In almost every article or interview of Jack’s Mannequin, two details about Andrew McMahon — Jack’s front man — are always mentioned: (1) he was in Something Corporate and (2) he has lymphoblastic leukemia. But with Jack’s Mannequin now on their third full length album and his leukemia in remission for the past six years, it is safe to say Andrew McMahon is now in a different headspace.
“People and Things” — an all-encompassing title — is Jack’s Mannequin’s third album, which was released back in October of 2011. It debuted at number one on Billboard’s alternative rock album chart and has received warm reviews from critics. The songs on the album range from the radio-friendly “My Racing Thoughts” to the anthemic “Release Me” to the piano ballad “Platform Fire.” Andrew has stated that the album in many ways is about love, relationships, and his marriage: his goal to write songs that offered less flowery language exposing the more honest underbelly of relationships. The song, “Television,” exemplifies this idea about Andrew’s literal inability to fall asleep without a television on; but the idea is extended to explain the intimate state of uneasiness in his relationship. Jack’s Mannequin is currently on tour in support of “People and Things.”
BLAST: How is the tour going so far?
ANDREW MCMAHON:The tour has been excellent. We’re on our fifth or six show. All the shows have been, truthfully, better than I expected. It has been a fun run. I’m in Chicago tonight actually, just pacing around the House of Blues.
BLAST: How is it there?
AM: It’s great. I love Chicago. I actually spent a little bit of time growing up here when I was a kid. I certainly feel at home when I make my way out here.
BLAST: You moved around a lot as a kid?
AM: Yeah. I actually lived outside of Boston too. (Andrew chuckles)
BLAST: Are you excited to return? Do you ever feel nostalgic for the east coast?
AM: I do. A lot of my nostalgia probably comes from my early travels with Something Corporate just because I was so young when I lived out there. I was in Massachusetts for my first few years of life and then Jersey for the following three. So I don’t have tons of memories from the east coast. But I think there is a sort of feeling of home when you go to places that you’re from and have lived. I definitely feel a kinship to the east coast. No doubt.
BLAST: Are you still doing yoga on tour?
AM: Oh yes, yeah, it is a big part of my life on and off the road now. When I’m on the road, I get a good three or four days of yoga per week. But it got a little tricky with all the show days and the record coming out and doing press and things like that. So I do it every other day, including my days off. It keeps me feeling pretty good.
BLAST: What else do you do to fill your time on the road?
AM: There is not a ton of free time on the road when you’re promoting a record. A lot of it will be sneaking around to radio stations or doing phone interviews. When I do have time, I try and read. And when I am on the bus, I try and put on a good movie and get myself to sleep. But I’m pretty busy out here.
BLAST: You have said before that you are a fan of Billy Joel, so does your song “Television” have any relationship to Joel’s “Sleeping with the Television On”?
AM: It’s so funny that you should say that because truthfully there was no relationship to it. Actually, as I was finishing that song, I was going through a bunch of old vinyl and I came across the Joel album. I forgot what record it was on. So I saw on the back of it and I was like, ‘Oh my God are you kidding me?’ So it is hard to say whether or not it had any subconscious influence on me. As a kid, I don’t remember ever listening to the song. I remember listening to his Greatest Hits volume one, while I was growing up as a Joel fan. But yeah, I was definitely surprised to see the song title when I came across it.
BLAST: What television show do you usually fall asleep to?
AM: Truthfully for me, it is usually movies. I try to put in movies that I’ve seen like a million times, so that I can kind of zone out. It is usually The Big Lebowski, Super Troopers, usually a funny movie. But that tends to be my prescription before bed.
BLAST: Jack’s Mannequin’s bio by Warner Brothers Records says that People and Things “delves into the joys and conflicts of the first years of marriage” and you have stated that the album is about love and relationships. What does your significant other think of the album?
AM: (He chuckles) I think she likes it. Yeah I hope so. I don’t think she would tell me otherwise. But I think in a lot of ways it’s kind of our album as well. I think it’s tricky for anybody in my life who ends up being the subject of the songs that I write. In my wife’s case, we’ve been together for the better part of ten years and [she] knows that it kind of comes with the territory. But as far as I understand, this is her favorite of the Jack’s records. I think I did alright by her.
BLAST: What music do you listen to that you wouldn’t normally tell anyone about? What’s your guilty pleasure music?
AM: I don’t know. I don’t normally subscribe to like the guilty pleasures thing. I like lots of different types of music and I tend to be pretty okay with that. I can’t really think of the type of example that I wouldn’t be so proud to share. You got me stumped on that one.
BLAST: That’s okay. You have said before that you love to explore other mediums of art. What kind of other art are you working on?
AM: Personally, in a hobby sort of way, I have been taking a lot of pictures. I got a new camera over the summer that I have been experimenting with and have a lot of fun with that. I used to do that a lot with my Polaroid, but it is a little bit more difficult to get the kind of film that I need for my old camera. I also do quite a bit of writing on the side, none of which has really come out, other than in the forms of blogs.
BLAST: How many tattoos do you have? Do you have a favorite?
AM: Let me count here: one, two, three, four, five. Five! So five. You know, I am pretty close to all of them. The cool thing about my tattoos is that they all represent a different time in my life. There’s the Starry Night on my left arm, which I am very close to. So I will go with that for now.
BLAST: Who would your perfect collaboration project be with?
AM: I’ve definitely been digging Danger Mouse. I like a lot of what he has been up to, something in that vein. I like the thing he did with Broken Bells; I thought that was really cool. There is certainly a lot of great stuff that he has been attached to.
BLAST: What’s the Dear Jack Foundation?
AM: It’s something that I started after my own experience with cancer. We do our best to raise money for organizations that are fighting leukemia and young adult cancer. It’s what we have been up to for the better part of six years. We help raise money for research. We try things with initiatives for young adults like sending kids to camp who are sick.
BLAST: Anything else you want to tell the Blast Magazine readers?
AM: Thanks for listening. And I hope to see you at one of the shows in the next few weeks.
Jack’s Mannequin will be in Boston on February 3 at House of Blues. The list of tour dates can be seen here.