Hope not just a four letter word for McMahon

By on February 27, 2008

Jack’s Mannequin is a piano rock band from Orange County, Calif. that formed in 2004 and released their first album, “Everything in Transit,” in 2005. A side project of Andrew McMahon, originally from Something Corporate, Jack’s Mannequin has received praise from both critics and fans. The Chronicle had the opportunity to talk with McMahon about hopes for their new album, the pressures of achieving mainstream success and a documentary titled “Dear Jack.”

The Chronicle – How do you prepare for a college show as opposed to a headlining show or festival?

Andrew McMahon – They’re all pretty much the same, to be honest. I tend to find when we’re doing regular gigs it’s like it’s kind of a mix of high school and college aged kids. We pretty much try and do the same sort of thing, whereas some shows when we’re headlining we might not necessarily throw out a cover. At college shows we might throw in a cover to change it up and get it exciting for some kids who don’t know the band as well.

The Chronicle – Does it feel strange to play alongside a rap/hip-hop artist such as T-Pain? It’s a completely different genre of music, it has to be new to you.

McMahon – I mean, a lot of the colleges like to do that and we’re not one to tell them how to run their show. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it really doesn’t. I get the idea of trying to mix it up and open it up to all the students, to cover their base. It can make for a different kind of gig. The fans of what we do usually show up in spades and do their thing, and if nothing else, sometimes it could be weird for the hip-hop artist before us because hip-hop in general is not as live. The amount of touring hip-hop artists compared to rock artists, it’s considerably rock heavy. Sometimes that can be awkward. I’m sure it’ll be fine. It always works out.

The Chronicle – How do you plan to capture the attention of people who are here for T-Pain?

McMahon – You know, I just do what I do. When you do a gig, the goal is to snatch up as many people, so that goes without saying. To start massaging your set and trying to cater to people rather than play your gig and be the band that you are is never really smart. We just go out with big smiles on our faces and hope that whoever’s there digs it and if not, they’re always more than welcome to not watch.

The Chronicle – Your new album is called “The Glass Passenger.” How did you come up with the name?

McMahon – It was a part of a lyric for a song I had written for the new record that didn’t end up on the record. On the broader level it speaks of my experience over the past two years, seeing how fragile things really can be and how as much as you think you’re steering, you generally are not.

The Chronicle – How did you integrate the major events of your life into the new album?

McMahon – We’ll see. [Laughs.] I’m still working on that. It’s the record that doesn’t finish. No matter how hard, it just keeps going. We get closer every time, it’s one of those chipping away at the old block kind of situations. It seems like if nothing else with this record it speaks more to the other side of the hospital ordeal and getting on the other side of it and seeing what’s over there. What a lot of people don’t realize, when you’re put in that sort of position when you’re sort of, the survival fight. It’s not to say that it’s a no-brainer, but it’s a little more obvious what you have to do. You know what I mean, it’s like, ‘I gotta not die,’ you just do that. But something that they really don’t prepare you for is that once you sort of do survive it’s kind of what you do with that and how that applies to the rest of your life. That can be sort of a real haunting situation. A lot of what’s on this record speaks to that.

The Chronicle – Do you ever feel more pressured to write radio friendly type music and see a mainstream type of success?

McMahon – You know the funny thing is I’m always putting that pressure on myself. I grew up on the radio like most of us did. I started playing the piano when I was nine, and it wasn’t about being cool. I wrote every one of those songs assuming would have been on the f—–g radio. I didn’t bargain for exactly what happened afterward, it’s been really great despite the fact that it hasn’t had that mainstream nod. But frankly, there are certain things about my style and voice that for whatever reason don’t lock with radio. But I’m always trying to write hits. The songs I play are for my band, my family, my friends whatever and really connect. And I’m always pushing myself to do that. I’ve gotta be turned on, but usually my songs are pretty traditional, and obviously I always hope that one will emerge, but I don’t really write thinking ‘oh this could be on the radio,’ but hopefully this will connect with millions of people. Nowadays you have 250,000 people buying a record, so at least a couple of million had heard it. So in that sense, it’s been a success for me, maybe not so much mainstream.

The Chronicle – Would you mind telling us a little bit about “Dear Jack” and what fans can expect from it?

McMahon – The basic story is that I got this camera while I was making the record, and I filmed the whole process of it, and the camera sort of became my confidante, it was sort of a lonelier time when I was making that record, and I did a lot of my talking to the video camera. So when I got diagnosed, it was still there and got so comfortable with it that it was a no-brainer, and that I’d film it. So I did. I never thought people would see it, it had been this tool I had been using to get myself through the making of the record so I just continued to use it. I never really thought about it until eight, nine months, a year later until some of my friends approached me and had known the tapes existed and said ‘you know, why don’t you let us take a crack at it, interview people who were there and get your story out.’ It went from there, some of our friends that worked at MTV came in and sort of took it from its initial version to film length and upped the production value of it a little bit and now we’re submitting it to film festivals and stuff like that. We just got into our first one, the Beverly Hills Film Festival where I think it’ll be making it’s debut.

The Chronicle – Is it going to be a theatrical release?

McMahon – It’s like, I’m not in the movie business, I don’t know a thing about it. There are people in my life who I trust to help steer those kinds of decisions, and this one more than ever. I mean, I think this s–t should be on Oprah or something. That’s my opinion, it’s a weird thing to talk about because it’s my life. But the reasons I felt like I was obligated to do it, I don’t think people I know had brought cameras into that environment, and I don’t think I ever heard of or seen it be so accidental. They’re plugging wires and doing surgery in this arm and I’m filming with this arm. I think it definitely paints a very true picture of what happens when you go there, and also the fact that I survived it, and had such a great group of people around me, it really is a sort of story that would help people in this situation. And I think that’s my obligation to it and helps as many people as it can.

The Chronicle – Your music has been really influential to a lot of people. What do you want people to take away from this album?

McMahon – As I get further into it, the emerging theme of hope is a pretty significant theme on this record. I think the idea this album speaks in a lot of ways to just the human struggle period. I shed away from it a little bit in the beginning and tried to write just more classic sort of songs and steer into a direction that was a little more formulated and then the only stuff that suck for me in the year that I have been recording the record is the stuff that kind of hits on that point. It’s not always good, you know what I mean, but whatever. It’s all about pulling through and that’s been a pretty regular theme in my life. You know, this past year has been a little bit more of a classic definition of that. We’ll see, I hope it has the impact that the years themselves had had on me. Time will tell.

Contributions by Ryan Nicholsen

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