For years, fans of Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate have praised Andrew McMahon not only for his musical genius but also his inspiring personal story. After being diagnosed with leukemia in 2005, McMahon will release the documentary "Dear Jack," a personal recollection of his battle, November 3rd. Andrew will also be doing a leg of solo acoustic shows this fall. We had the chance to talk to Andrew about his current tour and the long awaited release of "Dear Jack."
Cristina: You are currently on a Solo Tour. How is that going?
Andrew: It’s going well. We just kicked it off in Denver and it was an awesome first show. I’m very excited it’s definitely a good experience.
CC: What can people expect from it? This is the first time you’re playing acoustic by yourself since you started Jack’s Mannequin.
AM: Yeah. The first show was kind of terrifying, to be honest. Like you said, it’s the first time I’ve ever done anything like this. You know, other than growing up in High School playing song on the piano for my friends. I haven’t really done this kind of stripped down thing – or at least a whole set of it. There are a lot of new arrangements; I think we played around 20 new arrangements in the first night. I think it went really well. It’s definitely a different kind of gig.
CC: Something I know you do often is changing the arrangements of your songs. One example that comes to mind is “Kill The Messenger” which you’ve gone back and forth playing it acoustic and electric.
AM: Pretty much everything we do is an alternate version. I made a list of about 25 or 40 songs. Over the course of a few weeks we sat down at the piano with the acoustic and would run them and see if it made sense arrangement wise. We did that for instance with ‘Holiday From Real.’ We did kind of an acoustic version of that a while back and played with that version of it. It’s all pretty much new acoustic arrangements of that and some new Something Corporate songs.
CC: So tell me about the new documentary you have coming out, Dear Jack. I know you’re having a couple of screenings for it as well.
AM: As far as screening goes, we’re showing it in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. The idea behind the screening was to give the fans the first look at what this documentary is and also a chance for us to donate the proceeds of the screening back to the foundation and raise some money for the charity. The Documentary itself was sort of an accident of documenting. Before I got sick I was filming the making of “Everything In Transit” with a video camera the label had given me. When I got sick, I had been recording my life for about 6 months, so it became a sort of natural reaction to what was going on. I continued to document. I just continued to tape while I was there and through my recovery. Some friends approached me and said “we know these tapes exist, would you let us see them.” They also wanted to know if there was a story there worth telling and if there was enough footage for it. They spent a couple of years putting it together and here we are now.
CC: How is it going back to that time? I know the most personal account the fans have about it, besides all the blogs, is the song “Caves.”
AM: I have mixed feelings, obviously. Part of me is nervous to show it. I’m a pretty forthcoming person about a lot of things. There is that window into my life pretty regularly through my songs. But that’s it. But after all, I’m also a private person. I tend to tell what I want to tell, not necessarily everything else. But this will definitely be the most personal view anyone will ever probably have of me at a pretty pivotal moment in my life. It makes me a little nervous in some senses but in others, I think the best thing to do is to put it out there. I think this story has followed me for so long, and I understand why. I think where I’m sitting now, maybe the best way for me to put this all behind me and say this chapter is done – I’m moving forward – is to show just what it was. There is no need for speculation; no need to ask me what happened. If you really want to know what it was like, watch it. Hopefully you can find hope in it – it is something very true and very honest. It’s really raw. That’s all I can say about it.
CC: I feel as if your story sometimes become the focus of your career – and very wrongly so, because you’re an amazingly talented musician. Is this your way of saying I’m moving on, let’s focus on something else now?
AM: Exactly. Absolutely. It’s strange but I’ve been looking for a way to artfully tell people what happened. For my fans, people follow the music and they listen to the songs. To those who know about it, the story of me getting sick is tied closely to my music. Again, I understand it. There was a period in time where it frustrated me. It’s still a very relevant part of my life and of the last record, no question. But needless to say, it’s something I prefer to not discuss every time I talk to someone. To be able to have this movie out, there are questions I don’t have to answer anymore. If you do your research, you’ll hear about the movie. But otherwise there is nothing else to say. Absolutely, like you said this is a chance to put it behind me and say this is what it was. And also, I can start focusing on the positives like donating some money to charity and become a positive influence by continuing to play music. I didn’t come to be a hero or a survivor; it’s just a situation I encountered.