The Glass Passenger is just as insightful and intelligent as the band’s first record, Everything In Transit, but is more intimate and thought-provoking. The album offers snapshots into the emotions of McMahon’s experience, with songs that explore feeling alone, feeling afraid of losing everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve, and the struggle of trying to stay strong when the odds are stacked against you. While the tracks have plenty of possible interpretations, McMahon wanted The Glass Passenger to be less about what happened inside the hospital and more about what it was like to rejoin the world after treatment.
“That’s the part of the story that nobody really talks about, the part of recovery that nobody tells you about. What most people do in that life-and-death place is they create this idealized version of what life will be like when the battle’s over—and that life that you envision is far simpler. You believe, because all of a sudden you’ll have this perspective, that you’ll have the ability to disseminate what is really important versus what is petty,” he says. “I find myself in conversations with people who fought and survived pretty regularly, questioning the lives that they live now. And I think a lot of what The Glass Passenger was about, and is about, is that question: Is the life that I’m living now what it should be? And how do you cope with that? How do you cope with acclimating back into a world after you almost lost your existence. Period. The songs on this record were, really, me working though that—the second wave of the battle.”
McMahon’s treatment was shorter than most leukemia patients’ because he opted for a stem cell transplant. With his sister as his donor, the treatment was an overall success despite coming close to losing his life after catching a severe bout of pneumonia through his first round of chemotherapy. “It never got so hard that I wanted to give up but it got hard enough that you would sit there and just beg for it to be over. There were definitely those days where you just ask yourself, ‘Is this ever going to end?’ I don’t think there was ever a question in my mind that it would—whether that meant peacefully passing or surviving,” he says. “There were very dark days and there were very hopeful days and in general I felt at least grateful for the fact that I had been able to finish the record before I got sick. Everything In Transit in so many ways told the most honest story I had told until that point. I listened to that record a lot as a source of inspiration and I was so proud and felt so confident, that at least no matter what happened, I had put that together.”