For singer-songwriter Andrew McMahon, the road to his band Jack's Mannequin's recently released sophomore album, “The Glass Passenger,” has been neither smooth nor short. In fact, it was more than two years in the making.
Although the piano rock band's debut album, “Everything in Transit,” was released in 2005, touring was put on hold for a year when the now-26-year-old McMahon was diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia and underwent a bone marrow transplant. As he recovered, he didn't want to abandon the album, so he alternated recording tracks for a follow-up and keeping the current record alive on the road.
Yet so much time passed between the two albums that he found himself looking back instead of forward when making “The Glass Passenger.”
“I like to write about what's going on in present day. I was forced to dig backward and unearth emotions I hadn't sifted through when I was dealing with the cancer,” said McMahon, who plays with Jack's Mannequin tonight at Visulite Theatre, the second stop on its intimate club tour.
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“With my last record, the vision came first. It was meant to be this California-summertime, cutting-loose-with-your-friends-and-experiencing-heartache (kind of record). Because so much time had lapsed – and there was this period of time where I was unwell, when writing songs was hard for me spiritually and my body just wasn't there to do it – I had to treat this record as reconciliation.”
Hence “The Glass Passenger,” a moving disc of piano-based pop-rock. McMahon lists “Annie, Use Your Telescope,” “Swim,” and the album's opener “Crashin'” as his favorites.
“I have what I call my babies – the ones that are really special and helped me through rougher patches,” he said. Those rougher patches mean McMahon is better aware of his health this time around.
“I'm still in a rock band. We still live that kind of lifestyle on the road. You go out with your friends to a bar after the show. For me, there's much more of a natural mechanism to say enough is enough (now). There were years when I'd do five or six shows in a row and keep booking them and pile it on. It's how we keep the bills paid,” he reflected.
“In the recent years, I've gotten to the point we don't play more than a few shows in a row and keep tours down to four and five weeks.”
He says most of his energy is back today, but: “I also hold some of the way I was leading my life before as responsible for my illness. I was pushing myself so hard before I got sick. To some extent, it was that pushing that left me where I ended up.”
Band's new video
Author Stephenie Meyer, whose hugely successful vampire novels make their feature-film debut with “Twilight” in November, came up with the concept for the band's new video, “The Resolution.” McMahon was told by a friend's wife that Meyer was a fan. She includes a few Jack's tracks on the online playlists that accompany each of her novels.
“We weren't finding a story we really connected to, and that made sense for the song,” recalls McMahon. “In a brainstorm, I realized here is this woman who has written these books whose aesthetic has appealed to so many people.”
Meyer submitted a video treatment and the band loved it. And no, “The Resolution” isn't the dark vampire tale one might expect from the author.
“The mermaid was as (fantastical) as we got. … She was even laughing about it – that everybody thinks we're going to shoot a vampire video,” says McMahon, who is finishing up “Twilight” now. “I couldn't get into a room and let the woman direct the video unless I'd taken in her art as well.”