Andrew McMahon’s ‘Wilderness’ years
The Aspen Times
If You Go …
What: Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Monday, July 25, 8:30 p.m.
How much: $36-$51
Tickets: Belly Up box office; http://www.bellyupaspen.com
Teen idol, pop-punk frontman, singer-songwriter, cancer survivor. At 33, Andrew McMahon is an 18-year music industry veteran who has been through a lot. The former lead singer of Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin will make his Aspen debut tonight with his latest project, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness.
He released an eponymous record with the new band in 2014 and an EP last year, with a second full-length record in the works that he plans to finish this fall. The project, begun with a solo writing session quite literally in the wilderness at a remote California cabin, boasts introspective piano-driven pop songs with an electronic and anthemic streak. It’s launched a handful of hits in “High Dive” and “Cecelia and the Satellite” and shown McMahon’s loyal fan base a new side of him. His concerts these days are a mix of the new material alongside songs from his previous bands.
“It’s a mash-up of the Something Corporate, Jack’s tunes and the new stuff in one space,” he said in a recent phone interview. “It’s all pretty cohesive as it transitions between the new and the old. It ends up being pretty fun.”
McMahon has earned a reputation for adding some prop-based shenanigans to that fun.
“At some point I’ll end up riding an inflatable duck through the audience,” he said with a laugh.
Weaving old songs — some of which he wrote at 16 — into the new band’s sound has been pretty seamless.
“We’ve made an effort to stay true to the songs and the seed of them that people fell in love with in these songs,” he said. “I don’t hear from people, like, ‘Oh, that’s a different version.’”
Shortly after Something Corporate went on what ended up being a permanent hiatus in 2005, McMahon was diagnosed with leukemia. He was 22. The tumultuous period of illness, treatment and recovery, McMahon said, shook the fearlessness he’d come to rely on creatively.
“Coming out of having cancer and then getting better, there’s still a lot of underlying fear and almost a crisis of confidence that you have about everything,” he said. “You look at the world in a completely different way.”
He founded and still runs the Dear Jack Foundation, a nonprofit for adolescents and young adults with cancer. After making two Jack’s Mannequin records while in remission, he decided to start fresh as Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness.
“A lot of the reason I put Jack’s behind me and started this project was to put that chapter behind me,” he said. “I was starting to get that fearlessness back, feeling like I could blaze a path and not look back.”
When the current tour wraps up next month, McMahon and his band will be in the studio in New York recording the new album.
“I feel like I have to put my head down and do the work to build a catalog so that people have something to carry with them,” he said of the new music. “We’ve committed to do a few-year run where we put a bunch of records out and tour our asses off to get people up to speed with the new stuff.”