After Dark Presents The Pen & The Piano Tour
An Acoustic Evening with Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness & Friends
Allen Stone, Zac Clark, Bob Oxblood (of Jack's Mannequin)
681 Main Street
Buffalo, NY, 14203
Doors 6:30 PM
An Acoustic Evening with Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness & Friends
"I wrote a pop record and then she showed up." Andrew McMahon laughs, cradling his 6-month-old
daughter, Cecilia, as his wife Kelly lounges nearby with their dog, Doris. The young family is backstage at
the Stone Pony in Asbury Park relaxing before McMahon performs a sold out headlining show. McMahon
is referring to his new release, the self-titled LP, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness.
McMahon has had a winding road to this artfully balanced life. This is a man who was diagnosed with
cancer at 22 years old, on the cusp of releasing his debut album (as Jack's Mannequin). Who wed Kelly the
following year and then took on an arduous schedule of touring and album releases. Who was nominated
for an Emmy Award for his song "I Heard Your Voice in a Dream" on NBC's Smash. Who sold nearly 2
million albums in a little more than a decade. Who, for much of that time, was struggling underneath the
weight of it all.
Despite these outward signs of success - beating cancer, getting married and an Emmy nom - McMahon
says the road to recovery was "a rollercoaster ride" that took the better part of a decade. "My body healed
faster than my mind and my heart. It took me years to realize that and do the work. I had to figure out
how to acclimate to the world post-illness. I decided to take time away from the business of making music
so I could pay attention to everything else. I left my label, my management and the name I had been
making music under for the better part of my 20s. I moved out of Los Angeles. It was a metaphorical hard
The time allowed McMahon to process what had happened and to renew his passion for songwriting and
record making, to refill the well of his creativity. McMahon also changed his mode of operation, taking the
critical step of physically distancing his work and home lives by retreating to a cabin - "a shack, really. It
had no running water," - in Topanga Canyon (CA) to hatch the album. He would spend the weekdays in
the canyon immersed in music and on the weekends travel the hour and a half back south to be with his
then-newly-pregnant wife. "It was important to me to be completely present when I was home.
Separating out the work actually created more space to live a life worth writing about."
In Topanga, Andrew was able to focus intensely on song craft. He poured his feelings into his work: the
anticipation and anxiety about becoming a father, excitement for meeting his new daughter, ambivalence
about entering his 30s. Soon after the Canyon sessions, McMahon began working with producer Mike
Viola, who McMahon calls "the album's spirit guide." In Viola's Echo Park garage studio, the two of them
meditated on a range of classic rock and modern artists.
At the same time, McMahon began to consider the might-have-beens of his life. "I found myself asking,
'What would have come next if I hadn't encountered that bizarre chapter of my disrupted 20s?' As I was
writing the new songs, I was able to revisit relationships that had evolved or been dismantled in the
vacuum of that disruption." He adds, "It's not that I wanted to erase my past. I wanted to explore it, to go
back to the point where I had lost myself, where my personal narrative was overtaken, and move forward
"High Dive" emerged from the sessions with Viola and is the most representative of this sort of Sliding
Doors exploration. "'High Dive' asks the question 'If I had never gotten sick, where would I be?'" says
McMahon. "My illness put a lot into perspective for my wife (then girlfriend) and I. With 'High Dive' I
imagined what it would have been like if we'd split up and she'd moved on. In a universal sense, it's about
letting someone go and realizing you were wrong, but it's too late." The song buoys McMahon's gentle
tenor, slowly building from a spare composition with a snapping, driving beat, 'High Dive' swells into the bridge ("Flashbacks get me close") and resolves into a viscerally satisfying chorus flush with other voices,
McMahon's piano wrapping around the melody.
Intimate details populate the album, with McMahon writing sometimes obliquely, sometimes frankly
about his struggles. "See Her on the Weekend," a literal recounting of his time in Topanga, drops the aside
"I drink more than the doctors say I should." "Halls" outlines self-sabotaging tendencies in service of his
career, "Cut my hair, and I found me a new girlfriend / Thought a broken heart could write a perfect song."
"All Our Lives" is particularly unguarded but even when he's singing about someone else, an old friend
with "a heart so gold, and words so blue / in a body home from hell," you wonder if he's not singing about
himself in some roundabout way.
The first single, "Cecilia and the Satellite" was actually one of the last songs written for the album. "A few
weeks before Cecilia was born, I was introduced to James Flannigan, a British songwriter and producer. I
knew I wanted to write a song for her, to show her who I was before she was born and my commitment
to protect her." While "Cecilia" details McMahon's love in high contrast with what he calls "the
impermanence of living," - its soaring chorus anchored by a kick drum like the steady thump of a
After seeing the impressive results of their session, McMahon asked Flannigan to join him and Viola to
help finish production of the album. The three of them bounced around LA in various production spaces
and studios until all the details had been tweaked and McMahon was satisfied that it reflected the journey
as a whole. "I had been dreaming about an album that sounded like this for years, but I didn't know it
until I heard it. It took all three of us. I realize now how important every piece of the process was - every
step on the path and every voice in the room."
If, as McMahon says, "music is a mirror to the adventure of living," then it follows that each new chapter
of life deserves its own title. As such, he decided his music would go forward under the name Andrew
McMahon in the Wilderness. "My wilderness is mostly abstract," he posits, "I forced myself into strange
new places on the hunt for these songs, and I met some amazing people in the process. The new name
carries the spirit of our collaboration."
There is a balancing act that permeates not only McMahon's life but his new album as well, mixing the
electronic and the acoustic, the modern and the classic. But even though McMahon may have created two
mini-masterpieces: an epic pop album stocked to the gills with anthemic songs and a healthy, bright, baby
girl with Kelly, there's no question which one he's more proud of.
American soul singer.
$33.00 - $36.00
After Dark Presents The Pen & The Piano Tour -An Acoustic Evening w/ Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness & Friends
No one under 12 admitted. Minors under 16 need to be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Government issued identification is required for entry. No exceptions.
$0.50 charitable contribution to Dear Jack Foundation with every ticket purchased.
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