Aimee Mann takes a new artistic leap
Has Aimee Mann found a new muse in a pop-punk pal? Maybe. The singer-songwriter returns to the Twin Cities for a string of shows that have her collaborating with tourmate Ted Leo. From her hotel room in New Orleans, Mann spoke with City Pages before a pair of shows at the Dakota about the inspiration for her new power-pop project with Leo and her songwriting process.
City Pages: I was at your last Minneapolis show when you were touring with Ted Leo, and I noticed that you're touring with him again. What was it about Ted that drew you to him ?
Aimee Mann: He's just really fun to be onstage with. While on tour, he was playing some new songs, and there was one that I really wanted to play bass on, so I asked him how he would feel about me sitting in on bass. He said, "That's really weird, because I was actually gonna ask if you wanted to play bass on it." It went really well, and we played a few shows together just the two of us. It made me want me to turn it into a project that we could spend some time on.
CP: It's amazing that the people we meet inspire us to do new things.
AM: I think 15 years ago people would be advising me, "Don't make some side project. Who cares about that? You should really release another record." The business is so unpredictable, and people don't really buy records in the same way they used to, so I feel like you might as well follow what is interesting and what's fun at the time — especially fun. Life's too short.
CP: Does it bother you when you feel as if you have to constantly be putting out new content?
AM: I don't really feel as if I have to respond to that pressure. I'm doing it from my own internal pressure of "Let's do this while it's a thing that we're still interested in." This is maybe just me, but if you don't make a big push to get something done, then it does tend to take forever — especially putting out a record. By the time you finish it, there's only so much lead time for press, but you have to do it three months in advance, then you have to get the artwork together, and that takes way longer than you think. Then, "Oh, it's Christmas," and nobody's around [laughs]. It's things like that.
CP: How do you gauge what is a good line when you're writing?
AM: It has to say the things that I want it to say, but it also has to say it in a way that has some kind of interest factor or elegance or pithiness — I don't know. I really value being able to choose the right words, or I value that in other writers. When I come across a line where the words are just perfectly chosen and interesting, it makes me happy, so I try to do that for myself as a listener.
CP: You worked with Ben Gibbard a little bit last year. How did that come about?
AM: I did! We're pals; we have friends in common. He was working in Los Angeles and in the same neighborhood, and he asked me to do this duet with him. I really, really loved that song.
CP: He has spoken about how funny you are. Are people surprised to hear that about you?
AM: [laughs] My music is fairly gloomy in general. Ben is really funny. I think both of us are friends with various comedians, and I think hanging around with really funny people will eventually rub off on you a little bit. If anybody thinks that I'm funny, it's because I'm friends with Patton Oswalt — somehow he's rubbed off on me.
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