Jack’s Mannequin | Cold Weather Warrior

prof jacks-mannequin_sm“It’s a love/hate relationship, sometimes, me and music.”


The day I spoke with Andrew McMahon, lead singer and songwriter of Jack’s Mannequin, was the day of the first accumulating snowfall in St. Louis. I mentioned that I had been listening to “Amy, I,” from their new album People and Things, on my way to work that morning, the first line of the song being, “Snow on the ground in Tennessee,” and despite the differing location it had seemed pretty perfect for the mood outside. McMahon laughed when I mentioned this and told me the band had been hoping our warm winter would last; they’re from California and were hoping to not have to endure the typical brutal Midwestern cold.

That said, despite living in California for most of his 29 years, McMahon has been a traveling musician for most of his life and has no doubt endured quite a few snowy seasons. The first band he was in that toured nationally was Something Corporate, which formed in 1998, when McMahon wasn’t old enough to vote. The band lasted till 2006, when they took a hiatus (they have since re-formed). Jack’s Mannequin was started as a side project but has since outsold Something Corporate: All three of the bands albums have charted, and People and Things is the first one to chart internationally. So while he may not want to deal with the cold, it’s obvious he has in the past—and he sounds excited to get back out on the road again, weather aside.

As for why he’s willing to brave the weather, as he puts it, “I think I’ve always known, deep down, that this was what I was supposed to be doing. I don’t know where I’d be without it.” It’s obvious that this isn’t a matter of inertia, though: McMahon works hard at what he does, and loves it deeply. He talks about how things have changed—as a band of high school kids, there’s not as much of an emphasis on recording time, because you don’t have the money, time, or the know-how to record an album. So it has taken time, but he does love being in the studio and he loves being on stage, as well. As he puts it, he still gets stage fright until the band starts to play, but, “I feel less at home backstage than I do onstage.”

It is different overall, though, being on the road with Jack’s Mannequin than it was with Something Corporate. He talks about how the newer band was in a way meant to be a clean slate. He describes Something Corporate as “high school buddies who just happened to score a successful band.” They ended up essentially having a business together and it got harder to draw the lines. He says the time in Something Corporate was great, but Jack’s Mannequin has been a chance to work with people he didn’t grow up with. Now when there’s a problem, it’s easier for everyone to back away if need be, and work out the issues as professionals, rather than like brothers. On this note, I asked McMahon if he found himself more likely to regret saying something or to regret not saying something. He paused for a moment, seeming to be thinking it over, before telling me he’d be more likely to regret saying something. “I tend to say a lot of things,” he says with a laugh.

During the course of our conversation, I got used to hearing him laugh, both at himself and at the situations he’s found himself in, living the life that he does. He talks openly about what a ride it’s been, and really, there’s something to be said for starting out at such a young age and actually getting better with time. There have been a few rough patches—the hiatus of Something Corporate, and McMahon’s battle with leukemia in his mid-twenties—but he has come out on the other side, perhaps a bit bruised and scarred, but better for it, overall.

The latter issue, McMahon’s illness, got more weight during the interview than I had intended, but talking about it really seems to show who McMahon is at his core. He used to hate talking about the illness—he wanted to believe it hadn’t happened—but has since made peace with it, as much as he can. He’ll reach his seven year anniversary of remission this summer.  He realizes it’s important to others to talk to him about it, for a variety of reasons.  He says, “It is that way because I was blessed enough to survive and people are fascinated by that process.” He has since founded the Dear Jack Foundation, which aims to help give a voice to young adults with cancer, a group whose survival rate has not improved as steadily as other age groups.

There was a time, though, when he considered, if not giving up music, then taking more time off after reaching remission—maybe, as he said, get a house in Hawaii.  His inability to back away from the music, though, shows who he is as an artist and as a person.  When I asked him about it, he told me, “It’s a love/hate relationship sometimes, me and music. There are days I wish I didn’t feel so compelled to create it because sometimes just the creation itself can be a strenuous and hard process and can take you places in your head you don’t always want to go.” McMahon doesn’t come across as someone who backs away from the difficult, be it cancer or cold weather.  He’s excited about the future—including his impending 30th birthday. As he puts it, “I feel like it’s sort of a beautiful time in my life right now.” | Teresa Montgomery

McMahon and the rest of Jack’s Mannequin will be in St. Louisat The Pageant on Thursday, January 19.  Tickets are $25.50 in advance, $28 day of show, with a $2 minor surcharge at the door. The show starts at 7:30 with Allen Stone and Jukebox the Ghost supporting.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply