Interview: Andrew McMahon of Jack's Mannequin

He may be a star now, but back in the day, Andrew McMahon had to haul his piano into the basement of the former Nile Theatre in Mesa just like the rest of them.

"I've definitely got a lot of good memories from Phoenix," McMahon says, remembering the Valley as one of the early markets to support his band Something Corporate. The singer is playing much bigger venues now, as his current project, Jack's Mannequin, continues to stay strong, and he's working on a new Jack's Mannequin album with hopes of an early 2011 release.

McMahon's also currently busy with making a Something Corporate greatest hits record, to be released in May. Fans can expect to hear some older demos from the band, which have never been recorded.

While his new band has reached mainstream popularity, Jack's Mannequin wasn't always solid, after McMahon was diagnosed with leukemia in 2005. He made a full recovery and has moved on from his battle with the disease and is now focusing his writing on his day-to-day life experiences, especially his relationship with his wife.

"It's definitely been a much freer writing experience because I've cleared the deck of all that drama," McMahon says.

The drama may be gone, but McMahon is still sharing insight into what he went through with a documentary of his recovery, Dear Jack. The film, released late last year, has been shown across the country.

But enough sad stuff--McMahon says fans can expect Jack's Mannequin hits as well as some B-sides fans have been asking the band to play when the band comes to town Saturday, February 13 to play Marquee Theatre with fun, the new band of former The Format frontman Nate Ruess.

What's been inspiring your writing these days? I'm married and in a relationship, and I'm finding it really fascinating to dig into that subject of love in that context and being tied to another person for the rest of your days. I find writing that story has been super-powerful, and just the broader overview of being a person in this world we're all living in now.

How has your wife reacted to the songs you've written about her? We have a little agreement that what I write is off-limits, and that's the easiest way to preserve my ability to write candidly and as honest as i can be.

Your lyrics tend to be on the positive side. After all you've been through, what keeps you so upbeat? For me, it's funny because I think all of us being inundated with news and the politics of the day, it's easy to get cynical. I found myself gravitating away from that and writing from an accepting angle, understanding there's this madness going around us constantly but also reconciling that a lot of the madness that goes on in the world can be healed. There's hope for that. I think I'm a pretty lucky guy, I guess. I feel pretty blessed to make music for a living. It's all I wanted to do since I was 9 years old. I've definitely had my battles, but I think we all do.

Talk more about Dear Jack and what you hope people take away from it. It was a year of me documenting my life and making (2005 album) Everything in Transit and the diagnosis of me being sick. It started in the studio as a little studio project, collecting footage from the studio to use for commercial means. I just got really into filming everything and eventually found out I was sick. I wasn't able to physically journal and get everything off my brain, so it was a very reliable source of art therapy. I hope people who have dealt with (leukemia) before will have some common ground. I think for everybody else who hasn't seen it first-hand, it could be an education and humanity of what this can be like.

What are your plans as far as screening it? I think for us, the idea of the documentary was to push it out there and see what comes back. Now we have a lot of college and high school kids reaching out to us about doing screenings at their schools. It's not a really timely piece, so hopefully people will discover it over time.

Why should people check you out at the Marquee? We like to make honest music and try and put on a good show and have everyone leaving with a smile on their face. Listening to the music at home is one experience, but seeing it live is one experience we can all have together.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Nicki Escudero
Contact: Nicki Escudero