When 2020 began, Orange County-based singer-songwriter Andrew McMahon had a plan.
He had new music he’d written since his The Pen and the Piano Tour in 2017-2018 and he’d teamed up with Los Angeles rock band Awolnation for a full-fledged North American Tour, which was originally scheduled to hit home at The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles on June 19.
However, once the coronavirus global pandemic began to make its impact on the United States, McMahon said he knew for public safety reasons the tour would need to be canceled and he’d be hunkering down in his South County home with his wife Kelly and their 6-year-old daughter, Cecilia, for the foreseeable future.
“I had come to terms with that actually weeks before we had to announce that the tour was canceled because the writing was pretty much on the wall,” the 37-year-said during a recent phone interview, noting that he and Awolnation’s vocalist Aaron Bruno had formed a special bond when they first met at a press event back in 2016.
“I know we were both looking forward to those dates and more than anything I’m just sad to have lost that opportunity and hope it presents itself again in the future because I think he’s a really amazing talent. I was looking forward to watching him play a show every night and getting to spend time with him.”
Like many musicians, McMahon has turned to social media and streaming performances to connect with his fan base. He admits to shying away from being too active on these platforms in the past, even going back to his days fronting pop rock band Something Corporate in the late ’90s and early ’00s, and his group Jack’s Mannequin, which formed in 2004, when MySpace was the go-to social media site.
During the first week of stay-at-home orders, he said he hopped on Instagram to do a live session with his fans.
“I would pop on every couple of days and play a song and just check in with people,” he said. “It has evolved into a longer format kind of thing, but for whatever reason, and I can’t pin it down to one thing … I think these (streaming) shows have probably been every bit as important for me and as cathartic for me as it is for the audiences tuning in.”
Since he grew up in Dana Point and still lives in the area, McMahon has played a lot of shows in Orange County. In past years he’s been a headliner for OC Parks’ Summer Concert Series and since people are not able to congregate together in area parks just yet, McMahon said he’s happy to be a part of OC Parks Sound Check Virtual Concert Series, which is a weekly run of streaming performances that will take place at 4 p.m. every Saturday. The series kicked off earlier this month with a live at-home set from Huntington Beach singer-songwriter Matt Costa.
“Creativity tends to thrive in times of distress or with the influence of new inputs from the outside world,” he said. “There are these constituencies of human beings looking for entertainment and we’re realizing that things do not have to be perfect. It all doesn’t have to be so produced or curated and we’re all just looking for ways to enjoy each other in the best way we can. It has really relaxed the boundaries of creativity a bit and we’re able to just have fun. … You get to be playful and people get to see that side of you and that’s what I think I’ve enjoyed the most about this (streaming).”
Though he can relate to feeling some cabin fever during this time, after looking at the crowding that happened at local beaches last weekend, McMahon said he wished individuals were taking things more seriously as we’re finally starting to see the curve bend on COVID-19 in Southern California.
“When this whole thing gets on the side road of politics and the idea of the economy taking precedent over public health, I wish people had a bit more of a nuanced view of what that really means,” he said. McMahon himself is a cancer survivor. In 2005, he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and underwent a successful stem cell transplant, with his sister Katie serving as his donor.
“I don’t think people realize that there’s a universe of people outside of the demographics that are spoken of regularly that include people of all ages who are already suffering a great deal,” he continued. “If this had occurred when I was going through my cancer treatment — those additional layers of isolation that would have been heaped upon me as they are clearly being heaped upon people right now who are facing cancer treatments or who are immune-compromised on any level — I think to not take those people and their health into account and to go live in a risky or dangerous way that could bring this disease to their doorstep, I find alarming and sad. I hope people can step outside of what they want and their desire to control this thing and have some compassion and empathy for people who are already suffering.”
Though his spring and summer tour schedule was canceled, McMahon said he’s looking to the silver lining and soaking in the time spent socially distancing from the world at home with his family. They’ve been going for little walks in their neighborhood, home schooling, completing random home projects, having dance parties with family friends via Zoom and trying out new recipes in an effort to recreate some of their favorite restaurant meals. He said he failed hard at making buffalo cauliflower, but impressed himself with a first-time attempt at fish tacos.
“That was a win,” he said. “I usually trust fish with the fish people, but I got this cut of really great sushi-grade tuna and I did blackened tuna tacos and they were amazing. I’ve also been spiraling a lot of zucchini. We lean pescatarian and vegetarian for the most part, so I’ve been doing a ton of pasta dishes with spiraled zucchini noodles and I’m getting really good at that too.”