Los Angeles rock band Lifehouse made its debut 10 years ago with the hit single “Hanging by a Moment.” Today, Lifehouse seems to own the moment.
Despite a sound that sounds generic to some, Lifehouse continues to build on the multi-platinum success of its 2000 debut, “No Name Face,” with its fifth collection of songs: “Smoke and Mirrors.”
Though its title might suggest otherwise, “Smoke and Mirrors” represents the convergence of two goals in the recording studio: first, re-create the band’s power-packed live sound; and second, keep the music radio friendly.
“Smoke and Mirrors” was released in March and made its debut at No. 6 on The Billboard 200 album chart, the highest debut of the band’s career.
The album’s first single, “Halfway Gone,” was co-written by lead singer Jason Wade, Kevin Rudolf (“Let It Rock”) and producer Jude Cole, who had worked with Rocco Deluca, Beth Orton, MoZella and others). The song has done handsomely well on the Hot AC radio charts, and now the band is trying to decide on a follow-up single.
Another interesting collaborator on “Smoke and Mirrors” was Richard Marx, who co-wrote the song “Had Enough” with Wade. Marx, a singer, songwriter and producer with a classic rock sound, recorded such hit songs “Endless Summer Nights,” “Right Here Waiting” and “Now and Forever.”
Clearly, Lifehouse has staying power. “Hanging by a Moment” is a classic for many rock fans of a certain age. (The single beat out Janet Jackson and Alicia Keys in 2001 for a Billboard Music Award for “Hot 100” single of the year.) And “You and Me” (a 2005 song) has the honor of being a popular wedding song.
Lead singer Wade is a friend of Chris Daughtry’s and has written a number of songs with the fifth season “American Idol” finalist. So it comes as no surprise that Lifehouse has joined Daughtry on a spring tour that began in late March and ends in June.
Lifehouse includes Wade, guitarist Ben Carey, drummer Ricky Woolstenhulme and bassist Bryce Soderberg, who grew up in Victoria, B.C.
I reached Soderberg by phone recently during a two-day break in L.A. Soderberg was cheerful, energetic and feeling very positive about the band’s new album and tour.
Q: I know that Jason (Wade) and Chris (Daughtry) are friends who collaborated on “Had Enough” and other songs. Did a tour with Daughtry just seem like a good fit?
Bryce: “We’ve known Chris and his band for a few years now. They’re really good friends of ours. Jason and Chris wrote some songs for Chris’ album, and they wrote ‘Had Enough.’ When we were making that song, we just kind of realized that we’re in the same genre, our fan bases are quite similar, and it makes for a great show, having two mutually respected bands on the same bill. We’re having a blast. So, yes, it’s a good fit.”
Q: Other than being on tour with good friends, what’s different about this tour?
Bryce: “It’s great to be out with dudes who are so down-to-earth and fun and easy to get along with. Backstage, it’s kind of like summer camp. We have barbecues and we play paint ball sometimes. There’s no pressure about who’s cooler than who or any competition. It’s just all about the vibes that make for better entertainment and a better show all around.”
Q: The members of Lifehouse have really been road warriors, touring relentlessly. Is there a benefit to constant touring?
Bryce: “Absolutely. You know, we pride ourselves on our live show and we’re always trying to raise the bar and be a better band. There’s a certain level we want to get to. We’ve never really settled and thought, Oh, we’ve made it. We’re always trying to grow, and we’d like to headline arenas soon. We love touring.”
Q: What do you do on the road to keep yourselves from going crazy?
Bryce: “It’s really important to eat well, obviously. We have good catering. And not turn into fat slobs. We run stairs and work out as often as we can. That helps you feel good, especially when you’re traveling a lot. Just trying to take care of your body. A lot of younger bands ask, ‘What’s the secret for doing what you do? Can you give us a good tip?’ And we always tell them, get in a band with people who are your close friends. We get along really well, we know how to get along. And that makes for better touring. And hopefully longevity.”
Q: I’ve known some dysfunctional bands that could use some help.
Bryce: “Maybe they need a band whisperer.” (Laughs)
Q: I read that drummer Ricky (Woolstenhulme) is like the band’s the camp counselor.
Bryce: “Rick’s a great guy. He’s kind of like the class clown of the band. He’s the funny guy, and he’s always up for something fun and spontaneous. It’s more fun on the road when you’re not all uptight and you can let loose. He’s a good guy to have around.”
Q: Congratulations on the success of “Smoke and Mirrors.” It’s the highest chart debut thus far for the band?
Bryce: “Yeah, yeah.” (Sounding excited)
Q: What was the goal on this album? On the one hand, I’ve heard that you were looking for more radio-friendly sound; and on the other hand, the live sound that you’re known for. Was it a half-and-half split?
Bryce: “It wasn’t anything premeditated going into the studio. We had the luxury of taking a solid year and a half to make the record that we wanted to make. And through the course of recording we got to experiment with different sounds and kind of raise the bar and make a really good album. We took influences from everything from Led Zeppelin to like Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. We also wanted to get back to the more polished side of record making at the same time. Because so many Lifehouse fans know us through radio. The title ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ ambiguously ties together the two sides, and everything fell into place.”
Q: How did you end up working with Kevin Rudolf, who had recorded “Let It Rock” with Lil Wayne? He certainly comes from a different camp.
Bryce: “It was our manager, Jude Cole, who came up with the idea. He loved that we were all fans of ‘Let It Rock.’ Jude got in touch with Kevin’s manager and we heard back from them right away. And Kevin said, ‘Yeah, I’d love to write a song with you guys.’ So he came in and we wrote ‘Halfway Gone.’ Kevin is good at fusing together the rock and the pop. He has this urban hip-hop feel to him. So he lent his influence to the song and you can definitely hear it.”
Q: And what about Richard Marx?
Bryce: “He’s a respected songwriter and producer. Chris (Daughtry) and him are friends. Richard really lent his influence to ‘Had Enough.’ He’s a brilliant songwriter and he’s worked with other artists and come up with some great stuff. We love the guy and look forward to doing more with him in the future.”
Q: The song “Wrecking Ball” features your first lead vocal for the band?
Bryce: “Yeah, I’m lovin’ it. I do the song every night.”
Q: Had you wanted to do that for some time?
Bryce:” I’d sung lead for a couple of bands before Lifehouse, and it’s great getting a chance to put on that hat and sing lead for a track. It’s perfect. I get my fill of that side of being an entertainer, and it gives Jason a break. It wasn’t anything pre-mediated. It just was one of those things that fell into place.”
Q: What’s the next single from “Smoke and Mirrors”?
Bryce: “We’re really trying to figure that out. It’s coming up soon. We haven’t decided yet. My personal choices are between four songs. I think it would be ‘It Is What It Is,’ which is my No. 1 choice; or ‘Falling In’ or ‘In Your Skin’ or ‘Had Enough.’ ”
Q: “You and Me” has become a huge wedding song. Do you have any sense of how often it gets used? It must be an honor to record a song that becomes a favorite for ceremonies like that.
Bryce: ” ‘You and Me’ is numbers-wise almost as big as ‘Hanging by a Moment.’ It’s a total honor to have so many people have a connection to the song. We had a lot of help from the TV show ‘Smallville’ that it was played on back in 2004. They debuted the song. It was originally called ‘You, Me and the People.’ And we always thought it was going to be a big prom song. We had no idea it would become a huge wedding song.”
Q: What’s your best tool for promoting the band on the Internet? Streaming videos? You’ve got 70 million viewers.
Bryce: “Yeah, YouTube has been a great tool for us to keep in touch with fans, especially fans overseas.”
Q: When I did a Google search for the band, I discovered that over the years, a lot of fans have speculated about whether Lifehouse is a Christian band. Has the band addressed this?
Bryce: “I sometimes have a tough time answering that question because I don’t want to offend people that are expecting an answer. Jason was raised with a Christian background. He is very spiritual. The first record had a lot of spiritual lyrics and people connected with that. Which is great. But we’ve never been on a Christian label. I wasn’t raised Christian myself. We’re not technically a Christian band. But Jason obviously has that lyrical background, and a lot of songs are open to interpretation. We’re not a Christian band. We are what we are. We’re a rock band. We play rock music. That’s what we do.”
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