Jesse Mac Cormack isn’t the self-centred type. Far from the continuous, calculated speech of a politician, he saves his words for when it really matters. After three EPs showing constant evolution, he releases Now, his debut full-length album, on May 3. It’s a recording that’s as highly anticipated as is a solution to climate change. It’s called Now, as in “now or never.”
“The longer it is, the better,” goes the saying that seems designed to describe precisely what Mac Cormack was working on all these years. “It’s been about three years since I started placing the tracks, recording, making demos,” he says, like someone who’s just arrived home from a long journey.
And now, everything’s ready. The table is set, the waiting is over. Now is both the album title, and its fourth song. “The cover art is Death Valley National Park in California,” he says. “In it, there’s a place called Badwater Basin, and everything around you is salt. It’s a truly moon-like place, a gorgeous end-of-the-world inspiration. There was life there, once; there was an ocean, a jungle.”
How does one describe today when tomorrow becomes a utopia, when one is unsure of everything? Mac Cormack thinks of things to come. “We took my kid there, she was about 18 months old, and we took a picture,” he says. “I told myself that I put someone on this earth and when I was born, the world was ongoing. But when she gets to first grade, teachers are going to tell her that the world will end. But it’s also a Now that’s open to interpretation.”
A need for rhythm
It was once he got back from touring the songs from his EPs (Crush, Music for the Soul and After the Glow) that he knew what he was going to create next. “I felt I needed more rhythmic songs,” says Mac Cormack. “It’s more fun to play live. I needed catchy hooks.” Which is how uber-catchy songs like “No Love Go” came to be written.
“It wouldn’t be humble to say I found the recipe,” he says, still unsure of what will happen. He’s managed, throughout the years, to build himself an army of fans that are waiting for this Now, this momentum, his record.
A debut album matters a lot. “That’s why I did three EPs over a long period of time,” says Mac Cormack. “It’s pointless to record an album no one is anticipating.” And the people anticipating this album are here, there, everywhere. All ages: “During my shows, the young ones are in front of the stage dancing,” he says, “and the older ones are at the back sitting on stools.”
What he writes and composes comes to him “just like that.” These songs only have one thing in common: their creator. They range from heady pop rhythms, to intimate moments where nothing’s left but Jesse, his piano, and us. In a bubble. “I did write drum-less songs, but it’s never calculated,” he says.
As far as the production goes, “it started as something totally bare, and ended up with a full orchestra.” The topics range from personal relationships, to the ins and outs of choosing a new beginning, to drugs, and social anxiety.
Becoming one with the artwork
Backing up Jesse, and at the service of the artwork, are Francis Ledoux, Étienne Dupré and Gabriel Desjardins “They have this ability to forget everything else and produce exactly the song you want them to do,” says Mac Cormack. And just as these guys can become one with his work, the man himself has, for many years, become one with other people’s work. He’s produced albums by Helena Deland, Emilie & Ogden, Rosie Valland, and Philippe Brach, to name just a few. “It’s really important for me to be able to do that,” he says. “The busier I am, the more creative I get, I have less time, and that means I know I need to wake up. Other people’s projects nourish me. I’m constantly learning. I love music that isn’t my own.”
Mac Cormack has never been afraid of pop music – James Blake, Travi$ Scott, Drake, and Rihanna are all on his playlist. “I’m not afraid of clichés,” he says. “I believe clichés are clichés for a reason. One needs to play with them. I love big, monster beats. I also listen to a lot of techno, for a side project I want to release soon.”
“Hey, I put a kid on this earth since the last time we chatted about music,” Mac Cormack says, almost as if he’s surprised himself. “I wanted to finish this album before my child was born. The label, Secret City Records, asked me to keep working on it. I did, but a year after she was born. It’s been quite a challenge to juggle all that. It’s a life-changer, as they say!”
Things have changed since those days when he would get inspiration mainly at night, while riding his bike, or wandering downtown. “Now, I’m running a 9-to-5 schedule,” he says. “A friend told me, ‘I went to the woods to create, I got lost, and that’s how my music was born.’ I barely have time to go to the pharmacy!”
Despite his visits to there, Mac Cormack is creating constantly, even if it’s subject to an office-hours schedule. “I try to have one guest a day in my studio,” he says. “A day is successful only if something happens.”