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CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Andrew McMahon, 8 p.m. July 23, Musikfest Cafe, Bethlehem CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Andrew McMahon, 8 p.m. July 23, Musikfest Cafe, Bethlehem

Andrew McMahon's solo 'Underground'

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 by EMILY THIEL Special to The Press in Focus

Andrew McMahon has shaped a pop-rock music career with the bands Something Corporate and Jack's Mannequin as vocalist, pianist and primary songwriter.

He's begun a solo career, with the EP, "A Pop Underground," released April 30, and new songs "Synesthesia," "Catching Cold," "Learn to Dance" and "After the Fire."

McMahon performs 8 p.m. July 23, Musikfest Cafe, ArtsQuest Center, SteelStacks, 101 Founder's Way, Bethlehem.

"The Jack's [Mannequin] thing kind of started as a solo project," says McMahon in a recent phone interview.

"I knew Jack's was winding down. ... As soon as I was through making the last Jack's record, it felt like the next thing would probably be solo," McMahon says.

McMahon is on tour with O.A.R. until early August. He's incorporating a solo tour while touring with O.A.R.

"We're going for whatever makes sense," McMahon says. "It's finding a venue and town we can play that doesn't compete with the dates of [the shows with O.A.R.]"

Band members of Jack's Mannequin still travel on the road with McMahon. "It changes it up a little bit.

"It's great [touring with O.A.R.]," says McMahon. "I know these guys for years. They're friends."

McMahon wrote songs with O.A.R. lead singer Mark Roberge for O.A.R.'s last record and has toured with the band previously.

McMahon says touring with O.A.R. "is like getting on a road trip for the summer. ... It's made the tour a whole lot of fun."

Last September, McMahon began the creative process in the studio, writing songs and recording for his solo EP.

"Sometime between then and the end of the year, I decided to pull out the best of the songs and put them out." As lead singer of both his previous bands, McMahon is used to writing on his own but "there are certainly differences."

McMahon says the title of the new EP, "A Pop Underground," refers to the music McMahon has produced for the last several years.

"I write popular music, and it's always done well for me but it never crossed into [the big hits]," hence his term "the pop underground."

For the artist, the opportunity to have a solo career also invites many transitional elements. McMahon is now focusing to communicate with fans more through social media.

"[Social media] has made me a little bit more connected to the [fan] base," McMahon says, adding he's making an effort and "trying to take more of an active role on the social networking aspect."

Fans who have followed McMahon since his days in Something Corporate and Jack's Mannequin will be pleased to hear past favorites of "I Woke Up in a Car" and "La La Lie" during his concerts.

"I've been playing 'I Woke Up in a Car' every night. ... It's definitely a crowd pleaser."

McMahon switches up his set list night to night with a variety of songs from his new EP and Something Corporate and Jack's Mannequin albums.

"It's the fun developments of doing the solo stuff," he says. "It gives me a chance to do all these tunes [from] these two separate careers."

McMahon has been inspired by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Counting Crows, Radiohead, Billy Joel, Weezer, Bob Marley and The Doors.

What's in store for Andrew McMahon?

"The plan is to write a ton of music," McMahon says.. "I'm going to take the rest of the year off and just go write and record. It will probably won't be until the end of the year. I'm not sure when it will be finished."

For fans who have followed McMahon through the years, he has good news about his Leukemia being in remission, saying, "I have been completely cancer-free for eight years."