Thursday, 30 June 2016 17:47

Jack’s Mannequin’s Andrew McMahon Talks Songwriting, Being a Dad

Written by  Eric Mitts
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Andrew McMahon’s path to stardom hasn’t exactly been paint-by-numbers.

Fans of the singer/songwriter already know much of his story: He started out as the teenage frontman for the piano-pop/punk band Something Corporate in the early 2000s. Then there was his side-project Jack’s Mannequin, which chronicled his recovery from leukemia during his 20s. His latest solo project was inspired largely by his life as a new father.

But even those who haven’t followed McMahon’s music for the last decade and a half can get a quick summary of his life via his 2014 hit single “Cecilia and the Satellite.” Written for his soon-to-be-born daughter as an introduction to who her father was before she came along, the song lyrically spells out his story over a soaring chorus. It became the biggest pop smash of his entire career.

“The fact that trying to communicate to my daughter mattered to so many other people is definitely the pinnacle of my creative life as a songwriter,” McMahon, 33, said. “To share these personal moments in such a rich way and to have a connection with so many people is, to me, the ultimate goal of life as a songwriter.”

The inspiration for the song, McMahon’s daughter Cecilia, is now two years old. Naturally, she’s already becoming her dad’s biggest fan.

“I know how much the song means to her,” he said. “She always asks to listen to it. And to me that is the deepest form of flattery for a parent – to have their kid celebrate and be a part of what they do. 

Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
wsg Civil Twilight
The Intersection, 133 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
July 7, 6 p.m.
$25 advance, $28 day of show, all-ages, (616) 451-8232

“But I think every parent has got their sort of secret language with their kids, whatever that may be,” he added. “I just feel fortunate that [music] is a bond that I’m sure we’ll share.”

Now 15 years into his life as a songwriter, McMahon has discovered that despite his many connections to family, friends and fans, solitude actually helps him tap into his creative self. He wrote most of his debut as Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness alone in a small cabin in Topanga Canyon, just outside of Los Angeles. He frequently retreated there to write during the week, while returning to his then-pregnant wife Kelly on the weekends.

Earlier this year he started working on his follow-up LP, following a brief reunion tour with Jack’s Mannequin where he revisited the band’s 2005 debut Everything In Transit. The group also celebrated the 10th anniversary of his charity, the Dear Jack Foundation, which helps other young adult cancer patients and survivors.

“A good amount of this record was written in a very similar way to how the last record was written,” McMahon said, adding that he’s spent a lot of time away from his family in L.A. while writing and recording in New York and Nashville. “It’s not an easy approach when you have a two year old. There’s a lot of balancing of professional and personal that goes on in my life now that I’m making the record. But I think it’s leading to great music – music that’s got a lot of heart.”

Currently, the new record is about 75 percent of the way written, but McMahon has put it on hold so he can hit the road again this summer. In addition to headlining gigs – including his show July 7 at The Intersection – he’s opening up for two of his favorites bands, Weezer, who he’s loved since his teen years, and Panic! at the Disco, who he’s known since they first broke into the music industry.

“I try to have my family out here with me,” McMahon said of his new life as a parent on tour. “It’s different traveling and having a child on the tour bus, but it makes being out here certainly a lot easier. It’s actually kind of a fun way to see the world through my daughter’s eyes, cruising from city to city on a tour bus.” 

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