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A musician, is he the maker of music or the creator? Do the titles: "musician" and "composer" ever coincide? And with the horrible times our country is in right now, are we looking to music as an escape? These were just a few of the topics I chatted over with popular piano rock artist Andrew McMahon, who has spent his summer touring with his group Jack's Mannequin. On the recent stop through the Kansas City area with fellow piano gods The Fray, we sat down for quick sesh:

Hybrid Magazine: How's the tour going so far?

Andrew McMahon: It's awesome. Being outside in the summertime is great in and of itself, but on top of it there's a connectivity between what The Fray's audience listens to and what we get into. So we seem to be able to play them and have a good time.

HM: It's a nice line-up. Do you feel more comfortable touring with a line-up like this as opposed to say, Warped Tour?

AM: I've learned to be comfortable just about anywhere. If you've followed the history of the bands I've opened up for it's been anywhere from 311 to Panic! At The Disco and O.A.R. I think both audiences cater to the different facets that we do. I think this bill seems really more connective. It's definitely a broader audience. I like the idea of having a 12-year old in middle school like what we do and I like the idea of having a 35 or 40-year old family guy like what we do. I feel like what we do can be liked by many walks of life.

HM: It seems that the popularity of piano bands is growing now-a-days with Coldplay, Ben Folds, Mute Math. Why do you think that is?

AM: I think in a way, upbeat music is always going to have its place. And in a down time, the up beat is needed. Sort of the idea behind putting out "Swim" and the fact that it's a song that speaks to the times we're in. I think in general, when times are hard, you do see a sort of an essence of people coming out and using a show like this to have a good time. And take a moment to escape and [get] a breath of fresh air.

HM: With the piano do you feel you've become more of a composer as opposed to simply a musician? Ben Folds kind of exemplified this with his accapella album, ever thought of doing something similar?

AM: Not necessarily, I mean I treat a piano like a guitar. In that sense I can see a lot of similarities. But as a piano player I do end up writing for both the "bass" and the "guitar," with the two parts to the piano. Truthfully, I like the idea of writing the song and having my kind of interpretation in my head and sometimes it's stronger for the other instruments. And then taking that into the studio and really trying to break it down to just the chord progression and the melody. Yes, there is definitely a huge element of composition to what I do, but I don't know that it would be any more or less than someone writing for a guitar.

HM: Can you let me into a-day-in-the-life-of? when you're not touring.

AM: I'm a pretty early riser, I get up fairly early. I'm the kind of guy, that I spend a lot of time in my car when I'm home. I like to drive, so I'll go run errands or go see friends. I'll definitely spend at least 2 or 3 hours at the piano most days. A lot of times when I'm home I'm in the studio recording. Try to do yoga every day. Dinner with the lady.

HM: Have you ever had to battle genre labeling?

AM: For the majority of my career I've been referred to as a pop punk artist. I mean, I've never played punk in my entire life. But if you read through 90% of articles, that was in a lot of ways my cross to bear. Personally I think that rock 'n roll is a much better classification than all of these sub-labels. I think that people end up playing to their "genre" and that's just such a horrible way to create.

HM: Anything fans can expect from Jack's Mannequin in the coming year?

AM: Well, we have the Dear Jack documentary that will likely be out in the fall. And we're just on pins and needles just trying to get it positioned and ready to go. That said, if it's done and ready, we're going to do this acoustic run, just me and Bob and play maybe 12-15 cities throughout the country. The idea is to just go rent a piano in every city and play 200-300 person clubs. And hopefully do a screening of the documentary in 2 or 3 cities. The point is to be for the fans who are really going to appreciate it, who are going to get the tickets the quickest because they care the most.

After fighting the parking "muscle," the interview was supposed to be cut short. But luckily for me, Andrew sometimes doesn't always listen to his tour manager (sorry Aaron). We ended up spending most of the time just talking, with no question agenda at hand. It was pleasant and informative. Not only is he an incredible musician and composer, but an incredible person. You can only imagine the amazing music that would come from a person like that.

-Rachel Fredrickson

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