"It makes it sound more powerful than anything we've done in a long time" – Pearl Jam's new album isn't quite finished yet but Mike McCready just told us two very good reasons to get excited about it

Mike McCready onstage with Peal Jam in 2022
(Image credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for PJ)

We recently talked to Mike McCready about his new signature Fender Strat based on his 1960 favourite that's clocked over 1,000 shows with him, as well as every Pearl Jam album apart from Ten. Check out the full interview here, but while we were there we just had to get some info about Pearl Jam's forthcoming album from him – and what he told us about the guitar and drum side of things is very good news indeed. And it seems their producer has been a catalyst.

"Andrew Watt is known as a giant pop producer guy but he's a great guitar player," McCready said about the Post Malone, Dua Lipa and Justin Bieber producer who first came on our radar as guitarist with California Breed with Glenn Hughes and Jason Bonham. "He comes from rock, that's where he cut his teeth. He loves our band, I think we're his favourite band – I know we are. He's told us."

So far McCready is echoing what bandmate Stone Gossard has previously revealed about working with Watt, but the guitarist revealed to us the effect Watt's presence in the studio had on him personally. And it sounds significant.

Andrew went completely crazy and said, 'You're putting a lead of every single song'

"He pushed me in a direction for this latest album that we've done with him, that we're still doing, to do more leads," added McCready. "I'm doing leads on almost every song. And that hasn't been the case with Pearl Jam for a long time. If anything there's been songs [where's it's been], 'Don't put a lead on it' and sometimes I go, 'Well f*** I want to do a lead', it's sad. And sometimes it makes sense to not have one but it's kind of what I'm the best at. So I missed it for a few years, and a lot of records.

"So Andrew went completely crazy and said, 'You're putting a lead of every single song' and some of them have two," McCready revealed to MusicRadar. "And that's what's happened and it's been really fun to do that again because it's given me the freedom to express myself where I haven't been for the last couple of records."

McCready also dispelled to us any idea that uber fan Watt's reverence for the band would mean he shied away from being a taskmaster – and revealed tantalising news on the drum side of things.

"He kind of kicked our asses," he admitted. "He kicked us to record quickly, got Matt Cameron to play more like he did in Soundgarden, in my mind. Matt Cameron's pushing this thing and it makes it sound more powerful than anything we've done in a long time.  

Ok, now we're properly excited. But the album isn't done, and Pearl Jam are now back on the road for US dates. When Stone Gossard spoke about the album a few months ago he suggested they were nearing the end of the process then, but that was soon tempered to some degree by bandmate and bassist Jeff Ament, who revealed the band were taking the summer off and hinted they still had plenty of work to do. So when can we expect it?

"I think we're still kind of in it right now," McCready explained to us. "We're touring right now so we're kind of in tour mode playing our other songs and more of the Gigaton stuff. I feel like… it's not done yet, the Andrew Watt session stuff. And it will be, and we'll put it out next year for sure. I think it's getting close. But that I don't know for sure… it's not done per se. We don't have a name for it, we don't have artwork or anything."

Like the signature Strat, it sounds like this is going to be something worth waiting for. Look out for our full interview with Mike McCready soon where he reveals more about the process of developing this version of the Strat with Fender, and what other musical plans he has on the horizon outside of Pearl Jam.  

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.