Needle and Haystack Life

Album: Hello Hurricane (2009)

Songfacts®:

  • This is the opening track of Hello Hurricane, the seventh full-length album from the San Diego-based rock band Switchfoot. Hello Hurricane was the group's first long player on Atlantic Records and its first studio set since 2006's Oh! Gravity.
  • Jon Foreman, lead singer of Switchfoot, discussed this song on New Release Tuesday: "Here's a song that epitomizes the way that we recorded this record, pushing at every stage to reach a higher ground. There are several iterations of this song, each of them with a radically different approach - a method we never had the time for until we built our own studio. One of the reasons we built our own studio was to enable productive experimentation like this without paying for it by the hour. We first tracked this tune with a long time friend named Shane Wilson (we did our very first SF record with Shane). Then we revisited this song again with another friend of ours, Darryl Thorpe (Radiohead, Paul McCartney). For both of these versions the song was cut at half time (rather than the frenetic double-time pace that's on the record). Upon reviewing the list of songs with (producer) Mike Elizondo, 'Needle' felt too similar in tempo and feel to 'Yet' (a tune on the final list for the record). So it was scrapped from the list of tunes for the record. Because we recorded more than 80 songs for this record, we had a lot of songs to push to the side. Mike's objective input on determining which songs not to work on was invaluable. I had learned to really trust his instincts and agreed whole-heartedly with most the final list that he had suggested. He was right that 'Needle' and 'Yet' on the same record made the record much sleepier. However, 'Needle' kept coming back to Tim and I as an important track. So we put it aside for a week or two to see if it would return (the best ones always come back around). I kept coming back to the content of the lyric. All of the concepts behind the song - hope against the backdrop of chaos and meaninglessness, recognizing the value of every human life -these felt so existentially motivating. 'Needle' felt like a song that I wanted to sing every night. And I felt like it could be done with an element of the horizon built into the song. So, onstage in Vegas we worked up the song in sound-check, recorded the idea into a cell phone, and came back with a fresh direction for the tune.

    Drew came up with an ingenious idea for a unique guitar tone. We played the electric guitar through an amp, miked the amp with an acoustic guitar (in open tuning of the key of the song), plugged the acoustic guitar into another amp and recorded the signal from that second amp. The result was so expansive and dramatic I felt like it should start the record. So that's what you hear at the top: a sweet amalgamation of electric and acoustic madness. This song makes me think of abundant, overflowing life. The math involved for life to be possible at all is staggering. Let alone beauty. love. joy. forgiveness. To hold someone in your arms is to hold a living, breathing miracle. At any age, this life is a gift."

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