on Her Own Terms
By Rob Nagy
Rising from Boston’s punk music scene to international prominence as the lead vocalist, bassist and contributing songwriter for the ‘80s band ‘Til Tuesday, Aimee Mann continues to enjoy a thriving solo career.
Mann’s latest independent album release, “Mental Illness” featuring the single, "Goose Snow Cone," offers an eleven-song collection of heartfelt compositions and an angelic vocal as only Mann can deliver.
“I really wanted to make a record that was sort of inspired by ‘60s folk records that were very stripped down, just acoustic guitar and voice,” says Mann, from her recording studio in Los Angeles, California. “When you’re a certain age and you’re absorbing music, that is the music that sticks with you. To have that go into your brain as a kid is a great thing.”
“There’s something about having a voice sing to you as a listener, without a lot of other things going on,” adds Mann. “The producer, Paul Bryan, was really pushing for strings and he wrote a bunch of string arrangements that were just so great. I wanted a record from the beginning to end that was very introspective and very moody and stayed in a certain mood zone.”
“The big advantage now that I am my own boss,” says Mann. “I can make the records that I want and I don’t have to try to have to be anything that somebody would consider a single, because what are singles anyway, who cares. That really makes me happy because I can make records that are the kind of record that I want to listen to.”
A collaborative effort, Mann enlisted the talents of friend, fellow musician and songwriter Jonathan Colton. Mann credits Colton for accentuating the creative process during the writing and recording process for the album.
“He has a real soft finger picky 70’s side,” says Mann. “His finger picking is really good so I wanted him and needed him to play the guitar because I never really learned how to do that. He’s a very good writer and we ended up writing a couple of songs together.”
“I really like making records,” adds Mann. “I feel very lucky to be able to make music. It really makes me happy. I think when you’re younger there are so many other things that you worry about because you don’t really know what you’re doing or not sure what you want. Things come at you and you don’t know how to negotiate. I am always writing songs and I think I’m better as a songwriter because I’ve done it for so long. It’s fun to do things that you’re good at.”
Standout tracks include, “Goose Snow Cone,” “Stuck in The Past,” “Rollercoasters,” “Lies of Summer,” “Philly Sinks” and “Poor Judge.”
Enrolled for a time at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music in the late ‘70s, Mann co-founded ‘Til Tuesday with drummer Michael Hausman, her boyfriend at the time, in 1983.
“I didn’t know if I had any talent,” recalls Mann. “I sang a little bit and I could play a couple songs on the guitar, but I didn’t really know if that could be developed into something. So, my approach at school was my approach for my career, which was, I will learn and work until I hit a wall then I will give it up. Until there is a definitive wall that let’s me know I’m on the wrong track, I’m going to keep moving forward. So that was my attitude throughout.”
“I got to the point where I was supporting myself as a musician playing in my first band,” adds Mann. “We were in a punk band. We’d play in Boston and I‘d book the shows, I didn’t live on very much money (laughs), but I actually could support myself, which was crazy. So, I just kept moving forward.”
Releasing their debut album “Voices Carry” in 1985, the band was poised for commercial success on the strength of the album’s title track. Named Best New Artist by MTV, ‘Til Tuesday was a band on a rapid ascent toward stardom. Regrettably, their follow-up albums “Welcome Home” (1986), featuring the singles “What About Love,” “Coming Up Close” and “Everything’s Different Now” (1988), fell short of the band’s and their record label’s expectations. ‘Til Tuesday broke up in 1990.
“When you’re signed to a major record label you or your manager spend time arguing with the label trying to get them to promote your record and do their job,” recalls Mann. “There are no guarantees that they are going to do what they are supposed to be doing - getting it played on radio, financing a video or promoting it in other ways. It’s like pulling teeth to get people to pay attention and make it a priority. We weren’t making any money. We never made much money from the sale of records and we sure didn’t make any money touring. You’re supposed to keep up this glamorous image but you’re broke, there’s so much that is really weird about it.”
Mann shifted her focus establishing herself as a solo artist with the release of her critically acclaimed debut album “Whatever” in 1993. Building a fan base with each follow-up album and concert appearance, Mann was nominated for an Academy Award and Grammy in 1999 for her song “Save Me” used in the film “Magnolia.” Mann was the recipient of a Grammy Award for her contributing artwork (shared with Gail Marowitz) for her “The Forgotten Arm” album released in 2005.
Most recently Mann contributed the song "Everybody Bleeds" to the 2017 Netflix original series “Big Mouth.”
“What I’m doing now is 100% of my dream of what I wanted for my life to be,” says Mann. “To be a working musician supporting myself. I have the respect of musicians that I respect. I’ve done something I’ve created and I feel really good about that. I’m proud of my records. I don’t really have any ambitions past making records and performing.”
“Anybody that still goes out to see live music in any capacity or buys records or pays for downloads, God bless you,” says Mann. “You’re keeping music alive. Music can be such a profound and valuable thing for people. I really appreciate that people are still in there.”
Aimee Mann performs at the Colonial Theater, 227 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, PA 19460 December 14, 2017 at 8:00 P.M. For tickets and further info call 610-917-1228 or visit www.the colonialtheatre.com
To stay up to date with Aimee Mann visit www.aimeemann.com