I Heart Aimee Mann

I’m about two hours away from LAX still, somewhere around 36,000 feet. I’m thinking we’re somewhere over Arkansas. It barren and dusty below, save for these huge green irrigation circles. After passing through some towering, billowing, pure-white thundercloads, we’ve settled into quieter skies.

The interior of the plane, however, is not so quiet, as a pair of kids in the back just keep screaming and crying and fighting. I have my minidisc player cranked (Aimee Mann, Counting Crows — surprise), but I can still hear them. Every time I get angry over kids being noisy, I think of that M*A*S*H episode where they’re in a bus of villagers near enemy lines and Hawkey keeps reprimanding some woman to shush her cackling chicken, which she eventually does by smothering it to death, and in the end it turns out to be her baby. ANYWAY. They’re loud, they’re annoying, I’ll live. (I made it through takeoff — I’ll live.)

First thing I wanna’ do in L.A. — that is, after working tomorrow and all — is buy a cheap guitar. The last few days have been excrutiating. I keep getting ideas, turns of phrase I wanna’ write to, and I have nothin’. Well, I have the Rickenbacker, but it’s all outa’ wack. I was thinking today while I was running (more on that in a sec) about how so many things have conspired to change my routine lately: my torn feet, my banged up hip, my broken guitar. It’s as if all of my normal methods of seeking clarity and understanding have been crippled. Once, in college, I lost my voice for a few days for no reason. I figured it was some kind of sign to listen more closely. And I guess that this is something like that. I’m supposed to take things slowly, more deliberately, and with greater appreciation. Not sure how that’s going…

So indeed, I completed the Manhattan Half Marathon this morning. It’s was 77 degrees when I started at 7:30, and 87 degrees when I finished — miserable. I’ve never seen so many runners suffer heat exhaustion. Ambulences everywhere. There were 7000 competitors, many of whom don’t normally race, and certainly don’t race in the overwhelmingly sticky New York City heat. Anyway, per my prediction, it set no personal best, nor a personal worse: 2:00:15 (I just couldn’t quite get in under 2:00:00). I hobbled home, grabbed breakfast, and went out shopping for a) a graphic novel Aimee Mann recomended called “It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken” b) some new vintage (oxymoron, I know) t-shirts and c) some new (clean and dry) running clothes. Failed on all accounts. So then there I was, back home, drenched in sweat, packing my bags for L.A. I couldn’t believe it. How do I jam so much in one day? And for God’s sake, why do I jam so much in one day?

Anyway (in conclusion), I wanted to write more about my Aimee Mann interview. As I wrote last night, I couldn’t believe how closely some of what she seems to be dealing with parallells things I’m wrestling with. I so admire her for doing such substantive work — and so melodically! It’s such a far cry from the schlock and shite that we normally hock over at the MTV. Thank goodness she and her ilk (Michael Penn, Ryann Adams, David Baerwald, Adam Duritz) are out there carrying the torch. If only they sold well. Here’s an excerpt of my favorite parts of the interview…

Me: You’re half of a singer/songwriter uber-couple with Grammy and Oscar nominations under your belt, an innovative and critically-hailed Acoustic Vaudeville Tour, the poster girl for self-releasing your records and succeeding, so why do your songs deal with these virtually pitch black characters and John Cheever-esque themes?

Aimee: It’s the kind of thing that I think about more than other things because I’m always interested in solving the difficult problems of being a human being. People are very fucked up, you know? I’m no exception to that. And the people around me are fucked up. So there’s no lack of fucked up people to write about. But to me it’s a noble enterprise to try and understand people and to try and understand the least understandable aspects of people, the least understandable impulses.

Me: I wanted to ask about collaborations. Glen Tilbrook contributed quite a bit to your “I’m With Stupid” LP. John Brion contributed to “Magnolia” and “Bachelor No. 2.” What about Michael?

Aimee: Michael just stopped by a couple of times. He was working on another record — he’s producing Liz Phair’s next record — so he wasn’t really available. I think we’re so used to working in the studuio independently that it doesn’t really occur to us, like, “Oh I’ve got to get my wife on my record.” People think that it’s a treat to be asked to do something and come down to the studio. But because that’s what we do… I don’t think he would think it’s a big treat. If I asked him to come in and play guitar or something he might think of it more as a chore, ‘cuz he’s doing that in the other studio. So I know he’s not going to be offended if I don’t ask him to come to the studio or vice-versa.

Me: So you put a little nail in the coffin of my next question, which was how does a young singer/songwriter like myself get you singing along with him?

Aimme: Well, you know, I guess that I’d have to hear the song and if I really really liked the song I’d do it. I think there are two things: you have to feel like you have seomthing to contribute and then you just have to have time to do it, ‘cuz, you know, I’m often just not even in one place.

Me: Well, I’ll send my most recent realease to Michael [Houseman, her manager].

Aimee: Yeah, definately.

vMe: And if it finds its way to you, I’ll be a thrilled man. Regardless, I’m thrilled to have spoken with you.

Aimee: Well, thank you very much.

Me: And I’m lookin’ forward to seeing you out on the road.

Aimee: And I’m lookin’ forward to hearing your CD.

Me: Aaaah, bless your heart. [Aimee laughs]

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