Within almost any genre in the business, there’s a classic formula that makes up the backbone of most bands: a singer and his/her guitar. Whether accompanied by a small band, or taking it on the road alone like he is today, Mason Jennings has embraced the lifestyle of the singer-songwriter. 14 years since his self-titled debut, Jennings continues to pour out undeniably endearing musings on youth, love, history, and literature. “Minnesota,” his newest LP, takes stock of the never-ending fight against nostalgia and constant struggle to simply find peace that lasts.
Mason Jennings’ march to fill seats and charm listeners is nowhere near a stopping point, and his consistently honest and heartfelt musicianship and lyricism has left a notable imprint among his greatest colleagues. Long time mentor and friend of Jack Johnson, Jennings has modestly made several unseen contributions to his craft, including two songs for Bob Dylan biopic “I’m Not There” and a track for a critically acclaimed wilderness documentary, “180 Degrees South.” Jennings is sitting on a comfortable empire of widely loved American pop-rock tunes, and plans to stay there as he continues to share his stories and insight to an increasingly captive audience.
Seeds: Explain the anxiety of dropping out of school to pursue music. How confident were you in your chosen lifestyle?
Mason Jennings: It was nothing compared to the anxiety of what was going on around me. I had no idea what was going on; I just wanted to get some direction in life, and I felt like making a drastic change would kick me in the butt a bit. It did. I was confident of it enough to go through with it. Around the age of 23 I started doubting it more, but then things swung brighter a bit and the shows started selling out.
Seeds: Many of your songs are woven with historic and literary themes. Do you do a lot of reading?
MJ: Yeah, a ton. When I dropped out of high school I basically lived at the library. I went through the classics section and read at least one book by every author in there. I love a good story. A great author like Cormac McCarthy or JK Rowling is a pure inspiration to me.
Seeds: Which typically comes first for you, the melody or the lyrics?
MJ: The music starts it, but in order for a song to be born a chunk of the lyrics have to directly follow it, like, in full swing.
Seeds: “Blood of Man” was a bit darker than most, and “The Flood” was something of a compilation. Sonically, in what direction does “Minnesota” tend to move?
MJ: It moves into the intimate, the piano and the candid side of life. This record sounds like a guy brushing his teeth while the phone is ringing, his wife is sleeping, and the house gets hit by a falling tree.
Seeds: “Minnesota” thematically explores struggles with nostalgia and self-exploration. What was the central inspiration for this album?
MJ: Probably watching YouTube. Watching people cover my songs. Dog energy.
Seeds: As a solo musician, do you have any left-over aspirations, or are you simply continuing to do what you love?
MJ: The main musical aspiration I have is to be more accepting of myself as an artist and to enjoy music.
Interview by Dylan Bliss