Out Of The Wasteland
“There was a kind of unlearning with this album,” says Lifehouse’s Jason Wade. “We wanted to retrace our steps back to the beginning and really find the innocence, that feeling of being 17-year-old kids who get excited about playing in the garage.”
The result of this searching is Out Of The Wasteland, a record that captures the sound of a band going through a rebirth and finding the freedom that comes after a period of transition and regeneration. “Our communication really opened up—we’ve earned the right to really be honest with each other,” says Wade. “And we ended up with something that’s an amalgamation of all of our influences, a collection of everything we’ve done for 15 years.”
As the title indicates, Out Of The Wasteland is the work of a group that has some history. It was 2001 when Los Angeles-based Lifehouse broke through in a big way when “Hanging by a Moment,” from their debut album No Name Face, spent 20 weeks in the Top Ten and won a Billboard Music Award for “Hot 100 Single of the Year.” Since then, the band has released five more albums three of which made the Billboard Top Ten, sold over 15 million records worldwide and spun off such hit singles as “You and Me,” “First Time,” and “Whatever it Takes.”
After their last album, 2012’s Almeria, the members of Lifehouse decided not to tour and instead to take some time off and pursue separate projects for a while. “We had gotten so caught up in the rat race of making music a certain way and it got really draining,” says Wade. “We’d been on the hamster wheel for so long, we just needed a break.”
Drummer Rick Woolstenhulme toured with the Goo Goo Dolls, while bassist Bryce Soderberg put together a new band called KOMOX. Wade, meanwhile, immediately hunkered down in his home studio and started work on a solo album, but he found it harder going than expected. “I wrote 65 or 70 songs, and started three different solo records that I just couldn’t pull the trigger on,” he says. In fact, there were two songs—“Hurricane” and “Flight”—that sounded to the singer like they were really meant to be Lifehouse songs.
“Those songs were really the catalyst to bring the band back together,” says Wade. “They felt reminiscent of our earlier stuff. And I think everybody was in a place where they wanted to do it.”
After a year and a half apart, they reconvened to go through all of the compositions Wade had accrued, and when Woolstenhulme and Soderberg recorded their parts on top of his demos, the songs “started to breathe and jump-start.” And gradually—over the course of six months, a much longer time than Lifehouse’s usual recording process—an album began to take shape. But the genesis of these songs remained present and gave them a different feel than what the band had grown used to. “The biggest thing was having the freedom to reset and start over,” says Wade. “Thinking that this was going to be a solo record got us way outside of the box that people put us in. I had been experimenting with songs bordering on country, some are a little more singer-songwriter, something like ‘Alien’ is a little more playful. It allowed us the freedom to get outside of one genre.”
Other changes reflected this same open spirit. Lifehouse decided to leave their record label and release the new album on their own. Long-time associate Winnie (Chris Murgula), who had been Wade’s guitar tech, was brought in as co-producer on this project. And, of course, the ongoing chaos in the music industry has meant that a lot of the rules for success have been thrown out the window for everyone.
“It really helped to not always have the idea of making singles in the back of my mind,” says Wade. “I was 18 when I got signed and on our first record we were thinking about exploring, not about hits or success. Then you start to feel that you have to deliver, to make people happy—and because life gets easier when you have some success! So it was kind of challenging to separate the business from the music and go back to ‘Is this song giving me chills? Is it a good song, a good lyric?,’ back to where we were before we learned the ins and outs of the music business.”
The twelve songs on Out Of The Wasteland reflect the range that Lifehouse is capable of today. “There’s a bit of everything,” says Wade. “Some of it is a bit more mellow, but other songs like ‘Yesterday’s Son’ and ‘Hurt This Way’ feel like a continuation from the last album.” On several songs, including the harmony-heavy track “Hourglass,” Wade got to fulfill a musical fantasy and work with legendary movie-score composer James Newton Howard (a former member of Elton John’s classic 1970s band) to create more expansive string arrangements.
While most of the songs were written during the band’s hiatus, a few date back further. Wade wrote “Wish” in 2001, after No Name Face came out. “I was evolving in my songwriting and we went in a different direction, and that song always fell through the cracks,” he says. “I’m really proud of it and so glad it finally made its way.” The tender “Central Park,” meanwhile, was composed in 2007 when Wade did some traveling as a way to shake up his writing process.
For Lifehouse, Out Of The Wasteland is a culmination of their life’s work, a new chapter that serves as the pay-off for having the patience to reconnect with the musical and personal chemistry that took them to the top. “We were at crossroads, and it definitely could have gone a different way,” says Jason Wade. “Going through changes and restarting a brand new season in your life and your career can be scary. But I think everybody is really happy that right now, our hearts are in the right place creatively.”