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L–R: Jerome Fontamillas, Chad Butler, Drew Shirley, Jon Foreman, Tim Foreman
Background information
Origin San Diego
Genres Alternative rock,[1] post-grunge,[2] Christian rock,[3] power pop[4]
Years active 1996–present
Labels Rethink, Columbia, Sony BMG, lowercase people, Atlantic
Jon Foreman
Tim Foreman
Chad Butler
Jerome Fontamillas
Drew Shirley

Switchfoot is an American alternative rock band from San Diego, California. The band's members are Jon Foreman (lead vocals, guitar), Tim Foreman (bass guitar, backing vocals), Chad Butler (drums, percussion), Jerome Fontamillas (guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), and Drew Shirley (guitar, backing vocals).

They are known for their energetic live shows,[5][6][7] where the three guitarists in the line-up often operate simultaneously. Building on the pop sensibilities of Foreman's songwriting, rounded out by Fontamillas's bringing his industrial roots with his synthesizer, the band works up "the Switchfoot sound" – a melodic crunch of densely layered sound featuring some electronic experimentation, and often driven by hard-charging guitar riffs, while throwing in a few softer ballads as well.

After early successes in the Christian rock scene, Switchfoot first gained mainstream recognition with the inclusion of four of their songs in the 2002 movie A Walk to Remember. This recognition led to their major label debut, The Beautiful Letdown, which was released in 2003. It went on to sell over 2.6 million copies and produced the band's best-known singles, "Meant to Live" and "Dare You to Move".

According to Jon Foreman, the name "Switchfoot" is a surfing term. "We all love to surf and have been surfing all our lives so to us, the name made sense. To switch your feet means to take a new stance facing the opposite direction. It's about change and movement, a different way of approaching life and music".[8]

The band has completed their seventh studio album, Hello Hurricane, which released in North America on November 10, 2009.[9]



Formation and early years (1996–2002)

Switchfoot was founded in 1996 as Chin Up, consisting of Jon Foreman and his brother Tim, along with Chad Butler on drums. After playing only a few shows, the band was contacted by Charlie Peacock, and eventually signed to his indie label Re:think Records under the current moniker Switchfoot. Re:think would distribute the first three Switchfoot albums, The Legend of Chin, New Way to Be Human, and Learning to Breathe. Because Re:think was bought out by Christian giant Sparrow Records before Switchfoot's first release, however, the band's and Peacock's intentions of being marketed outside of the Contemporary Christian music scene and reaching a wider audience were put on hold. Consequently, the band was mostly marketed exclusively to Christian radio and retail outlets early in their careers, a time Jon has described as when "half of who we were was lost."[10]

Of Switchfoot's first three albums, Learning to Breathe was the most successful, being certified gold by the RIAA, and receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Gospel Album.

In 2002, Switchfoot's music was featured prominently in the movie A Walk to Remember. Singer and actress Mandy Moore, who starred in the movie, sang Switchfoot's song "Only Hope" during a scene in the movie. The movie's soundtrack album also featured a duet with Jon Foreman and Moore, as well as four other Switchfoot songs, in addition to Moore's cover of "Only Hope".[11]

In 2004, following the commercial success of The Beautiful Letdown, a compilation titled The Early Years: 1997-2000 was released. It featured Switchfoot's first three indie albums released under re:think records and included the original artwork for all the albums.

The Beautiful Letdown (2003–05)

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Following the exposure that came from A Walk to Remember, Switchfoot attracted attention from multiple record labels and ultimately signed with the major record label, Columbia Records/SonyBMG.[12] Their major label debut, The Beautiful Letdown, under Columbia Records/Red Ink, represented the band's evolution from the predominantly lo-fi, indie rock sound of their early albums, toward a more layered, synth-influenced sound that helped launch the band to mainstream popularity. This shift sonically could be attributed to the fact that the album was the first to include keyboardist Jerome Fontamillas, formerly of industrial bands Mortal and Fold Zandura. Fontamillas had been touring with Switchfoot since 2000, following the release of Learning to Breathe.

The Beautiful Letdown has since been certified double platinum, selling more than 2.6 million copies,[13] on the strength of constant touring and the huge mainstream radio hits "Meant to Live" and "Dare You to Move", which has become a cultural icon. A DVD of the band's live concert, Live in San Diego, went platinum as well, and a third single, "This Is Your Life" was released to radio. The song "Gone" received major airplay on Christian radio stations as well. In 2005, Switchfoot received five Dove Award nominations, and won four, including Artist of the year.[14]

Nothing Is Sound (2005–06)

In 2005 prior to the release of Nothing Is Sound Switchfoot announced that guitarist Drew Shirley (previously the guitarist for All Together Separate) had become the band's fifth member after touring with the band since 2003.[15] Nothing Is Sound, was released on September 13, 2005, and with Shirley's inclusion saw Switchfoot's sound become even more densely layered and guitar-heavy, resulting in an album that was edgier and darker than any of their previous work.[16] "Stars" was released as the first radio single to promote the album, and was a solid hit on mainstream and alternative rock radio stations. "We Are One Tonight" was released as the second single in early 2006.

Nothing is Sound Tour in Vancouver BC

The album debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, an all-time high for the band, while bassist Tim Foreman attracted headlines by speaking out against the copy-protection[17] used by the label and providing fans a detailed workaround on the band's message board, which was quickly deleted by Sony. This copy-protection is known as Extended Copy Protection, which has been identified by leading anti-virus companies as a trojan horse and a rootkit.

In Spring of 2006 the band introduced "a video diary of life on the road" in the form of free video podcasts available via iTunes[18] and streaming online on[19] In addition to featuring snippets of upcoming songs and live performances, the videos gave fans an inside look at the more casual and humorous aspects of the band members' touring lives, as well as featuring footage of the band working on their follow-up to Nothing Is Sound.

Oh! Gravity. (2006–07)

Switchfoot's next album, Oh! Gravity., was released on December 26, 2006 to considerable critical acclaim. It entered the Billboard chart at #18[20] and peaked at #1 on iTunes' Top Albums chart.

Before the release of the album, Switchfoot e-mailed a newsletter on June 2 which contained a free download of the song "Daylight to Break" and a statement from Foreman implying that the band wanted to have a new album out by the end of the year, as well as a thanks to their fans for helping keep the band together for ten years. The band tried to involve their fans in the creation of the album,[21] setting up a webcam in their recording studio and running a contest for a chance to play the cowbell in the studio with the band.[22]

Oh! Gravity Spring Tour 2007 Charleston S.C.

To promote the album, the band first released the song, "Dirty Second Hands," as a "preview" single via iTunes on September 26.[23] The title song "Oh! Gravity" was also released to iTunes on October 21, sent to radio on October 31 as the lead single for the album,[24] and achieved moderate success at alternative and modern rock radio. The music video for the song premiered on Yahoo! Music on November 13, 2006. The album's second single, "Awakening," was released in early 2007. Although it saw little success on mainstream radio, the video for that song received over one million hits on YouTube in less than three months.

Major label independence, The Best Yet (2007–08)

Later, on August 10, 2007, Jon Foreman revealed that the band had severed ties with Columbia Records in order to release music as an Indie band. "Neither party has any hard feelings," he said of the split a few months later. "I think for us, the reason why we signed with Columbia was because of the people that were there. So it’s very understandable when all those people are gone, you don’t hold any real bad feelings or good feelings towards a company name. I think that’s part of the problem with the corporate entity as a whole is that there’s no true responsibility."[25] Later in October, the band announced that they had created a new record label called lowercase people records, in order to better make a direct connection with their fans.

Subsequently, Foreman began working on his own set of solo EP's (one named after each season of the year); the first of these was released on November 27, 2007, the last on June 10, 2008[26] Foreman also began a side project with Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek originally called "The Real SeanJon" but later renamed "Fiction Family".

With their new status as an independent band, Switchfoot embarked on their 2007 fall tour, playing shows with Relient K, and Ruth. The tour, dubbed the "Appetite for Construction Tour," was designed to benefit Habitat For Humanity, with the bands donating one dollar per ticket sold to the cause.[27] In addition, Foreman wrote the song "Rebuild" with Matt Thiessen from Relient K, and released it as a way to raise additional money for Habitat. By the end of the tour, the bands had raised over $100,000 for Habitat for Humanity.[28]

In March through May, the band also embarked on a short national tour (titled the Up In Arms Tour) partnering with the organization To Write Love on Her Arms.[29]

Later that year, on November 4, the Columbia Records/Sony Music, released the first ever Switchfoot greatest hits compilation album titled The Best Yet, a sort of "final farewell from Sony".[30]

Hello Hurricane, Vice Verses (2008–present)

Prior to the label split, Foreman had announced in a March 17, 2007 MySpace blog that Switchfoot had begun pre-production for a new album, saying that "the new SF record is underway." Later, on October 12, 2007, Foreman also announced that the band had begun construction of their own studio in their hometown of San Diego. It was completed in the spring of 2008, and the band began recording their follow-up to 2006's Oh! Gravity.[31]

In March, the band wrote and recorded a new song called "This Is Home" for the film The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.[32] The song was included on the film's official soundtrack and an accompanying music video was also filmed, with footage from the film.[33]

On April 22, 2009, the band announced that instead of one studio album, they had actually been at work on 4 albums-worth of material, and had decided to release them one after another. Each will be released separately, starting with the first one on November 10, 2009, titled Hello Hurricane.[34][35] The album to follow it will be called Vice Verses and will be released at an undetermined date.

Upon completion of Hello Hurricane, the band had begun searching for "the right partners" to distribute the songs globally. On August 7, 2009, the band announced that lowercase people records was licensing the album to Atlantic Records, ensuring "these tunes are heard around the world."[36] "Mess of Me" was released as the lead single to radio on September 28, 2009.[37]

Style and influences

Since Switchfoot's first release in 1997, the band's sound has evolved significantly. The style of the early albums with independent label Re:think Records consisted primarily of guitar-driven alternative rock, characteristic of a three-man lineup, though they also incorporated string arrangements with slower songs.[38]

Switchfoot playing on July 4, 2005 in St. Louis, Missouri

Switchfoot's frontman and guitarist Jon Foreman cites his musical influences as U2, The Beatles, and Keith Green,[39] and has said that he admires the vocal "strength and vulnerability" of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.[40] Guitarist Drew Shirley cites U2, Miles Davis, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Tommy Walker, Phil Keaggy, Michael Jackson, Dave Matthews Band, and the Brand New Heavies,[citation needed] while bassist Tim Foreman pays tribute to Stevie Wonder.[41] Chad Butler also cites Dave Grohl as an influence for The Beautiful Letdown.[42] "We’ve never fit in any of the genre boxes,” says Jon Foreman. “I think that diversity is our strength”.[43]

With regard to their lyrics, Foreman notes "we try to make music for thinking people",[44] which can be characterized by his allusions to the works of philosophers like Søren Kierkegaard and Augustine of Hippo in the songs "Sooner or Later (Soren's Song)" and "Something More (Augustine's Confession)" respectively. "Meant to Live", the band's runaway hit, was inspired by T. S. Eliot's poem "The Hollow Men",[45] while "Stars", the lead single off Nothing Is Sound, briefly "looks at things from the Descartes perspective," according to Foreman.[46]

Switchfoot and Christian music

Switchfoot is often referred to as a "Christian band", mostly due to their continued involvement with the Christian rock scene. The band has always philosophically disagreed with this label: "For us, it's a faith, not a genre", says Jon Foreman. "We've always been very open and honest about where the songs are coming from. For us, these songs are for everyone. Calling us 'Christian rock' tends to be a box that closes some people out and excludes them. And that's not what we're trying to do. Music has always opened my mind—and that's what we want".[47]

In addition to the general market, they also distribute their music to Christian markets, and play larger Christian festivals. Though they hold this position, they have not alienated their Christian fans. As in their indie days, they are still distributed to Christian retail outlets through Sparrow Records/EMI CMG, featured on Christian radio and charts, and presented Dove Awards, even after having been signed to the mainstream Columbia Records from 2003-2007 and currently, Atlantic Records. "[Signing to Columbia was] a realization of something that we'd wanted to be from the beginning," Foreman explains. "When we were signed to re:think Records [an indie label], the goal was to get the music out to everybody. [But] when Sparrow [a Christian label] bought re:think Records, it was evident that our music wasn't going to be in the hands of everybody. As a Christian, I have a lot to say within the walls of the church. But also, as a Christian, I've got a lot to say just about life in general ... So to be able to be on Columbia and on Sparrow felt like the realization of the two sides of what we had to say. It's a dream come true to be able to have songs that are outside of the box."[48]

Following the release of The Beautiful Letdown, the band temporarily stopped playing at Christian festivals and doing interviews with Christian organizations, as they found the speculation about their faith to be distracting from the music. Three years later, Switchfoot began going back on this policy, headlining at large Christian-based music festivals, and agreeing to be featured on the June 2006 cover of CCM Magazine,[49] after declining the opportunity for years.[50] Yet in many ways they used the opportunity to describe their split from the CCM industry. This has caused some, such as Spin writer Andrew Beaujon, to take the view that "their lyrics often have two different meanings, one meaning for a Christian audience and one meaning for the rest of us. They try to relate to two different groups of people at once".[51]

Other projects

Switchfoot has been involved in a number of humanitarian causes, including DATA, the ONE Campaign, the Keep A Breast Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, Invisible Children, and To Write Love on Her Arms.[29]

In addition to supporting those causes, they founded the Switchfoot Bro-Am Surf Contest, a benefit contest and concert to raise money for various organizations serving homeless kids in the band's hometown of San Diego.[52][53] Also, before recording Nothing Is Sound, the band made a trip to several South African villages in January 2005, which inspired the album's song "The Shadow Proves the Sunshine".[54] Seeing an orphanage filled with infants who all lost their parents to AIDS, befriending orphans in the streets, and getting involved with a children's choir called the "Kuyasa Kids" moved them to start an organization called lowercase people. The organization originally published a quarterly online magazine for music, arts and social justice. They have also produced a CD by the Kuyasa Kids[55] to help raise money for the children's communities.

In 2008, Switchfoot also got involved in the musical movement to spread awareness about 21st century slavery and human trafficking, performing "Awakening" for the documentary film Call + Response.

Jon Foreman has also released several solo projects, and is also involved in an acoustic collaboration called Fiction Family with Sean Watkins of the band Nickel Creek.[56]



Orville H. Gibson Guitar Awards
  • 2001: Les Paul Horizon Award for the most promising up-and-coming guitarist — Jon Foreman
ASCAP Awards
  • 1997: Best New Artist
  • 2006: Impact Award awarded "to celebrate the success and influence of his songs in mainstream rock music"[57]— Jon Foreman
  • 2006: Top 50 list of Most Performed Song of 2005 — "Dare You to Move"
GMA Dove Awards
  • 2004: Rock Recorded Song of the Year — "Ammunition"
  • 2004: Rock/Contemporary Album of the Year — The Beautiful Letdown
  • 2004: Rock/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year — "Meant to Live"
  • 2005: Artist of the Year
  • 2005: Short Form Music Video of the Year — "Dare You to Move"
  • 2005: Long Form Music Video of the Year — Live In San Diego
  • 2005: Rock/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year — "Dare You to Move"
  • 2006: Short Form Music Video of the Year — "Stars"
San Diego Music Awards
  • 1997: Best New Artist
  • 2001: Best Pop Artist
  • 2001: Best Pop Album — Learning to Breathe
  • 2002: Best Adult Alternative Artist
  • 2003: Best Pop Album — The Beautiful Letdown
  • 2003: Album of the Year — The Beautiful Letdown
  • 2004: Song of the Year — "Dare You to Move"
  • 2006: Artist of the Year
  • 2007: Album of the Year — Oh! Gravity


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