Andrew McMahon of Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness (Interview)

Alleya Weibel: Hey WPGU listeners, this is Alleya Weibel, music director and staff writer for the station. Here on the phone I have Andrew McMahon of Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. You may know him from his previous projects Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin. He’ll be coming through Bloomington, Illinois tonight at The Castle Theater. So Andrew, why don’t you tell us a little bit about this current tour?

Andrew McMahon: You know we’re out supporting the new single “Cecilia and the Satellite,” when I say new I guess it’s been around for eight months but new to a lot of people, but yeah it’s been fun and I’ve got a great crew of guys out with me as a band. We’ve managed to burn through a lot of the brand new record as well as some favorites from the Jack’s and the SoCo days.

Weibel: Awesome. And what exactly is the “Wilderness”?

McMahon: Gosh, for me it was a lot of things. You mentioned my previous two bands and I think when I was in both of those two projects I was working pretty heavily with staying on different major labels and there was a pretty good amount of insulation around me for those early years in my career and when I made the leap and decided to go out on my own, I kind of cut that cord and started making music independently and making records on my own. For me, the “wilderness” was that. That feeling of being out there and having to fend for myself a little bit and start fresh and start over with what had been a pretty good run with Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate. That’s kind of the environment that this record was created in and we decided to saddle it with a little bit of a monikering even though we did put my name on it.

Weibel: Yeah, well awesome. Obviously “Cecilia and the Satellite” is a song about your new family and you’ve mentioned previously, on your blog and others places, that it’s about knowing that you have this child coming. I’m wondering, what is it like being a touring musician with a relatively new family?

McMahon: You know, it’s kind of sort of, you have to readdress your priorities a little bit. I think obviously being a new dad, I want to spend as much time with my daughter as possible. She travels with me and my wife and her are generally on the tour bus with us while we’re doing these shows. I think it has been one of the happier times I have been out on the road, having some people in place rather than here’s my band and the bar after the show. It’s nice to have someone to come home to. [laughs]

Weibel: Yeah! That’s awesome. So then has the family being around influenced your writing style with the change in where you have to put your time and everything?

McMahon: Not necessarily, I see what you’re saying with time but your time is kind of relative. When you don’t have a family or you don’t have certain responsibilities or obligations you spend your time differently. For me I think if nothing else I am more focused. I dedicate specific time to writing and making sure that when I’m writing I’m not distracted, that I’m in depth every second, as where with before when I had a little bit more free time you can do that in a slued way where maybe you’re not as concerned about what comes down to it. Now I’d say I give direct attention, I just have a lot of focus. Same thing when I’m with my family. I’m focused, you know, I try not to be doing work or business when I’m with them. It’s just recalibrating your focus, but I am probably more productive and more present in both spaces just knowing that that’s what has to get done.

Weibel: Alright. So Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness marks your fourth project as an artist, do you see elements of your past projects in what you’re currently working on?

McMahon: Yeah, absolutely. I think in certain projects there are things that persist from one thing to that next and there are different circumstances that surround every record that I make, even with those projects. I think the one thing that I try to keep central to everything that I do is just focus on good songwriting and good melodies and trying to write honest songs and be honest with where I am in my life. That, I think, has been the one thread through every record that I’ve made and through every project that I’ve done. And rather than trying to tell someone else’s story, or trying to be honest and tell my story is to be the most authentic artist I can be.

Weibel: Alright, well that kind of goes along with this next question. One of my fellow staff writers, Emma Goodwin, was able to see you in concert earlier this year and she mentioned that one part of your live show that resonated with her was the fact that some of the more energetic parts of the show were songs that were not necessarily as popular or known, due to radio play or charts. What are some songs that really stand out to you as a performer?

McMahon: I think it’s interesting. Like for me, one thing I try to do is I try not to be the artist that doesn’t play the favorite song that fans want to hear because for the most part, like I try to play “Dark Blue” from Jack’s Mannequin catalog or “I Woke Up In A Car” from Something Corporate because the songs are favorites of the audiences and are favorites of mine. But truthfully there are tracks from the new record and from older records that have a life of their own and have a fan base of their own and maybe they’re not the ones that are most well-known if you listen in a broader sense and don’t have the record. There’s a b-side off a record called “Watch the Sky” which is one of my favorite songs and it didn’t even make the album but I still play that one live. I’m trying to think of a good example from the new record. There’s a song called “Maps for the Getaway” and it isn’t a song that we’re currently pushing and is kind of the last song on this album. But there’s a lot of energy to it, and it’s a song that I really want people to get familiar with so we play that one almost every night, sometimes we even open with it.

Weibel: Awesome. I kind of have a fun question here, I know you have a song from a while back called “Synesthesia” and I was wondering, do you have synesthesia?

McMahon: I wish! It’s funny, that song. I had made a note in a journal a while back when I first heard about synesthesia. It’s a condition where people hear music and actually see colors associated with tones or with I guess the notes of what is played. I always found it so fascinating, and I was in the middle of writing a chart, like a first idea for this song and really I think the verse is reflecting on some of the things I had been through in my own life and realizing you can try to compare yourself to “this” person or “that” person or what somebody else has done or accomplished, but my philosophy has always been like just try your best and to sort of focus on yourself, and make sure you’re living the most authentic life you can live. I found this idea of seeing color in your life and a theme that I could kind of tie synesthesia into [the song] so I wrote about it as a concept but I definitely do not have it.

Weibel: Well that’s kind of funny because I actually do have it.

McMahon: No, that’s amazing!

Weibel: I’m a musician, I study music here, and I actually have synesthesia and I just thought it was fun that you had a song called that and was curious if you also had it.

McMahon: See, I’m sure I could pick your brain for hours but that’s probably something –

Weibel: Yeah, we don’t need to bore the listeners with that.

McMahon: – I’m so curious and I hope that’s something we can do that some other point because I always want to talk to a synesthete and hear their thoughts on the condition.

Weibel: Yeah, well I think we can get to that a little later but I think that’s all we actually have time for now.

McMahon: Fair enough.

Weibel: So, thank you so much Andrew for your time.

McMahon: It’s my pleasure, thank you.

Weibel: That was Andrew McMahon of Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. He will be performing tonight at The Castle Theater in Bloomington, Illinois with opening act Mark Rose. Doors are at 7 pm, show at 8.

About Alleya Weibel

(Music Director) I'm a violin performance major, and when not studying music you can find me at shows, playing with bands, hanging out with my dog, or eating pizza. I listen to music and write things!

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