I seem to make records that are sort of like mix tapes, because I don't like the idea of two songs rubbing up against each other. My favorite records are sort of like greatest hits albums, in the record. And that's not to say I think I have a record of radio hits.
"Half of My Heart" and Working With Taylor Swift
JM:I think I messaged [Taylor Swift] on Twitter. I think I said—I sent her a direct message saying, I have this song, I think you're the one for it. And I don't normally do that. It took me four records for me to get to a song where I said, Wow this can really mean something—or maybe it took someone like Taylor coming around to really make that an organic process instead of an arranged marriage of a duo.
And so I called out to her and she agreed to do it. Came into the studio. One of the best work ethics I've ever seen on somebody. Some people you get two or three tries of asking them to do it again before they disengage. She was a tank. I got to a point of comfort with her I went, Wow this girl is gonna stay. This girl's gonna stay til it's done! Which is the greatest and sadly the rarest thing when you're getting people racing the martini. You can just feel someone is racing to get out.
I just remember at some point being comfortable enough to say, Do it again. Instead of, That's good. That's good. Without having to coddle. She sort of just made it clear through her behavior like, Let's just get this thing, however long it takes, you got me. And that of course opened up the experience into being great. I'm learning in my career now when you let there be an experience, when you let something go in it's own way and flow, you get ten fold back instead of micromanaging everything.
"I'm On Fire"
JM: "I'm On Fire" is one of my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs. It's painfully too short, and beautiful. And aching. In a way that some of his music doesn't. It's a little bit of a step to the side for him. It's an 80's song recorded like an 80's song, yet it has not been moved out with the trash whatsoever. And it has this heart to it. this real soft, sweet dynamic to it that was always fun to sing. And I don't even really know, I mean what would you call the style of music of that song? It's like an old rock song. It's almost like an old, like an Everly Brothers tune or something. But done so beautifully, there's nothing else like it, really. The way it's written is so economical and beautiful.
So I latched onto it and played it live a couple of times. I went, Let's go and sing this. I think we plated it twice. It's almost like an Elvis song [sings verse in Elvis voice]. It's beautiful. It's beautiful. And you know, I'm treading on sacred ground, covering a Springsteen tune. But it's just that Springsteen tune that just happens to overlap a little bit of how I tick and what I'm able to do as a singer. Which is not as much as he is as a singer. You know, I can't do "Glory Days" or "Thunder Road." Something about the melodic aspect of it was really easy to latch onto and it's still one of my favorite songs of all time.
"All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye"
"All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye" is a special song, because it is the most honest song I've ever written. Almost so honest that it breaks the fourth wall and goes, Look I know I'm singing a song right now, and I know I'm a songwriter, but I really have to get this out. It almost has that quality of like, Time out, I really have to sing this one. "All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye" I feel really proud of.
"War of My Life"
"War of My Life"—I don't think I've ever written a song that I feel in my heart is going to be there for people the way it is gonna be there for people. It's gonna really intensely provide a voice to people who don't have the voice to be able to really say, I am in the war of my life. I am in a place in my life right now where I'm do or die. Either emotionally or physically. I am very careful with that song right now. I just want that to be people's. I hope that that one just goes straight into people's hearts. It doesn't live in the same commercial aspect as some of the other songs. It's really to the gut. And I think people are in the war of their life right now, in a lot of ways.
I've stayed pretty true to whatever my instincts are as an artist. Sometimes for worse, at first, cause I think when you do something that's out of the norm, you have to keeping doing it for a while to make it your own norm. So it's an exciting idea to me that I could be putting a record out and being able to be my own person. To not have to think about what I can't say or can't do because I don't want to lose people's understanding of what I do as a convention. So I'm really excited to have people go, Oh that's him! That's him.