On a recent trip to San Diego, California, a couple of my best friends and I attended the popular alternative rock band Switchfoot’s annual Bro-Am Beach Fest. It was a phenomenal day filled with surfing, live music, and many unexpected connections. One connection we made was with Jett Foreman, otherwise known by his band name, Jettee.
The day after meeting Jett at Bro-Am, we heard he was doing a small backyard concert in Oceanside, about an hour north of Downtown San Diego. We had missed the short set he did at Bro-Am the day before, so there was no question about it: we would not miss this show. We fought through the rush-hour California traffic, arriving just minutes before singer/songwriter Josh Phiffer opened for Jett. It was a fantastic show, and we were so glad we went.
Although some may call him “Tim from Switchfoot’s son,” Jett Foreman is not in his father’s shadow. He has established himself as an indie artist, releasing his own music. While his style may be similar to his dad’s, his unique voice shines through every song he creates. As a talented self-taught guitarist, songwriter, and vocalist, Jett is becoming a sought-after musician.
As one of the artists featured in our “Next Generation of Christian Artists” article, I had the privilege to talk to Jett about his faith, songwriting process, and what it’s like following in his dad’s footsteps.
You released your first song only eight months ago. Where did your passion for music come from?
Growing up, I liked writing. I used to write stories, and I liked words. But eventually, music became easier than writing a book. In stories, you have to resolve everything. But with songwriting, knowing precisely what you’re talking about is only sometimes necessary. You can say, “I’m feeling this way, and I don’t know why,” and write a song about that. You can’t always write a story that way.
Your alt-rock style is reminiscent of Switchfoot, but you have successfully established your own unique voice. Can you share how you found your voice apart from being influenced by Switchfoot?
It happened naturally. I grew up on the road, tagging along with my dad on the Switchfoot tour bus. Touring and music slowly became my favorite thing. But I’m different from the guys in Switchfoot, so I gravitated toward slightly different songs.
My dad and the rest of Switchfoot never pushed me to make music–I discovered it myself. If my dad had made me do guitar lessons as a kid, it might have felt like I was only doing it for Switchfoot. But I was able to figure it out on my own. I taught myself guitar, unforced by my family. That’s why my sound has been different than Switchfoot.
That said, I love Switchfoot. It’s been fantastic to have all these mentors in my life to show me the ropes. People always ask if I hate my dad’s music or if it’s the only thing I listen to. But I love Switchfoot. They’re not the only band I listen to.
Which artists have helped you define your unique style? Who do you get inspiration from?
I’m into the indie music scene right now. I’ve been listening to Phoebe Bridgers because her lyrics are incredible. Tyson Motsenbocker also has a fantastic album I’ve had on repeat called Milk Teeth.
Growing up, I also listened to many rock music artists: Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Cage the Elephant, The White Stripes, and of course, The Beatles and Radiohead. I’ve combined those indie and rock sounds into my music because I try to write what I want to hear. That’s why I incorporate musical elements from the bands I grew up listening to.
While your music may be labeled mainstream, there are still Christian themes in some of your songs. How significant has faith been to your music?
I’m a Christian who makes music. “Christian music” has become a cliche genre I would never want to put myself in. I don’t feel called to put myself in the box of only being a Christian artist. But I am a Christian, and I hope that will show through in my songs. I want my songs to be true, and I don’t want to shy away from anything in my music. There will be songs that aren’t specifically about Jesus, but those qualities will show through. I hope they do.
What have been some of the challenges of starting a career? Has it been a complicated process?
At first, I took myself too seriously and held onto my songs too tightly. But music should be more like a gift. And if these songs are not supposed to be out, they are not supposed to be out. I don’t feel the need to cling to the songs and suffocate them. It’s better to let them go and enjoy them. Music should always be fun.
“Can We Be the Ocean” was the first song I released, and I held on to it for years because I thought it had to be perfect. But Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” I’m continually learning how to be loose with my music.
Sometimes I’ll write a song thinking, “This has to be the best song ever,” and it goes nowhere. Other times, when I write a funny song with inside jokes in the lyrics, it turns out to be the best. I recently wrote a song with a guy named Arlie, and the entire thing is practically an inside joke. But somehow, it became a heartfelt, tear-jerker kind of song.
I’ve heard that laughing and crying are not too different in the emotional spectrum. You must embrace it, have fun with it, and let your voice show through the writing.
Let’s talk about songwriting. You live in San Diego, and it’s clear that the ocean influences a lot of your lyrics. What is your songwriting process like, and how significant is your city to finding creativity?
The ocean was my safe place growing up. I free-dive a lot, and I love swimming deep underwater. It’s fun to see what it looks like. It’s like a different world underwater, making me feel as if I’m on an alien planet. It’s the coolest thing. It’s freeing to fly through these underwater worlds no one knows about. So the first place I get inspiration from is the ocean.
But inspiration can come from anything. Sometimes I’ll get inspired while reading a book. Or when I’m hanging out with a friend, and someone says something funny, I’ll write it in my Notes app on my iPhone.
The best songs are usually those I don’t intentionally sit down to write. They come when I find lyrics on my Notes app and play guitar late at night. During those times when I say, “I’m not going to write a song,” I end up writing one of my favorites at one in the morning.
I attended your concert recently and know you have numerous unreleased songs. What are your plans for the future? Are you currently working on an album?
I’m demoing a lot of songs right now. There should be an EP coming very soon. There’s no release date yet, but I’m working on a song called “Flying Lessons.” It’s my favorite song that I’ve written so far. I wrote it a year ago, and it’s gone through different demos, but I finally found the version I like. It’s a heartfelt song, a little slower than my others. It has some Elliott Smith vibes in it.
How can we pray for you?
You can pray that music continues to be good for me and people will hear my songs and connect with the lyrics. My goal is to make someone’s day better, even if it’s just one person.
Grace Chaves is NRT’s News Editor and one of our youngest writers. She’s been part of NewReleaseToday since 2019 and will continue her writing journey by majoring in Writing at Point Loma Nazarene Univerisity in the fall.