New Found Glory's Jordan Pundik Talks New Acoustic Album and Tour, Reveals Guitarist Chad Gilbert's Cancer Diagnosis Motivated Him to 'Take Care of Myself' (Exclusive)

When the pop-punk and emo scene exploded in the early 2000s, there were a handful of bands who had been there, toe-to-toe with fans in their community, that have earned the right to be considered purveyors, or godparents, of the scene. New Found Glory is one of those bands. Formed in the late '90s, the band released their first album, Nothing Gold Can Stay, in 1999, and they have since gone on to release nine more full-length studio albums. That's not even mentioning their collection of cover songs albums, live recordings, EPs, compilation projects, and a holiday album that dropped in 2021.

Now, New Found Glory has released their first fully acoustic album, Make the Most of It, which features seven original songs and a handful of live versions of the band's most popular tracks. What makes the project stand out from the band's past entries is that its release follows founding guitarist Chad Gilbert's two-year battle with a rare form of cancer: Pheochromocytoma. The musician was hospitalized in both 2021 and 2022 due to the illness, which required multiple surgeries. What emerged from the uncertain and frightening period of life is a collection of deeply personal songs that bring profound catharsis for those of us aging millennials who are forced to face mortality in ways songs about rock shows didn't address 20 years who.

In support of the new album, New Found Glory frontman Jordan Pundik sat down for a conversation with PopCulture.com and offered some insight into the new project, their upcoming tour, and his personal mindset while singing songs that were so intimate to Gilbert. When asked if the band had already wanted to do an acoustic album or if it was something that evolved out of the songwriting during their bandmate's health journey, Pundik replied, "Well, I would probably say it's a little bit of both. For many years, I mean, we've always done acoustic stuff here and there at some shows and YouTube videos and things, but never full-on acoustic record."

"From fans, we've been getting messages every time we put out an acoustic song, like an original redone," he continued, "every time we put it on YouTube or something, we'll get hundreds and hundreds of comments. 'Acoustic record, acoustic record. We want an acoustic record.' It was our fans that actually planted the seed in our ear, in our brains. And so through that and then doing these live streams during COVID acoustic and doing the songs for YouTube and things and hearing the comments from fans, it just happened with that naturally."

Pundik went on to share, "Of course when all this stuff was happening with Chad and his diagnosis and everything, it was just more fuel to really put something out that could be special and meaningful. Not only for us, but for our fans too. I mean, I'm sure there's so many people that have gone through a similar situation or, even if it has nothing to do with cancer at all, anything. Anything could be applicable to what the songs are about, except there's obviously a couple that are very blatant cancer journey songs. But people can definitely relate to it. And we're already getting messages from the songs we put out about how people are relating and how they love it. So, it's really cool."

Understandably, Pundik admits that walking alongside Gilbert as he faced unpredictable health issues, has changed the singer's own outlook. "Since this has been going on with one of my closest friends, any little weird thing that I feel in my body I'm like, 'Oh man, should I go check this out?' It's on my mind more," he confessed. "I'm not thinking about me. It's not about me. It's about the people around me and making sure that I take care of myself and making sure if I feel something weird, I go take care of it, that kind of thing. I don't know."

The new original songs on Make the Most of It are so evocative that just reading what someone writes about them isn't going to do them any sense of justice. They must be heard. We do highly recommend "Watch the Lillies Grow," which is written to Gilbert's young daughter who was born in July 2021. The song is from the very literal perspective of a father faced with the possibility that he may never get to see his child grow up from here on Earth, but comforts her that he would "still smile in heaven" as he lovingly kept watch over her.

"At first I was like, 'OK, this is a little too close," Pundik said of singing the words that Gilbert wrote. "I mean, we've always written songs together since the beginning of time and it's always taking things that we've gone through as a whole. Ian going through his s— in his life, me going through my stuff. And we've always written together, but when this song lyrically was presented to me, I was like, 'Man, is this a little too personal for me to be singing it?'"

He eventually found motivation in his friendship with Gilbert, saying, "And as I got in there, I said to myself, I'm like, 'You know what? This is an important song for him and I think this could be an important song for a lot of people.' I went there with that mindset and I thought about my own children and what I would be going through in that situation. And I think that's what really helped me get the emotion out and actually make a great song."

Not one to spend too much time singing the sorrow, Pundik took a moment and praised his bandmate for being such a "positive person," noting that it's rubbed off on every member of the group. "He always has a positive outlook on things and I think that positivity spreads, you know? And so with him being positive... We talk through everything." The singer then joked, "I mean, I think other bands would be annoyed at us because we like to talk and dissect everything with everything. So, we talk to other bands about stuff and there's always younger bands that are on tour with us and we get to hanging out and having conversations and stuff. And they're usually a lot younger and they ask a simple question and it always turns into a four-hour discussion. And you just see them just zoning out."

Pundik also revealed how Gilbert becoming a father, and not just his cancer diagnosis, had an impact on New Found Glory, specifically when it comes to touring. "Even before the diagnosis, I mean, we were already at the point in our career where we're like, 'You know what? We don't need to be on tour for two, three months back to back. Why do we do this still to ourselves? We can do the same thing and just spread it out.' So, now we do two weeks. Because everybody has kids. 

"Chad had his first kid," he continued, going on to share, "And before, back in the day when we were having kids earlier on, he didn't have anybody, any kids. And he was still like, 'We gotta tour, tour, tour, tour, tour.' And I'm like, 'Dude, you got to understand. This is hard.' And he never understood. And then as soon as he had his first kid, he's like, 'You know what, guys? I was wrong. I don't know how you guys do it.'"

Pundik pointed to the new tour New Found Glory is setting off on this month as an example of how they've altered their original touring structure. "So, now it's like we tour, well, for example, this acoustic tour, it's basically what would be a month-long tour. But instead, it's two weeks. Then I come home for about a month and then I do another two weeks."

"That has seemed to have really been helpful," he added, "not only for our families and our personal lives and missing out on less stuff, but also mentally too. I think it's very helpful that we're like, 'Okay. All right. We're just going to be gone for two weeks. Then we can go home and reset and then be ready to go for the next two weeks.'"

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Finally, Pundik rightfully noted that he feels New Found Glory has a "precedence with our fans" and that they are sincere and "approachable" guys. "We're just normal people. 'Band guys' annoy the f— out of us. So, we never wanted to be like that. It's great people know us and the band does well and we're successful in that, but I've always tried to just keep a," he trailed off before concluding, "I think all of us, collectively, just always realized we wouldn't be where we are if it wasn't for the people coming to see us."

Fans can click here to find streaming options for Make the Most of It, or here to pick up a physical copy, as well as other album merch. The Make the Most of It acoustic tour kicks off in St. Louis, Missouri on Saturday, Jan. 28. Find a complete list of dates and tickets here. Keep it locked to Pop Culture.com for more music news, exclusives, and interviews!