Aimee Mann was filled with holiday spirit when she entered the studio in May.
Aimee Mann was filled with holiday spirit when she entered the studio in May. "You'd be surprised -- it didn't take any time to into the Christmas vibe. Before it got really hot, it was just so nice to be in the mood, without the pressures of buying presents and stuff," Mann tells Billboard.com.
The result, the seasonal album "One More Drifter in the Snow," will arrive on quite another holiday, Halloween, through her own label Super Ego. Backed by keyboardist Patrick Warren, percussionist Jay Bellerose and guitarist Duke Levine, Mann aimed to keep the arrangements and song selections fairly classic, taking cues from her favorite Christmas album, Johnny Mathis' "Merry Christmas."
"The more I thought about it, the more excited I got," she says. "I could do without 'Silent Night' and whatever, and I'm not a fan of the groovy modern Christmas records. We decided to go the Mel Torme, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, lounge-y, sort of Julie London record, and I knew right away that I wanted at least half of the songs to be the standard great Christmas classics."
Those include "I'll Be Home for Christmas," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "Winter Wonderland." Mann was even able to wrangle Grant-Lee Phillips in to narrate "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch."
Another focal point was the Vince Guiraldi Trio's soundtrack to "A Charlie Brown Christmas." The holiday, for many people, is a mixed bag, she says, and Mann hoped to capture the mellow and sometimes sad mood of the season, much like the animated movie did.
"If you really think of it, that movie has a lot of dark and mysterious undertones. First, Charlie Brown is depressed by the commercialism of Christmas and then there's Linus, who steps out to tell the story of the nativity, with this heartbreakingly moral stance," she says. "We wanted our take to be all that -- mysterious, quiet, moody. And classy."
Mann and producer Paul Bryan wrote the original "Calling on Mary" for the set, while Mann's husband, Michael Penn, penned "Christmastime."
The 45-year-old songwriter was keen on releasing the holiday set, as she's taken a leave from songwriting for the time being. Her last effort, the conceptual "The Forgotten Arm," was released in 2005. "The last record was so specific and took a lot out of me. I've been playing live a lot, too, which has kept me busy," she explains. "It was an emotionally exhausting time for me as well and I like playing out now so much more."
Mann is currently assembling a touring group to support "One More Drifter" for a string of Christmastime dates. She also has slated a number of solo acoustic dates through the end of September, beginning Aug. 26 at Los Angeles' Royce Hall as part of the Book Eaters benefit series.
Here is the track list for "One More Drifter in the Snow":
"Whatever Happened to Christmas"
"I'll Be Home for Christmas"
"You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch"
"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"
"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"
"Calling on Mary"