Musical Guest: Aimee Mann

Oct 27, 2017
Originally published on October 27, 2017 11:38 am

Musical guest Aimee Mann knows she has a bit of a reputation for writing sad songs. She decided to lean into the joke with her latest album, whose title, "Mental Illness," was suggested by none other than Jonathan Coulton. "He asked me what the record what about and I said, 'Ah, it's my usual songs about mental illness.' And he said, 'Oh, you should call it 'Mental Illness,' thinking he was being snide and hilarious." The name stuck, and she released her ninth solo album in March.

She stopped by the Ask Me Another stage to play her new song "Patient Zero," which was inspired by actor Andrew Garfield. After meeting him at a party and being struck by his sensitive nature, Mann worried that the industry would "eat him alive." "So that kind of inspired me to write a song," Mann said, "that was that type of Hollywood story where the person does get eaten alive."

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OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

It's time to bring out our special musical guest. Please welcome to our stage our friend Aimee Mann.

(APPLAUSE)

AIMEE MANN: Hello.

EISENBERG: Hi, Aimee. Welcome back.

MANN: Thank you.

EISENBERG: Yeah, it's so nice to see you again. And, you know, it's been a while since we had you on the show. You have a new album called "Mental Illness."

MANN: "Mental Illness," yeah.

EISENBERG: I love it. I now - I mean, I love the title. But then I heard that you decided to name that and the theme of it kind of based on a joke about - people tend to pigeonhole you and your music.

MANN: Well, actually, the person who made that joke was Jonathan Coulton...

EISENBERG: (Laughter) OK.

JONATHAN COULTON: That is true.

MANN: ...Because he asked me what the record was about. And I said, it's my, you know, usual songs about mental illness. And he said, oh, you should call it "Mental Illness" - thinking he was being snide and hilarious. But as soon as he said it, I sort of felt like, yeah, now I can't call it anything...

EISENBERG: Else.

MANN: ...But. Yeah.

EISENBERG: So you're going to play one of your new songs for us, "Patient Zero," which I think is especially appropriate as it's about LA and how narcissism is kind of a disease - an infectious disease. So what was the inspiration behind "Patient Zero" in particular?

MANN: I met Andrew Garfield, the actor, at a party - and this was quite a while ago. And he was just moving out here, and he struck me as, like, a real artist who was a very sensitive person. And I remember kind of feeling like, geez, I really hope this - because I knew he was about to do "Spider-Man" and kind of be rocketed into this huge world. And I just felt like, I hope this life does not eat him alive because he felt - he seemed a little too sensitive for it. So that kind of inspired me to write a song that was, like, that type of Hollywood story, where the person is eaten alive. Yeah, so...

EISENBERG: All right, let's hear it.

MANN: One, two, three, four.

AIMEE MANN AND JONATHAN COULTON: (Singing) Oh, oh, oh, oh.

MANN: (Singing) They served you champagne like a hero. When you landed, someone carried your bag. From here on out, you're patient zero, smelling ether as they hand you the rag.

MANN AND COULTON: (Singing) Life is good. You look around and think, I'm in the right neighborhood. But, honey, you just moved in. Life is grand. And wouldn't you like to have it go as planned - go as planned? Hip, hip, hooray, hocus-pocus.

MANN: (Singing) With some magic, you can fly through the air.

MANN AND COULTON: (Singing) But when you're the guy pulling focus...

MANN: (Singing) ...There are people who will wish you weren't there.

MANN AND COULTON: (Singing) Life is good. You look around and think, I'm in the right neighborhood. But, honey, you just moved in. Life is grand. And wouldn't you like to have it go as planned - go as planned? Go west, young man. Go west, take a real screen test - doesn't count as a job well done. The locusts had their day. The suckers pay and pay. Carmen Sternwood probably pulled that trigger for fun.

MANN: And in the hills, where hope is such a constant companion.

COULTON: (Singing) Constant companion.

MANN: (Singing) Close enough to almost touch the lights of the canyon.

COULTON: (Singing) Lights of the canyon.

MANN: (Singing) The lights of the canyon. News filtered over the transom that a villain ended up with the part. You paid your respects like a ransom to a moment that was doomed from the start.

MANN AND COULTON: (Singing) Life is good. You look around and think, I'm in the right neighborhood. But, honey, you don't belong. Life is grand. And wouldn't you like to have it go as planned - go as planned?

MANN: (Singing) And the hills where hope is such a constant companion...

COULTON: (Singing) ...The hills where hope is constant companion. Close...

MANN: (Singing) Close enough to almost touch the lights of the canyon...

COULTON: (Singing) ...Enough to almost - lights of the canyon...

MANN: (Singing) The lights of the canyon...

COULTON: (Singing) Almost lights of the canyon.

MANN: (Singing) The lights of the canyon.

COULTON: (Singing) Lights of the canyon.

MANN: (Singing) The lights of the canyon.

(APPLAUSE)

MANN: Thank you so much.

EISENBERG: Aimee Mann and Jonathan Coulton. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.