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AIMEE MANN TALKS RETURN TO ROOTS BEFORE JERSEY SHOW
Record - 6/14/2018
Aimee Mann looked to her singer-songwriter roots when she was writing the songs that would end up on her latest album, "Mental Illness." The stark, acoustic effort is a sharp turn from her previous, pop-oriented disc.
"When I was growing up my favorite records were the moments where folk intersected with pop and were acoustic guitar-based," Mann says. "I really loved Neil Young and Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. The instrumentation was pretty sparse and I wanted to go back to those records for inspiration. I haven't made a record this stripped down before."
Mann performs Tuesday at White Eagle Hall in Jersey City, where she will be backed by a bass-piano-drum trio. "I like to be able to get down to a single guitar with a lot of background vocals," Mann says. "The record is really fun to play live."
"Mental Illness" was released last year. Her previous album, "Charmer" (2012), was a decidedly more light-hearted affair.
On "Mental Illness," Mann sings about depression, alienation and heartbreak on tracks like "Rollercoasters," "Patient Zero" and "Philly Sinks."
"Most people, including myself, have had experiences and struggles with anxiety and depression and being stuck," Mann says. "But the album is also about trying to establish healthy patterns. I never think it's completely hopeless.
"The music is melancholy but I think there's also a beauty in having somebody accurately describe a situation or a mood," she says. "I've seen it resonate with people who have that same experience. You hope that's what music is for."
Mann says she finds inspiration everywhere. She says she wrote the album's leadoff track, "Goose Snow Cone," a song about homesickness, after seeing a photo of a friend's cat on Instagram.
"The cat's name is Goose and has this fluffy, white face like a snow cone ball," Mann says. "Animals have such soulfulness in their eyes. The song is about homesickness, but it came about through this adorable kitty. I always intended to change the title but I couldn't think of anything."
"Knock It Off" is about a man who can't get over a breakup. "That song is based on a guy I knew who continued to pursue a relationship past the point where it made any sense," Mann says. "Where there's no relationship and you're just opening yourself up to more pain."
Mann began her career in the early 1980s as the singer-bassist for the new wave-pop band 'Til Tuesday. The band scored a Top 10 hit in 1985 with the single "Voices Carry," a then-rare pop song about an abusive relationship. The song's video, which portrayed verbal and physical abuse, received heavy airplay on MTV.
Mann released her first solo album, "Whatever," in 1993. In 1999, she contributed most of the songs to the soundtrack of the film "Magnolia," garnering widespread critical and commercial acclaim. The song "Save Me" was nominated for an Oscar for "Best Original Song."
She has also performed in the Both, a duo with the singer-guitarist Ted Leo of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. They released a self-titled album in 2014.
The New York Times pronounced Mann one of the finest songwriters of her generation. NPR Music named her one of the Top 10 Living Songwriters, alongside Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney.
She says she appreciates such praise, to an extent. "It's always really fun and encouraging to feel like other people recognize things that you're trying to do well," Mann says. "But you can't really take it completely seriously. That would be too weird."
If you go
WHEN: 8 p.m.June 19.
WHERE: White Eagle Hall, 337 Newark Ave., Jersey City. 201-885-5166 or whiteeaglehalljc.com.
HOW MUCH: $40.