Some records just have perfect titles. Consider NOFX or Peter Gabriel. But when Andrew McMahon chose Everything In Transit as the name of his solo debut, he didn’t know what kind of craziness he life was moving into. In this oral history video, McMahon recalls the stories that made his first record as Jack’s Mannequin a true milestone.
“I’ve always seen these records as time capsules,” he says. “Once I step out of it, it becomes whatever it is in the culture of the fanbase. I’m glad I have a snapshot of what my life looked like before it got completely turned upside down. There’s so much in my life that shifted during the making of Everything In Transit. I was really grateful to find the time and the space to live it and write it down.”
McMahon talks about leaving Something Corporate and being in “a scene I didn’t really feel part of.” He cites a recording session of two songs with producer Jim Wirt as the true beginning of Jack’s Mannequin. His professional life with SoCo had crumbled, McMahon’s personal life (a breakup with a longtime girlfriend) was unraveling, as well. With no band or significant other to confide in, McMahon just wrote songs. And with influences as diverse as the Beach Boys, David Bowie and the Faint, his mindset was all over the place.
However, the greatest takeaway he had from the record was more medical than musical. McMahon learned he had lymphoblastic leukemia and had to go through a stem cell transplant. It kept him from touring behind Everything In Transit immediately, but the fans still waited ardently for him. McMahon was offered a spot on One Tree Hill to promote the record. Doctors told him he couldn’t travel due to a compromised immune system. He didn’t care.
“I went back to my doc. I said, ‘Doc, what if we got a tour bus. We have all of the filters changed out. I’m the only one on the bus. And we drive all the way to Wilmington, North Carolina?’ And he said, ‘Sure, if you do that, I think you can go. But you’re still an idiot.’ I said, ‘We’ll hire two drivers and double-drive across the country and all the way back.’ And we did it. It was successful and it worked.”
“I think the record itself had such a point of view,” McMahon continues. “Kind of heartbroken, but there was still this element of hope in the song arrangements that made you dance while you felt that thing. Add this layer of me getting sick in the middle of it, and I think it shined a light on the culture that had come out of Something Corporate era. Which was really good-natured fans. People who were showing up to shows that wanted to be a part of something. Getting into rooms to emote together and sweat and just shake off whatever the craziness of growing up in the world feels like.
“I think all those elements combined to make this rad little army of music lovers and fans of the album that really did bond together. A lot of it felt rooted in this other love and support with what I was going through. In my mind, it just deepened the culture of my music and my fanbase. Because I felt it. There was just that energy around it that we all felt. That’s a one in a million thing that a lot of artists don’t get to experience. It was wrapped up in a lot of trauma for me. But it was also really healing and helped me get better.”