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Not many musicians made it out of the '80s with their careers intact; even fewer emerged from the rubble with the respect Aimee Mann has garnered since her days in 'Til Tuesday. That's a tall order when you factor image into the equation: the white-powder-puff-with-braided-rat-tail hairdo she sported back in the day didn't exactly scream "credibility." But that's a chapter of her life Mann happily—and purposely—left behind when she decided to go solo.
"I don't think 'Til Tuesday was really that great," she says via phone from a New York hotel room. "So I distanced myself from that and did something completely different."
Aside from an occasional rendition of "Voices Carry," her former band's material is missing from her live shows. So it's not surprising to hear Mann was not incredibly fond of the musical style her former trio was known for.
"When 'Til Tuesday started, it was in the middle of this kind of post-new-wave pop/dance thing, so that's what we were doing," she says. "I realized after a couple of years that it wasn't in my blood to do dance music. My thing was closer to folk music."
After the group disbanded in the late '80s, Mann began a well-publicized and seemingly endless battle against the record industry. It took five years for her to break ties with Epic Records, 'Til Tuesday's label. Then, after releasing her debut solo album, Whatever,in 1993, Imago Records folded but still maintained a claim to her contract. Geffen picked her up and released I'mWithStupidin '96. But when they showed little interest in her new work, Mann was ready to leave the business. In a last-ditch effort, she bought back the tapes of her third solo album, BachelorNo.2,from Geffen and started up her own label, SuperEgo Records.
On Mann's upcoming release, TheForgottenArm(due out May 3), she revisits some of her favorite topics—bitterness, unhappiness and dysfunction—with a delivery that moves you to despair. The unapologetic concept record takes place in 1972 and documents the journey of two main characters.
"They meet at the Virginia State Fair," she says. "He's a boxer fighting a bout at the fair, and she's just a girl who wants to get the hell out of town. They go on this road trip together, and he develops a drug problem. So it's some of the same kind of themes of dysfunctional relationships but within the context of one specific relationship."
Mann relishes her newfound creative freedom, which gives her complete control over her career. But she finds it odd more artists haven't followed suit.
"I think most people who already have an audience don't really want to leave the relative safety of the record company," she says. "But I don't really understand that—because I don't think record companies do that much for anybody."
Aimee Mann with Amy Correia at the House of Blues, 1530 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, (714) 778-BLUE. Sat., 8 P.M. $22.50-$25. All ages.