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Notable "Unknowns" – Jack’s Mannequin posted on May 27th, 2008

MusicMaster is dedicated to more than just the business side of radio! We are also musicians, ‘radio people’ and avid music listeners in all genres. As music has recently become accessible directly from bands via the internet (on, and Myspace to name a few) it’s getting harder for radio stations to keep up with what’s on their listener’s iPods. Part of what we’d like to share with you each week is our take on some of greatest ‘unknown’ artists that your listeners love, but who are not yet gracing the airwaves. For our entry, we’ll start with the music of Andrew McMahon (bands Something Corporate & Jack’s Mannequin).

Andrew McMahon began his life in music as the lead vocalist and pianist for the Orange County, California based piano-rock band Something Corporate. Andrew, however, had been playing piano since 1990, when he was just eight years old. The band’s name was a testament to their disdain for packaged industry driven artists, yet Something Corporate enjoyed enormous success among the pop-punk crowds. Their 2002 debut album on Drive-Thru Records (Leaving Through the Window) hit number 1 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart and number 1 on the Billboard Alternative New Artists chart. Just one year later, their second full-length record, North, debuted at #24 on the Billboard 200.

In 2004, however, the band split up and its members went on to solo projects. McMahon’s project became Jack’s Mannequin, for which he wrote songs therapeutically. His songs, he stated, dealt with “coming home, and having home be way different than I had remembered it.” As the music took shape, McMahon paid out-of-pocket for production and eventually was offered a record deal with Maverick Records.

Shortly after, however, McMahon’s life took a tragic turn as he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the age of 22. Many of his lyrics seemed, at that time, to have been almost prophetic. “Ben Franklin’s Kite,” written in 2000, begins, “Give me an answer, while this cancer eats me away.” The UK release of the Something Corporate album North featured a track called “Watch The Sky,” in which McMahon sang, “I will crawl. There’s things that are worth giving up I know, but I won’t let this get me, I will fight.” Incidentally, music website had orange wristbands made up reading “I will fight” which were sold to fans, raising over $20,000 to be donated to the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation.

On August 23, 2005, McMahon’s album “Everything In Transit” was released, debuting at #37 on the Billboard 200, with over 22,000 copies scanned within the first week. The occasion was memorable for McMahon in another way, however, as it was also the day that he received a stem cell transplant from his sister, Katie. As the treatment took hold, McMahon recovered and eventually reached remission, going on to play his first concert some 100 days after the transplant. He continued his involvement with cancer research, playing special concerts and tours to raise money and awareness. In July 2006, McMahon founded a non-profit charity, The Dear Jack Foundation, to raise funds for cancer research. McMahon’s struggle was recorded from the day of his diagnosis to his recovery for a documentary titled “Dear Jack” to be released in early 2008. The film was directed by Corey Moss and Josh Morrisroe, two former MTV News producers, but features personal footage shot by McMahon himself during his hospital stays. It is narrated by McMahon’s close friend and collaborator Tommy Lee.

Jack’s Mannequin began recording their second album, tentatively titled “The Glass Passenger” in summer 2007, under the label of Sire Records. In keeping with his tradition of making his music available for free via the internet, McMahon kept fans up to date in his blog with links to live performances of his new songs, including Caves and Suicide Blonde. As more and more information about the album was released, fan’s eagerly awaited the release. In fact, McMahon was recently featured on the cover of Alternative Press’s ‘Most Anticipated Albums’ issue. Though the album was originally set to debut in April of 2008, McMahon has pushed the date to the end of August, as he is still finalizing the tracks. As with ‘Everything In Transit,’ many of the songs will be autobiographical. In an interview with, McMahon stated that he had been afraid of writing ‘the cancer record,’ though he did admit that he used the music as a means to get through his struggle. One of the prominent pieces of the new album is a song called ‘Caves,’ a seven minute three-movement symphonic song that McMahon describes was first heard in his head when he woke up in the middle of the night. He says, “I went to my piano and started writing it. It was kind of the first time that the words, as they related to what I had gone through, started emerging.” In the first verse, McMahon sings:

‘I’m caught,
somewhere in between,
and living a dream.
No peace,
just clicking machines,
In the quiet of calm, pazine.
The walls caved in on me.’

*Pazine is a drug used to treat nausea in chemotherapy patients

Caves-Live Performance

Throughout his career, McMahon has been steadfast in making music in his own terms. His fan base is monstrous, but largely unknown by those in the industry responsible for manufacturing the next big hit. One needs only to visit McMahon’s various web pages, including Facebook and MySpace, to see the massive support behind the piano-based Ben Folds-like sound of Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate. McMahon has played in Bamboozle, the Warped Tour and SXSW and will be heading out on tour with Paramore at the end of this summer (no dates official as of yet).

Anyone who is fortunate enough to see McMahon perform live will see that what sets him apart from many other alternative artists is the ostensible passion he pours in his music. McMahon plays keyboard while switching between two vocal mics, but often will end up pacing, standing on equipment, or lying flat on the stage. Even when playing to thousands of screaming fans, McMahon seems lost in the music, playing each phrase as if he were just discovering it. The ‘Glass Passenger’ is, indeed, one of the most anticipated albums of 2008, particularly on high school and college campuses. Fans, who have been with McMahon since his first Something Corporate demos to the awaited second Jack’s Mannequin release have proven to be nothing less than die hard. On July 9, 2006, Jack’s Mannequin fans at the ‘Summerfest’ music festival in Milwaukee, Wisconsin waited for a performance outdoors through one of the most torrential storms of the year. As the afternoon and early evening acts on the U.S. Cellular stage had been cancelled, these fans stuck it out with the mere hope that the rain and hail would stop by the time McMahon was scheduled to play. In the end, after having crowded for hours under picnic tables and tarps torn down from the walls of nearby booths, the fans were rewarded as McMahon took the stage for a memorable night – both for them, and for him. As he announced, just moments before heading onstage, he had just taken the very last dose of his cancer treatment medication.

For more information, visit Jack’s or the MySpace page

The Mixed Tape video – From ‘Everything In Transit’

Dark Blue video – From ‘Everything In Transit’