Aimee Mann: “One Must Accept That There Are Assholes In The World And Move On”
Indeed. Anytime you have someone willing to say it like it is, you have me willing to listen to them. Recently, Aimee Mann spoke with Denver’s ‘Westword’. She speaks openly about many topics including Fiona Apple, playing a maid on ‘Portlandia’ and not wanting to shake things up. She also talks about my favorite thing she’s done: the ‘Magnolia’ soundtrack.
In her new single, ‘Charmer’, from the album of the same name, she sings about people who are charming and that while the world may applaud them, they secretly feel like frauds. I’ve never heard anyone put it quite like that before, but I think it’s true.
Aimee says, “If you’re at a dinner party and you’re telling a story and all of the sudden you think, ‘Oh my god, listen to me. I’m such a numbskull. No one wants to hear about this.’ Everybody has those moments when you think, ‘listen to what a phony I am.’”
Now, I’m certainly not saying that I’m a charmer, but I have had that terrible realization right in the middle of what I started off thinking was a brilliant story. Suddenly I have a kind of internal panic and think I’m just a self-centered prick and my story is really just a soliloquy to myself—and everyone is only listening by default. Soliloquy to myself? Is that like déjà vu all over again? Anyway, it’s the worst feeling because you just have to carry-on and hope no one noticed that your life just flashed before your eyes. Then, inevitably your story was ruined by your own self-doubt. You spend the rest of the lunch just sitting quietly and eating your french fries.
That’s kind of what I hope Fiona Apple will do—sit and eat her french fries—after her incoherent babbling complaint about being arrested for hash in Texas. Shut up, charmer and just sing. Aimee is friends with Fiona and mentions that while she respects her work, she isn’t so open and raw with her own lyrics. Aimee acknowledges that the openness has certainly worked for Fiona because she makes great music and she’s sold a ton of records. Not Adele tons, but to Aimee it’s tons. It’s all relative, I guess.
Anyway, here are excerpts from the interview:
“Q: You seem to have reached a threshold in your career where you no longer have to sell yourself as much as an artist. While you’re not at Lady Gaga status, it seems that you can live comfortably as a musician, and I’m wondering if that can be a trap creatively, or if you still challenge yourself to grow as an artist.
A: Well I don’t think that I’m at any kind of level where that would be a problem. It’s not like I’m a Top 40 artist that’s dependent on a certain kind of fame. I think, as a singer/songwriter, people like what I do, and it’s not like I’m ever going to go off and make some crazy electronica/polka record. I’m not that interested in changing genres or shaking it up for any reason. But I certainly don’t feel like a slave to a style, either.
Q: Many musicians who’ve had success in the decades that you have are no longer relevant today. And yet you’ve remained relevant for younger generations; are there things you’ve avoided that have trapped other musicians?
A: I do think that something like having a bunch of songs in an interesting, hit movie [P.T. Anderson's Magnolia] certainly helps introduce you to a new audience and refreshes you to your old audience. It’s very easy to think of someone as, “Oh, they’ve been around for a while; they’re kind of a has-been.” But it really helps to have new eyes to introduce you to a new audience.
But I was really never interested in chasing success, making singles according to what the record company is saying is hip. And also I couldn’t do it. Some people can and are good at it, but I’m just not that person. But at the same time, I feel like my music is pretty accessible. I don’t feel like it’s too left of center. And yet, record companies have treated it as if it’s this crazy, experimental stuff. There’s that shrug of “this just isn’t a single; I don’t know what we’re going to do with it.”
Q: Last year you made a guest appearance on the hipster satire sketch comedy, Portlandia. Do you think this exposed you to a new audience or just reinforced the one you already had?
A: A lot of people recognize me from Portlandia; and I don’t know if that translates into them listening to my music or not. But I do think that’s interesting.
Q: So people come up to you saying they saw you on Portlandia but hadn’t heard of you as a musician?
A: Well they don’t mention that part. My guess is that I wasn’t really on their radar, and after seeing the show they see me and say “oh yeah, her.”
Q: [You performed at the same White House event where] Common gave his poetry reading, which was a big hoopla over at Fox News. What was your reaction to all that?
A: The people who made a hoopla out of that are happy to say anything, because they have a cynical attitude and are too dumb to know what’s going on, or care enough to do the research to find out. It was the most ridiculous thing. Common’s poetry was very sweet, very heartwarming; it was about feeding the fucking poor. Yes, storm the stage! It was really unbelievable. One must accept that there are assholes in the world and move on.”
For the complete interview, go here.