Jared Mahone brings songs back from the road, refined and ready

After a few months of doing house concerts, Jared Mahone has a home concert planned.

Mahone's show at Natalie's Coal-Fired Pizza on Friday, April 7, marks the quarter-point of a year spent on the road playing solo shows and crafting, shaping, editing and refining a slate of new songs.

Mahone has been playing shows with his eponymous band for a decade, but he's shelving that for now — not because he's dropping the band, but because he's dropping the material. And because he's decided that the best way to make sure the new material works is to play it for people.

“I've committed myself to only playing solo shows this year for the sake of testing new material,” Mahone said in an interview at a Short North coffee house. “I have a handful of songs I've written, but I don't want to go play them for industry people or producers or even my band. I want to go play them for people who are listening to music. Not that I feel I will get actual feedback, but, like a comedian, you just feel the room. Where's the human connection? What lyrics make the journey? What chords resonate?

“I don't think you need anything more than yourself and some kind of instrument to get your song across. I want to stand in that very scary environment knowing it's a possibility I might bomb, but wanting that feeling so it helps me refine material to where I know it's good.”

After playing a show at Natalie's in the fall, Mahone spent the first three months of 2017 playing house concerts throughout the western United States. The rawness and intimacy appeal to Mahone both as a performer and as a writer.

“I'm doing a lot of house concerts and I've fallen in love with it. … It's a different level of a music experience,” Mahone said. “The shift toward a more intimate [show] is not a new thing, not a novelty, but it's just this thing where everyone says, ‘Let's experience this music together.'”

These concerts are also being filmed, with an eye toward a docu-series (WOSU has already signed on to air seven episodes) chronicling these house concerts and the development of the new songs. The concept is to combine the solo show footage with a year-end concert featuring a full band playing the songs developed throughout the year. The final live-concert recording would also serve as Mahone's new album. He compared the process to Jay Z's “Fade to Black” project, or a standup comedian's cable special.

In the meantime, Friday's show will not only sum up the first batch of refined songs, but introduce a number of new tunes, as well.

“I'm going to do stuff that nobody's heard before, and then take those on road in May and June and hopefully refine [the songs] and then book another home show, to let people be part of that ongoing process,” Mahone said.