Ten years ago, following his struggle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Andrew McMahon started the Dear Jack Foundation, which supports different organizations and provides programming that addresses the challenges faced by young adult cancer patients and survivors. “The foundation means so much. When I have the ability to interact with those going through what I went through, it is a stark reminder of how lucky I am,” says McMahon, who was able to recover thanks to a stem-cell transplant courtesy of his sister Katie. “Having to go through it when there were so few foundations and charities working for adolescents and adults, it hammers home that we have a lot of work to do to bring awareness of this cause and the underserved in the cancer community.”
To help spread that awareness, McMahon began hosting the Dear Jack Benefit, with the seventh-annual concert slated for Friday. For the singer, who attended Dana Point High School and still lives in town, the concert is a chance for personal reflection. “It means that a lot of people who have seen me through my journey professionally, personally and with cancer—just having your friends around for events like these, you get to reflect not only on your career, but also your life and relationships,” McMahon says.
To best reflect on that journey, McMahon will bring together all three stages of his musical career: Something Corporate, Jack's Mannequin and Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness. “To actually have everyone there to support you and look back on the time where it was a bit of a struggle—to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the foundation—it's going to be a great feeling,” McMahon says. “I feel like we're just getting started.”
McMahon started writing music at the age of 9. His high school band morphed into the band Something Corporate in 1998; they released the album Leaving Through the Window (2002) under MCA records and had a hit with “If You C Jordan.” McMahon's solo side project, Jack's Mannequin, came about as Something Corporate took a break in 2004. Soon after completion of the album Everything In Transit (2005), McMahon was diagnosed with cancer.
The following year, he celebrated his survival by starting the Dear Jack Foundation and going back to touring and recording with Jack's Mannequin. But in 2012, McMahon felt it was time to start over again with a new band for this new more tame phase of life. Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness has the artist traveling under his own name for the first time in his career, writing solo material, performing live and penning songs for other artists. He and wife Kelly had a daughter, Cecilia, in 2014, and he now spends his time focusing on nurturing his family and growing the foundation.
McMahon has also been busy recording a new album. Its name and the new tour associated with it will be unveiled during the benefit concert, through which he aims to raise $100,000 in support of cancer treatment for patients and survivors. “After 11 years, after the past couple of records, I have been lucky that cancer hasn't reared its head again,” McMahon says. “A third career reboot is terrifying, but seeing it come together and seeing the gamble pay off has been incredibly rewarding.”
Dear Jack Benefit Concert, featuring Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness, at the Observatory, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 957-0600; www.observatoryoc.com. Fri., 7 p.m. $37.50. All ages.