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Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness Goes Full Circle At Chain Reaction

Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness Goes Full Circle At Chain Reaction

Photo Credit: Lindsey Byrnes

Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness Goes Full Circle At Chain Reaction

Andrew McMahon has experienced a grand and brilliant career for over 20 years, first with the legendary Something Corporate, then with the indie favorite Jack’s Mannequin – and now with the vast and wondrous Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness.  The latest album from Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness is entitled Tilt At The Wind No More on Nettwerk Records, and it’s an inspirational work of artistry that music fans will want to revisit time and again.

Recently Andrew McMahon played two very special shows at Chain Reaction in Anaheim to celebrate the release of Tilt At The Wind No More, and treated the audience to new songs as well as massive fan favorites from all over his catalog of bands.  Truly a full circle experience for the tremendously gifted performer, Andrew McMahon continues on a cross-country trek, including a return to Southern California. when he will perform at the Sad Summer Festival in Irvine on July 29th.

Prior to the two sold out dates at Chain Reaction, Highwire Daze spoke with Andrew McMahon to find out more about the story behind Tilt At The Wind No More and to discuss highlights from a glorious journey throughout Something Corporate, Jack’s Mannequin, In The Wilderness, and beyond…

Let’s talk about the new album Tilt At The Wind No More. Is there any overall story or concept behind that title?
I think just in that sort of period of time I was in when I was working on the record – it was obviously a lot of reflection. I finished the memoir, which was a huge tying up of loose ends for me that freed me up to take a look into this next phase and going into making a record. I’m trying to be as thoughtful about it as possible – you know _ I was going to turn 40 the year the album came out that I did in September. And I think that was this sense of trying to find this peaceful ground from which to reflect backwards and kind of look at what’s coming next. The idea of Tilt At The Wind No More is the way I felt in the studio space while I was making this record. It was a really free process – even if things were a little tumultuous on the outside, I think the creative space was one that was pretty clear of headwinds, thankfully.

One of my favorite songs on the new album is Lying On The Hood Of Your Car. Is there any overall story or concept behind that song?
I think I wrote the verse and the chorus to that song in 2019. And I had that story that unfolds in the first verse, and I couldn’t quite figure out what it was yet. It felt a little ominous – the blue lights and the cop cars and all of that. It was a little different in the chorus – but when I got into the studio with Tommy English, I would say that was the very first song we recorded. And he picked it out of a whole batch of songs – many which ended up on the record. But of that first batch, he said, “I want to do that one!” And it was just a verse and a chorus at that point. So, we built up production, I sang that first verse and chorus – and then I went home, and I said, “What is the DNA of this song that has kept me interested in it for 3 – about 4 years?

And I think because of my work on the book and making a lot of peace with my history and my band – and feeling more reverent for that era – and doing a lot of deep dives on my life and high school, coming to California and what it was like to be a teenager here. I quickly navigated towards this nostalgic angle – what that was like being a teenager on the weekend with my license for the first time – and having that first sort of look at freedom. Me and my buddies – every weekend, we just got in the car on Friday at 3:00 in the afternoon – drove until curfew on Friday night – drove until curfew on Saturday night – and riding all over town – getting into some trouble, but most of all just driving and exploring Southern California. And to me, that’s what I wanted this song to drift with – just that first sense of freedom and also the desire that I had – and I think a lot of people have at that age – to not really escape where you come from, but to know what else is out there. And that’s really where the thread of that is kind of woven into this tune.

What are you looking forward to the most about your upcoming Chain Reaction shows?  I’ve seen you there a few times, but that was a LONG time ago.
I’m looking forward to finding out if we could actually fit on the stage. I think that’s the thing I’m most excited about is whether or not we will actually be up there. (Much laughter) Look, I think there is power in spaces, right? There’s certain frequencies that you pick up on. And going back to a place like Chain Reaction, where really – if I’m being honest – it was a show that we first played there that turned us on to Drive Thru Records to what we did back then as Something Corporate. In a lot of ways, I give it credit for helping connect the dots on what I had built in high school to what I became as an artist later. And out of all of the records and all of the times, it just felt like there is so much of me that feels like that this circle is getting completed – and so I wanted to honor that by really going full circle and doing a show in a space that was so important and played such an important role in my career.

You have a few interesting anniversaries coming up – the first one of the 10-year anniversary of the first Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness album.
Oh my gosh, I think you’re the first person who’s told me that. That’s insane!

Andrew McMahon during the interview with Highwire Daze

When you think of that first album you did for The Wilderness, what do you think of it now in retrospect?
I’m super proud of it. It was truly The Wilderness for me. I came into that project with a lot of hope – but with a lot of fear and anxiety on whether or not my time had come and past – whether I would be able to turn yet another band name and another project into a success or this would be the one that didn’t work. I think there was a lot of that bound up in the moment, but then there was all this hope. My wife (was) pregnant, we were living back in this beach town where we grew up – and I had new managers who were excited about the project and were so smart and gave really great advice. I think back on it, and there were so many big wins – having Cecilia and the Satellite coming out in those sessions and really taking chances with the production, but also making the choice to record music as an independent artist as opposed to working with these major labels that really had been the purveyors of my music. So yeah, it had been this tenuous, stressful, hopeful moment that, when I look back now and see what it did to launch this sort of third iteration of my music into the world – I have a real positive view of those days.

Let’s go back 20 years to North – the second full length Something Corporate album. When you look back on that album now, what do you think of it in retrospect? I loved that album…
I love that record. I think it’s one of the weirdest records I ever made. I think it was a real – I wouldn’t say it was a risk at the time – it was just the record at the time me and the guys needed to make. I think some of it was born out of what we felt was a misperception – or not a fully hatched view of what Something Corporate really was. I mean obviously, Leaving Through The Window was a reflection of our high school years in a way and the time just following it. And we loved playing with all those pop punk bands and the fact that we were adopted by the Warped Tour – it was seminal for us. But I think there was a part of us, that when people called us a punk band, we were so confused. (Laughs) And though we listened to a lot of that music and actually we got kind of adopted by that scene, we just didn’t feel like that label fully applied. And that’s not out of pretention – it just really wasn’t my reality.

And so, I feel like with North, there was a motivation for the band to really stretch out and to dig deeper on our chops and our ability to play together and experiment with our sound in the studio – and also not to be afraid to do a lot of ballads and more ethereal sort of songwriting and production. Yeah, I’m super proud of that album! It was a strange time for us. Our label was kind of crumbling and MCA was getting bought by Geffen, and we had to go hide out in Washington to make that record so they didn’t shut production down. There was all sorts of chatter around us, but we did this thing that was helpful for the record – we sort of holed up far away from home – and so there’s a loneliness in that album as well – and it’s reflected from our time being away on the road and being away from home to make the album. I feel like it’s a true sonic representation of what we felt like to be in Something Corporate at that moment in 2003.

What was it like opening for the legendary Billy Joel?
It was a dream come true. The very first concert I went to was Billy Joel on the River Of Dreams Tour. And for a lot of years, he was the archetype for how to be a piano playing rock star. I idolized the man, and still do in many ways – but he was one of my first musical idols. The first round of shows we did with him was in 2017 and the second were to be in 2020 – but we made up those dates this past summer. He’s an incredible artist and an incredible performer still to this day. And just to get to hold that space onstage to be his warmup act – to try and do justice to the things that I’d learned and studied of his for so many years and be that for his tour – it was just the absolute joy of a lifetime. It’s up there with one of the biggest highlights of my career.

Do you have any messages for your fans who are reading this right now?
Thank you! I mean, you’re talking to a guy that’s been able to work for 20-plus years at this – and to continue to shapeshift and be allowed to create new sounds and not be pigeonholed and stuck with one project or one sort of sonic thumbprint or whatever – and I think that’s largely due to the willingness of my fans to grow and adapt with me – and I’m very grateful!

(Interview by Ken Morton)

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