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Q&A: Jason Wade of Lifehouse, coming to 1st Mariner tonight

Back in 2001, a little-known band named Lifehouse released a single called "Hanging By A Moment."

The song burned up the charts, and thrust the group, led by singer Jason Wade, into the limelight.

Nearly 10 years later, Lifehouse has released five albums, sold nearly 15 million singles and albums -- despite going through several lineup changes and watching its old record label go bankrupt.

Their latest album, "Smoke and Mirrors," debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 chart on March 2. Tonight, they'll be opening for Daughtry at the 1st Mariner Arena (get tickets here).

Traditionally, Wade wrote songs based on personal experiences, and wasn't open to collaborating. That changed with "Smoke and Mirrors," when he teamed up with fellow rock singer Chris Daughtry and songwriter Richard Marx. I spoke with Wade about the album and his new approach to writing music ...

Put "Smoke and Mirrors" in context for me. Where does it fit, compared to the other four albums?

I think this record is a hybrid of what we’ve managed to do for the last 10 years. Half of this record is stripped down and organic, songs like the title track, songs like "Nerve Damage," so there's a real raw rock element to this, but there's also more of a pop polished record making side to this record.

I really think this album showcases two sides to this band. It's a little different from our previous records.

Are you still writing music about your life and your life experiences? I know you did some collaborating on this album.

You know what? This was different for me. I’d predominately done most of the songwriting on my own for the most part on previous records, always used my relationships and experiences as a canvas. I got to a point where, eight years into this, I felt like I didn’t have a lot going on in my life. There wasn’t a lot of turbulence.

I felt like it was necessary to take a different vantage point on this album and reach out to some other songwriters and see if I could get inspired. It's more of a storytelling type of thing than pulling from actual experiences that were happening in my life.

What was it like opening up the songwriting process like that?

It was difficult at first. I tried to do some co-writing about three or four years ago and had some really negative experiences where it felt really forced -- it didn't feel natural at all. On this record, it was all positive.

I got together with Chris Daughtry to write  a song and Richard Marx. Everyone I wrote with I felt like I had chemistry with. The lyrics came naturally, and it felt like we were creating these scenarios and characters and songs. I changed my whole tune with collaborations on this record. I thought it was a really healthy, natural progression for me. I don't think I'm always going to do that, but that's what I think I needed.

Tell me about working with Chris.

I met Chris a couple years ago in Texas. We played a show together. We really had a strong connection instantly. We started to hang out a bit when he was making his album in Los Angeles. We just started writing songs together. He had the idea to bring Richard Marx in.

A couple weeks before I met Richard, he wrote with him and Chad Kroeger, and had nothing but wonderful things to say about Richard Marx. So he flew in from Chicago, we got together for a couple days and just wrote and had an amazing time. It happened really effortlessly.

What qualities do you think makes a good singer? What do you see in some of your favorite singers?

I gravitate toward singers that have that breathy, raspy voice. Bryan Adams was one of my favorite singers when I was a kid. That whole texture I prefer more than the nasally, whiny voice.

You've released five albums in 10 years. That's kind of a lot for a mainstream rock band.

We've never really forced any records. Our bass player quit the band, our record label went bankrupt, we had some turbulent years around 2004-2005. Our main thing was, let’s just keep moving forward, let’s keep touring and when it made sense to get back in a studio and make an album, we would do that.

But we would mainly just stay out on the road, and try to maintain a career that way. I think that's why we're still relevant today, and still have a fan base. We never disappeared from the road. Even when we may have disappeared from the limelight a little bit, we stayed out on the road and kept touring.

What do you think when you look back on the way the pop rock landscape and the record industry have changed in the past 10 years?

It's kind of like it was in the '50s, where singles are very prevalent. It's so weird that you can go online and cherry pick whatever song you want on an album. That's the thing that's changed the most.

It's made a huge impact on the whole record industry and bands in general. I don't think that's a reflection of how much talent is out there. I still think there's great musicians. Music is in a great state. I just think the labels are scrambling to try and figure out how to sell it.

Does that affect the way you come at your albums, knowing that that's the way the market is right now?

Not really, to be honest. I feel we’re very fortunate to not be a new band right now. It's extremely difficult to break a new act to the public. What we've seen with MySpace and Facebook and all that is that even if we’re not selling a whole lot of records, it doesn’t represent how popular you are.

We played one of our biggest shows in the Philippines in front of 9,000 people. We'd barely sold any records, but I think a lot of those fans knew our music from our MySpace page. You can take your music to your fans a lot more easily.

(Photos courtesy of Lifehouse's Web site)

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