Mason Jennings on Minnesota

Hometown hero's new record pays homage to his roots

CP: Even though the recording environment has been the same for these last few albums, sonically they're all quite different. You're at the age [36] where a lot of established artists often settle into a comfortable stasis and start making records that consciously recall their earlier material. What's driving you the other way?

Jennings: For me it actually feels more uncomfortable when music is predictable. When I'm listening to music and a record starts and I feel like I know what's going to happen next, that's usually upsetting. I've felt like that my whole life. I understand how artists end up in a position where they no longer allow themselves to explore, and it's usually driven by fear or business, and the music always suffers as a result. I always want to follow my heart and what I'm interested in at the time, and that's always going to be changing. That can be nerve-wracking at times for sure, when you actually have to go up in front of people and play for them. With the Blood of Man tour we'd get up onstage and start every night with "City of Ghosts" and go right into "Pittsburgh." There were definitely a fair amount of shows where you could sense a lot of the crowd just standing there and kind of freaking out like, "What is going on?" But then, you know, six months go by, more people hear the record, and the response changes. It's very tempting when you can tell a crowd is uncomfortable to throw them something easy but I never want to fall into the trap of playing the same show over and over again.

CP: How has your relationship with making music changed over these last two decades now that it's gone from a childhood passion to your adult livelihood?

Mason Jennings prepares for his annual hometown holiday shows
Mason Jennings prepares for his annual hometown holiday shows

Jennings: My relationship to making music still feels really similar to when I was a teenager. It's the same impulse. I just get filled up with feeling to the point where I'm going to explode and then I write a song. I take in all this life and mystery all around me and get a feeling in my chest and hands like I have to express myself. I can't really describe it better than that, it's sort of that "hey give me a crack, hand me the bat" feeling, and I've never lost that feeling. Making music is still incredibly important to me; it's a pure joy. If I get too caught up in too many meetings or am out on the road too long I can start to feel like I'm getting lost in the business side of things. That's why I always make sure to come back home to Minnesota, get to the woods, go on a walk with my dog, read a great book that has nothing to do with my music. Before too long after I do that the feeling starts to creep back and I get back to that same urgent creative space and feel connected back to that spirit of wonder. I'm always just looking to keep creating from my heart and not with any particular aim in mind.

MASON JENNINGS plays with the Pines on SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 26, at FIRST AVENUE; 612.332.1775

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