Noted for her perfectly rhymed, usually sad lyrics, and for making much use of her voice’s lower register, Aimee Mann seems to be as confident and comfortable when she’s writing songs or singing them as she is when fingerpicking a guitar or grounding a rhythm section on bass. The former vocalist-bassist for ’Til Tuesday, the Boston band that went gold with the single “Voices Carry” in 1985, first picked up a guitar at the age of 12, when she was growing up on the West Coast. After high school, she came to Boston for a summer program at Berklee College of Music, but ended up staying, first enrolling as a voice major, eventually leaving the school to take bass lessons. She quickly became a part of the Boston music scene, playing in a number of bands. She was singing lead and playing bass in the Young Snakes when she met Michael Hausman, the drummer in another local band, the Dark. In 1983, they formed ’Til Tuesday, and made a series of demos, which got airplay on both WBCN and KISS 108. The band’s fan base quickly grew, they were signed to Epic, and their debut album, “Voices Carry,” earned that title song regular rotation on MTV and the number eight slot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. But by the time of the band’s aptly titled third album, “Everything’s Different Now,” the relationship with Epic had gone cold over artistic direction.
Mann got out of her Epic contract, left the band, and in 1993 worked with producer Jon Brion on her first solo release, “Whatever,” for the Imago label. After a second solo album, “I’m with Stupid,” Imago folded, selling her contact to Geffen Records. More artist-label hassles ensued, and Mann ended up on the Interscope label, where she made the album “Bachelor No. 2 (Or, The Last Remains of the Dodo),” which the company refused to release. Fortunately it was around this time that filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson was writing the script for “Magnolia,” while listening to some of Mann’s music. Anderson had already hired Michael Penn to compose soundtracks for his films “Hard Eight” and “Boogie Nights.” “Voices Carry” was featured in “Boogie Nights.” Mann married Penn in 1997. Anderson asked Mann to write some music for “Magnolia,” and she ended up contributing eight songs, including “Wise Up” and “Save Me,” which was nominated for an Oscar. This was also around the time that Mann started up her own label, SuperEgo Records, on which she’s regularly released new work, as well as “Bachelor Number 2,” which she purchased from Interscope with money she made on “Magnolia.” Mann has even tried some acting, appearing briefly as a German-speaking Nihilist who orders pancakes in “The Big Lebowski,” and playing herself in a 2011 episode of “Portlandia.” Living in Los Angeles these days, Mann regularly tours with her band. She’s been known to often break into a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” and manages to find time to practice her hobby of boxing. Her newest album is the 2012 release “Charmer.”
(By Ed Symkus)
Published on March 2, 2013