Mason Jennings' 11th studio album, Always Been, was on SiC's Top 50 last year, and the Minnesota singer recently took the time to answer a few questions about the album and his songwriting process. Jennings is wrapping up a spring tour with a show at the Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh tomorrow night, 5/29, at 8pm.
Always Been is your 11th album since 1997. How was the writing and recording different from Minnesota? How is your process different -- or similar -- from your process at the start of your career, on the self-titled album?
The songs come from a similar place. I've always felt an urge in my chest to create songs, to break into song....to express myself. I have changed and grown as a person so the music naturally changes too but I'm not really sure in what way. The creative impulse feels the same.
The title track, you've said, is about Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, and their friendship. What drew you to that story? Have you spoken to Patti about her (and their) art, or about the song?
I have spoken to Patti about art and writing in particular. She is very inspiring. Her kindness was the first thing about her that I noticed. Her warmth. Her constant smiling. Her book Just Kids is very moving to me. I love the idea of a love that inspires creativity.
Is there something that fans might not know about Always Been, that you think they should know?
While writing the songs for this record I was very inspired by Rooney Mara's performance in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and the music of Bach.
What’s the most important songwriting lesson you’ve ever learned?I've learned so much of it by seeking out music that I love. It is hard to think of it in terms of lessons. One thing I've learned is that it's a good sign if I am drawn to play a new song repeatedly. If I get sick of a song, other people will likely get sick of it sooner.
You've always drawn heavily on books, films, history, in your songs. What's currently inspiring you?
And to sum up: if you had a time machine, and you could use it to see one show (or tour, or band at a particular time), what would you go see?