“Christmas is an emotional treasure chest”: Switchfoot’s Jon Foreman on Finding the Holiday Spirit With ‘this is our Christmas album’

Switchfoot "Christmas" © 2022
Switchfoot "Christmas" © 2022
To celebrate “the most wonderful time of the year,” Atwood Magazine’s Mistletones features fresh holiday/wintertime tracks and exciting covers of beloved classics. December has a knack for bringing out some of the most poignant, tender, and celebratory music, and we want to highlight that excitement by showcasing new and alternative holiday greats! Spice up your holiday season with songs you can listen to now and cherish in the years to come.

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Switchfoot’s Jon Foreman speaks to Atwood Magazine about writing and recording their first-ever Christmas album (25 years into their career), his relationship with the holidays, and the alt-rock band’s staying power.
Stream: ‘this is our Christmas album’ – Switchfoot




Our goal was to set the tone for a beautiful Christmas gathering. We wanted to capture the warmth of the fire, the smells of the meal, dessert cider. The instrumentation we used for the album was an attempt to accompany a small gathering with friends.

Theirs might not be your “traditional” white Christmas – in fact, the only thing white about this Christmas is the foam of waves breaking on the beach – but Switchfoot’s debut Christmas album is nevertheless an instant classic: A cinematic, cozy, and festive spectacular, featuring timeless holiday standards and spirited originals, the aptly titled this is our Christmas album stays true to Switchfoot and true to Christmas. The San Diego alt-rock band deck the halls, don their instruments, and make the Christmas soundtrack they’ve long wanted to hear in this is our Christmas album, a multifaceted record whose warm melodies, overdriven guitars, thunderous drums, jingling sleigh bells, and radiant vocal harmonies capture the sweet highs and the bitter lows of the Yuletide.

Ready to be a backdrop to your Christmas party and the after-party (aka cleanup), Switchfoot offer a fun, inspired, and thought-provoking collection of songs that help set the mood and bring a smile to our faces as we celebrate “the most wonderful time of the year.”

this is our Christmas album - Switchfoot
this is our Christmas album – Switchfoot
Welcome to my California Christmas
Twinkling lights on all the fake palm trees
The only snow that falls is the fake stuff at the mall
Bathing suits in eighty-five degrees (Ah, ah)
Welcome to my California Christmas
The skies are blue, the sun is warm and bright
When Santa Claus makes the drive,
stuck in traffic on the 5

It’s a California Christmas Eve
So grab a Christmas tree, I’ll meet you down the beach
Plant your mistletoes in the sand right next to me
‘Cause that Pacific breeze is gonna set you free
I’ll be wishing you a California…

For Switchfoot’s lead singer Jon Foreman – as well as fellow band members Tim Foreman, Jerome Fontamillas, and Chad Butler – this album is a long time coming. While it’s their first holiday record, this is our Christmas album is Switchfoot’s thirteenth studio album, arriving a full 25 years after their ’97 debut. Conceptually, it’s a few years in the making, stemming from what Foreman perceived as a scarcity of holiday songs he himself would want to listen to around this time of year.

“While attempting to craft the perfect holiday playlist, I realized that the Christmas album I wanted simply didn’t exist,” he recalls. “For some of us, Christmas reminds us of loved ones we’ve lost, or complicated relationships with friends or family. For others of us, we question the capitalist materialism that saturates the holidays. For others, it’s a sacred time of giving, celebrating the divine gift of sacrificial love.”

“I wanted a vinyl album that would accompany a Christmas gathering: The fires lit, the cider is warm, the friends and family are over. And the songs accompany the laughter and conversation. And then when everyone’s left, and I’m doing the dishes, I wanted an album with layers of lyrical depth and introspective leverage that would give me something to reflect upon after the party ends.”

I suppose I wanted something that would open up, well… like a Christmas present, per se. So we decided to “be the Christmas album that you want to see in the world.”

Switchfoot © Erik Frost
Switchfoot © Erik Frost



Combining tradition with heartache, beauty and joy with pain – the good, the bad, and the ugly of it all – Switchfoot created an album that feels at once classic and altogether fresh.

Shining with the band’s signature California twist, the 11-track LP combines a swath of oldies-but-goodies with five irresistibly catchy original Christmas songs, injecting plenty of sunlight and nostalgia into the air as the band pull inspiration from a wide array of artists, including Tchaikovsky, The Beach Boys, Vince Guaraldi, and Black Flag.

“As a songwriter, Christmas is an emotional treasure chest to pull from,” Foreman says on the topic of songwriting. “It’s a season stretched tight with contradictions: The incarnate God enters the world as a baby born into poverty on the edge of the Empire. We celebrate the free gifts of love and presence against the backdrop of materialist capitalism. It’s a time of year that brings up the best and the worst in us: Cutting someone off on the freeway as we rush to get a gift for grandpa before the stores close. We wanted to dig beneath these contradictions to find a few Christmas tunes of our own.”

On making it definitively Switchfoot, he explains, “We wanted to make an album that was ours alone, while embracing a timeless sound. We were hoping to craft a true listening experience with layers to get lost in. The Christmas canon is filled with chords that harken back to bygone days. Chords that aren’t often used in alternative music. We took full advantage of the tonal palate and chordal landscape that Christmas can afford.”

“Our goal was to set the tone for a beautiful Christmas gathering. We wanted to capture the warmth of the fire, the smells of the meal, dessert cider. The instrumentation we used for the album was an attempt to accompany a small gathering with friends. Like the smell of a Christmas tree: Reminding us of the past even while we’re in the present. Our aim was for an album that feels nostalgic and contemporary at the same time.”

Switchfoot © Erik Frost
Switchfoot © Erik Frost



From the sun-kissed West Coast warmth of “California Christmas” and the pensive, brooding (and sometimes cynical) “Looking For Christmas” and “Midlife Christmas,” to heartwarming takes on holiday staples and standards like “Christmas Time Is Here” and “The Christmas Song,” this is our Christmas album promises to get you into the holiday spirit – and then some!

Dive into our interview below as Jon Foreman speaks to Atwood Magazine about writing and recording Switchfoot’s first Christmas album, his own relationship with the holidays, and the alt-rock band’s quarter-century of staying power.

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:: stream/purchase this is our Christmas album here ::
:: connect with Switchfoot here ::



A CONVERSATION WITH SWITCHFOOT

this is our Christmas album - Switchfoot

Atwood Magazine: Thanks for taking the time, Jon! Switchfoot recently celebrated its 25th anniversary together, and congrats to everyone! To what do you owe the band's staying power?

Jon Foreman: Surfing together. Ha! Only kinda kidding on that one… we truly are a band of brothers. We take the music and our friendship seriously, and take our ourselves and the rest of it with a grain of salt.

How do you feel you've grown as a band over the past 25+ years, and what's keeping you inspired now – what are you most excited about Switchfoot today, as we get deeper into the 2020s?

Jon Foreman: It’s funny, so much has changed over the past twelve albums. And yet, our approach to music has stayed the same. Telling honest stories. Writing from an honest perspective.

When I started writing songs, (way back before Switchfoot was a thing), I discovered that in some ways I could be more honest in a song than I could in a conversation. Music became a vehicle to help me unpack the big questions that keep me up at night. God, girls, politics, sex, war… whatever the topic, music became a vehicle that would help me get to the other side. That’s still my approach as a songwriter, and still our approach as a band.

Yes, our worlds have grown so much over the course of our career. We’ve seen the world together – fallen in love, had our hearts broken, welcomed children into our lives. The first record was written about dorm life at college. Our worlds are bigger than that now.

And yet, even 12 albums in, I still walk into the studio with a thankful reverence. I still feel like a kid in a candy store when we’re dreaming up new music together. Music is too big an ocean not to keep sailing and exploring it.

Switchfoot © Erik Frost
Switchfoot © Erik Frost



I still feel like a kid in a candy store when we’re dreaming up new music together. Music is too big an ocean not to keep sailing and exploring it.

I really enjoyed interrobang – the lyrics in “beloved,” the driving rhythms in “lost 'cause,” and the warm harmonies throughout “backwards in time” are three personal highlights. Does this record continue to resonate with you, and where do you feel it fits in Switchfoot's overall story?

Jon Foreman: So honored you dug it – I love this album too – it’s one of the most adventurous musical offerings we’ve ever put out. I feel like interrobang was a response to the specific time it was created, and yet somehow the record felt like it wrapped arms around the production of our past efforts as well.



As a band you've previously asserted, “we're Christian by faith, not genre” – and to your credit, this is your first and only Christmas album in over a quarter century. Still, what took so long, and what eventually inspired you to write and record your own holiday album?

Jon Foreman: “Christian band” is a moniker we’ve never self-applied. On the one hand, I’m always honored to be affiliated with Christ. And yet, the way we treat the folks around us seemed to be more closely related to our faith than the way we tuned our guitars. Actions as always sing louder than words.

Christmas Music, yes – this feels like an abstraction that is more easily defined. All the same, I never really wanted to make a Christmas record until a few years ago.

While attempting to craft the perfect holiday playlist, I realized that the Christmas album I wanted simply didn’t exist. I wanted a vinyl album that would accompany a Christmas gathering: The fires lit, the cider is warm, the friends and family are over. And the songs accompany the laughter and conversation. And then when everyone’s left, and I’m doing the dishes, I wanted an album with layers of lyrical depth and introspective leverage that would give me something to reflect upon after the party ends.

I suppose I wanted something that would open up, well… like a Christmas present, per se. So we decided to “be the Christmas album that you want to see in the world.”

this is our Christmas album - Switchfoot
this is our Christmas album – Switchfoot



When everyone’s left, and I’m doing the dishes, I wanted an album with layers of lyrical depth and introspective leverage that would give me something to reflect upon after the party ends.

Jon Foreman: For each of us in the band, I’m sure the holidays hold different meaning. For me, music and Christmas will always go hand in hand. My earliest musical memories are tied to Christmas. I can picture it now: my family circled round my grandparents piano- singing carols and playing along as best we could on whatever was lying around- guitars, ukuleles, lap steels, harmonicas, or tambourines. We’d stumble through the Christmas carols smiling and laughing while my grandpa’s Lionel train ran circles round the Christmas tree.

And yet, these happy memories are juxtaposed with notes of melancholy and pain. Yes, ‘tis the season of joy and unity and giving, but it’s set against the backdrop of consumerist greed. Singing peace on earth with war on the tv screen. Celebrating the wonder and joy in my children’s eyes and wishing my that my grandparents were here to see it.

Jon Foreman: As a songwriter, Christmas is an emotional treasure chest to pull from. It’s a season stretched tight with contradictions: The incarnate God enters the world as a baby born into poverty on the edge of the Empire. We celebrate the free gifts of love and presence against the backdrop of materialist capitalism. It’s a time of year that brings up the best and the worst in us: Cutting someone off on the freeway as we rush to get a gift for grandpa before the stores close. We wanted to dig beneath these contradictions to find a few Christmas tunes of our own.

We wanted a timeless album. Something that felt like it could have been recorded sometime between 1968 and 2022.

Switchfoot "Christmas" © 2022
Switchfoot “Christmas” © 2022



Jon Foreman: Truth! Where we live in San Diego, you have to drive a few hours if you want snow. Our Christmas tradition is surfing and decorating the local Christmas tree situated on the sand at our local beach.

What is your relationship with the holidays and the holiday season? What are some of your favorite holiday songs?

Jon Foreman: I try to embrace the season for what it is: Celebrating with the ones that mean the most to me, reflecting on the past year and what I want to do differently in the year ahead. Concerning holiday classics, I love Vince Guaraldi and Tchaikovsky’s contributions to the season. Beyond that, we have a Spotify playlist of our favorite Christmas songs as a band.



As a songwriter, Christmas is an emotional treasure chest to pull from… We wanted to dig beneath these contradictions to find a few Christmas tunes of our own.

Jon Foreman: We wanted to make an album that was ours alone, while embracing a timeless sound. We were hoping to craft a true listening experience with layers to get lost in. The Christmas canon is filled with chords that harken back to bygone days. Chords that aren’t often used in alternative music. We took full advantage of the tonal palate and chordal landscape that Christmas can afford.

Jon Foreman: Hmmmm… I suppose the “holiday spirit” might be a pretty obtuse target to aim for. And I’m sure it means something different to each of us.

Our goal was to set the tone for a beautiful Christmas gathering. We wanted to capture the warmth of the fire, the smells of the meal, dessert cider. The instrumentation we used for the album was an attempt to accompany a small gathering with friends.

Like the smell of a Christmas tree: Reminding us of the past even while we’re in the present. Our aim was for an album that feels nostalgic and contemporary at the same time.

Jon Foreman: Yes, there are so many holiday songs out there! Almost a paralyzing amount, right?! There are so many songs that one might question, “what’s the use of writing anything new.” I suppose the same logic could be brought to bear upon the larger body of musical work over the ages. Or the human story altogether: There’s too much- just stop it already!

But when you think of your own personal perspective, it becomes much simpler. Don’t worry about the past. Don’t worry about the rest of the word. Stay in your lane. What’s your song? What keeps you up at night? What’s your story? What’s the song that no one else is singing?

As a songwriter I wanted to bring our own idiosyncratic perspective to bear upon the canon of holiday tunes. Scrappy Christmas Trees? Check. Avocado groves and graffiti kings? Yup. Midlife Christmas? Uh huh.

Sometimes I can’t stand myself and most times I wish I could be anyone else” or “singing peace on earth when there’s war on the TV screen” – hmmm… these lyrics won’t fit on any of the Christmas records I grew up with. These are songs that wrestle with Christmas and New Years from our own place. The lyrics are there for anyone who wants to dig a bit deeper than the veneer of a Christmas album.



As a songwriter I wanted to bring our own idiosyncratic perspective to bear upon the canon of holiday tunes. Scrappy Christmas Trees? Check. Avocado groves and graffiti kings? Yup. Midlife Christmas? Uh huh.

Of the new material, do you have any definitive favorites or personal highlights off this record?

Jon Foreman: These were our top five out of ten or twenty Christmas songs that I wrote for the record, so they all have a special place for us.

I loved the challenge of channeling The Beach Boys on “California Christmas” alongside of the pithy west coast clichés. And yet, as funny as the lyric is – it’s sincere: I love my California Christmas!

I also loved the challenge of unwrapping songs like “Midlife Christmas” or “Looking For Christmas.” I’ve heard it said that a cynic is a dreamer with a broken heart. Maybe that’s why many of us get so cynical about the materialist Christmas / holiday tradition.

Jon Foreman: I love Vince Guaraldi and truly enjoyed channeling some new-school Peanuts in 2022 vibes on that one. None of the tunes were all that challenging. If anything, the biggest hurdle was staying out of the way – not adding too much.

What do you hope listeners take away from this is our Christmas album? What have you taken away from creating it and now putting it out?

Jon Foreman: I hope that this is an album that is the soundtrack to Christmases and holiday parties for years to come. I hope that this record is a worthy accompaniment for laughter and conversations with the ones you love the most. And then in a quiet moment when the party is over… I hope that you, the listener, can find yourself in the song. Melody and verse.

— —

:: stream/purchase this is our Christmas album here ::
:: connect with Switchfoot here ::



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