Updated on June 16, 2017 at 10:39 AM
Posted on June 16, 2017 at 10:38 AM
Aimee Mann performs at South Orange Performing Arts Center June 19 in support of her new album "Mental Illness."(SHERYL NIELDS)
By Natalie Pompilio
The songs on Aimee Mann’s newest album, “Mental Illness,” contain the sort of moody, soulful songs she’s become known for, touching on bipolar illness, sociopathic tendencies or struggles some face to solve life’s puzzles. But two things Mann fans probably know and the rest of the world will be relieved to realize: These songs aren’t autobiographical.
“This is the stuff that’s interesting. People are interesting. People’s problems are interesting,” Mann said in an interview with NJ Advance Media. “Mental illness takes so many different forms and that’s interesting to me. It’s interesting to ask questions.”
Mann, whose tour stops at the South Orange Performing Arts Center June 19, has been writing thought-provoking lyrics since she found her first commercial success in 1985 with “Voices Carry” while fronting the new wave band ‘Til Tuesday. And while she confirmed that her lyrics don’t reflect her actual life, sometimes her song writing starts that way.
“Even if I sit with a guitar feeling depressed and sad about something and start writing about it, it immediately takes its own form and it becomes a better song and a better story,” she said. “It’s never really about you.”
Mann’s touring with singer Jonathan Coulton, who some may know as the in-house musician for NPR’s “Ask Me Another.” Mann said touring with someone whose music she admires and is also a friend provides balance when she’s presenting heavy, sad songs.
“The mix of being on stage joking around and singing serious songs is a nice mixture,” she said. “It always keeps it from getting too deep.”
Mann’s such a fan of Coulton’s work that her company, SuperEgo Records, released his latest album, “Solid State.” In an early episode of “Portlandia,” Mann played herself, working as a house cleaner to support her music career. The role was meant to showcase how many performers weren’t able to make a living on music alone with the introduction of free music streaming services and other industry issues.
SuperEgo, Mann said, wasn’t a way for her to make money; it was a way to support and promote music she enjoys.
“It’s getting harder and harder for people to make a living,” she said.
That wasn’t the case a musical generation ago. Mann said she’s currently been listening to a lot of music that she listened to while growing up as well as bands she avoided at the time.
“When you’re young, it’s about being cool or not cool, but now it’s must music and it’s interesting to see which opinions I still agree with,” When I was younger, I thought Steely Dan had an attitude and hey, they clearly do, but they’re the smartest guys in the room. The musicianship is so great I don’t care as much about the perceived attitude.
“But they were probably really a handful. Yeah, I think I’m on pretty firm ground making that assumption.”
South Orange Performing Arts Center
One SOPAC Way, South Orange. 973-313-2787.
Tickets: $55-65, available online at www.sopacnow.org. June 19.