The State of Mason

Musician Mason Jennings on home, family, and his new album, <em>Minnesota</em>

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Q: Your new record celebrates Minnesota, but you’re a native Hawaiian—assuming you can prove it.

Mason Jennings: I couldn’t find my birth certificate if you asked. But I swear I spent my first two years in Hawaii before moving to Pittsburgh. My dad was sick of Hawaii’s pastel colors.

Q: You dropped out of high school and moved here on your own. What did you know of Minnesota?
MJ: I just knew I liked the music: the Replacements, Prince. The first album I bought was Purple Rain. I came here and everything was green and blue, trees and lakes, and I said, “I’m home.”

Q: You’re very perceptive of color. You know some people hear music as colors.

MJ: I’m one of them. The key of A is blue, C is white. I’ve always thought of Minnesota as having a violet hue, which is maybe Prince’s influence.

Q: You played all the instruments on your first record, just like Prince. Did you want to be like him?
MJ: I did. But I’m too tall to have my butt hanging out of my pants.

Q: You recorded Minnesota in your cabin west of Minneapolis. What’s it like there?
MJ: I’ve got a laptop and two mics, that’s about it. All around are trees, deer, foxes. Did you know foxes meow? I had no idea. It’s probably on the record.

Q: Many of the songs are Beatlesque—pop, but not in a teeny-bopper way.

MJ: It’s hard for me now, in my thirties, to write from a 22-year-old’s perspective. When you’re young, you make these sweeping statements. As you get older, you edit yourself; you think, “Who’s going to hear this?”

Q: You’ve got two boys now. Are you raising them as true Minnesotans?
MJ: They’re the real deal. I can’t get them to wear coats in the winter. They say, “Dad, you wouldn’t understand—you’re not from here.”

Mason Jennings’s Minnesota (Stats & Brackets/Thirty Tigers) is released on September 13.

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