Pearl Jam hope to have their next album out "this year, for sure," guitarist Mike McCready tells Rolling Stone. Preparing to travel to New Orleans, where he will perform "The Star-Spangled Banner" and run the Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans Half Marathon in support of his close friend Steve Gleason, the former New Orleans Saint, McCready says the bandmembers are "working on demos right now and we're going to be recording soon.
"What everybody's been saying is halfway done," he says of the follow-up to 2009's Backspacer. "I think that's true – we have seven songs that are relatively completed. But then we have an additional 15 ready to go aside from any that Eddie brings in, so we'll weed through those."
Though he's reluctant to categorize the album just yet – "because what I can say won't make any sense until you hear it" – he can offer a few details.
"I would say as a cliché answer it's kind of a logical extension of what Backspacer was," he says. "But I think there's a little bit more experimental stuff going on. There's a Pink Floyd vibe to some of it, there's a punk rock edge to other stuff."
He's excited to reteam with producer Brendan O'Brien for the fifth time. "We're excited to get it done, because we've kind of been waiting for about two years to do it."
This Sunday McCready, an avid athlete but not typically a runner, will compete in the half-marathon on behalf of Team Gleason. The former NFL player is suffering from ALS.
The two became friends years ago when a mutual friend brought Gleason backstage at a Pearl Jam show. As Gleason fights his debilitating disease, he has become a hero to McCready.
"He's the most inspirational person I've probably ever met in terms of someone who has a good attitude and is doing something proactive about his predicament. That's a cool thing to be around," McCready says. "I look at Steve and I can see his muscles are going, but at the same time he is creating a hospital for ALS patients to better their lives." Gleason's organization takes ALS patients on fishing trips and to the Super Bowl, and raises money for innovations in the field.
"Steve is behind all of that kind of stuff tirelessly, as he's confined to his wheelchair and can only speak now through his computer," says McCready. "That's incredibly inspiring."
Being in one of the most revered bands in the world, McCready gets to meet celebrities from all walks of life, from sports and movies to fellow musicians. After two decades, it's still a thrill for him, especially as a big sports fan. "It's always cool when somebody from a football team or baseball team comes to your show. Actors want to be musicians and musicians want to be baseball players," he says. "Jeff Ament, the bass player, plays basketball. He ultimately wants to do music, but he's really good at basketball, too. We all want to do what we can't do, maybe."