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Aimee Mann's latest album is 'Mental Illness' but she's pretty sane

"Mental Illness" is Aimee Mann's first solo album in five years.

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UPDATE: Aimee Mann won the 2018 Grammy for Best Folk Album.


If you try to guess what Aimee Mann's new solo album, “Mental Illness," is about, you likely won't need more than one attempt.

The sound on the record is acoustic and stripped down, inspired by folk rock and '70s easy-listening records, but with Mann’s signature storytelling style.

The songs touch on themes ranging from Hollywood disappointment to homesickness to — of course — mental illness, each one with a certain undercurrent of melancholy. 

"I knew that this record I wanted to allow myself to write songs that were as small and wistful and sad and lonely and depressed, or whatever, as I felt like," Mann says. "Because I like that. It's fun to roll around in that. It's fun to think about people you know and their crazy stuff and write about it and try to puzzle it out."

The Frame host John Horn recently visited with Aimee Mann at her home in L.A. to talk about her songwriting process, her new album, and the function of a sad song. 

Interview highlights:

On the assumption that people make that because she writes sad songs, she's a sad person

That makes sense to me. I'm sure I also do that. I remember being much younger and hearing that James Taylor had been a heroin addict, which just seemed so crazy and edgy and metal, and going, Well, wait a minute. You do that finger-picky-folky guitar. How is that possible? As if you can't sing folk and be tortured.

On the cathartic nature of sad songs

I think you can listen to a song and then suddenly realize like, Oh, I've been carrying this thing around and had not really known it until this moment. I think it can help open doors and, you know, sometimes you don't necessarily want to open that door. So I think that's why some people avoid sad music because they're like, Look, I've been spending a lot of energy in keeping this away from my conscious mind.

On how the title "Mental Illness" came about

A friend of mine made a joke that that's what I should call it, because he was asking what the album was about and I said, Oh, you know, my usual songs about mental illness. And he said, Maybe you should call it "Mental Illness." So it was said as a joke, but as soon as he said it I was like, That is what is happening. Because I didn't have another title for it and it really did sum it up. And there's something that's just so bald and blatant about it that made me laugh, but it also made me laugh because it just perfectly summed it up.

On whether getting inspiration for her songs from the lives of people she knows ever becomes a problem

I think most people wouldn't mention it if they thought [a song was about them]. I've had people think that songs were about them that were one million percent not about them at all. So I think a song is very easy to project on. If you're wondering if something might have been about you, or if it rings a bell, it usually isn't.

To hear the full interview, click the blue player above.

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