Jon Foreman’s entire career, before and after fronting Switchfoot to now, at the height of his solo success, has always been steered by his pursuit to find a place of protection. Music has been that space for him since he was a teenager, needing an outlet to revel in his experiences with god, girls, sex, and politics.
Foreman’s second solo album, Departures, arriving today via RE: THINK, was yet another chance for Foreman to conceal himself in music and feel more grounded in a year when nothing was.
“Ever since I was in junior high, music has been a place where I felt safe,’ Foreman tells American Songwriter. “In songs, I could discuss politics, God, girls, and sex without fear. And for me, songwriting still felt like a safe place, even in a year that felt like everything else had changed. I felt like so much of the world felt upside down and backwards, and yet my guitar was still tuned. I felt like I can’t fix the world, but I can tune my guitar and write another song.”
The single leading Departures, “Education”, catapulted the album into the mainstream, linking to Foreman’s earliest of experiences. With every word, Foreman captured the innocence he remembered steering his teenage life. The biggest one being the identity you assume when you fall in love, piloted by the chorus, You lose yourself when you love someone. Everything else you learn in college is mostly useless in the face of life. Nothing is really learned until lived.
“That song took me back to like my educational formative years in high school and college,” Foreman said. “I think about all the things that I learned and skillsets I still use today but also of all the things I didn’t learn and had to figure out the hard way.
“And I think the biggest education that I am still learning is what it means to love,” he continues. “What it means to truly love someone, not just love them for what they can do for you or what they can bring to your life, but to actually begin to lose parts of yourself, to surrender parts of yourself in the relationship. And whether you’re talking, the politics of a nation, community, all these things have brought us to this point where we really need to begin to find a way to love each other.”
Departures also offered an opportunity to welcome other people into the fold, to equally share in Foreman’s experiences and pedestaled his dermal level ideas to a heightened place of awareness. When he started writing the record, some of which was prior to 2020, he was aiming to include songs that fit that mold and artists that could project that idea further—one of whom was contemporary singer-songwriter Lauren Daigle. Daigle was the only voice in Foreman’s mind when he started writing “A Place Called Earth,” and she drove it home with her added emphasis of heaven and longing and how it summed up the vision for the future.
“I’ve known her for years now,” Foreman says about Daigle. “A couple years ago she came to our studio here in San Diego and we wrote a couple tunes and hung out and we just had a blast. And I stumbled up on one of those songs. I felt like that song ‘A Place Called Earth’ could’ve been written in 2020. And I told Lauren we’ve got to put that thing out. It’s too good to just sit on. She agreed and actually came up with the concept of bringing the tension of longing for heaven in a place called earth, and I feel like that longing absolutely sums up the year.
“She could sing anything, and it would be compelling,” Foreman adds. “I am very uninterested in my voice, and I always want to cover it up with other instruments, but with Lauren, I really wanted to be selective as to what we put on top of it. I wanted it to be just be supportive and foundational underneath whatever she was singing.”
While Daigle and Foreman nurtured a song that injected hope for the future, another collaborator, Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Madison Cunningham created a melancholy song with Foreman , “Side By Side,” that looked at the weight of identity. The soft duet between the two accomplished and passionate singers illuminated the grey areas and deep perspectives on life, death and the journey through each.
“I think this entire record is a bit more confessional for me than it was with Switchfoot,” Foreman explained. “It’s [Switchfoot] like a megaphone, and it’s hard to do confessional when you’re playing a loud electric guitar. A lot of these songs were born from broken places. And I think a lot of the tone of the album kind of feels like a late-night conversation with a friend, rather than shouting at somebody on Twitter.”
With such intimate, delicate, and raw conversations drawn out on Departures, co-producing was the only way to make the record for Foreman. He, with close friend and valued producer Keith Tutt, crafted the most honest presentation of Foreman and his pursuit for illumination while outlining the equal darkness that accompanies every step of it. “The songs are really intimate, broken inside looks,” he said. “I didn’t want to add too many people to that equation.”
Foreman’s journey on Departures is a path he has been trekking a long time—since his days with Switchfoot. Night after night, he would post on social media following Switchfoot’s arena filled shows and invite a hundred people to whatever local dive or coffee shop was open to listen to him play an intimate acoustic set, just so he could share that other half of himself with the world.
“The beautiful thing about this record is that I feel like it is a continuous piece which just began by playing,” Foreman said. “Switchfoot would have a show and there’d be thousands of people in the venue. I’d go out after the show and play, sending out a tweet for whoever was there in the parking lot or the coffee shop or the bar or wherever down the street. I just sang songs for no reason. There was no ticket, no smoke machine, nothing. And that’s why I play music—because I love it.
“I am planning very little,” he humbly added about the year ahead. “And I don’t know the future, but it feels like these songs match the spirit of those after shows where I was making music for no reason other than, because I felt like I had another song left in me.”
Departures is out today, listen on your preferred DSP here.