Blast got an opportunity to talk at length with Jack’s Mannequin front man Andrew McMahon about the group’s new album, working with Stephenie Meyer, the Dear Jack Foundation and the future of Something Corporate.
BLAST: Where did the content for The Glass Passenger come from?
ANDREW MCMAHON: Gosh, it was sort of this weird limbo period, to be honest. I was recording a lot of The Glass Passenger while I was touring everything in transit. Obviously it’s no secret that I had fallen ill around the time that Everything In Transit was finished and was coming out. So pretty much it took me several months to kind of recover from that and deal with all the things that went along with that. And then of course you know, I wanted to get back on the road and really make sure that people had heard Everything In Transit, so I started really working that record and touring tons of dates a year to support “Transit,” while kind of concurrently starting to write and record The Glass Passenger. So there was sort of this strange limbo period where I had my hands in a lot of things and was doing a lot and obviously still trying, while my body was bouncing back, I was still sort of dealing with some of the stress and trauma that goes along with, you know, having recovered and gone through what I had dealt with and getting sick, so, that’s where the content came from, in a lot of respects; that sort of inner-personal struggle of trying to find my place in the world after a pretty traumatic event and in a lot of ways trying to use the music to propel me forward and to get me past this.
BLAST: Are you going to continue writing more mature songs or do you prefer writing similar to your earlier, lighter songs?
AM: I was 17, 18 years old when I was in Something Corporate, you know. Obviously by the time we had put it on hiatus I was turning 21 and becoming an adult and all the things that go along with it. I guess mature is a word. I’ve always, since I was nine years old and started writing songs, have written songs about what I’m dealing with at that point in my life. When you’re 17, you’re writing songs about what it’s like to be in love at 17 and what’s really more relevant at 17 than love: getting into relationships and then breaking them off and the pain of that and all that stuff. Not to say that that stuff isn’t very relevant too, but obviously the approach, when you start getting older; now I’m 26, I’ll be 27 in the summer, it’s like … I write songs from the perspective of a 26 year old now, not a 16 year old. So yeah, I think I’ll continue to grow hopefully and continue to write songs that represent who I am, not songs that intentionally hearken back to some old sentiment, I guess.
BLAST: So what are the songs that you’re writing now about?
AM: The songs I’m writing now about … it’s kind of hard to say. I haven’t really gone in and recorded too much. I went into a recording session recently that was kind of groovy. We ran a bunch of old material we had an accumulated over the course of four or five years. Two of the songs very well may make a new record, but those are obviously older tracks. I think now a lot of these songs are sort of angled around love and about relationships, but I think from a very different perspective. I think that in a lot of ways about real love and what goes along with that and what goes along with you know really being committed to someone and something and sort of how that can be idealized, but sometimes that ideal isn’t always the reality and sort of trying to approach that and analyze it from that level which is sort of the first time I’ve really gotten to do that because obviously The Glass Passenger was about something very different.
BLAST: Are you experimenting with any new sounds?
AM: The sounds I find myself gravitating towards now more than ever are really rich, warm and natural sounds. I think the studio for me is always my second home if you consider I tour anywhere from six to 10 months a year. I’ll spend the remaining months in the studio, regardless of whether I’m recording for an album or just trying to work out some new material and stuff. I find myself sort of slowly gravitating away from the more rigid recording structure, not to say avoiding pro-tools all together or things like that, but I think pro-tools have created this safety net for a lot of bands and a lot of artists to not accomplish and not achieve the sounds on their own and I think my perspective, especially after having been on the road for so long, in these past few years playing with a really talented band, I think you’ll find me going into studio recording more live and recording with less effects and you know less processing and all of these things and really kind of focusing on nailing the sounds and nailing the take and really kind of making it about the magic of the take instead of spending months and months and months and month working on the song and working in the effects. I think I’m kind of getting away from that style.
BLAST: You must have had an interesting end to 2008 — you kind of got sucked into Twilight-mania.
AM: Yes I did sort of, didn’t I? (laughs)
BLAST: Tell me a little bit about working with Stephenie Meyer on the making of the “The Resolution” music video.
AM: It was one of these things where I had a friend of mine who had notified me, this is probably months before I got involved with Stephenie, that Stephenie was a fan of Jack’s Mannequin and that she had made reference to Jack’s either on her website or in the thank you’s in one of her books as being an inspiration for a character or whatever, we were on a play list or something like that. I heard this and at that point didn’t really know much about “Twilight” and while it was obviously a huge phenomenon throughout the country and probably the world and what-not, I don’t think it had quite broken the surface yet. As the months wore on, obviously I was sort of realizing how big a deal this whole thing was and about the same time we were searching for video treatments for “The Resolution” and frankly hadn’t really found one that we clicked with. It was sort of a frustrating process and I was trying to kind of sort it out and we started talking; myself and the label, we started talking about, “Is there anything we could do that would be different and cool and clever that might invigorate this process, and maybe it isn’t just going to video treatments, maybe we reach out to the musicians from another band we like or we reach out to film directors or actors or other people we know?,” that sort of thing. In that conversation, I was like, “Well you know, this woman who writes these books that have sold millions of copies is a purported fan of Jack’s Mannequin. Maybe we could reach out to her. She’s an author, I’m sure she could come up with something cool.” And then of course, it was sort of a pipe dream, I guess, in a sense. I mean I wasn’t really thinking of it on the grander scale of how huge she really was. Sure enough, we reached out, and she was like, “Sure, that sounds great,” and she sent in three treatments and we loved one of them and she ended up coming out and co-directing the video for us.
BLAST: How involved was Stephenie in the process of filming the video?
AM: It wasn’t like she was behind the camera, you know, she’s an author. There was this guy named Nobel Jones who is a director and she was on set the whole time, she obviously wrote the treatment, and she and Nobel collaborated quite a bit as far as the execution of her vision and how she wanted it to look. She was definitely there and approving shots and giving her opinion of certain shots as we went along, so she was definitely a part of the production and the directing of the video, sure.