After recording several albums with ‘Til Tuesday, Aimee Mann began a successful solo career that spawned a string of eclectic but seriously engaging albums, from 1993’s Whatever to 2012’s Charmer.
Mann also has lent her talents to several film soundtracks, most notably the score for Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia; her song from that film, “Save Me,” landed her an Academy Award nomination in 2000. And then there’s The Both, her 2014 collaboration with guitarist Ted Leo, which received critical acclaim.
Her new album, Mental Illness, which is out today (March 31), once again showcases her incisive and wry melancholia in a nearly all-acoustic format, with a style inspired by some of Mann’s favorite folk-rock records from the Sixties and Seventies. With string arrangements by Mann’s longtime producer, Paul Bryan, the 11-song album also features contributions by Leo (backing vocals), Jonathan Coulton (guitar), Jay Bellerose (drums) and Jamie Edwards (piano).
I recently spoke to Mann about Mental Illness and her time working with Rush on “Time Stand Still” 30 years ago.
Mental Illness is a departure from Charmer and The Both. How did it come about?
Charmer was more of a pop and R&B record in a modern sense and was a little more produced and fleshed out, and my project with Ted [The Both] was fairly stripped down but was a real rock band. After that, I felt like it was time to write a bunch of real acoustic songs and make a record that’s really stripped down and melancholy without worrying about up-tempo songs and trying to offset my natural strength for wistful, downbeat songs.
What’s your songwriting process like?
I usually start by having some kind of melody idea or chord progression. If there’s something interesting that stands out, I’ll say to myself, “OK, what does this music sound like? What’s its emotional center and what kind of story would suit that center?” Then I’ll figure out where I intersect with that kind of narrative.
Let’s discuss a few tracks from Mental Illness, starting with “Goose Snow Cone.”
That was a song I started when I was on tour in Ireland. I remember it was very snowy outside and I was feeling kind of homesick. I was looking on Instagram and saw a picture of one of my “cat friends” whose name is Goose. She was looking up at the camera and she reminded me of a snow cone and I started writing about her. Then it started weaving, with feelings of a snowy day and feeling homesick and lonely. People asked me to change the “snow cone” part to something else, but I couldn’t think of anything I liked better [laughs]!
Read the rest of my
Interview with Aimee Mann by Clicking Here.