The 22-year-old singer-songwriter-guitarist, who has been making music since his early teens, may well be describing the exhilarating journey Lifehouse has traveled since the release of its debut album, No Name Face. That disc, which rose to #6 on the Billboard 200 album chart, achieved double-platinum status, largely on the strength of the cut "Hanging By A Moment," which hit #1 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart and #2 on the Hot 100 and was the most-played radio song of 2001, according to Broadcast Data Services.
If Lifehouse's debut album focused on the frustrations, desires and hopes that have long fueled Jason's work, the new record (overseen by No Name Face producer Ron Aniello and mixer Brendan O'Brien) represents the trio's coming of age. Songs like "Spin" and "Anchor" push the sonic envelope with a confidence only success can prompt, and the affecting guitar-bass-drums rock heard on the previous record has been honed to an even finer edge.
"It's a very physical record," Jason explains. "It's about moving forward. No Name Face was about accepting the place where you are and trying to figure out how to get beyond that, but not really knowing how. This one is more like, 'I know how to do this, so I'm just continuing to go forward, take the good with the bad and keep moving.'"
Jason's creative principles remain a cornerstone of Lifehouse's material, but this time bassist Sergio Andrade and drummer Rick Woolstenhulme have been more fully integrated into the overall sound, putting a robust flesh-and-blood structure around Jason's searching words. "We had more freedom to experiment," says Sergio, who founded the band with Jason back when they were neighbors in the Los Angeles suburb of Agoura Hills. "We knew what to expect this time. We understood how the process worked. That allowed us to take more charge of things and focus on how to really make this our own."
That progression is detected in the fat chords of "Spin" and "Wash," but perhaps even more so in the distinctive guitar sounds of "Anchor" and the Beatlesque arrangement of "Stanley Climbfall." A fusion of grunge rumble and acoustic reverie surfaces in "Empty Space," while "Take Me Away" displays a passionate, unapologetic romanticism. The sensuous textures of "My Precious," meanwhile (the song was written and recorded during a break in the studio), reveal a shimmering falsetto soul.
"We wanted to strip it down to where every single part counted," Jason says of the collection's unifying aesthetic. "We wanted to let the songs breathe."
Confirms producer Aniello: "We set out to pinpoint the individuality of the band, and the best way to do that is to not overproduce, to make sure their personality comes through. We kept it simple so you could hear the purity and edge of that voice and the strength of those songs. The beauty is in the vocal, Jason, Serge and Rick playing off one another, and the melody."
Consistent with this drive to distill the essence of the band, Aniello urged Jason to tap his subconscious for lyrics, even encouraging him to scat-sing over the music until words began to emerge.
"A lot of what you hear on the record occurred spontaneously in pre-production," informs Rick. Jason points out: "One thing I did was not try too hard. With the last record, I think I expended almost too much emotion and energy. This time, I put the tape recorder on the table, played a melody and just kind of let the lyrics come to me naturally. Then I listened back and picked certain phrases that stood out. It's all about letting the song happen versus trying to write it."
Jason's self-assurance as a writer is evident throughout Stanley Climbfall. Undaunted by the dominance of "Hanging By A Moment," he began writing for the new album while Lifehouse was still on tour with the likes of Matchbox Twenty and Pearl Jam in support of No Name Face. "I locked myself up in the back of the bus after every show with a little four-track recorder," he elaborates. "All I did was write." (This suggestion of seclusion is borne out by Jason's admission that, unlike most of his contemporaries, he doesn't watch TV or even listen to much radio, basing his artistic outpourings exclusively on his own experiences and observations and not the popular culture at large.)
Of songs like "Anchor" and "Am I Ever Gonna Find Out," which convey Jason's ongoing metaphysical perplexity, he says simply: "I've come to grips with the fact that pretty much every song I write is going to be inspired by my beliefs."
Asked about following up the success of No Name Face, Wade states: "I'm at peace because we made the best record we could. And I'm happy because I think this record really reflects where we're at right now. We didn't need to duplicate what made the first record special because this one is just as special in its own right. Sure, there's pressure on us, but most of it's self-imposed. We didn't want to give people the same thing; we took a chance and tried to make what we do better."
The new album takes its title from this notion of taking chances. "Everyone has their ups and downs," Jason says. "And after a lot of wordplay, a song we'd written called 'Stand, Climb, Fall' was transformed into an everyday character named Stanley Climbfall who goes through those kinds of changes."
"Sometimes I feel myself wanting to dig up the past and go back to where I feel regret," he confides. "It's hard to move on from a certain place in your life, but its the struggle to do it that gets you to where you need to go." Indeed, the greatest feat along this frequently rocky path is to stand, climb, fall - and get back up again.