I had the chance to speak with Andrew McMahon of Jack’s Mannequin. He spoke about the upcoming documentary, Dear Jack, which chronicles the year Andrew had leukemia. Andrew discussed how became ill, what inspired him throughout his treatment, his upcoming solo tour and the chances of Something Corporate recording together or playing a show. Check it out below:
The Audio Perv: Your documentary, Dear Jack, shares the same title as one of your songs about a friend’s brother who had leukemia. How much of this film is a tribute to them and how much of it was a therapeutic outlet for you when you were ill?
Andrew McMahon: You know the title in some ways is a tribute to Jack but I think in more ways it sort of speaks to the strange universal circle back through my life that he and the song and it relates to the name of the band and this moment where everything seems very kind of connected. I wrote that song for him and that ended up becoming the name of the band. All of this kind of happened over a year before I was actually diagnosed with the illness myself. In a lot of ways, thatâ€™s where the title came from and we decided to go with it as the name of the film.
The Audio Perv: What were the events that transpired to you finding out that you yourself had leukemia?
Andrew McMahon: I think that I was at an age where it was pretty easy for me to deny my body, what it was feeling, etc. For probably about a month or two leading up to me finding out I was sick, there were a handful of indicators. I was on the road with Jackâ€™s Mannequin when I found out on and throughout the course of that tour, I was getting progressively weaker. I was starting to lose my breath walking from place to place. One of the biggest moments I recall and starting to worry that something was very wrong was going from one place to another and not being able to carry my bags farther than 100 yards without stopping to catching my breath. Eventually my voice was giving out on me and I had all these shows. Sure enough, the only thing that actually got me to the doctor was when I couldnâ€™t perform longer. It was at that doctorâ€™s office that they told me that my complexion was off and that was sort of how I found out. They took my blood there. The next day, they told me that I was extremely anemic and needed a transfusion. Those were the events that led to me finding out.
The Audio Perv: In the trailer for Dear Jack, you say that you were afraid. Did you ever think that you wouldn’t survive?
Andrew McMahon: I always believed that it wasnâ€™t my time. I had a pretty positive outlook and I felt pretty peaceful during my entire treatment. I think the moment you see in the film is a couple of weeks before my transplant. It was sorta when the transplant conversation opened up and we decided to go for it. We found out all the risks involved in the transplant even though we felt confident that it was the right treatment that was going to lead to the most successful remission and cure for me. At the moment I learned all the realities of what a transplant entails and how dangerous it is for the body and what it goes through, there was a moment where I at least had the idea that there is a chance that I could pass. I had been knocked back with pneumonia at that point and there was a lot of fear that it could come back. But yeah, there were moments but I felt pretty confident that I was going to survive.
The Audio Perv: How long have you been in remission now?
Andrew McMahon: Over 4 years now. Itâ€™s been a while. Iâ€™m doing well and have been for some time now.
The Audio Perv: On your album, The Glass Passenger, you have a very inspirational song, “Swim.” What and who inspired you to help you fight and pull through?
Andrew McMahon: There were a lot of people. In some ways, a large part of my motivation was just the idea of getting back to music and the Everything In Transit record that was going to come out when I was sick. That would be my legacy to inherit should I survive long enough to play it. There was that and obviously, my girlfriend, now my wife, my family and I think that the support of a lot of my fans. In some ways, the universe was conspiring to get me well and there was a lot of love out there and a lot of people pulling for me. Thereâ€™s that sorta scene of people being there, and willing me and praying for me to be healthy were all huge factors in the recovery.
The Audio Perv: I haven’t had a chance to see the film yet. Is all the music in the documentary by you?
Andrew McMahon: No, we actually had this group called the Newton Brothers who did most of the score. There is a lot of live music from Jackâ€™s Mannequin and some myself solo that appears in the movie as well but the score was done by the Newton Brothers.
The Audio Perv: Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee narrated the film. You’ve both worked on each other’s albums. How did that friendship come about?
Andrew McMahon: It was set up by the manager at the time who worked with both me and Tommy. Tom had gotten his hands a couple of Something Corporate records and gotten really into it. One day while I was in the studio doing the Jackâ€™s project, he called me and asked if I would come in and write some songs for his record and play on it. What do you do when Tommy Lee calls you? You sorta drop everything (laugh) and work with him! We became buds throughout the process and I spent a lot of time in the studio with him working on his album over the course of the 2004 summer into fall. By the time we got to December, we were spending so much time working together that I said â€œTom, why donâ€™t you come play drums on my record since I donâ€™t have a drummer at the momentâ€. It was something formed from our mutual love of music that wedged him into that period of time in my life that I think that made us feel that he would be a very relevant candidate to narrate this movie and add a little bit of gravitas and celebrity to the story as well.
The Audio Perv: You’re going out on a solo tour this fall. What can we expect? Will you be playing any Something Corporate songs like “Konstantine?”
Andrew McMahon: Thereâ€™s no â€œKonstantineâ€ for sure. Iâ€™ve sort of stayed committed to the fact that song wonâ€™t appear unless Iâ€™m on stage with Something Corporate. At least not now. So no, you wouldnâ€™t see that but I would expect us to play a few Something Corporate songs for sure.
The Audio Perv: What is the current status of Something Corporate? Are you guys on hiatus or broken up?
Andrew McMahon: I donâ€™t think we ever officially broke up. The reality is that we want to leave the door open with the possibility that we might get together and do something again in the future. Weâ€™ve all stayed close friends and we put the band on hiatus a few years back because our friendships were starting to be jeopardized by our business. That was the moment that we all stepped back. That said, I think we all settled into much different places in our lives and I donâ€™t anticipate that weâ€™ll be making a Something Corporate record anytime soon, if ever. But I think that we all open to being on a stage at one point and play some shows for the people who supported us for sure.
The Audio Perv: What are your plans for after the solo tour?
Andrew McMahon: Thereâ€™s a number of them. At this point, gearing up and making some new music is an important part. There are a couple of loose tour ideas now. We had to cancel some dates with The Fray tour in the summer. Weâ€™re thinking of at the end of the year making up the shows we had to cancel. Anything else other than that would probably be a little premature but thatâ€™s what we have on the books now for now: making music, making the record.
Dear Jack will be released on DVD November 3rd. There will be screenings in select cities. Check JacksMannequin.com for more information on the screenings and the upcoming solo tour.
One last quick note: Andrew said that if there’s a particular song you want to hear, you can try to slip a note to one of the crew guys before the show and maybe it’ll get to him.