While the struggle of going through cancer treatment may send many off the deep end, Andrew McMahon of Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin used his experiences to shape his musical and personal life.
Growing up, McMahon explained that he hung around his older brothers friends, who were always bringing home music from artists like Fleetwood Mac, Billie Joel, Elton John, among many others.
“I was like a sponge at an early age,” McMahon said, when regards to music he was exposed to by family friends.
From 1998 to their hiatus in 2005, McMahon played fronted the widely popular band Something Corporate and had released three studio albums, along with two extended plays.
Even though McMahon regularly expresses no negativity towards members of Something Corporate, he was quick to say simply “no” when asked about the possibility of the release of any new material from the band.
Following the hiatus from Something Corporate, McMahon formed a side-project called Jack’s Mannequin and their first record called “Everything in Transit”, which was a departure lyrically from “North”, Something Corporate’s final release.
“To me, I always perceive ‘North’ as pretty somber record, I always perceive (‘Everything in Transit’) to some extent, to be the polar opposite of (‘North’),” he said. “I felt where I was standing, my desire to create (Everything in Transit) was a knee jerk reaction to try to do something more fun.”
Three months before the debut release of Jack’s Mannequin, McMahon was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells, after being examined for what was thought to be laryngitis, on June 1, 2005.
Over the course of a few months, McMahon received many types of treatment and updated a blog to keep fans informed of his progress and the status of his condition.
The motivation to present his new endeavor to the masses became one of the driving factors to push him through both treatment and recovery.
“(Getting out to) support this first record, which to me was up to that point, the best thing I’ve ever created and it was something I really wanted people to hear,” he said. “I became incredibly motivated to get well and get well fast and take it on the road and share it with people.”
On August 23, 2005, “Everything in Transit” was released via Maverick Records. That same day, he received a stem cell transplant with his sister Katie McMahon serving as the donor.
McMahon said it was hard to keep music in his mind, while dealing with cancer.
“When you encounter something like (cancer), the last thing you’re thinking about is business,” he said. “I think my real drive was to live my life, and more than anything, I wanted to stay with my family and friends and not die at 22-years-old.”
A common theme throughout songs like “Dark Blue” and “Swim” McMahon draws and is influenced by the idea of swimming. Not in the sense of the activity, but as an act of survival.
“I’ve always looked at idea of swimming as a survival tool, in some of the moments where I needed help to keep my head above.”
That positive outlook expressed in McMahon’s lyrics carried through both “Everything In Transit”, and his sophomore release “The Glass Passenger”, but his upcoming album, “People and Things”which slated for release on Oct. 4, takes his music in a different direction.
“In a lot of ways, (‘People and Things’ is) the most humble, focused and simple record.” He said. “The whole goal was to get a batch of great songs and not to over think the production.”
While previous albums have underlying theme of hope, the album’s lyrics are more direct, with according to McMahon, a “tell-it- like it is” concept.
“(‘People and Things’) certainly is not a depressing record, but its a little darker with its language unlike the other record.”
Outside of his musical endeavors, McMahon launched the Dear Jack foundation in July 2006, a totally volunteer driven non-profit charity, with an aim to raise funds for cancer research, which has seen a dramatic growth over the years.
Recently, the Dear Jack Foundation has become a proper non-profit organization, instead of existing within a parent organization, which is bringing advantages in the creation of new activities.
“We are looking in our communities to align ourselves with other different organizations that are doing great things to help young adults who are suffering from cancer and fund good research that will impact the young-adult age bracket that has seen little no increase in their survival rates in the past 30 years.”
During his show at the Filmore Detroit on August 30, and in interviews, McMahon repeatedly expressed his affection for performing in Detroit.
“One of my favorite gigs I’ve ever played was the 2002 Warped Tour in Detroit,” he said. “I certainly always look forwards to playing in Detroit.”
With an overwhelming resume consisting of both a growing discography that has tones that masses can relate to, and a bright future for the Dear Jack Foundation, his experiences make lyrics like “Just find the horizon. I promise you it’s not as far as you think” in “The Glass Passenger” are even more believable.