Andrew McMahon had a rare moment to relax and reflect when something magical happened: His latest album Upside Down Flowers.
“I was coming home from an insane three- or four-year process of writing and recording and touring the first two albums,” he says about the Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness releases.
“I didn’t anticipate jumping into a new album or music. When I got to the end of last year, I had a good collection of songs.”
McMahon says Upside Down Flowers makes a strong musical and lyrical statement about his transformative journey. The album’s 11 songs are vignettes animated by McMahon’s vivid lyrics and dynamic melodies. He recruited one-time Marvelous 3 singer-guitarist Butch Walker to produce the record and play drums, bass and guitar. Roger Joseph Manning Jr. of Jellyfish and Imperial Drag was the guest keyboardist.
“Butch and I have roots in similar scenes, as far as the second act of his career was concerned,” McMahon says.
“We worked on one project together in 2005. That’s where we met. We’ve always kept tabs on each other and followed each other’s career.
“He’s a great player and a great spirit and somebody who made the process of bringing these songs to life easier.”
Upside Down Flowers features the first single, “Ohio,” which reached Top 40 at alternative radio; the autobiographical Beatles-esque “Teenage Rockstars,” the escapism of “Blue Vacation” and the album’s latest release “Paper Rain.”
McMahon says he and Walker worked together well, even when there was a difference of opinion.
“The beauty of working with somebody who’s a talented collaborator and artist in his own right is if it didn’t feel like the right thing, it was easy to steer back to something that felt good,” McMahon says about Walker.
“Butch is a lot like me. We want to work fast. Like with ‘Teenage Rockstars,’ the first production sketch of that was a little bit more of a traditional drum track. I liked the instrumentation, but I said, ‘What if we simplified the drums?’ That’s how we landed on the bombastic kick-snare thing that holds the whole song together.”
McMahon is celebrating the release of Upside Down Flowers with a tour that kicks off at The Van Buren on Wednesday, January 23. A leukemia survivor, McMahon says he was surprised his last Van Buren show sold out.
“That’s one of the bigger rooms I’ve played on my own in Phoenix,” says McMahon, who’s also led Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin.
“It’s such a beautiful room and it’s so exciting. Some of my earliest memories of playing shows were in the Phoenix-Tempe area. Something Corporate played its first out-of-state show at The Nile. Nobody could figure out how to get the piano through the speakers and Jim Adkins from Jimmy Eat World was at the show and he was the one behind the console who helped pull our gig together. There are a lot of memories in Phoenix.”
Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness w/Flor and Grizfolk, The Van Buren, 401 W. Van Buren Street, Phoenix, thevanburenphx.com, 7 p.m. Wednesday, January 23, $32.50-$35