After three albums as Jack’s Mannequin, Andrew McMahon needed a change of scenery. Enter Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. For the one-time Something Corporate frontman’s latest collection of earnest, sun-kissed piano-pop, he’s found a new label, new management, and a new moniker.
McMahon spoke to Billboard about his fresh start while offering an exclusive early listen to the self-titled album.
“There were a lot of signs in the making of the last Jack’s record that told me it was time to move on,” McMahon tells Billboard. “On both of the albums after 2005’s Everything In Transit (2008’s The Glass Passenger and 2011’s People and Things), I was very caught up in my illness and recovery,” he says, referencing his triumph over cancer in his early twenties. ”It made the two things hard to unwind from one another.”
To write Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, he quite literally set off for the wilderness — a cabin in Los Angeles’ Topanga Canyon. McMahon would write during the week and head home on weekends to be with his wife Kelly, who was pregnant with their first child. Their newborn baby, Cecilia, inspired the album’s second track, “Cecilia and the Satellite.” “I wanted to have a snapshot of who I was in the years leading up to meeting her,” the new dad says.
Like his work with Jack’s, Wilderness is very much an autobiographical account of McMahon’s personal adventures, though he points out it isn’t all about him this time. “‘Canyon Moon’ is really the story of a girl escaping Los Angeles,” he points out. “It’s not necessarily my story but I think there were a lot of elements of the canyon in the song — and my own love/hate history with Los Angeles.”
On Oct. 14, McMahon embarks on a North American tour, which runs through the end of November. Many of those who come out to see his shows have been fans since the early 2000s Something Corporate days, and McMahon feels a certain connection to them.
“The shows now are such a trip. There’s people who I’ve been seeing at gigs since I was 18 years old. Now they’re married, have kids, and have these lives, some of which are similar to mine. Meeting people after shows, you have this feeling of, ‘We grew up together.’
And for those old fans — rest assured — McMahon plans to play SoCo and Jack’s Mannequin tracks along with the new album on the upcoming dates.