[Editor’s note: In February, Switchfoot released their fourth full-length album (their first on a major label), The Beautiful Letdown. Just before its release, frontman Jon Foreman shared some of his thoughts, fears and hopes for the record. The Beautiful Letdown has now sold more than 100,000 copies.]
Well here we are, moments away from the beautiful letdown: another CD is soon to be birthed. This birthing process seems to produce the same emotions for me every time: fear, excitement, discouragement, hope … I become this manic-depressive who is anticipating and dreading Feb. 25, (the day the album comes out). On the one hand, I can’t wait: years worth of work to be heard; thoughts and dreams that will be pushed from the nest for the very first time. And, on the other hand, I never seem to be satisfied with the outcome: I seem to always hear the mistakes louder than the song itself, no matter how hard I try.
On this particular album, I had many of my recording dreams come true. The tracking process was an incredible environment where the songs felt better than ever; I felt like everyone in the band was reaching new heights. Then, to finish the album off, some of the finest engineers in the world stepped in to mix the tunes. People I never dreamed to meet were spending their life on our music.
These songs sound better than I ever dreamed they would … and yet the dissatisfaction lives on … No matter what praise a review might throw, no matter how many people buy the record, no matter who tells us that the songs are well done, I will forever be dissatisfied and left wanting by my fickle lover: music. This should come as no surprise to those who know me. Every album goes through this phase. Could we call it “postpartum depression?” This, my friends, is not exclusive to recording music. You’ve felt it too perhaps? I’ve felt this all my life: a general dissatisfaction with the prizes of the present tense, a yearning for something beyond what this world can give. This, my friends is the beautiful letdown. The highest good that we could think to gain leaves us wanting more and the search continues.
Or take the worst moments in your life instead, the times when all has gone wrong and we face the darkest corners of our existence. There you will find a hope that cannot be quantified by circumstance, a beauty that contradicts the letdown. And yet how can this be: that our spiritual altitude is not controlled by the mountains and valleys in the material world? The highest highs, the lowest lows and yet there is another law at work. It is as though there is a reality that is completely outside of the physical world on which the physical world has very little hold. And this reality is continually invading our world, continually calling to our souls, like the sunset in traffic …
The red tail-lights from the car in front of you flashes on and off during your rush hour commute. The dieing sun uses the same red, painting the sky with the wonder of the infinite, where time and space and your very soul are brought within a breathe of each other, and your humanity begins to come alive. The kingdom of heaven is here! The alarm clocks of the spiritual world are ringing. Awaken, oh sleeper! Rise from the dead! We have precious few moments left!
This is the beautiful letdown. Where the kingdom of the heavens collides with the prince of the air: our very souls are divided. Oh what a beautiful letdown: to exhale and surrender to the author and father of our being; to look eternity in the eye and know that you’ve seen her before; to be fully human and only human, alive to the sunset and the tail-lights, fearfully and wonderfully made. And then to go on tour…
[Jon Foreman is the lead singer for Switchfoot, which is featured in the premiere issue of RELEVANT magazine.]
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