Andrew McMahon is a veteren in the music world after having fronted two successful bands. Whereas Something Corporate was part of the surge in punk rock bands in the early 2000s, Jack’s Mannequin came in 2005, and was less punk, more pop, but still rock and equally as enjoyable as his first band. Jack’s Mannequin released their third – and ultimately final – album in October 2011. Andrew knew it was time for that band to come to an end, and in 2012 turned to some new projects. He wrote some songs for the TV show Smash, but by the end of the year he was thinking about releasing some music under his own name.
In April 2013, Andrew McMahon released his first solo EP, titled The Pop Underground. His new music marked a change of sound as well as artist moniker. The new songs were quite a bit more electronic and poppy, with uptempo beats and the additional synth here and there. But the songs still maintained Andrew’s signature keys and personal lyrics, and this helped link his new musical direction with his previous output with Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin.
After the success of his solo EP, fans eagerly awaited more music from Andrew McMahon – and in 2014, they got just that. Now performing under the moniker Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness, the self titled debut album was released on October 14, 2014. It featured 10 songs that combined rediscovered energy and a connection the past, as well as earned wisdom and appreciation for the present. This is how Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness was created:
Entering the Studio & Sharing the Process With Fans
On April 3, 2014, Andrew McMahon went into the studio to began recording new music for his next album. On Instagram he shared a studio picture, saying “Think I’m going to ride this spaceship for a while.”
Over the next couple of months, Andrew kept his fans updated on the recording process. On May 1st he shared a picture of “A vocal booth with a view” –
On May 10th he shared this gratitude: “Thank you neighborhood liquor store. Saturday in the studio will be even more pleasant than originally expected.”
He also let fans see what gear he uses on May 26th. In the comments he revealed he is using a custom 2416 model.
“Vintage API. Currently in heaven.”
On May 28th he shared this artsy photo: “Having a magic night in the studio. Thanks to my man Zac Clark aka @youngvolcanoes for capturing the vibe with this shot.”
The next day he revealed some of his “Studio Decor” –
Introducing: Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness
After a few weeks away from the studio, Andrew went to social media to announce an important change: He would now be releasing music and performing under the moniker Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness. Every time he has changed bands or names, it has always marked a notable change in musical style. Andrew describes his “wilderness” as abstract, but fans will find his ever-present keyboard and “desire to make my best music” familiar and welcome.
Andrew talked about his decision more in his Facebook post:
At the end, he promises “more big news to come” – we’re curious to find out more!
Two New Songs Played Live for Lucky Fans
During June and July 2014 Andrew was playing concerts, some to open for Matt Nathanson and Gavin DeGraw, and some headlining shows. On July 9th, at the Viper Room in Los Angeles, Andrew treated lucky fans to a preview of his new music. Andrew played two brand new songs for the crowd: “Cecilia And The Satellite” and “High Dive.”
“Cecilia And The Satellite” is about Andrew’s new daughter, Cecilia. She was born to Andrew and his wife Kelly just that February. As he explains to the crowd, Andrew wrote this song in the days surrounding her birth. He ended up rewriting most of it before finalizing the version he performed in Los Angeles.
It’s a sweet, mid tempo song with Andrew’s signature keyboards and the pulsing synth vibe he debuted on his solo EP in 2013. He declares that “For all the things my eyes have seen, the best by far is you” to his baby girl. In the chorus he says “Don’t be afraid, Cecilia, I’m the satellite… and you’re the sky.” It makes for an adorable lullaby for his daughter.
“High Dive” is a more upbeat song with a hint of nostalgia as he sings of “flashbacks getting close.” He sings of a time when he had his “headlights in a driveway,” and she was “there in the window waiting.” The music is happy, but the chorus ends with the repeated “Watching you all night / Dancing to someone else’s song.” This song sounds more like Andrew’s pre-solo music, more straightforward piano rock than slick pop. It’s a great song that longtime fans would surely love.
First Single: “Cecilia And The Satellite”
Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness released their first single, “Cecilia And The Satellite,” on July 18, 2014:
Andrew took to Facebook to describe the inspiration behind the song:
Andrew also mentioned that “Cecilia And The Satellite” had been sent to radio:
You may have heard it on the radio but here is my new song "Cecilia and the Satellite" http://t.co/AIrfqtSORD
— Andrew McMahon (@andrewmcmahon) July 18, 2014
Announcing the Debut Album: Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness
On July 21st, while announcing his first headlining tour in a few years, Andrew McMahon mentioned that he would be supporting a new full length record. This was the first confirmation that Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness would release a full length record as opposed to a shorter EP, so this was great news! He also stated that “the new songs feel built for the stage,” so they would have some good energy for the shows! He promised more news on the album soon.
Here Andrew’s full message:
A few weeks later, on August 12th, the new album was officially confirmed: Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness announced that he would be releasing a new self-titled album on October 14, 2014! It would come out via Vanguard Records.
Much of McMahon’s upcoming album, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, was written in the summer of 2013 at a Topanga Canyon cabin with no running water where he stayed alone. “I would work 10 hours a day just sitting at my piano,” he said. On weekends, he traveled home to be with his wife, who had just found out she was pregnant. This experience inspired “See Her on the Weekend,” a long-distance love song with lyrics about his girl being back home with morning sickness and biding time until Friday rolls around. All told, McMahon’s two-month stint in the wilderness was the longest break from touring that he’d ever taken in his career, including his 2005 battle with cancer.
“High Dive” & The Album’s Track Listing,
The album became available for pre-order on Tuesday, September 2nd. The pre-order also came with two immediate downloads: One of single “Cecilia And The Satellite,” and one of “High Dive.”
Andrew talked about the inspiration behind “High Dive” to Buzzfeed:
When I found out I was ill, nearly 10 years ago now, my wife, then girlfriend, and I had just begun the process of reconciling after being separated. We married in the midst of my recovery and left the beach towns where we grew up to hide out in Los Angeles. Moving back to the beach in 2011 began the process of closing the loop on that chapter of my life and forced me to revisit lose ends. In “High Dive” I found myself asking the question, “if this wild disruption had never taken place what would that reconciliation have looked like? Would I be the guy driving by her house late at night, hoping to catch a glimpse of her, but knowing I couldn’t come in?” In its most universal sense it’s about loving someone so much that you’ll take anything they’re willing to give even if it’s not enough.
Along with the “High Dive” track, fans could also see the full track listing of Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness. It would include 10 songs in total:
- Canyon Moon
- Cecilia And The Satellite
- High Dive
- All Our Lives
- See Her On The Weekend
- Black And White Movies
- Driving Through A Dream
- Rainy Girl
- Maps For The Getaway
“Canyon Moon” & “See Her On The Weekend”
On September 23rd, Andrew released a third new song from his upcoming album, called “Canyon Moon.”
Andrew McMahon described the inspiration behind the song:
This song was written towards the end of my time in Topanga Canyon. I wanted to have something on the album with a real California flavor that spoke to the throwback qualities of living in the canyon. I remember going into the session with Kevin and Sam with California Dreamin as a reference track. Canyon Moon is a story about a girl who loses herself in this idyllic, west coast fantasy world and has to get out. The theme of escape is one I’ve always enjoyed writing about and there is something haunting about this track and it’s lack of resolution that I find really charming.
“Canyon Moon” has an ethereal quality and a pulsing beat, and his “ooh”s sound like a coyote howling in the night. The song succeeds in transporting you to the sparse California landscape, a scene painted with words and sounds. Unlike most songs, this one doesn’t have a happy or clear ending – it’s left open, allowing you to finish the story in your head.
On September 29, 2014, MTV had the exclusive premiere of a song called “See Her On The Weekend.”
“See Her On The Weekend” was the fourth song fans had gotten to hear, and the closest to a ballad. It has a slower tempo and a thoughtful mood, with Andrew singing about his own vices in contrast to the new life growing in his pregnant wife. Andrew McMahon had previously described the song to Buzzfeed (see above).
Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness
On October 14, 2014, Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness unleashed their self-titled debut album. The record is very reflective and has plenty of nostalgia, but at the same time it has a vigor and youthful energy that makes it feel fresher than anything Andrew’s released in a few years. Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness is a combination of everything that Andrew has experienced – it is an honest representation of a person that has lived. And it is a fantastic album. You can listen to it below, and be sure to buy it on iTunes. You can also check out our track-by-track review here.