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Andrew McMahon Interview

Jun 21, 2009

By: Sindy

Sindy:: Hi Andrew, how are you? Where are you calling from?

Andrew: I’m great, I’m in Columbia, Maryland—we’re doing a show at a venue called Merriweather Post Pavillion.

Sindy:: Oh awesome, like the Animal Colective album! So is Jack’s Mannequin just you or is there a band?

Andrew:: No, I’ve been playing with a group of guys for going on four years now. I started the project on my own, doing everything in transit, then my guitar player came in and helped me finish the first record.

Sindy:: Did you write Jack’s Mannequin songs when you were still with Something Corporate?

Andrew: We had put ourselves on more or less a hiatus at that point so we were still doing a couple shows, but we’d taken a break from the studio and that’s when I started to find the time to write the first Jack’s record.

Sindy:: Can you take me through your song writing process?

Andrew: It varies, I think that’s why I like it so much. It’s kind of a mystery—for me it starts with one tipping point, either a melody or lyric that will motivate me to sit down at the piano—then I usually do it all in one breath.

Sindy:: It all kind of comes together as you’re doing it?

Andrew: Yeah and a lot of times I’ll step away from the piano and try to get a little deeper with the lyrics. Once I have a structure, sometimes I’ll be able to sit down and write a song in twenty minutes. .

Sindy:: Do you ever hear another song and it triggers something in you?

Andrew:Absolutely, I think there have been records that have really motivated me towards playing and writing. A record like Pet Sounds (by the Beach Boys) was a huge influence over my first record—it made me want to play piano.

Sindy:: Do you carry a notebook around for song ideas?

Andrew:: I do, I keep my notebook with me pretty much wherever I go. I lose them from time to time as well (laughs). I write a lot of prose and poetry and stuff like that separate from songwriting and I’ll occasionally dig through the journal—either to complete songs or hash out ideas.

Sindy:: That’s cool, I find a lot of creative people are creative in many fields.

Andrew:: I do go through phases. I’m a hobbyist, I mean obviously songwriting is the main thing but I have a Polaroid camera—that’s long been a hobby of mine. And yeah journaling and writing in other forms besides songwriting is something I definitely try to spend time doing.

Sindy:: Do you think place has any influence on your style—like where you are when you’re writing or recording?

Andrew:: Absolutely, no question about it. I draw a lot of my lyrical inspiration from the places I’m at when I’m writing. I try to not just describe a feeling but to put that against a visual or a backdrop. My home of Southern California is a constant source of inspiration—I find a lot of inspiration from Los Angeles.

Sindy:: I heard you wrote some songs for Tommy Lee—what was that like?

Andrew:: That was awesome! Tommy is a really passionate musician. He had heard a Something Corporate record and he tracked me down through management and gave me a call one day when I was in the studio—“Hey it’s Tommy Lee!” I definitely dropped everything to roll over there. It seems like a strange pairing but he and I really connected. He’s a really warm, lovable personality.

Sindy:: Would you like to write for other artists?

Andrew:: I do a bit of that. It’s something I’ve been doing more of recently. I’ve been working on a couple things with a couple different artists over the past several months that may surface depending on how well they like the songs that we work on. In the earlier portion of my career I was a little more guarded about getting in a room and trying to do that because the process can be such a mystery. I think there was a sense of self-consciousness that I had going in but in the past year or so I’ve really opened up to the idea of it.

Sindy::Working on your own must be so different than working with another artist?

Andrew:: Yeah it’s funny—the first time I did it (collaborated) I was kind of nervous but it’s liberating and creates a different reflection of yourself as an artist when you’re working with somebody else’s art. I definitely see myself doing a lot more of that.

Sindy:: I saw your cover of “Kids” by MGMT on YouTube and thought it was great.

Andrew:: I love that song. I remember the first time I heard it on the radio it just leveled me. I could barely make out the words but I knew there was something there that I was connecting to on a deep level. We had a lot of fun playing that song live.

Sindy:: Have you seen MGMT live yet?

Andrew:: I haven’t no—that’s the unfortunate side effects of constantly being on the road: you rarely get to go to shows. To be frank, when I am home the last thing I want to do is go to a show (laughs) but they’re definitely on the list of bands I want to see.

Sindy:: Who have you been listening to?

Andrew:: Well the MGMT album was a huge one for me and I really got into that Kings of Leon record too.

Sindy:: Cool, thanks so much for the chat, Andrew.

Andrew:: Thanks Kidzworld!

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