Interview | Mason Jennings

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?


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?

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

Is there something that fans might not know about Always Been, that you think they should know?


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?


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
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?

Peter Matthiessen’s Shadow Country, Jimmy Fallon’s attitude, the road to
the 2014 World Cup, Springtime in Minnesota, Louis Jenkins’ poems.

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?

Johnny Cash solo 1994. 

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