Thriving singer/songwriter Mason Jennings to release new album and perform in Solana Beach
By Rob LeDonne
With a new album coming out, a national tour underway, and a ton of promotion to take care of, suffice it to say singer/songwriter Mason Jennings has been busy. “I have kids at home, so what I’ve been doing is playing four cities at a time and flying back out,” explained Jennings via phone on the while road. “I wind up touring a few weeks every month.”
Luckily for North County, Mason’s show rolls into Solana Beach’s Belly Up Tavern on Nov. 13, and the rock club happens to be a venue he’s fond of. “I’ve played there before and like it a lot,” he notes. “The thing about touring now for me is that while I like the playing part a lot, the traveling part is getting pretty intense. I’ve been doing this for about 13 years straight.”
In an age where artists come and go, Jennings’ resilience and resulting success is impressive. He’s certainly come a long way from his humble beginnings; Jennings was born in Honolulu, grew up in Pittsburgh, and later moved just outside of Minneapolis. “When I was younger I loved writing short stories and music, so I just combined them (into writing songs). I wound up dropping out of high school and traveling around… I was always pretty sure music was what I wanted to do.”
Despite Jennings’ success and rabid national following, he still calls Minneapolis home. “There’s a balance there between the woods, the city, and open spaces that leaves you in kind of this neat intersection in the middle of a great arts, radio, and writing scene,” he explains. “I also really like having seasons a lot.”
Perhaps that’s the reason why he recorded his latest album “Always Been” (which will be released the day before the Belly Up show on Nov. 11) during a long Minneapolis winter. “I basically made my last couple of records in front of a computer, but for this album I wanted to try a different approach. I got rid of all the electronic stuff and just sat in a room with a guitar, piano, and cassette recorder.”
The album’s rustic nature is easy to pick up on, which is part of the reason why “Always Been” is already getting major buzz. Its lead single, “Wilderness,” recently premiered on RollingStone.com, and the subject matter of a few songs are raising music critics’ eyebrows, including the track “Patti and Robert.” Said Jennings: “I was in New York performing at a Neil Young tribute concert at Carnegie Hall, and I heard that [legendary artist] Patti Smith was backstage asking for me. She was so sweet and complimentary, and I was really inspired by her. Shortly after, I read her autobiography and it really moved me.” The resulting song focuses on Smith’s relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.
Overall, 38-year-old Jennings shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. “When I’m writing these songs, mostly every day, I try at some point to get my hands on a guitar or piano. I’ll work on playing other stuff or practicing, and months might go by without writing anything new. Then something could just flow out. I go with the feeling.”
Mason Jennings performs at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 13, at Solana Beach’s Belly Up Tavern. Visit www.bellyup.com.
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