Charmed & Dangerous
Audiences aren’t likely to hear any ’Til Tuesday songs at an Aimee Mann show.
Mann became a music star and music-video star with ’Til Tuesday’s 1985 Top 10 hit, “Voices Carry.” But since she went solo in the early 1990s, she’s recorded eight albums and received an Oscar nomination for “Save Me,” one of nine Mann songs featured in director Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1999 film, “Magnolia.”
In concert, Mann plays selections from every one of her solo albums. She avoids “Voices Carry,” her biggest commercial success.
“There are so many songs from my solo records that I feel more connected to,” she explained from Los Angeles.
Mann released her latest album, “Charmer,” last year. It followed 2008’s “@#%&*! Smilers.”
While “@#%&*! Smilers” was inspired by those relentlessly cheery folks who insist that everyone smile along with them, “Charmer” explores the nature of charm and its potentially manipulative purpose.
“I don’t think people necessarily set out to be charming,” Mann said. “It’s kind of the underlying things that drive them to be charming and agreeable that translates as charm.”
The theme extends to the 1970s pop sound of “Charmer.” Pop music, by definition, can’t be popular unless it charms its listeners into liking it.
The sonic influences for “Charmer” include the Cars, Blondie’s 1978 album, “Parallel Lines” (featuring “Heart of Glass”) and such individual songs as the Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ 1975 hit, “Jackie Blue.”
The latter song, Mann said, “has such a dark, mysterious sound and slide guitar and that little keyboard figure. So I pinpointed these specific pop songs that sum up a certain kind of charm to me.”
Mann’s next album won’t be a solo project but a collaboration with her friend, Ted Leo. A musically eclectic East Coast rock musician, Leo is best known since 1999 for his band, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. He’s opening shows for Mann’s fall tour and will likely join her for a few songs during her headlining set.
Mann and Leo named their mutual project The Both. They’re finishing an album to be released next year. In The Both, Mann and Leo alternate singing lead and sing in harmony and unison. She plays bass, he plays guitar and a drummer completes the trio.
“It’s really fun to be part of a rock trio,” Mann said.
Mann’s fall tour, which starts Friday in Austin and runs through mid-November with dates in Europe and the U.K., follows her Sept. 10 appearance at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. The occasion was the presentation of the Liberty Medal to former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Mann sang one song at the event, “Save Me.” But she doesn’t know how she got the gig, unless it’s because she knows some people who work in the White House. She performed at the White House in 2011 for a day that celebrated poetry.
“That was a real surprise,” she said of the latter appearance. “Who expects to wind up at the White House? But it was an amazing atmosphere. You could tell that the arts are important to that administration, especially to Michelle Obama. And it was inspiring on an artistic level, to see these really fascinating people use language in really interesting ways.”