Category Archives: singer-songwriters

Suzanne Vega and me: not quite Lincoln and Kennedy, but weird enough

I’ve known for some time that I share a birthdate (born on the same day, July 11, and the same year [look it up if you want] with three professional musicians: my late wife Donna Young Eichenwald (double bassist and recorder soloist, performer in symphony orchestras and smaller ensembles along with Manhattan cabaret rooms and piano bars), the singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega (fine writer and singer, many hits and albums to her credit), and Richie Sambora (former lead guitarist, singer and songwriter for Bon Jovi). I’m not a professional musician, but music has played a central part in my life and I’ve written about music and the people who make it for various publications and still do. So make of that what you will; I don’t know what to make of it myself, but here we are.
A while ago I started following Suzanne Vega on Twitter, and from this have noted another very odd coincidence: she has two cats, named Cinnamon (who resembles our late cat Lightning) and Caramel. I know this from her posting photos of them. I have a dog named Cinnamon, and once had a hamster named Caramel.

And oh, yes, I have a son named Luka (not named after that Vega song, though; that would have been too weird). My Luka was, by the way, the one who named our pets.

Also, although Suzanne Vega was born in California, we both spent our early childhoods in New York City, her in Manhattan and me in Queens.
And so this year I decided to dress up like her for Halloween. Why? It was just time for it, I guess. I wouldn’t really call it a feat of dressing in drag (drag lite?) because Vega has kind of an androgynous, quirky look anyway. Don a top hat, auburn bangs, dark jacket and slacks, maybe slather on some red lipstick and tote around an acoustic guitar and a large green apple (this from the cover of her 1996 album “Nine Objects of Desire”), and you’re pretty much there. (So to recap, this year I cosplayed as Suzanne Vega, Suzanne Vega dressed up as Carrie Brownstein, Carrie Brownstein dressed up as Lena Dunham, and Lena Dunham dressed up as Amy Schumer. Just kidding…)
Trick-or-treating with Luka — who, on his own initiative, dressed as the character Dippy Fresh from the carton “Gravity Falls” — I got people guessing Tiny Tim and Slash, and many quizzical looks from candy-dispensing householders as I was the oldest trick-or-treater they’d seen that evening or perhaps ever. After I told one man on the street who I was, he responded, with some deliberation, in a Texas accent, “Suzanne Vega. I would not have guessed that.”
I posted photos to Facebook and also got William Tell, Arlo Guthrie, the subject of a Magritte painting, Fiona Apple, even Leonard Cohen. One person, another music hound, got it correct.
In my other life as an arts-and-features freelance writer, I occasionally interview singers and/or songwriters. I tried to interview Ms. Vega once, but her people never got back to me. It seems to be a lost opportunity. Maybe someday I’ll get that interview, or at least a selfie.
I don’t have everything in common with Ms. Vega, it must be said. I’m not a recording artist. I was never married to Mitchell Froom. Nor am I a Buddhist. And I think she can carry off a top hat much better than I can.
No offense, Suzanne. I’d rather be associated with you than Richie Sambora, in any case.

Chrissie Hynde: Still going down the middle of the road

[As published in the Austin American-Statesman, Nov. 15, 2014.]

I was looking forward to interviewing Chrissie Hynde but couldn’t help wondering about the mood in which I’d find the 63-year-old rock legend when she phoned from London at the appointed hour. Surely Hynde, about to embark on her first tour without the Pretenders label, though still with a backing quartet, had nothing left to prove after millions of album sales and decades of searing, honest, original music. Would she be in the habit of eating journalists alive as if they were so many veggie burritos? Would she answer my questions in bored monosyllables before cutting the interview short to give equally bored answers to my counterparts in Boston, Chicago, Denver and Dallas?

Well, no and no. After a free-flowing conversation on topics ranging from the current state of South by Southwest (her mood: curious) to audiences’ current mass obsession with smartphones and selfies (dislikes in the extreme) to the comeback of vinyl records (likes) to Amy Winehouse (admired her individuality and her unique take on a retro sound) to the state of music on the radio (great in the ’50s and ’60s, not so great from the ’80s onward, but could be getting good again), I’ve concluded that Hynde is either the most self-effacing, unpretentious major rock star of all time or missed her true calling as an actress. Does she really not think of herself as anything special, just another rock singer and guitarist in a touring band?

Pun intended, I don’t think she was pretending.

This was Hynde’s response when I asked whether she’d rather be known as a performer or a songwriter:

“I don’t really care how I’m known, y’know? As long as I can write songs, I’ll make records. The only thing I don’t want to be known as is a celebrity. Anything but that.”

Since Hynde possesses such a distinctive, expressive singing voice, I ask if she’d ever had any formal vocal training.

“Well, y’know, this is rock ‘n’ roll,” she says. “You can’t learn this stuff in school. It’s not a technical thing — you just listen to the radio and then copy it. I suppose if you were in theater or opera and you have to project certain ways, obviously there are technical abilities that some singers have to have, but not if you’re a rock singer.”

Well, OK, then.

Despite being a Londoner since the ’70s, Hynde retains the accent and rapid-fire speaking style of a gum-chewing waitress in an Akron diner, which, she implies, could have very well been her fate if not for sheer chance and good timing. When I ask if she’s enjoying her life, she retorts, “Hey, I get to play guitar in a rock band! Are you kidding me? Can you think of anything better? I’m even a (expletive meaning “terrible”) guitar player! On top of that, thank God for punk, I found a way to slip through the net. But I’m not very ambitious. All I wanted was to play guitar in a band, so I lucked out, man.”

After heading various incarnations of the Pretenders for three decades, Hynde released the album “Stockholm” under her own name last June. She co-wrote most of the tracks with Bjorn Yttling, of the Swedish group Peter Bjorn and John, using mainly Swedish musicians. Though Yttling’s production is on the commercial side and it lacks the song-to-song hairpin turns of the brilliant early Pretenders albums, it’s decent enough, and Hynde’s patented tender/tough vocals land their intended effect.

It’s good, I note, to change things up every now and then.

“Yeah, every 40 years or so.”

Her penchant for wisecracks aside, Hynde has a few things to say about what it takes for a performer to have a sustained career. Just one decade in the spotlight, let alone three, now seems like an eternity in a world stuck on fast-forward.

“I guess I am an optimist,” she says. “I just sense that at the moment it feels quite good in music. I don’t know much about the technology, because to be perfectly honest, as soon as they brought in pushbutton radios I got lost. Let alone going on the Internet.”

For Hynde, “Middle of the Road” is more than just one of her old songs. “My personal discipline has been to try to stay in the middle, always, no matter what I’m doing,” she says. “If I buy a jacket and it comes in three sizes, I want a medium. You have to learn how to temper yourself and hold back till you get to the end.”

Hynde will always take a club over a stadium, and she praises the importance of local music scenes. “What could be better than to be in your town, and you know five or six other guys that are in bands? I mean, that’s where it’s at. And then all your girlfriends pile into a car and go out to your local club and see your favorite band. Isn’t that better than to go see a bunch of has-beens on stage in a stadium? Wouldn’t you rather see what’s going on right now in your local community, somebody that speaks to you, that talks about the air that you breathe and the water that you drink? That’s more relevant, and that’s got to be more fun, because it’s there, and it’s yours.”

Despite being active in various causes (most visibly, PETA), Hynde’s not into preaching from the stage. “I’m only there for people to enjoy themselves, really,” she says. “I’m certainly not trying to be controversial, or even thought-provoking. I have things to say if they’re interested, but you have to ask me for it. I found something out a long time ago: If someone doesn’t ask for advice and you give it to them, they’ll hate you for it.

“And as far as when we’re onstage, all I want is for at least one person to go home that night and say, ‘Wow, that was the best guitar player I ever saw.’ I mean, it won’t be me, it’ll be James Walbourne, but you know what I mean. I just want one person to go and say, ‘Wow, that was a rock ‘n’ roll band.’”

Hynde won’t be hitting up Franklin’s or La Barbecue, but she looks forward to stopping by nonetheless. “We love Austin,” she says. “Austin’s like rock central. Drag Willie Nelson along, but tell him to leave his vaporizer at home.”

When I tell her there’s actually a statue of Willie outside ACL Live, Hynde, after a beat, says, “A-MAZE-ing. Yeah. I was on his bus once and it took me three days to recover. I was only on the bus for 12 minutes, so, y’know, do the math.”

Burt Bacharach is Still Pretty Damn Cool

Burt_B_conductingBurt_Bacharach_2014

The following post is a revised and substantially expanded version of an article that appeared in the Austin American-Statesman/austin360.com on Nov. 21, 2014.

Inevitable preface: I don’t usually do these kinds of jazz improvisations on a journalism theme, so to speak, but  this particular subject seemed to demand a longer treatment, even if only for a blog post.

It’s a sad commentary on recent times that I’ve been thinking lately about whether I need to justify writing so much about such “trivial” things as art and music; I read the news like everyone else and am as disheartened as so many others that things lately seem to be sliding from bad to worse. Of course, if you pay attention that’s the way things always seem, but especially lately, and it’s hard to fight battles against such an overwhelming amount of stupidity, venality, selfishness and shortsightedness that you see demonstrated by people everywhere. (Not from everyone, of course, but it seems to be increasing steadily every year along with the population.)

When faced with the horrible things one watches and reads about every day — some of them very real, some of them phantoms ginned up by the less reliable elements of antisocial media — you might well ask yourself, what good does music and art do? For many, it’s just a detail, something in the background. For others, including me, it’s such a key element of life that doing without it seems unthinkable, whether you’re fortunate enough to create it or just enjoy consuming it, losing yourself in it. Music, literature and other art forms are the way we explain life to ourselves, come for lessons, come to feel, even so briefly, that we’re not alone in this mystery. And so, I don’t apologize for what I do — I greatly value these conversations, which in the best of worlds, run both ways, and I couldn’t imagine not wanting to contribute.

********************************************************************

Some years — OK, decades — ago, when I was in high school on Long Island, the school administrators called an assembly to listen to a songwriter give a speech about his work.

The songwriter was a nondescript-looking middle-aged man named Hal David, who lived in Roslyn, a few towns over in Nassau County. David was a lyricist who had written the words to scads of hit songs composed by Burt Bacharach.

I listened raptly to Hal David’s tales of how he wrote “Alfie” and other songs. I don’t remember a lot of details, but he was amusing in a plainspoken, low-key way, and in the end he received a standing ovation from me and my fellow students.

A couple of years ago, when I mentioned this assembly to the classmates I’m still in touch with on Facebook, nobody else remembered the day we sat and listened to Hal David. But I know it happened, and when, many years later — after, in fact, Hal David had died — I got the chance to speak with the other half of the songwriting team, I told him how much of a pleasure it was for me to get the chance to do so. And it was.

_____________________________________________________

Take a day trip out to the LBJ Ranch in Johnson City, Texas – properly, the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park – and get on the tour bus. Towards the end of the tour, guides will play a recording of “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” written in 1969 for the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and a number-one hit for singer B.J. Thomas, and inform you that it was Johnson’s favorite song.

When I tell him this, the song’s composer, Burt Bacharach, says, “Oh, that’s great. I’d never heard that. That always is terrific when you hear something like that. Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, he was a good president, he really was. He got things done.”
Bacharach, who stops by the Long Center Sunday night with his seven-piece band and a trio of singers, has gotten a few things done himself. “Raindrops” was just one of a remarkable run of songs – “Walk On By,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “Trains and Boats and Planes,” and on and on – composed in the ′60s by Bacharach and his lyricist, the late Hal David, and sung mainly by Dionne Warwick, a vocalist born to handle the duo’s unusual use of syncopation and time signatures.

The result was music two or three degrees of sophistication beyond nearly anything else on commercial radio at the time.

Bacharach hasn’t played Austin since an October 2006 visit to the Paramount (“I remember the bats,” he says), so make no mistake: an opportunity to see the master playing his immodest amount of hits in person with 2015 knocking at the door is a special event, indeed.

Over the phone from his home in LA, the composer charms you with his earnest, deliberate manner, old-school courtesy and unpretentiousness (don’t call him Mr. Bacharach; “It’s Burt,” he insists). Listening to him talk about Hal, Dionne, and Jerry Orbach, you sometimes feel transported into an article in Esquire magazine from 1966, and involuntarily adjust an imaginary tuxedo.

He’s also the busiest 86-year-old you’ll ever encounter, and probably has more plans for the coming year than you do. If his voice is raspier than it used to be and his step maybe — maybe — a bit slower, his mind remains sharp and he doesn’t live in the past. Last January, for example, he wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal urging revisions of the antiquated regulations allowing online streaming services like Pandora and Spotify to get away with paying next to nothing in royalties to performers and songwriters, even for songs getting plays in the tens of millions. “Nobody’s thinking of how people get paid,” he says. “There’s so much free music to be had.”

When I ask, “Do you think there’s still a place for sophisticated, literate songs in today’s pop music landscape?” Bacharach laughs heartily and says, “Nope! Well, do you?

“I think there is a place, I think the songs just don’t get heard,” he clarifies. “Radio has kind of just corrupted that whole possibility, because the playlist is so short. Sting’s new musical (“The Last Ship”) is rich with music, it’s beautiful; now, will it be heard on radio? NPR, maybe. I don’t know.”

In the ′60s Bacharach seemed to bestride the world, a dashing international playboy of a songwriter. But he was also something of a late bloomer. He began his career as a pianist for various singers, notably Marlene Dietrich (for whom he also arranged and conducted), didn’t have his first hit record until he was 29 and didn’t really hit his stride until well into his 30s.

Compared with most of the other songwriting teams clustered around New York’s Brill Building, Bacharach and David, who was seven years his senior, were the adults in the room by both age and musical preference. The simple chords of early rock ′n’ roll didn’t impress Bacharach, who had cut his teeth on the bebop jazz of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and modern classical works by Ravel, Stravinsky and others; he was also influenced by Brazilian music from the likes of Ivan Lins and Milton Nascimento.

(Snippet of interview follows)

Me: Does working with different lyricists or singers affect how you compose a song?

Bacharach: Yeah, absolutely.

Do you hear them in your head performing the work first, or…?

Yeah. We started with Dionne with “Don’t Make Me Over,” and the more I saw that she could do, the more the possibilities became musically, and I guess for Hal lyrically too, because we could stretch – all you have to do, Wes, is look at a song and say, like “Promises, Promises,” in the Broadway show it was very intense and very trying for the singer; the singer had many words and many notes. Jerry Orbach used to say, “God, why’d you have to make it so tough?” Well, I made it so tough because it has to work (out) the anger – “Promises, promises, I’m all through with promises now,” y’know, and showing him pissed off and showing him able to actually go and free himself…I have no regrets that I made it (with) that many notes and that many words. You listen to Dionne’s record, it’s so fluid and fluent, she floats through it. Effortless.

It’s like, “Syncopation? No problem.”

Yeah, and effortless. You know, in one breath, taken this way, that way, no labor, no stress doing it.

That – is the syncopation, the rush of words, the taking people in unexpected places melodically…

In principle.

That’s something that comes naturally to you –

Exactly.

_______________________________________________________

He was a perfectionist in the studio but tripped up away from it, with an often messy private life marred by bad decisions — if you’re interested in more background on both, including his four marriages and the tragic suicide of his daughter Nikki, read his candid-to-a-fault 2013 autobiography, Anyone Who Had a Heart. (I didn’t elect to talk to Bacharach about his private life. I’m more interested in his music.)

If Bacharach descended into schmaltz – if commercially successful schmaltz – in the ’80s, he became hipper than ever in the ′90s, working with Elvis Costello and seeing his songs covered by appreciative rockers like Chrissie Hynde, Oasis, Sheryl Crow and Ben Folds Five.

In recent years he’s been working on not one but two stage musicals with Costello, with whom he collaborated on the remarkable 1998 comeback CD “Painted From Memory.” Bacharach and Costello have long been noted as one of music’s odder couples, but there’s no denying the chemistry of their complementary sensibilities; aside from Hal David, has Bacharach ever had a more productive pairing with a writing partner?

One musical, currently on hold, is based on the “Austin Powers” movies (in which Bacharach appeared in cameos as a talisman of ’60s cool). What kind of tunes, one wonders, did they end up crafting for this. “Some are funny, but they’re not like run-of-the-mill songs,” he says. “Because I don’t write that way. But they’re good.”

The other work, based on “Painted From Memory,” is a creative alliance between Bacharach, Costello and Chuck Lorre, the TV writer and producer behind “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory” and a songwriter and musician himself. Bacharach calls it “a serious, dark drama musical.”

On top of this, he’ll soon be collaborating with a couple of country songwriters – Bacharach scholars might note here that his first hit, “The Story Of My Life,” reached number one on the country charts for Marty Robbins in 1957.

“Not that I know how to write a country song,” he notes. “I don’t know what a country song is, really. Right now the country market is so male-dominated, ‘I love my pickup truck and a bottle of beer.’ But good songs still have a chance there. I start the day after Thanksgiving with Tim Nichols, who’s coming out here, and he’s a very good country writer. We’ll see what we come up with. Harmonically, I don’t think guitar-wise. I’m more keyboard-oriented, and (don’t think in) simple, plain three-note chord songs or basic chords with no sevenths, no seconds or anything like that.”

Bacharach has always enjoyed performing live, which is why he still does it.

“When you are playing for people, it’s a great kind of a contact,” he says. “I don’t like it when the room is dark, ′cause you’re just playing in a sea of blackness — I like to see people, I like to see their reactions. If there’s a tear shed, I like to see that. If they’re moved, it makes it all worthwhile. If they’re touched, if they feel good, if you can make somebody feel good for a couple of minutes in their day, that’s a big reward.”

__________________________________________________

At the Long Center that Sunday night, November 23, he walked out from the wings, casual but impeccable as usual in a blue blazer, neatly pressed dark jeans, and a tieless blue shirt, to tremendous applause from the mostly older crowd. Burt hadn’t only shown up, he was in command, a maestro seated center stage at his Steinway Grand, confident and in his element as he directed the players with quick, minimal arm movements, and relayed brief anecdotes about the songs throughout the concert. As noted, Bacharach is a raspy-voiced singer of limited range, but when he took on “The Look of Love” and “Alfie,” you held your breath as time stopped and just appreciated what he was giving us. Even his minimalist reading of “Wives and Lovers” – a pop song saddled with some of the most sexist lyrics of all time – was a revelation, more of a plea than an breezy anthem.

The seven-piece band — including, naturally, a flugelhorn player (“the sound of the ’60s,” as Mrs. Pogoer put it), Bacharach’s 21-year-old son Oliver on occasional piano, and a trio of three versatile singers, John Pagano, Donna Taylor and  Josie James — moved seamlessly from one hit to the next in a seemingly endless stream (see the set list below, which I scribbled down while I listened in a semi-trance).  I couldn’t find another review of the Austin show online, but for comparison, here’s a review of the show he did two days before in Kansas City and here’s a video of “I Say A Little Prayer” in concert in Ravello, Italy last summer that shows the same basic stage setup.

Call it easy-listening or elevator music if you like; to me, it was two solid hours of classy, superb pop, and it felt like coming home. Believe it or not, Bacharach, at 86, still seemed to be at the top of his game.

_______________________________________________________

Reasonably accurate set list at Burt Bacharach’s concert at the Long Center, Austin, Nov. 23, 2014 (includes medleys):

What The World Needs Now

Don’t Make Me Over

Walk On By

This Guy’s In Love With You

I Say a Little Prayer

Trains and Boats and Planes

Wishin’ and Hopin’

Always Something There to Remind Me

One Less Bell to Answer

I’ll Never Fall in Love Again

Only Love can Break a Heart

Do You Know the Way to San Jose

Anyone Who Had a Heart

God Give Me Strength

Waiting for Charlie to Come Home (Etta James, b-side of “Something’s Got a Hold on Me,” recorded 1962, lyrics by Bob Hilliard)

Love Theme from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”

My Little Red Book (“My only attempt at writing a rock ‘n’ roll song”)_

Windows of the World

Baby It’s You

Message to Michael

Make It Easy on Yourself

On My Own

Close To You

The Look of Love (sung by Burt)

Arthur’s Theme

What’s New Pussycat

The World Is A Circle

The April Fools

Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Wives and Lovers (sung by Burt, very minimalist, quiet version)

Alfie

A House is Not a Home

Encore:

Two new-ish songs whose titles I don’t know, but they were good (from Some Lovers, a 2011 musical Bacharach wrote with lyricist Steven Sater and the composer’s first musical since Promises, Promises)

Any Day Now

That’s What Friends Are For

Second Encore: Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head (audience singalong)

Aimee Mann on the perils of fame, her inspirations and keeping things real

Life & Arts D1, Sept. 22, 2013

Life & Arts D1, Sept. 22, 2013

Aimee_statesman_2 Aimee_statesman_3 ….As published in the Austin American-Statesman, Sunday, 9/22/13 (click on images to enlarge).

Go ahead and call Aimee Mann the anti-Miley Cyrus, or even an anti-Madonna for hipster intellectuals: She’s one performer who’s actually improved and gotten greater respect with age. The singer-songwriter, who plays Friday at the Paramount Theatre, has become something of a model for musicians looking to grow and change with their dignity and artistic integrity intact, managing the trick of riding the waves of shifting cultural trends without being enslaved by them. Widely misunderstood in mid-’80s Boston (the Virginia-bred performer’s then-adopted home) as a shallow, spiky-haired new wave ice queen fronting the made-for-MTV band ’Til Tuesday — “Voices Carry,” a much-aired video on the music channel back when it actually played music, was a Top 10 hit in 1985 — Mann soon pulled a 180, kicking the ice queen to the curb and deglazing her persona.

“I’m not big on personas,” Mann says from L.A. “I think in order to have a larger-than-life persona, you have to have some essential split in your personality that starts to border on craziness.” Fed up with record-label image-makers and the questionable bauble of fame, which she never had much use for anyway, she took on the now-familiar role of wry, low-key relationship chronicler — in other words, her real self — to carry on.
And carry on she did, through minefields of record label woes and rocky personal liaisons. Into the bargain, she founded a boutique label, SuperEgo Records, to release her own work, way before every other indie rocker was doing it. If you’re too young to remember ’Til Tuesday, you might know Mann from her soundtrack to the 1999 movie “Magnolia” or even for portraying a fictional version of herself, as a maid for hire, in a 2011 episode of “Portlandia” (satirizing the decline and fall of the music business). “Charmer,” her current album, was inspired by her musings on narcissists. It also makes for fun listening, something not often said about some of her earlier, more subdued work. From the Cars-like early ’80s power-pop touches of the title track, to “Labrador” (the video for which is a shot-by-shot remake of “Voices Carry”), it’s equal parts ear candy and sophisticated wordplay, with a sweet melodic shell wrapped around a liquid sarcasm center.
“I think I’ll always have a soft spot for pop songs from the late ’60s and early ’70s,” Mann says. “I think that stuff will always be my favorite, even if it’s sometimes kind of cheesy. A lot of stuff had horns on it (and) really forceful use of background vocals, the kind of things that people don’t do that much anymore.” On “Charmer,” she adds, “The idea of pop music was in my mind, and the subject matter of people who are charming and what charm means, and the different permutations of that. That sort of lends itself to a more pop aesthetic, because you’re dealing with a lot of surface sparkle and appearances, things that are shiny and bright.”
Even in ’Til Tuesday’s salad days, Mann chafed at the rock star image game and the recognition that came her way. But when she was starting out and trying to get some attention, one wonders what she did expect might happen. “When you’re young, it’s natural if you play music you want to play it for people and you want people to appreciate it, but you don’t really know what that’s going to look like,” she says. “And sometimes that looks like a guy following you home at 4 in the morning. So that’s kind of identical to a stalker that you want to call the police on, but because he says he’s a fan then you — especially for a woman, maybe men don’t have this thing — for me there was a lot of where fans felt a lot like people who could continually be putting you in danger. But there was this feeling that you couldn’t really protect yourself, because” — and she raises her voice in a mock stage-comic way — “they’re your fan, so you have to be nice! Or it could be somebody who wants to murder you! You’ll know later, after you’re dead! “And then, you realize people, because they recognize you, expect you to continue to entertain them in some way, even though they’re a perfect stranger and you’re not a person who knows how to talk to people in that way. I’d be at dinner with somebody, and a total stranger would come and sit down at the table. I can’t be entertaining enough for that person and also, by the way, I didn’t invite you to sit at my table!
“I don’t know who has the skill set to negotiate those kinds of situations, to both have boundaries and be able to eat dinner in peace, but not have people get upset. But sometimes people do get upset. People call you at home and you say, ‘Look, I can’t talk right now, and I don’t know who you are,’ and then they start calling you names, because they think that you should be available. God bless anybody who can handle that, but I was not cut out for it.”
Which raises the question: What accommodations did she make with herself to want to go out on a stage and perform her songs? “Well, it comes from a different place than a sort of Miley Cyrus type person who is all about performing and being out there and having a more show-offy quality,” she says. “The main thing that I feel I do is songwriting, and that’s completely private; the codes of your language and metaphor (are) that you’re not going to tell people what certain things mean to you; that’s your own business. It’s kind of a way to say things without saying things.”
When Mann isn’t performing solo, she plays bass in a side project, the Both, a power trio with indie punk-pop performer Ted Leo and a touring drummer. An album is forthcoming, probably on the Matador label, and although there may be more to come from that, she says, “I can’t really picture being in a full-time band. Once you get into a permanent band, that’s when people start fighting.”

KUTX Live at the Paramount presents Aimee Mann When: 8 p.m. Friday Where: The Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave. Cost: $30 to $50 (selling out fast; check website for availability) Information: 472-5470; http://www.austintheatre.org

Aimee Mann says her current record, “Charmer,” was inspired by her musings on narcissists.

Aimee Mann says her current record, “Charmer,” was inspired by her musings on narcissists.