Mahoney, a native of Minnetonka, marveled that, in comparison to other artists, his success has come easily. He participated in the very first "Battle of the Bands" during his senior year of high school and emerged as the winner. From then on, Mahoney was able to support himself and his love for music without diverting any of his attention away from performing, rehearsing, and songwriting.
Before the concert on Friday Mahoney and his band members relaxed in the Green Room of the Lions Pause. Mahoney sipped on coffee, entertained guests, and bantered back and forth with members of the band. They wandered in and out of the Green Room to watch opening bands and get water. "I dont really do anything special to prepare for shows. I perform so much that it becomes a habit for me," Mahoney said. "The challenge is to keep it new and exciting for the audience, even though Ive done it a million times."
Mahoneys early career in music began in eighth grade on drums. Since that time, he and his music have been "constantly evolving." He went on to the guitar and piano, and continues to experiment with new forms and types of music. He devotes almost all of his time to music and was hard pressed to come up with anything else that he does, "I guess I work out sometimes. Other than that, my time is completely devoted to my music."
He knows how lucky he is to have his passion also be his career because most people work a day job while satisfying their passion as a hobby.
He attributes part of his success to living in the Midwest. His popularity has grown at the grassroots level, by extensive touring throughout the Midwest, especially to college campuses and by word of mouth. Mahoney says that this would never be possible on the East and West Coasts where people are "either big time, or working two or three jobs to support their music." People in the Midwest are more willing to give new musicians a chance he says, "Midwestern people are really receptive to new music." In this part of the country he is able to promote himself, sell records, and make a living off of it. He said that he has always, without exception, been able to make a livelihood by his music.
He considers his biggest inspirations to be U2, REM, Sam Cook, and Elvis Presley. Mahoney recently went to Graceland and described it as an "awesome experience." Although he wasnt expecting it, when he visited Elvis grave he even shed a tear recalls thinking, "okay, this is sad."
Although Mahoney has found considerable success, he still has to work hard to maintain his following of fans by producing new and innovative music. He knows that the music industry is highly competitive and hard to keep up with. He said, "you can do the best song or album that youve done in your whole life, but you may put it out and no one likes it, and thats a fact of life. It is an obstacle to put out a song or record when you are like, This is amazing, this is a hit and then no one likes it, or they dont like it as much as liked another album that you didnt like at all, but everyone else loved. You have got to keep writing, putting it out, and knowing that you cant be sure if people will like it."
He readily admits that becoming the biggest star is just like winning the lottery, where the chances arent overwhelmingly good. So he considers it to be a craft and continues to learn and improve regardless of how successful he may or may not be. It is also hard to work hard to create a fan following and a significant body of work and then get the stigma of being "just another one of the bands like Matchbox 20." He is a pop writer and that is "his thing" but the fight for credibility is hard.
He regularly travels to L.A. to do a lot of co-writing. Being out there with all types of stars really puts things into perspective. He says that he feels like a little fish out in the competitive ocean where you are either the best, or you are nothing.
His success comes from songs that are about different angles on relationships, experiences, life on the road, family matters, and of course, girls. One of his new songs called "Big Hit Song" is the story of his career and is not much like his older songs. He sang this new song on Fri. night during his show at the Pause for an enthusiastic crowd, and it certainly went over well, a testament to what he said about his evolution as a musician and unpredictable reactions to his art.
More than anything else, Mahoney loves performing because it makes him feel alive and energized. It is easy to understand his growing popularity, he is so well liked that fans come out and wait to hear his songs.