Introducing a brand new blog… series? I’m not sure if it is a series, but it will be a recurring topic – The Bookshelf!
I’d been meaning to start doing this some time ago but as it always happens, something else took priority.
The Bookshelf will be book recommendations based on what I’m reading or have read before, kind of like how at Chapters-Indigo, there’s those stickers on books like “Heather’s Pick” so you know it’s worth buying… these are my picks.
I tend to be most interested in autobiographies, memoirs and true stories about lived experiences, which is to say I also dabble in a fair bit of history, but I read a lot of non-fiction, too and don’t really consider anything off the table there, from sci-fi to murder-mysteries to satire and everything in between.
I’d also like to encourage you to share your own recommendations in the comments if you ever have any. I’ve read a lot of great books that I’d otherwise have no idea about if they weren’t recommended to me in some way and this is pretty much my go-to for sourcing new ones these days, as gone are the days of Scholastic book fairs.
Okay, first book, let’s get to it!
Andrew McMahon – Three Piano’s (A Memoir)
I posted about this recently on the Neither Could Dylan instagram page and it seems most fitting to start here.
If you’re unfamiliar, Andrew McMahon is the frontman for some pretty great bands: Something Corporate, Jack’s Mannequin, and now, Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness.
Three Pianos is his memoir which takes you through pivotal moments of his life both at home and on the road with those bands, using three piano’s he’s owned over the years to benchmark out the key changes (ha!) of his life.
I’ve been a big fan of Andrew’s songwriting since the first time I encountered Something Corporate as a pre-teen. What really pulled me into it, aside from the endlessly catchy melodies, were the great piano lines that accompanied them. At the time, there weren’t a lot of bands showcasing piano work in this way on modern radio/TV or that I was diving into – at least, not in my own memory of it.
When I was growing up, as I’ve mentioned a bit before, I grew up with people who were from “well-off” families. A lot of my friends were forced into piano lessons from young ages and many of them had pianos in their homes – this was something I’d envied.
So often when we’d be making our neighbourhood rounds to collect friends to go bike riding or to head to the park, we’d stop in to their foyer’s and there would be one just sitting there.
Piano’s by the way, to me as a young girl, looked massive and super intimidating. Even more so when one of my gifted friends would go ahead and start playing “Chopsticks” or “Ode To Joy” on one while I just stood there like, “how do you do that?”
They were so common in friends’ homes that often my mom would remark how she used to want to get one for our house as well, but never did. To be fair, most of these pianos in my friends homes weren’t often played, but rather just displayed, in all their massive ivory glory.
Needless to say, I’d always wanted to learn but it’s an impossible task unless you’re from one of these types of families – I suppose that’s why I settled onto guitar as my first true instrument instead – easier to obtain and store. And the funny thing about that is when I began playing guitar, one of the things people would say to me often was, “Do you play piano as well? They’re basically the same thing – it’s easier to learn one if you know the other.”
No they are NOT, good sir. But also, yeah, they totally are.
Anyways, back to the book.
I learned a lot about Andrew I didn’t know before. Of course, I knew about his cancer and surviving it – it was a major focal point for a brief period of his career that even us in Canada heard about it with some regularity, but to read about the experience in his own words is heart-wrenching.
But I didn’t know people in his family had struggled with addiction – he specifically speaks to opioid use, and his own party-preferences through the years.
Beyond that it gives great insight to life on the road as the frontman for SoCo & Jack’s Mannequin, which for me was a lot like I’d imagined it for a lot of bands, but not necessarily for these guys – which says more about me and how I’ve always perceived Andrew than anything else.
I saw Something Corporate play when they were touring the North record and it’s been one of my favourite albums ever since. The production on that record is great, so I want to also recommend you check that out, too.
But my favourite collection of his songs is within the Jack’s Mannequin era. I saw him play Warped Tour one year during this project and if you ask me, there was no greater artist playing that festival that day. I didn’t have the best position because by the time we’d gotten to the stage for his performance (I think he may have been right after The Color Fred), the crowd was already pretty big. But even from where I stood, he completed ascends when performing and you really feel every word. This isn’t something I’ve personally felt when watching most artists at an outdoor music festival, which I think is a great testament to him as a performer. If the North tour hadn’t already, this solidified me as a fan for life.
That all said, where Andrew’s songwriting and vocals really shine is when it’s just him and a piano with little else accompanying him and I really want you to check out some of those recordings, too – like this version of “Halls” on the deluxe edition of the first Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness record.
And this is one of my favourite songs of his:
You can pick up a copy of Three Piano’s at most major retailers. It’s well worth the read if you’re at all a fan of Andrew’s work.