Journal, Studio

Stories Behind The Songs:
If The House Burns Down Tonight

October 7, 2016 — Jon Foreman


A few months back, a fire was raging through our home-town of San Diego. And when an unstoppable fire is barrelling down towards your part of town, you realize just how small you really are. The smoke blocks out the sun, the ash is falling from the sky, and your lungs begin to burn. So you run through the house and make a quick grab of the stuff you can carry, make sure that your family is safe in the car, and you make your escape.

And in that moment of action, you have an epiphany:

Compared to the ones you love, what is ownership? What is property? Stuff? Possessions? In moments of life and death, these obsessions are meaningless. Think about what you would save from the fire. What would you fight for? Or maybe the real question is who- who would you risk your life for? And what about your things, all of that stuff that you paid so much for?  In the crucible of the fire, it becomes crystal clear: you let the rest burn.


Categories: Journal, Studio

  • Dan Leffingwell

    I love the way he writes, simple and beautiful.

  • Flying 7b2

    This has quickly become one of my favorite SW songs! Lyrically and Musically it has it all! Jon, as you probably know it’s so much deeper than just letting go of our property and belongings. To me, it’s about letting go of all the junk in your life!!

  • Emily

    Thank you, Jon!

  • Miranda

    I’ve always loved this song, I love the emotion that is in the lyrics and melody. But I had never thought about the lyrics “Ashes from the flames, The truth is what remains, the truth is what you save from the fire.” And “You let the rest burn.” In the way you described. I never thought about how in a moment of destruction and fear, you’re first instinct is to save what you hold highest. I always that if my house ever burned down I knew exactly what I would go after. It’s like I had a list of things that I knew I wanted to rescue. But If that was to ever happen, what/who would I go after first? What would I be willing to let burn if there wasn’t any time left? Maybe it would even be myself. In a split second everything I may have thought, that list that I had in my head, would be stripped away and left with a literal moment of truth. It’s strange that I never thought about that before. It almost scares me to think about how I might react. My heart breaks for you and the others who were affected by that fire. I’ve never been in a fire before, so I don’t know what it’s really like. But the more I think about it and try to figure it all out, the more I wonder if smaller fires happen to us all the time. Fires that come at us without warning. How we react in situations where something or someone you fear is in the way of something or someone you love. We’ve all had times in our life where things got rough. Minutes were it really felt like fear was a raging fire that was blocking the sun, and burning our lungs. We may not know it, but In those times we always make a decision. To what point are you willing to let that fear take control of you? What is more important to you? Whether you have time to think or you’re forced to decide on the spot, you find out right then what’s really worth it to you. In some ways maybe the fear that’s keeping you from those you love, and “the lies that mattered most” are what you let burn. I really admire how beautifully you put your thoughts and emotion into music. Someday I would like to find a way to take my own thoughts and create my own anthem to. Thanks for sharing your heart with us!

  • I’ve never been at risk of a house-fire, but my mother has had three of her homes burn to the ground. In a very metaphorical sort of way, my house was always blazing. There is a freedom birthed from the ashes of everything that doesn’t kill us when it burns; it’s birthed from the ashes of everything we can live without. It isn’t pleasant, but it is liberating. This song is a gem: a real diamond, also formed in heat and pressure.

  • Connor McKane

    This is not only my favorite song from the new album, it is both my new favorite Switchfoot song and my new favorite song.

  • Tomek Nichczyński

    Dear Jon, Drew, Jerome, Chad, and Tim.

    I’ve always felt like every song you’ve written is a part of me. I believe in your songs with every ounce of me. As if it’s beneath my skin, carved into my heart. A few days ago I had plans and those plans were meant to change my life. I was about to earn my MA degree, I booked flight tickets and wanted to move to Northern Ireland to live with my siblings. While I was preparing myself for the final exam at the Uni, I saw a light in my room. It was like a flickering candle. I realized that my house was on fire. Fortunately, there was only me and my father at home, my mother went to church. I ran downstairs screaming, my dad grabbed a fire extinguisher but after just a couple of seconds we realized that I was too late. The fire cut off electricity, we got back home to look for a phone and call 911. It was completely dark and the fire was raging. Luckily, I found it and called fire brigade. We thought that we still
    had some time. I have never seen a man as brave as my father. If it was not for him, maybe we wouldn’t be alive. He got back home again and in the complete darkness he somewhow got flammable things out to prevent
    an explosion. Then he threw me car keys so I could move cars and leave our dog in one of them. After that, all we could do was stand and watch our home burn. The fire brigade showed up in 4, maybe 5 minutes. 30 firefighters immediately started putting the fire out. When my mother arrived, completely shattered, I saw in her eyes our home in flames, but we were together, alive. I was standing next to my parents and the only
    thing I was thinking about was this:

    Ashes from the flames,
    the truth is what remained,
    The truth is what we saved
    from the fire,
    And we fought for what we loved,
    Don’t matter if it hurt, we found out what it’s worth,
    And we let the rest burn…

    I’ve been strugling with my faith in God because I had doubts, I was heartbroken and felt like this burden was too heavy. Now, after what happened I truly realized that sometimes what we need is what we fight. Ironically, that fire in a way turned out to be a blessing because it was a fire that could burn me clean. Like you said, in the face of
    tragedy both faith and doubt are equally reasonable choices. My choice is faith. No more doubts.

    Maybe someday I’ll see you from the corner of a concert hall and I’ll whisper “thank you” with a spark in my eyes, because thanks to you, I realized that Hope is the Anthem and Love alone is worth the fight. Only love, nothing else.

    This is what I found in the ashes…

    God Bless you.

  • John Trenter

    Thanks guys for the great concert at Rochester Mayo, a place of healing. wondering if y’all are comin’ to that Reset program in May 2017, I heard on KTIS that you were sharing a concert at Joyful Noise in the TCs and fondly remembered when y’all opened up the Noise to 2 days from 1 several years ago. Several friends and I attended that event w/Gungor and God has worked through your music in many ways since then. Thank you for being His instruments for his glory and our joy!

  • jonkayaker

    This song hit so close to home, having lost our home to flames last year. When the album came out my daughters couldnt believe it, as you had wrote the main topic of our home – we have each other, and thats what matters! See you in Portland, on Feb 11th!

  • David Tolson Smith

    It is my favorite all time Switchfoot song. We stayed late to hear it at the concert in Kansas City last fall and it was amazing live.


Get The Music & Stories First.

Email entries must be 13+.

© 2018 Switchfoot. All rights reserved.
Site by BLVR