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Photo by Sheryl Nields
Photo by Sheryl Nields
Monday, October 7, 2013
Aimee Mann is a woman of impressive musical talent. The singer and songwriter who first came to public attention in 1985 with the ’Til Tuesday hit “Voices Carry,” has since then had a solid solo career that included an Academy Award and Grammy Award nominations for her soundtrack work on the 1999 movie “Magnolia.” Her latest album, “Charmer,” continues that good work and has received mostly positive reviews.
Turns out, she can also throw a mean punch.
Mann, who headlines The Lyric Theatre in Blacksburg on Thursday, took up boxing for fun a few years back. She even learned from Freddie Roach, who trains Manny Pacquiao, the Filipino who has claimed world titles in eight different weight classes.
The “sweet science” lessons came via Mann’s friendship with comedian, writer and fellow boxing enthusiast Kevin Seccia. Mann was looking for a gym workout closer to her home. Seccia suggested that she try Roach’s gym, Wild Card Boxing Club, in Hollywood, Calif.
“Freddie is from Boston, and I had lived in Boston for like 15 years,” Mann, 53, said. “And Freddie and I just became friendly, and when I was there, he would offer to work the mitts for me. And I think because he’s a born teacher and a born trainer, when you work the mitts with Freddie, you kind of get the same education that his fighters get.
“So it was really pretty great. I wouldn’t say that I trained to be a boxer, but I liked the idea ... it’s a very strategic, complicated, exhausting sport. And it was really fascinating to kind of learn about strategies and moves from a guy who really knew what he was talking about.”
Seccia, who wrote a book called “Punching Tom Hanks: Dropkicking Gorillas and Pummeling Zombified Ex-Presidents — a Guide to Beating Up Anything,” analyzed Mann’s style in a web post titled “How to Beat Up Aimee Mann (with a rebuttal from Aimee).”
“I’ve seen her train and spar in the gym,” he wrote. “Under the watchful, be-spectacled eyes of hall-of-fame boxing trainer Freddie Roach she was able to box the (bejabbers) out of an opponent 15 years her junior.”
She “telegraphed her punches a bit” and kept her guard too high, exposing her to body shots, but “if you let her sweeping melodic tales of woe and love lost penetrate your earholes while trying to punch her, you’re as good as dead,” he wrote.
In Mann’s responses to that post, she wrote that Seccia has “had only one real fight, unless you’re including ‘fighting a giant hangover,’ and there he’s 0-45.”
Mann, who grew up in Richmond before moving to Boston to attend Berklee College of Music, has made lots of friends in the comedy world since her solo career led her out west. She said she met most of them at Largo at the Coronet, a West Hollywood nightspot that hosts performances from musicians and comedians.
“I really admire comedians, because they work with language in an interesting way — which is something I do — but they do it in a whole different sphere. And I find it really fascinating, like it’s something that’s really difficult. I don’t know how people manage to do it. I think it’s also incredibly nerve-racking, so I really admire their nerve in getting up in front of people.
“When you play music, if somebody doesn’t like it, they’re still going to clap a little bit, usually. It’s easier for people to just stand there and go, oh fine, whatever, I’ll clap. But if you don’t get a laugh, you don’t get a laugh. It’s really obvious.”
In her world, there is “a lot of cross-pollination” between players and comedians.
Ted Leo is one of the musicians that Mann considers “comedy adjacent.” Leo, a rock ’n’ roller who leads the band Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, will open the show and join Mann onstage during her set to play some songs from their new project, The Both.
“He’s really funny onstage,” she said of Leo.
A new album from that act, with Mann playing bass as part of a power trio with Leo, is expected to come out in February on Mann’s own label, Superego, she said.
The two met through mutual friends, became
“@reply” buddies on Twitter, then started touring and writing together. The latter was a challenge, as each has a different writing style, she said.
They looked to bridge that gap in part through a Thin Lizzy song, “Honesty Is No Excuse.”
“We had this song as a song that we both really loved that we used as almost a meeting place between the two of us,” Mann said. “I think we did manage to meet in the middle. It was very interesting.”
That doesn’t mean that it has all been smooth.
“I think it’s kind of difficult, because you have to keep an open mind,” she said. “When I hand off a song, often what I get back is not remotely what I expected. But that’s what makes it really interesting, and I think it’s hard for any artist or songwriter not to get possessive about something. So I thought it was a really nice exercise to take part in.”
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