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Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
Raised on the East Coast and in the Midwest, McMahon began writing songs at age nine, drawing inspiration from singer/songwriter/pianists such as Elton John and Billy Joel. While still in high school, McMahon co-founded an early incarnation of pop-punk band Something Corporate, whose 2002 major-label debut hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Chart. In 2004, he formed Jack’s Mannequin and then on the cusp of releasing the band’s 2005 debut was diagnosed with leukemia at age 22. Eventually fully recovered, McMahon went on to release two more studio albums with Jack’s Mannequin and established The Dear Jack Foundation, one of the first Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) specific cancer foundations which advocates for and supports initiatives that benefit AYAs diagnosed with cancer. In addition, McMahon composed songs for the NBC series Smash which earned him an Emmy Award nomination. In 2014, he released Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness which featured the gold certified single “Cecilia and the Satellite”. Last year he released his debut memoir, Three Pianos. McMahon is currently in the studio working on new music. He has performed on the Today Show, Conan, Jimmy Kimmel Live and more. McMahon lives in Los Angeles with his wife of 12 years Kelly and their daughter Cecilia, for whom the hit song was penned.
Dashboard Confessional’s ninth studio album, All The Truth That I Can Tell, is both a remarkable renewal and fortunate step forward for the band’s songwriter, front man, and founder, Chris Carrabba. Having ascended great heights over the past 20 years, Carrabba found himself at a distinct crossroads as the last decade came to anend. Running on fumes, unsure if he’d ever release another album, he waited. The songs eventually came, and though the project might’ve easily come to a screeching halt following a near-fatal motorcycle accident in the summer of 2020, All The Truth That ICan Tellstands among Carrabba’s finest –a strikingly potent musical look at himself through a rediscovered keyhole, both an achievement of vision and a vital burst of artistic clarity; less like reading someone’s diary and more like reading their eyes. “Honesty was at the heart of the writing process, at the heart of the recording process and at the heart of this collection of songs,” Carrabba says. “I had the rare opportunity to be unflinchingly honest. But I think I would have thought in the early days that that would be commonplace. Now, I realize it’s some kind of cycle within your life and there’s great personal reward in accepting that.” Dashboard Confessional’s most recent album, 2018’s Crooked Shadows, earned acclaim upon its release, with CLASHhailing it as “still as charming, still as cathartic and ultimately every bit the record you want it to be.” All The Truth That I Can Tellfirst began taking shape soon thereafter with a single song written one winter evening in a Manchester, UK greenroom. The creative moment felt so transformative for Carrabba that he played the new song, “Burning Heart,” for a live audience just an hour later. “That night, I wrote a song that I was so certain of,” he says. “Not just that it was good, but that it was powerful in some way, too.”Though “Burning Heart” sparked the fuse, the full explosion of creativity that led to All The Truth That I Can Tellwouldn’t come until the fall of 2019. All of a sudden, Carrabba knew what to say and how to say it, clearly andsincerely, and proceeded to do so in just 10 short days.“The songs came quickly,” Carrabba says. “I felt them. I knew I had to hole up in my house and just allow the thing to happen, and, if I got lucky, it was going to be good.”Indeed, Carrabba’s newsongs are rich with purpose and intention, merit and necessity. They tell important stories that touch on a point of progression in the veteran artist’s life while collecting his perspectives on the most vital of his experiences. From “Burning Heart” –which fittingly opens the album –and the tone-setting second track, “Everyone Else Is Just Noise,” to raucous songs of progress and affirmation like “Here’s To Moving On” and “The Better Of Me,” to more subdued moments such as the tender “Sleep In”
and “Me And Mine,” Carrabba tracks his own personal evolution, viewed through a full heart. Noteworthy for its veracity, even among the famously intimate Dashboard Confessional canon, the album concludes with the brutally candid title track, “All The Truth That I Can Tell,” offering a somber look at one’s choices, consequences, and the perilousness of existence itself. “I really mined my own soul…my own psyche on this one,” Carrabba says. “To be frank, I was being selfish. I was absolutely not thinking about any other person that might hear this. I was only thinking about me. But I can’t tell you I’m super comfortable with that idea in any other aspect of my life, except when it comes to writing songs.” The idea of radical truth propelled Carrabba, who gazed steel-eyed inward for inspiration. Perhaps that prepared him for what was to come –just a year later, in the midst of the global pandemic, Carrabba survived a motorcycle accident and found himself in a full body cast. “Dashboard Confessional is about the acceptance that life is challenging,” Carrabba says, “the guts to let yourself feel that and the gratitude to allow yourself to speak it, without self-judgment.”Originally a side project for Carrabba, Dashboard Confessional grew to become one of the modern era’s most popular and influential bands, adored for its groundbreaking sound and respected for its unwavering candor. But after nearly two decades, at the peak of his visibility, Carrabba found himself somehow lured off his personal path. “At the height of my success,” he says, “I think I felt that I was pushed off the course I’d charted for myself. It took me a number of years to figure out how to find my way back, and to be able to do so with the deepest conviction.”While in some ways still in recovery from his accident, Chris Carrabba’s mind and intentions remain as sharp as ever before. Having made it through All The Truth That I Can Tell, he is now eager to share this triumphant new collection of songs, each of which rings as personal as family photos.“Apparently, I did have another record in me,” Chris Carrabba says. “That means I believe I have more in me, too. What I love most about this music is the certainty I have about it. Art is an exercise in uncertainty –it’s about making sense of something that isn’t certain.”# # #Below is a track-by-track description of the new Dashboard Confessional album,All The Truth That I Can Tell, as told by founder and front man, Chris Carrabba:
1)Burning Heart: The conceit of this song reflects the fact that I’m holding in a lot. I have a lot to say to the person I love in this moment. The idea in this setting is thatI’m here to fight for this. I wanted a song that took a look at a hard conversation with a sense of although things aren’t right now, they may be able to be set right if it’s needed badly enough, wanted badly enough. In this setting, the conceit of the song is between two people in a relationship –well, you only hear one side. That’s the bigger part of the conceit: what if you only heard the one side of the conversation? In the song, there’s this sense of, Okay, here we go! Are you ready? Because it’s starting!This was the first one I wrote for the new album and it’s the one outlier of the bunch. The rest of the twelve songs, I wrote basically during a 10-day period in October of 2019. But this one I wrote in a green room in Manchester, England in the winter of 2018. That night, I wrote a song that I was so certain of. Not that it was justgood,but that it was powerful in some way, too. 2)Everyone Else Is Just Noise:It turned out that there were relationships between all these songs. And this one is about the realization that nothing is forever, and the acceptance that it shouldn’t be. Thesong doesn’t come from any sort of venerable authority of any kind. I think it’s self-reflection. I’m speaking to myself, here. Sometimes, you are the grownup and sometimes you’re also not the grownup. Sometimes it’s only part of you that’s grasped the concept of reality, and it takes the inner voice to exemplify what is necessary to move forward. I was writing this song for who I’d almost become at that time, whoever that was. But I mean that in an enlightened way –like, here’s a key to the roadmap, let’s get this one right! Let’s get the future correct by acknowledging what was right and not right about the past and the present. 3)Here’s To Moving On:I think in this song I find myself understanding what brought me to the mat and what it takes to get up off the mat. Sometimes what brought you to the mat are outside forces and sometimes it’s you, yourself. Or it can be all those things. But it does seem the only thing that gets you up off the mat isn’t outside forces –it’s just always you. 4) TheBetter Of Me: This is one is about one of the overriding themes of the record –it’s about revisiting the things that filled you with life and a zeal for life and maybe revisiting whatever took those things away. It’s about owning your responsibility to yourself and to other people. In one line, I say, “I was something, I swear, before life got the better of me.” But I don’t know that that’s a negative thing. I’m not sure that “something” was always something great or right. “Life’s got the better of me” could mean that maybe life is what brought the better of me out. It’s not definitive, not to me. They rarely are.5) Southbound And Sinking: This is a snapshot song. This is me thinking about who I was with a woman and at a particular moment in time. And exploring it and taking that period
and just blowing it up –or, zooming in, I guess. And sharing a bit of the minutia of what goes on in a real full heart. I will admit to taking some inspiration from a hero of mine that may not be readily apparent, sonically. But I think in lyrical density, I think it takes a cue from Elvis Costello. 6) Sleep In: In the previous song “Southbound And Sinking” I went back in time. I took this relationship and I explored it at different periods of the relationship. But this song was further along than the overtures, I think, in “Southbound.” Where that one was aboutthese grand gestures like spray-painting her name. But this one is about living in the little moments together with her. It’s written from the point-of-view specifically of who I am today, thinking back about who we were then. 7) Me And Mine: I think this song is possibly the most personally important song that I’ve ever written. I don’t talk about my family very often openly in public because I value privacy for them. But I found myself so compelled to write a song where they are featured so prominently. It was an undeniable moment and one I’m grateful that I had. 8) Sunshine State: I’m a product of growing up in The Sunshine State. I’m proud of being from there. But there were a lot of pretty dark things happening in Florida, in the part of Florida I grew up in with my circle of friends. Frankly, not everybody survived it. And I wish they had. Sometimes –you know, I don’t live in Florida now, but I even say in the song, “I feel like I’m lying when I say that place is home.” To be honest with you, I can’t keep myself from saying it –I don’t live there but it’s home because somehow, it’s just home to me. It’s not even where I’ve lived most of my life, but it was extremely formative. 9) Young: I’m at this part of my life that I wouldn’t have known that I’d appreciate as much. I’m not young; I’m no longer young. But I have this certainty that you can have only with age. It makes me realize with certitude that I was lucky enough in my youthful thinking to have gotten it right, to have gotten love right in my youth. 10) Pain Free In Three Chords: I think this is a song about spending a lot of time trying to cover up the pain I felt, only to understand later that no one is pain free. And that’s not just a part of life; it’s an incredibly important part of life. 11) All The Truth That I Can Tell: This is a tough one to sum up in short form. I think at the end of the song, I’m with my person, the one person who probably knows the truth. You know, in all its glory or disrepair. And in that trusted place, there’s solitude. I know who that person is for me, and I think knowing that doesn’t ruin who it is in the song for other people. I think everyone has that person. For me, it’s my wife. And it’s honestly different now than it was in the past. It’s the kind of trust and honesty that isn’t in a new relationship. It’s not even in a new marriage. It’s the kind of truth to be found in someone you’ve now shared a life with.