, dear reader. These are the limitations of having no limitations!) So we stepped away from this song. We knew it was a great one; we were just too inside it. When we came back to it, we realized that we were really close. We just needed the final push, so we re-tracked everything at Mike's place. Tim was the champion of this tune: lifting it from one phase to the next, never giving up on the riff. I'm really proud of Tim for pushing through till the final version that ended up on the record.

"The Sound" (John M. Perkins Blues)

The static comes in slow
You can feel it grow
Our stream of conscience flows
Under the streets below

The rivers made of sound
Still running underground
Runs like a silent flood
we run as thick as blood

can you hear it rise
up from the ground
can't drown it out
can you hear it now

this is the sound
of a heartbeat
this is the sound
from the discontented mouths
of a haunted nation
we are the voice of breaking down
can you hear me?
this is the sound
of the desperation bound
by our own collision
we are the voice of breaking down

the static comes alive
beneath the broken skies
john perkins said it right
love is the final fight

let it rise above
rise above
there is no song
louder than love

"You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do." - Anne Lamott

"When we talk about Heaven we talk about all people praising God together. Well, I didn't meet many people down here that were Christians that were trying to make that happen." - John Perkins

This was the last minute addition to the record. When we were making the final list, I showed this song to Tim (He's my first line of defense; If it gets past Tim, then there's a chance we'll track it). He was as excited as I was. We wanted to have a song with a steady, relentless pulse on the record and we all knew that this one fit the bill. The chorus was originally much more of a straightforward lyric, maybe too much so. So we redid the chorus and began to rewrite the verse lyrics to match the chorus vibe.

Lyrically, I feel like this song is a corollary of Hello Hurricane. I was reading a book at the time, Let Justice Roll Down. It's the autobiography of John Perkins, given to me by a friend of mine. I was struck by Perkins’ honesty and humility. He describes the Jim Crow world, of not so very long ago, with brutal honesty. We are a haunted nation. Whether we admit it or not, the past runs through our veins. Listen to the streets, they'll tell you the same. We can cover up our racism and narrow-minded bigotry with excuses and time, but the sins of the past cry out from the ground. The undercurrents from our history are always buzzing around our ears. But rising above the constant gnawing of past wrongs is the song of Love. Love is the reconciliation. The deliberate act of forgiveness. The deliberate act of moving forward unencumbered by the past. This is the sound. This is the sound.

"Hello Hurricane"

I've been watching the skies
they've been turning blood red
not a doubt in my mind anymore
there's a storm up ahead

hello hurricane
you're not enough
hello hurricane
you can't silence my love
I've got doors and windows
boarded up
all your dead end fury is
not enough
you can't silence my love

every thing I have I count as loss
everything I have is stripped away
before I started building
I counted up these costs
there's nothing left for you to take away

hello hurricane
you can't silence my love

I'm a fighter fighting for control
I'm a fighter fighting for my soul
everything inside of me surrenders
you can't silence my love

hello hurricane
you can't silence my love

"Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself." - Soren Kierkegaard

"The capitalist culture of consumption... does not provide meaningful sustenance for large numbers of people." - Cornel West

This is a subject matter that I speak of with holy reverence. Having grown up on the East Coast, I know firsthand of the houses lost, of the dreams turned into nightmares. I take my shoes off and recognize that this is a matter that is dear to our nation, especially of late -- with every passing hurricane season. Last year, with Habitat for Humanity, we helped to build a house for a woman who lost everything in Hurricane Katrina. The hurricane had taken her city, her house, and her leg. As she relocated to Baton Rouge and learned how to walk as an amputee, her mantra was this: "I walked out of my house and my life in New Orleans on my own legs, I'm going to walk into this one the same way." This is the spirit that I wanted to capture with this song, and moreover with this record. The storms of life might take my house, my loved ones, or even my life, but they cannot silence my love.

Yes, the reactionary impulses of hate, fear, and despair really are defenseless against the storms of this life. And yet, this selfless love really might be stronger than death. Perhaps, the kingdom of the Heavens really is at hand, ready to give, ready to love. And with this love as my song I will overcome. In surrender to divine love, I will find my strength. "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love another."

  • Translate
  • Print Page

Are you seeking answers in life? Are you hurting?
Are you facing a difficult situation?

A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.

Switchfoot's Jon Foreman

band web site

featured album

Hello HurricaneHello Hurricane (2009)


Releases Nov. 10



"mess of me" music video