How I wrote ‘You And Me’ by Lifehouse’s Jason Wade
The LA rock band’s frontman and songwriter reflects on one of their biggest hits, which revived their career and became a wedding favourite
Los Angeles-based alternative rock band Lifehouse broke through in 2000 with the international hit single Hanging By A Moment, which spent 20 weeks in the Top 10 and won a Billboard Hot 100 Single Of The Year award. But after a dip in commercial success, it was 2005 release You And Me that put Lifehouse back on the map, spending 62 non-consecutive weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaking at No 5.
The band went on to sell 15 million records worldwide and become one of the most played artists ever on ‘Hot AC’ radio, with 1.5 million spins and 1.4 billion Pandora plays. But as singer, guitarist and principal songwriter Jason Wade explains, You And Me was originally meant to soundtrack his engagement and the love scene in a movie…
“It was 1998 and I was at home in LA. I think it was right after our first record No Name Face was getting mixed, but the song didn’t end up on our second record. We recorded a version of it, but it just felt flat. So if we had put it on our second record – which didn’t do well at all – the song would have been lost. A lot of it has to do with timing.
“It resurfaced on our third album [2005’s Lifehouse], which was kind of our last chance of making a comeback – I think the label would’ve dropped us if we’d had another unsuccessful record. But luckily, You And Me really resonated with everybody and revived our career. We went out and started pushing this song that was really personal to me, and then it ended up being, like, the biggest wedding song of 2005 and 2006.
“The original version started as a guitar chord progression that Jude Cole, our manager and co-producer, came up with. He gave me those chords and I liked them, but I wasn’t sure if I was inspired in that moment. Then a friend of mine was making an independent film and he wanted me to write something for it – there was this beautiful love scene. I started playing those chords and then the chorus began to take shape and the rest of the song came. So it happened in two or three different phases. It was a really special song because I wrote it for my girlfriend and I ended up playing the song, on a cassette tape, to propose to her! So I was writing it about her and was inspired by the film, and then Jude gave me those chord progressions to work with.
“You And Me came from such a personal place, and I think that’s the key: a song has to mean something to you if it’s going to mean something to anybody else. People are a lot smarter than you realise.”
“It took a while to write. I think it was a matter of two or three months until the whole song was complete, in contrast to Hanging By A Moment which was written in 10 to 15 minutes! If it’s a great song, it doesn’t matter if it’s 20 years old or 20 days old, it’ll still resonate. That’s how you can really tell the good ones from the bad ones. If you go back and listen to all of your old tapes, you can tell which songs are rubbish and which ones are actually any good.
“So it’s whenever that magic is there. I still can’t figure it out, what happens when that inspiration is there. You just have to be present when the moment is there so you can actually channel a song from another place. That’s what I think keeps every songwriter going back into the studio day after day, to try and find whatever that magic is.
“Also, You And Me not only revived our career, but it came from such a personal place, and I think that’s the key: a song has to mean something to you if it’s going to mean something to anybody else. People are a lot smarter than you realise and, even if they don’t know exactly what’s going on in a song, they know whether they like it or not. They can tell when it’s coming from an honest place or when it’s coming from a manipulated sense of just trying to have a big commercial hit.
“I’ve definitely been guilty of trying to recreate certain successful songs and it never works. It just doesn’t have that magic ingredient, whatever that is. Because I feel that, when the mind gets involved and you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, you’re just trying to rehash something that already happened just because it was successful – I’ve given up on that. If there’s ever a song that sounds similar to that, then it’s by accident.”