Artist Interview Series: Andrew McMahon

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A one-on-one with a musical chameleon

Artist Interview Series: Andrew McMahon

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May 2, 2013 —  For the most recent installment of the Party Earth Artist Interview Series, we took time out to speak with singer/songwriter Andrew McMahon. Formerly of Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin, McMahon just released a new EP called The Pop Underground.

Q. It’s a natural progression for any successful artist to perform under its own moniker. How does it feel to finally be performing under your own name and moving on from Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate?

A. It’s interesting because in a lot of senses Jack’s Mannequin was kind of me doing that but in a sort of more veiled way I suppose. Now it sort of feels natural – it doesn’t feel like such a big deal to me, but yeah, it’s kind of a trip to see my name on the marquee rather than the moniker I was going by before. In that sense it’s an interesting transition.

Q. Any extra pressure because it is just your name?

A. I have to be honest; I feel probably less pressure at the moment than I’ve ever felt. I would argue that the process of rounding out the Jack’s catalogue and sort of stepping into this next stage has left me feeling a lot more comfortable in my own skin and that I’m sort of just stoked to be where I am and doing what I’m doing.

Q. What was the inspiration behind The Pop Underground and what are you most proud of with the results?

A. You know, I think more than anything, the inspiration for the record was this idea of really freely approaching new music in the studio. I really wanted to reinvent my process a little bit when I started this. I wasn’t really intending it to go anywhere. It was really more the idea of following the process. I think, certainly lyrically, I found a lot of inspiration from my family or sort of taking stock of where I’ve been in life and where I am right now for sure. Which, in defense, isn’t anything particularly new but I think the feeling that I mentioned earlier, this sort of lack of pressure, and this feeling of sort of being where I’m supposed to be I think informed a lot of the lyrics and approach to the album.

Q. Which track means the most to you on the new EP and why?

A. It’s kind of an old songwriter adage that your last song is always your favorite or the last one you wrote is always your favorite, so I guess it’s not necessarily a surprise that “Synesthesia” happens to be that for me. It was sort of the finishing move for this record. I had 5-6 tunes written that we were considering for the EP and one of the last days when we were going to finish or spend some time tidying up a few of those to make the final decision, I wrote the first verse of that song and brought it to the studio. For me, I think it had the most perspective. It is definitely pretty representative of myself as a person, sort of my perspective on life in general, sort of where I come from.

Q. I like the concept of synesthesia generally.

A. I appreciate that. I think it’s also the product when you work with someone. It was a song we all connected with you know and sort of got into when we were deeper into the project and in that sense we took a lot of the lessons from other songs we had worked on both from the writing sense and the production side.

Q. Are you more excited to play headline shows, like the sold out Troubadour show in Los Angeles, or going out this summer and supporting live stalwarts like OAR.?

A. I kind of consider them in two different arenas. The headlining shows are great because I think it gives me the chance to really give a lot to fans. And from the perspective from garnering a connection with the audience, the headliners are a really great place to do that. But I gotta be honest, the OAR tour, we’ve done it once before in 2006 for the first Jack’s tour we did after I got better, and there’s just something about being outside in the summertime and getting to make new fans and play to new people. I’m always pretty pumped to get out on the summer run – not to be too much of a politician about it but I hold both in pretty high esteem.

Q. Which artists have inspired you along the way?  Whose work do you wear on your sleeve?

A. Gosh, there’s a bunch. I’m kind of a sponge I listen to tons of stuff, and there’s certainly a whole host of modern artists that I count as influences, band’s like My Morning Jacket, artists like Ben Folds, and Guster, Miike Snow – but I also think a lot of what you end up wearing on your sleeve the most is the stuff that you grew up with and for me that was bands like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and the Counting Crows, and U2, and to some extent Weezer, you know early Weezer, the first couple Weezer records. There’s also that stuff you almost can’t avoid like, really big for me growing up was Paul Simon.  I think a lot of those early singer / songwriters, those classic singer songwriters are great. And when I’m looking for a little bit of extra fuel I tend to go back to those records, people like Neil Young.

Q. Who are you listening to right now? Anything worth sharing with others?

A. I’ve got a ton of stuff that I’m just digging into as we speak. I just got that new Jim James record which I really, I just dig it. There’s another album by a group called Phosphorescent, that I really like a lot, specifically this tune “Song for Zula” which I’m addicted to at the moment. What else has been burning it up for me? I just got a new mix that my manager put together for me, a bunch of tunes I was digging, “Sacrilege” and a handful of others. I try to keep as current as humanly possible.

Q. What’s your favorite venue to play in?

A. You know, there’s one that always comes to mind which is the 9:30 Club in DC. I’ve got a lot of good memories of that place. I feel like as far as having a good show, it’s just a consistently great spot to play and I feel like the fans get a lot out of that venue. That’s certainly one that I hold close. The Troubadour in Los Angeles I love. It’s certainly a smaller room, but it’s got a great vibe. I tend to like rooms, even if they’re big rooms, that keep the audience close. A big room that we just played that was crazy and certainly a rush was Radio City Music Hall I mean that’s a pretty amazing spot to play a gig. That’s a few for you. There are a lot of funky, dodgy nightclubs that I hold pretty close to my heart as well.

Q. Obviously the Dear Jack Foundation is an incredibly personal organization for you and we want to make sure to give it as much awareness as possible – can you tell us about the foundation and where we can get more info?

A. You can get information and donate and find more about us at And our goal is to effectively raise money and help support organizations that make a difference in the lives of young adults with cancer. This is a demographic that has not seen an improvement in their survival rates in over 30 years. You say young adults and you think you’re talking about kids and teenagers but really it’s anyone from the ages of 15 to 39 years old. And our hope is that through awareness and educating people about these horrible statistics and by aligning ourselves with organizations that do make a difference for young adults that we’ll start to be able to turn the tide and change these numbers that we’re seeing.

Andrew McMahon’s latest EP is called The Pop Underground and it can be purchased here.

For more information on tour dates, check out his Party Earth page and his official site for non-Party Earth cities.

What's your favorite Andrew McMahon song?

Deepak H. May 2, 2013
After the Fire and Synesthesia

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