Seventeen years ago, Jesse McCartney himself was 17 and dropping his debut album, Beautiful Soul. Being in the industry was nothing new for the teen singer-songwriter: he’d already been part of boy band Dream Street and on TV series like All My Children and Summerland. But Beautiful Soul catapulted McCartney to a new level of stardom— the kind that comes when you have a single that is inescapable on pop radio. The titular single peaked at No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the album went platinum.
“When that song came out, it was this huge moment,” McCartney tells Modern Luxury. “Then as time went along, I remember thinking in my early 20s, ‘How long am I going to have to perform this?’”
As McCartney got older and "Beautiful Soul" continued to linger in American pop culture, his opinion developed. Even now, he sees young college kids during performances that know every word to the song, despite only having been 3 or 4 when the song first came out. Like for his listeners, it's a moment of nostalgia for McCartney.
“It's taken on this whole new thing for me where I just have this sense of gratitude and this sense of purpose,” he says. “I have a full understanding of what that song did for me in my life and how it gave me all the things that I have now.”
At 34, McCartney is on the cusp of releasing his first studio album since 2014’s In Technicolor. Over the last seven years, the Los Angeles-based artist has released a live album and a number of singles and appeared on The Masked Singer, Young & Hungry and Fear the Walking Dead. Out Oct. 8, New Stage infuses country and pop elements for a lyrical reflection on having an all-consuming career as a young adult.
“It’s certainly a very laid back listening experience,” McCartney says. “It’s more singer-songwriter-based and has a lot more of the musical feel from my earlier stuff with lyrics that are a little bit more representative of where I am now in my life.”
Given his approaching wedding to longtime girlfriend Katie Peterson, that translates to an album with plenty of love songs. Take his most recent single, “Party for Two.” McCartney says it’s one of his favorite songs on the album and that the video is based on his and Katie’s real-life experiences over the last nine years.
“We had to put together a compilation of all these different moments from our life,” McCartney explains. “We found a bunch of stuff we forgot we even did… just little things here and there, like a walk down memory lane for the two of us.”
Completed in January 2020, the release date for New Stage was pushed as a result of the pandemic. Still, McCartney feels confident in the body of work he developed.
“I was just all written out and I said everything that I needed to say,” he says of the album. “I think it actually somehow took on an even more meaningful listening experience because some of the songs just happen to coincidentally coincide with the pandemic.”
McCartney points to “Kiss the World Goodbye,” the album’s first single. The song highlights the importance of having a special someone by your side through the good and the bad.
Not only did the pandemic halt the release of New Stage, but it prolonged McCartney’s wedding, which is also set for next month. It was all a coincidence these two big life moments lined up so close together. Despite the challenges, he looks forward to looking back on how crazy 2021 was.
“It’s going to be great,” McCartney says of their wedding. “Lots of food and wine and dancing. It’s going to be excellent. We just need to have like a week off before so that we can actually enjoy it,” he laughs.
Not long after celebrating his nuptials, McCartney will set off on a cross-country tour beginning in Austin, Texas on Nov. 4. He’ll make his way around the Midwest and East Coast before circling back to California for a tour-closing show at The Wiltern in Los Angeles on Dec. 8.
“With live music lately too, it just feels like it’s part of the healing process, what’s happening in the bigger picture of the world,” McCartney says. “It’s one of those experiences that benefits both the people onstage and off, and I’ve missed it as much as them.”
He promises a set list of both new and old songs, which will likely get a fresh spin with new arrangements.
“I certainly know what the fans love, so I feel like I’m kind of a conductor of this small, little orchestra that I’ve put together over the last 15 years,” McCartney says. “I’ll always make music and I’ll always sing music… Music has always been a huge part of the makeup of who I am.”
Photography by: Courtesy: Jesse McCartney/Sam Dameshek