Aided By John Mayer’s Producer, Lifehouse Rebound From Sophomore Jinx

Producer's laid-back approach helped band become 'comfortable in our own skin.'

Hey, quick: Take a guess who’ll have the #10 album on the Billboard albums chart next week. Go ahead. Maybe Eminem? Usher? Gwen Stefani? Wrong on all counts. The owner of the #10 slot, scoring the week’s third-highest debut, is none other than Lifehouse.

Remember them?

Back in 2001, they burst on the scene with “Hanging by a Moment,” the omnipresent modern-rock track that drove sales of their debut album, No Name Face, to double-platinum status. One year later, they dropped their sophomore album, Stanley Climbfall, which, by the band’s own admission, didn’t exactly set the world on fire.

“Obviously, after ‘Hanging by a Moment,’ we did the second record and a lot of people said it didn’t do as well as well as the first one,” frontman Jason Wade explained. “So when we started making this new record, it was kind of nice, because we had already gotten that sophomore jinx off of our chests.”

Still stinging from Climbfall‘s frosty reception, the band — Wade, plus bassist Bryce Soderberg and drummer Rick Woolstenhulme — hightailed it out of the L.A. music scene and went about as far away from it all as a double-platinum-selling rock act could: Eastern Maryland. There, they (literally) shacked up with veteran producer John Alagía, famous for his work with John Mayer and the Dave Matthews Band. And under his chilled-out tutelage, they began to shake off the stress of the previous couple of years.

“When we walked into John’s house, we didn’t know what to expect, and we get in there and the mixing board is in the living room, the B3 [organ] is in the kitchen and the piano is over there,” Wade said. “And he’s so nonchalant about all his stuff — there’d be a triple-platinum Dave Matthews Band plaque sticking out from under the bed.

“It was really laid back,” he continued. “Like, you’d get up, have breakfast and start making music. We’d take a break every day at 5 p.m. and go to the crab shack. When you’re in an L.A. studio, you can see money being burned into thin air — it’s so expensive. So it was great not to have any pressure or time restraints. We could record all night if we wanted to. There was no ‘You have to finish this by this time, or else.’ ”

Lifehouse wrote and recorded more than 50 songs with Alagía, then culled through the tapes to select the twelve tracks that would make up their self-titled third release. The criteria was simply the songs they believed in the most … including the current single (and ballad supreme) “You and Me,” which does little to dispel the adult-contemporary tag they might have earned.

Wade could care less.

“I think we might have shied away from releasing a ballad a few years ago, but part of this whole rebirth for us has been trying not to overthink anything,” he said. “To write love songs that people connect to is not a bad thing. Nothing bothers me anymore, as long as people listen to us. I really feel like there are certain things that are beyond your control, like who’s going to listen to your music. We don’t care about who comes to our shows, we’re just going to give it 100 percent.”

The band will hit the road in support of their new album on April 15, and they’re also slated to appear in a very special prom episode of the WB’s “Smallville” on April 20. It’s all in a day’s work for a band trying to make its way back to the big time.

“We know there are all these things we have to do. Touring, stuff like that. But we’re all okay with it now,” Wade laughed. “When you’re finally comfortable in your own skin — and comfortable with what you do — then you can’t help but do it the best you can.”