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Artist Spotlight: Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness

Photo by Matt Christine Photography
Photo by Matt Christine Photography

     This past weekend Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness returned to Pennsylvania to play in front of yet another monumental crowd. His last trek through the state saw him stopping at both the Sherman Theater and Radio 104.5’s Winter Jam back in January so a return in warmer weather was much welcomed by both his camp and the many fans in attendance. McMahon and his band hit the stage promptly at 6:40 to run through a 25 minute set at 92.1’s FuzzFest at the Montage Mountain Pavalion. This performance capped of a weekend of other festival appearances the band had made including a similarly epic set at Firefly Festival in Delaware.

     Though the set was short it was jam-packed with the songs the fans wanted to here from all aspects of McMahon’s long career. At this point he is playing a large amount of material from his new project, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, but he is well aware of the importance of including the older songs like “Dark Blue.”  Not long into the set McMahon jumped down off the stage and walked across the barricade as the crowd pulled his tie and nearly yanked his shirt off as they tried to pull their musical idol into the crowd with them. McMahon returned to his piano for a few more songs, which included the massively popular “Cecilia and the Satellite” that the crowd sang along loudly to, before returning to the crowd during “Synesthesia.” He sprinted to the far reaches of the venue as he sang with every possible fan along the way and even posed for selfies with a lucky few. As he broke out of the crowd he returned to the stage he thanked everyone for singing and dancing along with him before he reminded everyone that he would be back soon.

Photo by Matt Christine Photography
Photo by Matt Christine Photography

     Prior to the show I sat down with Andrew McMahon to talk about the crazy whirlwind that has been 2015 for him and look back at just how it all happened. We also talked about everything coming down the pipe for him including his upcoming return to Pennsylvania on September 23 for a free show in Reading as part of the new Downtown Alive concert series.

Matt Christine  :  What has it been like so far being a part of this crazy festival season?

Andrew McMahon : It’s been fun, it is the most of these I have ever done largely because it is the most radio I’ve gotten. So yeah kicking off with Coachella and a handful of the ones on the west coast and then having it sort of carry through the whole summer has been great. It has been great to be surrounded by so many great bands and to get to play a show and then go watch bands that you like is a blast.

I would imagine that would be awesome, I know you did a short run in January through Pennsylvania and you were off for a bit following that run but now you are back on full force, it has held to felt nonstop for you hasn’t?

You know I sort of waited and took time off knowing that if this was going to do what it needed to do that I would be this busy so I think I planned for that and in turn it hasn’t been overwhelming. It has been busy, without question, but having my family on the road with me helps because it ends making up the road feel a little bit more like home. It gives my battery life a little more juice that way and I make more of a point when I have a day or two off or I have place that I can be we will go hide out or find a cool hotel. So you know it’s not to bad.

Do you feel that the set has changed over this long run out on the road? I know the new stuff off the Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness album is majority of the set at this point but it wasn’t in the beginning stages of this cycle.

I mean certainly the longer the record is out the more people know it, it boosts confidence when you look out in the crowd and you see people singing the words to these songs the same way they are singing the words to the older songs. That makes a big difference but I think I really wanted to be committed to playing this whole record. Its funny because even with Jack’s records and Something Corporate records, like when North came out we played way more from Window than we did North. The same thing with the Jack’s records, its like we always favored the previous record because we were scared to just say no this is what we are doing now. So with starting a new project and having a body of a material that is central to it, I wanted to say this is what I’m doing and of course in that still make sure people hear these big songs from the past records that they love. I won’t ever do a set without “Dark Blue” or “I Woke in A Car” right now because I don’t want people to think I’m abandoning that, I put my name on this current project so that it could bring those records back to the audience and the fans that like that.

Photo by Matt Christine Photography
Photo by Matt Christine Photography

Of course, especially with this new project it is almost fitting you are playing almost the entirety of the album because it is one of those albums that really is meant to be heard from top to bottom. You did a great job at creating a cohesive sound and story through the entire record.

Yeah, exactly! I appreciate that a lot man.

Is it surreal seeing Cecilia in the top alternative charts since January now from this project?

It’s crazy, its amazing man. It is funny because I feel like if it had happened any other time it would have been like oh my god and now being a little more seasoned at this and having played the game for awhile and put out records for awhile, you know what its just nice. It is kind of like this relief moment where it is like okay I worked my ass off and I’ve obtained so many of the goals and at the core of it really reached in some ways what I’ve always wanted; which is a loyal fan base that comes to these shows and that support the records and have seen me through a lot of transitions both my life and my music. But to have that one extra piece of the puzzle where you are reaching a larger audience and your song is getting that kind of exposure….that is something I have just always dreamed about.

It is crazy, we came out to the Sherman Theater show in January and the Radio 104.5 Winter Jam the next day but since then so many songs have peaked on alternative stations like Radio 104.5 but Cecilia has just hung on and never dropped out of the top ranking. 

They have been such supporters from the beginning. It is the dedication of stations like that that have turned the non believers into believers. Truthfully it is also the fans of my past work who have taken to Twitter and to Instagram and who listen to those stations and are so glad that they are actually listening to the song there. I think that has convinced some of the other stations to go why wouldn’t we play this? These people love it and they are active. But especially in the case of 104.5, I need to give them a big hug. Everyone on that staff has been so amazing.

Photo by Matt Christine Photography
Photo by Matt Christine Photography

Were you worried those older fans weren’t going to take this new project? You sounded like you were taken by surprise by how they have supported it so much.

I was more afraid of the EP you know? I think I bit off a lot intentionally and it was an experiment. I was really digging as deep as I could into the synths, just kind of having fun. I think with this record I felt like if we could get people to listen to it, that they would like it. My biggest worry was just whether we were going to lead people to water or not. You know what I mean? It is hard enough nowadays just to get people with who much music is accessible just to say hey you liked something corporate you liked Jack’sMannequin just listen to this and take a chance. In that sense I feel like radio was actually really helpful in bringing along older fans who were like oh wait a minute I know this song, I know this voice. I feel like as they year has kind of gone on I’m finding so many people who maybe have even detached from later in the Jack’s catalog who are coming back to the music. I think at the core of it its, while some of the sounds and approach to the arrangements are a little difference, I think the thread of story telling and melody and trying to write an honest song are present, if not more present, than other records I have made. I feel like or at least I hope that is coming through to the fans.

Well it’s only June and all this has happened just since January, I know this is just the beginning of the climb for you and touring, you are coming back to Pennsylvania in September for Downtown Alive in Reading. They are closing off an entire city block for a free outdoor concert event and the response has been crazy so far, there is no doubt that Pennsylvania loves Andrew McMahon.

Before this record, even with Jack’s, our biggest shows were always in Pennsylvania you know? I think that’s awesome, I lived in Jersey and I lived in Massachusetts so I think there is just like a piece of me and a piece of the East Coast that is in these songs somehow because I grew up here for a time. But it’s amazing to me that the Northeast has consistently been there for me and for my projects. I’m excited to come back for Downtown Alive in Reading and to do a free show makes it even better. I can’t wait, it’s going to be wild.

It is, we can’t wait to have you back. I’m glad we found the time to this interview quickly here at FuzzFest before you hit the stage. I will see you in Reading in September!

Absolutely, it was my pleasure and I will see you there.


Exclusive photo gallery from Matt Christine Photography :

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