Musician Interview: 4/27/2009  

Mason Jennings : A Story Teller's Journey

The polished surfaces of major media can make it difficult to decipher what's underneath the endless sounds and images we come across.  But if you lift up the rocks of those who are artists in the true sense of the word, you'll usually find unmistakable evidence of passion, persistence, and a disregard for doubt.  For Mason Jennings, finding the support and recognition to enable his work has been a patient and adamant process; his story consists of coffee shops, cassette tapes, odd jobs, and countless hours in his van.  It's a story shared with most emerging artists and a story that, if given up on just a year too soon, would have never made it to our ears.  A weathered stone, Mason still makes music as organically and honestly as when he started, and serves as an inspiring example of what comes for those who are relentlessly steady in their passions.

Your first record was mostly about California, what was your initial connection to the state?
I had only been out there a couple times; a girl I was dating for a few years was from there.  We went out on a trip and the state really made a huge impression on me, which stuck with me all summer when I was writing those songs.

Talk to us about signing with Brushfire Records and Jack Johnson, was that a homecoming of sorts for you?
Sure.  We've been friends for so long and the fact that I'm not a surfer was important to me.  I wanted to make sure that the label grew, so it wasn't just surf-based stuff.

When did you decide that you wanted to make music full-time and what has it taken to get there? 


What is your writing process like?
I write on my own usually at my studio in the woods in Minnesota.  It comes different ways.  I'll write on electric a lot these days, or on drums.  I haven't really had too many collaborative experiences and I'm not sure why that is; maybe later in my life I will.  It's mostly been solo writing, more like a poet I guess.

I just find it easier when I'm by myself to go into a meditative place and work on deeper stories.  It's hard to write stories collaboratively.  Songs like Jackson Square or Adrian I couldn't imagine writing with anyone else.

Photo by Todd Roeth

How do your albums come together?
Some songs just come to me in one blast, and other stuff is really random and the lyrics are more abstract.  Right now I have twenty new songs and I'll just sit with them and play them in my car or van and see which ones stick with me the longest.  That's how I decide which songs actually make it on records and which songs to throw away.  I try not to think to much about the right way to do it.

After so many years of making music on your own terms, how was it making the jump to a major label?


When you're not in the studio or on tour, what are you up to?
I just like to take it easy. I do a lot of yoga, almost everyday, and I try to be outside and be around trees.  It's really beautiful where I live, right by a marsh.  I'm looking out at a huge owl right now outside my window.  These great horned owls eat other owls; that's like the most gnarly thought in the whole world.

What music are you listening to right now?
Greg Brown is my favorite song writer.  He's from Iowa and is a little older than me, and is just a fantastic song writer.  I like a lot of the songs on the new U2 record, and I really like MGMT.  It's crazy how catchy their songs are, the melodies are so good.

What kind of random jobs have you had to work in order to be making music?


Mason Jennings plays the San Diego Women's Club on Thursday, September 16th.  Tickets can be purchased here.

Photos courtesy of MasonJennings.com (unless otherwise noted)

Tags: Band Interview, Musician Interview, Mason Jennings


such a great article and inspiration to all musicians hacking away at the system. such a talented guy.
dustin made this post on 4/27/2009 at 10:35 am
this article is amazing. it's so interesting to read what he says about not necessarily being wholly intentional in his solo-songwriting. he's brilliantly honest and simple. and that. is greatness. oh, and great horned owls eat other owls?! whaaaat?
suzy made this post on 4/27/2009 at 1:41 pm
Great insightful article! I remember hearing Mason's cd for the 1st time in San Diego a few years back. Such good stuff! (thanks Zack)....
Lindsey Cook made this post on 4/27/2009 at 6:07 pm
like this guy
Steph Walker made this post on 4/27/2009 at 6:27 pm
I'm liking the audio clips inserted into the article.
Kiran made this post on 4/30/2009 at 2:17 pm
Great interview... and the laughter track from joel/zack is pretty funny just on its own.
sean made this post on 4/30/2009 at 2:22 pm
woah SEZIO is big time
pooh made this post on 4/30/2009 at 3:15 pm
Wonderful interview Zack. Sorry it's taken me this long to read/listen to it. Enjoy him this Saturday.
Kathleen made this post on 5/1/2009 at 2:24 am
Love Mason! Great interview Zack, I loved the bit when you were laughing at his story. Insightful and thoughtful, well done.
Ryan Mc made this post on 5/13/2009 at 12:39 am

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