Born in 1982 to what he describes as a "piano-playing mom and a dad who was a product of the '60s protest movement," music was an ever-present part of life for McMahon and his four older siblings. At the age of 9, he began playing piano and writing songs.
"Loving music was part and parcel of our human development. At 10, I was already putting together demos. When we were living in Ohio, my mom found a producer for [my first album] by looking in the yellow pages of the phone book."
It was his EP Ready Break with his band Something Corporate that first found the then-17-year-old a record deal. "It was the last hurrah of major labels," he remembers. "They put us up in a nice hotel in Miami to mix our albums and even flew my girlfriend down."
A couple of years later, when he was fronting the band Jack's Mannequin, calamity struck. He was diagnosed with leukemia. After more than ten years in remission, McMahon says he still carries psychic scars from fighting cancer and is giving back through his Dear Jack Foundation, which raises awareness about and support for young cancer survivors.
His newest record, Zombies on Broadway, has the celebratory vibe of a man who has bested disease. "It has a dance electronic bent that I got from a lot of time playing at festivals. I saw FKA Twigs and M83, and I found myself in these rooms dancing with all these people. I wanted to create that kind of energy." The place where he recorded the album also had an influence. "The idea of traveling to New York City to make the album was huge. A lot of my records had that California aesthetic. This record was exploring another city and its architecture and people."
As he travels the world with his four-piece band, including a stop at Revolution Live Saturday, April 22, and a couple of dates opening for his piano-playing idol Billy Joel, McMahon keeps his fingers away from the wilderness. "I'm maybe not as protective of my hands as I should be. I do stay away from activities where people break their hands and wrists. I got off the ski slopes years ago."
Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 22, at Revolution Live, 100 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale; jointherevolution.net; 954-449-1025. Tickets cost $24 via ticketmaster.com.