Mason Jennings is out of the woods with new music

Mason Jennings
Mason Jennings (Courtesy the artist)
Interview: Mason Jennings talks to Oake & Riley
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Spring is a good time for artists to get new music out, and we're being inundated some great new stuff right now. That's why we were very excited to be joined in studio by an artist we haven't seen in a while, Mason Jennings. Here's our conversation.

BRIAN OAKE: Now I understand one of the reasons we haven't seen you in a while is you've been out in the woods in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

MASON JENNINGS: Yeah, I was out recording a new record.

BRIAN: The way you describe the record on your website is pretty beautiful. What was the main inspiration for it?

MASON: For me, I fell in love, so it's a love record, and got married, so it's definitely a bunch of love songs.

And also, just healing; it's a lot of healing. I was dealing with agoraphobia for about four years, which made it really hard for me to leave the house, let alone do touring. So I took a bunch of time off touring, and the touring I did do was really very challenging. I was healing from that, so there's a lot of healing on the record.

And a lot of that healing came from being in the woods. Doing it in a place like Eau Claire, in the woods, was really appropriate, I think.

JILL RILEY: At what point did you think, "I'm going through a lot in my life; I should go make a record"?

MASON: For a couple years there, I wasn't really able to write. It was like the music wasn't coming in. So I was asking myself, "Wow, I can't really tour right now, the music's not coming in, maybe it's not going to work anymore." So I started painting, actually, and I painted for a good six months and did an art show and that was kind of inspiring.

And then all of a sudden, I met this woman, Josie, and then we subsequently have just gotten married. Just that falling-in-love feeling, all these songs started landing on me. I was like, "Whoa — OK, songs are coming back in."

These songs were all written over a pretty short period of time. It was a feeling of hope that came back in.

BRIAN: The new release comes out on Friday, it's called Songs from When We Met. I always love how different songwriters talk about their inspiration or where songs come from, because everyone seems to take a different tack. Where do your songs come from?

MASON: I don't know. I'm definitely showing up. I have a feeling a lot of times — like I'd get the feeling some mornings where I'm like, "Oh, I've gotta go out and I have to be alone this afternoon because something's going to come in." [Yet] months will go by without a song coming in.

But it's sort of a very strange feeling — it's not that different from being hungry and wanting to make yourself a meal. There's just something missing. Then I'm like, "There's something missing right now; I need to put the thing that's missing into my ear." Certain songs come in all at once, and certain songs come in over a couple of days.

BRIAN: Has one ever come in so fast that you couldn't get it down in time and you're like, "Dang it!"

MASON: (laughs) Not that fast, no! Sometimes, it'll be like a certain song on this record, "Race You to the Light," where there's so many lyrics coming out, it was happening really fast and it felt like it was taking my head off when it was happening. Sometimes that'll happen. But usually, I guess I just trust that if it's happening too fast and it goes away, it's not supposed to be there anyways. If it's memorable, that's the whole point. So if it's not memorable to me, then nobody else is going to care.

JILL: When it came time to record the record, did you do it all by yourself, or did you call on some folks to come in and play, or get some advice from a producer?

MASON: Yeah, I had my friends the Pines come in. Basically, it was just me playing acoustic guitar and singing or playing piano and singing, and then they played with me. My original instrument is drums, so then after the fact, I go put drums on. So it's me as the rhythm section: I play drums, bass and guitar, and then the Pines are all the surrounding sounds.

BRIAN: It sounds like things are moving in the right direction for Mason Jennings. You decided to fix some things that you felt needed fixing. You fell in love. You got married. You put together a great new record that's ideally about positivity and light. You talk, though, about dealing with pretty crippling agoraphobia. Is this a record that you plan on touring behind?

MASON: Yeah, definitely. And I've been touring the last few months and it's been going great. I'm not planning any huge tours, so it's mostly like, do four days [at a time]. But so far, it's been working really well. And it's been really nice to have these new songs, especially since my last record was pretty dark. This record, there's so much light in it. So playing these songs on stage is very helpful.

BRIAN: It's good to have hope, and it's good to have new music from Mason Jennings. The new release is out on Friday, May 11, and then on Friday and Saturday, May 25 and 26, you've got back-to-back shows at the Cedar.

MASON: Yeah, and the Pines will be joining me. The Pines will be my band that night. My friend Sera Cahoone from Seattle is going to be opening those shows and playing some drums with me, too, because she's the original drummer from Band of Horses, so it'll be fun to have her on stage, too.

Mason Jennings on the single, "Race You to the Light":

This is a song I wrote out in the woods. I was going for walks every day, and this owl would come and visit me. In the day, this owl just kept showing up right above me on these walks. One day, I came home from one of those walks and this song literally I just started singing it. It just came in; it was just like stream of consciousness. Tears came to my eyes, and I was like, "Whoa, where did that come from?" And then I just had this feeling like "OK, everything's going to be OK."

Audio produced by Anna Reed; transcript by Luke Taylor.

External Link

Mason Jennings - official site

The Cedar Cultural Center

1 Photos

  • Mason Jennings, 'Songs From When We Met'
    Mason Jennings, 'Songs From When We Met' releases Friday, May 11. (courtesy the artist)