He’s Just ‘Like Us’: Jon McLaughlin on His New Album, His Fans, and What It Takes To Write a Hit Song

jon mclaughlinPop rock singer-songwriter Jon McLaughlin is many things: a husband, a father of two, a producer, an Academy Award nominated musician, and, of course, a pretty interesting person, who, just like the rest of us, once wanted to quit piano…and got his wish in a “careful what you wish for” irony. But he soon found his way back, and after being the first artist signed to Anderson University’s independent label, Orangehaus Records, McLaughlin went on to sign with Island Records, release more amazing music, and even be a part of bringing one of his songs to the big screen and the award shows that followed (Disney’s Enchanted).

On October 9th, McLaughlin will be releasing his sixth studio album, Like Us, via Razor & Tie Records; a record, he says, “about people. and all the emotions that go along with people being in relationships with each other.

“So the title came from me picturing a couple sitting at their record player, listening to this album, and every now and then looking at each other with smirks and raised eyebrows that imply, ‘that’s just like us…,'” he explains.

McLaughlin’s storytelling skills and lyrical prowess are widely known, and Like Us only maintains that wonderful standard, with wonderful tracks like “Before You” and “You and Me.” In many ways, the album only confirms what we found out on 2008’s OK Now: Jon McLaughlin can write a damn catchy song. The secret? “The way I typically write is, I’ll get something on the piano, then I’ll play it over and over a million times until I have the music all worked out. Then I lay on the floor on my back and stare at the ceiling until the words come. I did have a new carpet installed in my writing room this time though, so I was much more comfortable,” he laughs.

Comfortable has not always been part of the adjectives used to describe the hardworking McLaughlin’s journey to success. McLaughlin has worked hard over the years, spending many a night opening for the likes of Sara Bareilles and Kelly Clarkson, recording with Jason Mraz, and writing for other artists, like Demi Lovato, though he’d still love to collaborate with Ben Folds (“The dude changed my life when I first heard Ben Fold’s Five’s “Whatever and Ever Amy” record back in 8th grade.”). Throughout it all, McLaughlin maintains a close relationship with his fans, which was part of the reason he left Island Records: to make an album unlike any other he’d ever made, leading to Forever If Ever.

Since then, there is no slowing the all-or-none musician, who has only put in more effort (if possible) on Like Us. “I’d like to say I’m getting better [as a songwriter],” he says. “I mean, I think this is the best full album I’ve ever made. I went back out to LA and worked with the amazing John Fields, who I think did a phenomenal job, and took this record to another level.

“There’s something about the studio that makes it very extreme; it’s either extremely frustrating or extremely inspiring and exhilarating.  So I love [being in the studio], but it’s nerve racking going into the studio at the beginning, because you never know how things are going to go.  But when things go well, and thankfully, every day in the studio on this record was this way, there’s no greater feeling than hearing your song come to life right in front of you.”

Would You Rather: With Jon McLaughlin
Real-life The Walking Dead or real-life Jurassic Park? Jurassic Park.  At least I would get to see a real dinosaur up close before it ate me. 
Drunk-text entire tour crew or eat a stick of butter in one sitting? Drunk text for sure
Listen to Billy Joel or Elton John for the rest of your life?  This is the hardest one yet for sure…I may just have to flip a coin.  Seriously.  Ok I just flipped a coin. Billy won.

To say that Like Us features tracks that take on a life of their own would be an understatement. The first single from the album, “Before You,” is so melodic, and acted as the perfect teaser for the album, with a spectacular sound all its own. “[“Before You”] is special to me, honestly, because of the music. I like the lyrics, and I’m really happy with it, but there’s something about the melody and the way the piano intertwines with the vocal…I just really like the vibe and the way it turned out,” McLaughlin gushes, even going as far as to say it may be his favorite from the album, tied with, of course, “More Than Me,” his favorite live song of the moment.
“[My favorite song to perform live] changes all the time, really. We’ll change one little thing about an old song that we’ve been playing for years, and all of the sudden, it’s my favorite song to play,” he admits.
McLaughlin provides many a fan with their perfect love song, inspired by his wife, but says he draws inspiration from “as many places as he can.” But between his TV appearances, touring, and life in general, it’s almost unimaginable where McLaughlin finds the time to churn out new songs the way he does, but he confesses that he lets songs take their course. “I try not to put a ton of pressure on myself to continue writing during crazy busy times, like when I’m touring a ton, for example. I’ve forced too many songs into being in the past, and they never end up being the good ones,” he explains. “The good songs come in their own time.”
It’s those tracks that his fans have connected with over the years, and what have helped McLaughlin’s career stand the test of time, as well as his eagerness to maintain a relationship with fans. “[Having people connect with my music] is so rewarding and affirming. Really, one of my favorite things about social media is that it gives me the ability to hear all the stories from fans about how certain songs helped them through a rough time, etc. It’s a beautiful give-and-give relationship.”
Like Us comes out TOMORROW, October 9th.
For more on Jon McLaughlin, click HERE. To purchase a CD or concert tickets, click HERE.
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