Mason Jennings has the most interesting songwriting process I’ve come across. Since he was around 13 years old, the Minneapolis songwriter has had songs just come to him while randomly playing guitar and singing. He gets in touch with his subconscious and discovers his songs there very naturally. He also never writes the songs down. That’s right, he commits each song to memory and only writes them down for liner notes.
Born in Honolulu and raised in Pittsburgh, he chose Minneapolis to settle into his music career. There, he found lots of success and managed to avoid the ever-tempting major label record contracts, which were being offered as high as $1 million. Wanting to remain in control of his creativity, he opted to stay independent until he signed with Glacial Pace, a subsidiary of Sony’s Epic Records headed by Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse. He released Boneclouds in 2006 and gained much acclaim. An album with Jack Johnson’s label and an appearance on the soundtrack to Todd Haynes’ Bob Dylan film I’m Not There, solidified his presence in the folk mainstream.
Fast forward to his latest album (his 14th studio record), Real Heart, co-produced by Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard, is an ode to the acoustic guitar and a love letter to songwriting. Lately, Mason’s been working on himself through therapy and self-reflection. In the last few years, he’s been working on conquering and controlling depression, agoraphobia and living a sober life. He’s also gotten married again to Josie Jennings and the couple just recently welcomed their son Western in March 2022. A lot of these themes appear on Real Heart. We dig into those as well as his painting, the lake he lives on and Painted Shield, his synth-based rock and roll band with Stone Gossard and Matt Chamberlain. Mason’s a very special person and I’m grateful for this conversation!
Photo Credit: Benson Ramsey