By Bobby Benedict
Interview with Mason Jennings
Not many people are so inspired by music so early that they drop school and move to where their music is, what came out of Minneapolis that drew you there?
Mason Jennings: I really love The Replacements and The Jayhawks. I listened to both bands a ton as a teenager. Prince was big early for me cause he played all the instruments on some of his recordings which is also what I’ve done.
Did your family support you early on?
MJ: Yes. They are big music fans.
Is music still an escape for you, do you still pick up your guitar after a long day and just let your fingers roam?
MJ: I do play a lot. I don’t think of it as an escape though, more of a door in.
What hobbies have you picked up over the past couple years?
MJ: I dunno. I don’t think I have any.
Who inspired you to pick up a guitar?
MJ: Jimmy Page, Van Halen, and my brothers.
Every folk musician I know swears by some sort of equipment in order to have “their sound.” Do you rely on any interesting equipment?
MJ: I’ve always loved playing Martin guitars. I love them.
After 10 albums and years behind that of crafting who you are musically where do you still draw inspiration from when you write?
MJ: Oh, it’s infinite. Completely a mystery. Could come from anywhere really.
What was it like to be the first pick for Glacial Pace recordings, was it somehow career-fulfilling to know you were so sought after?
MJ: Yeah. At the time I was deciding between American Records with Rick Rubin and Epic/Glacial Pace with Isaac. It was a very interesting year to say the least. Isaac is a fascinating guy.
When was the first time you realized being a career musician was your thing?
MJ: Hmm. Maybe when I first played a talent show in tenth grade. We got a standing ovation that just went and went. That was a cool moment.
What artists were you most excited to work with so far?
MJ: Oh so many. I’ve gotten a chance to record with so many amazing musicians. It’s been quite an education and thrill. For my upcoming record I worked with Sean Carey from Bon Iver. He was so inspiring to work with.
What artists do you want to work with most that you haven’t yet?
MJ: I don’t know. Off the top of my head: Regina Spektor, Joanna Newsom, Jimmy Page.
What rising artists are you excited about right now?
MJ: I love the band The Pines. Pieta Brown. Mac DeMarco. Death Grips. Florist. Frankie Cosmos. Phoebe Bridgers.
Album Review: Mason Jennings’ Always Been
Always Been Initial Thoughts:
I took a listen to Mason Jennings’ last album Always Been and the first thing I took to was how smooth it felt. I don’t mean production-wise or vocal-wise, those are both great in their own right, but the songwriting itself is so bouncy. The songs move at a fairly steady pace, nothing sticking out as a bullet train among a locomotive album. Sticking with that metaphor though, the album doesn’t really stop to take in any weary travelers, it seems packed already with its own emotion and storytelling and doesn’t seem to have any room for me to dump off my emotional baggage. I want an album to wallow with me or take all my worries away and the songs always seem to hit me right in between.
In acceptance of the positivity that Mason Jennings seems to exude I did catch myself on the song “Dreaming” as well as the following track “Instrument.” Both of those songs have well-worked hooks that flow throughout the song and don’t leave me tired of their sounds no matter how many times I go back through them. If you like smooth vocals and happiness then this album is for you, but I like a little more grit to my music.
I’ll give Always Been a 3/5.
If you’re like me during Thanksgiving, then you’ll need some tunes to help you digest between plates four and five. Once you’ve tamped the last amount of food possible into your belly, then you’re going to want these five albums for your turkey-coma this Thanksgiving.
1. Something More Than Free – Jason Isbell
This isn’t the sleepiest album but just let the waves of emotional melody wash over your overworked jaw. The violin and steel guitar can dig into your soul and make enough room for the delightfully twangy vocals to rest in. Some of the more vitriolic songs will assist your digestion by churning your emotions around a mass of stuffing and sweet potato casserole.
2. Little Machines – LIGHTS
Asleep yet? No? Well, let the opening track “Portal” weigh down your eye lids in the most pleasant of ways. The rest of the tracks will turn your turkey-fueled dreams into wave after wave of a synth-pop ocean. This whole album is like being steeped in Moogs, Korgs, and vocal chorus effects in the most comforting way possible. LIGHTS has a perfect voice, no matter what she sings, it’s going to be the best soundtrack for you brain to absorb.
3. Unexpected Dreams – Songs From the Stars
Now, I know you’re probably totally asleep now but don’t be alarmed if you wake up to the sound of John Stamos or Ewan McGregor trying to lull you back to sleep. If you want your turkey-coma to turn into a full on midday nap then put this album on. It is an entire album of celebrities singing you lullabies. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like for Jennifer Garner to be your mother and bring you hot milk as you cry about not wanting to go to school then this album is perfect.
4. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Bon Iver. There’re so many vowels in there you can almost yawn the whole name, perfect for our nap. This album has just enough guitar trickery and steady drumming to keep our nap deep and everyone else’s noises below our internal noise threshold. This album will keep grandma happy, it’ll keep that angsty cousin of yours quelled, it’s perfect for just closing your eyes and absorbing the sounds while your body absorbs nutrients. This album is butter to spread over whole day.
5. Positive Songs for Negative People – Frank Turner
“The Angel Islington” will tease your brain into thinking it’s still sleepy time. This song is just there to be the nugget of Frank Turner we get before he punches us awake. Frank Turner is that younger uncle that no one else but you can relate to and he’s the firm hand that is going to shake you out of your cranberry-laced fog and tell you it’s time for pie. Oh boy, is it ever time for some pie.
Read more from Bobby on his blog, I Don’t Wanna Be Scene.