How Warner Bros. Records Chairman Rob Cavallo Saved the Jack's Mannequin Album
It took two attempts, but Andrew McMahon is satisfied that People and Things, the third album by Jack's Mannequin, is exactly what he wants it to be.
McMahon tells Billboard.com that he started working on the album, due out Oct. 4, in 2009 with producer John Fields, using the same approach with which he made 2005's Everything in Transit and 2008's The Glass Passenger. "I'd go in with a song, sit down at the piano, record piano and vocal and then build a track around that," McMahon explains. "I thought that's what I was looking for. I thought I wanted to be in a studio space without a lot of people around me so I could really flesh out what I was hearing."
For People and Things, however, he gradually decided that wasn't the case.
"In June (of 2010) we did a date in Richmond, Virginia... and this feeling culminated of, 'Oh my gosh, this isn't right. This isn't the record I'm trying to put out right now,' " McMahon recalls. "I think I sort of evolved and realized along the way I had this amazing band I'd been playing with. I wanted people to hear what that sounded like on a record. So what the record needed was really different than what we had."
Short after that revelation, McMahon revised the album, keeping some of what he had already recorded ("One day I'll put out the old sessions," he promises) but also coming up with a substantial amount of new songs and working with different producers -- Jim Scott, Rob Cavallo [now chairman of Warner Bros. Records] and longtime cohort Jim Wirt, while players such as Soul Coughing's Sebastian Steinberg, Jane's Addiction bassist Chris Chaney, guitarist Tim Pierce and arranger Patrick Warren abetting the band lineup of McMahon and veteran members Bobby "Raw" Anderson and Jay McMillan (bassist Mikey "The Kid" Wagner joined in 2010).
"Everything developed over time," McMahon says. "Rob kind of came in and saved the day in a lot of ways, at a moment when we ran out of a little steam in January (of 2011). When all was said and done, we had so many hands, so many talented and selfless people who helped us get from point A to completion."
Jack's Mannequin wraps up its current tour with Guster on Sept. 4 in Columbus, Ohio, then takes a few weeks off before hitting the road again on Oct. 6 in Hartford, Conn., running through mid-December. "I imagine we're going to spend the next year on the road, just tour, tour, tour," McMahon says. "There's always that hope we'll get ahold of radio once and for all and get a hit out there and we'll get the press and those types of things you want to really blow the band past whatever ceiling it's hit before. But the reality is that's the thing I don't have control over. The only thing I can do is bring it to the street and play these songs for people and hope they fall in love with them and pick up the record."
Meanwhile, McMahon says his other band, Something Corporate, is back on hiatus after a 2010 reunion tour and greatest hits album -- even though he knows fans were hoping for it to continue.
"I tried to be really clear and say that was like a victory lap, but I think people manifest their own intentions and desires out of what they feel rather than actually listening to what's being said," McMahon notes. "We're all on pretty separate paths other than the fact we're all still really good friends. Should the stars align again and we're in a position to get out and do dates, I would do it in a heartbeat. I love those guys, and I think we have something that's really awesome that we share. But nobody should be holding their breath for that."