It’s the comeback we’ve all been waiting for. Jesse McCartney returns after a lengthy seven-year wait for a new album aptly titled New Stage. The record is full of bangers and bops and even a slow jam explores everything from love to his life in the music industry.
EUPHORIA. caught up with McCartney on Zoom to discuss the album, his beginnings, and upcoming tour.
What was the creation process like for this record? What themes were most important to you to hit on lyrically and sonically?
Thematically it was supposed to be about a number of things: a love letter to my now soon-to-be wife and also a slice of where I am at in my own life. What I like to do is make a check list or punch list of things that I wanna discuss for the project and then I try to write songs that check off all the boxes. Sometimes you write a song that doesn’t quite meet the rubric I’m quite looking for and so I have to write it again and again until I can finally check off that box. Musically, I knew it was going to be a little more organic, wasn’t going to be as super-produced as some of my earlier stuff, but I knew it was going to be a little bit more of a tale of what it’s been like for me in the industry and what it’s like for me now as this new role of an engaged dude.
Believe it or not, it’s been 17 years since you dropped your debut album Beautiful Soul! Can you tell us about the journey you’ve been on since then?
It’s been an amazing and fruitful career. I’ve had the opportunity to do many things through many mediums whether it’s acting or music. It’s not like anybody has the perfect plan or blueprint especially when you’re 16 or 17 entering the industry. You really don’t actually know how it’s gonna go down. Any perceived idea of what you think it’s going to be is always changed. I think it’s one of these things you go in with a plan or you think you’re gonna do one thing and then you end up taking a left and a right turn and then you do a number of other things that can be really cool. There’s no mapping it out. For me, the evolution has been the journey itself and sort of kind of not knowing what’s gonna happen and just keeping my nose to the grindstone and working hard, trying new things, and being OK with getting out of my comfort zone and that to me has been the biggest learning experience and the most rewarding part of this whole thing.
Comparing your new music to the first album, how has your sound grown? Moreover, how have you grown as a musician?
I think just as you get older you become wiser, you know more things. You’re constantly learning, I think if you ever get to a point where you feel like you know everything. I think that’s where you can get complacent. It’s an endless learning experience and I think that working with new people, with older people, younger people, with people that have different music backgrounds is really helpful. It allows you to borrow new tools that you didn’t have yourself. It’s been about always being open.
“Lemonade” is a perfect album closer. It’s more subdued and stripped back. What inspired this track?
“Lemonade” has this complete feeling to it. It kind of feels like the icing on the cake or the cherry on top. It’s this really undeniable, feel-good sound where it has this bluesy, maybe little country, very pop feeling. It felt like a glass of lemonade is what I think of people sitting down to relax and refresh themselves. It felt like, “Here we are, you just finished listening to this full album and here’s the dessert.” That’s why I placed it at the end of the album.
If someone were to listen to New Stage for the first time, how do you picture the ideal listening experience?
That’s a good question! I never really thought about that! Most of this album was written in a part of Los Angeles that has a lot of nature in Laurel Canyon. I wrote a lot of it while here in the canyon looking at birds, owls, trees, and coyotes. If I had an idealistic place it would be somewhere similar. Somewhere in nature where people can unplug, not be in front of their laptops or in front of a Spotify screen but actually put some headphones on and go take a nature walk.
You’ve been in the music business for years, so what would you say are some of the greatest life lessons you’ve learned?
Patience is important. I think knowing that everybody gets a turn and just because you write something incredible doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gonna be your turn. There’s a lot of things that are out of your control. Timing is very important — knowing that you can’t be in control of the timing is very important. A great example is this album. I finished this album in the beginning of 2020, ready to put it out in January. I had done a lot of things to set up this album with promotion and marketing and then the pandemic happened. I was really bummed about that at first because I had felt like for the first time I was ahead of schedule. We sunk a lot of money in a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff, getting ready to promote it and then this thing happened. Knowing that you can’t change those kind of moments is something you become more OK with as you get older and you become more patient.
You titled the album New Stage — what inspired this?
It sums it up. It certainly feels like I turned a corner the last few years. In my personal life and professional life. I’m very comfortable with who I am as a man and as a person I’ve learned so much over the course of 17/18-plus years doing this. It feels like I’m in a place of gratitude and certainly romance and it felt like a good way of saying, I’m in a new chapter or I’m in a new stage of my life. It has the double entendre of actually being on a stage.
What do you hope listeners take away from New Stage?
I hope they do a get a sense of gratitude and a sense of who I am. They can hear firsthand of what it’s been like for me growing up in the industry. What it’s like for me finding such an amazing person. I’m sure a lot of that will be relatable for a lot of people, as a lot of fans have grown up with me over the years and I think they’ve been through a lot of the same things I have. They can feel and hear the evolution in my writing, how it’s matured. I’m trying to become more of a visual writer and speaker in general. I can convey ideas by painting a photo.
To wrap it up, you have a tour coming up. How excited are you and what can fans expect?
I’m thrilled! I cannot wait! I’ve been looking forward to touring this album for quite sometime. I think that my live shows are some of the strongest things I do in this industry. Certainly, I think my favorite thing to do is to play live. I take a lot of pride in it. I put a lot of time and effort into it, so I’m excited to see everybody’s faces again! I think the world needs a bit of healing after what we’ve been through.