Aimee Mann Explores the ‘Therapy’ of Music on New Audible Podcast ‘Straw Into Gold’ (Exclusive Clip)

When Susanna Kaysen documented her experience of being institutionalized as a young woman during the late 1960s for her 1993 memoir, Girl, Interrupted, and struggled between living in the inside “world” or the outside, in reality, it struck several chords with Aimee Mann.

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Kaysen’s story, which was later turned into an Academy Award-winning film starring Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder, was the central inspiration before Mann’s new Audible Original, Straw Into Gold, launching Jan. 6. 

In Mann’s case, music became a way for her to dig through her feelings, through songwriting. “Kids can’t really access their feelings, and if you don’t have a parent that helps [to say] you seem sad, were you mad when that thing happened,’ if you don’t have a parent that’s kind of walking you through stuff, you don’t really know what you feel,” shares Mann in the exclusive Straw to Gold clip. “And after a while, you don’t feel what you feel. So there’s a crust over my emotional life [and] music started to be a way for me to have some feelings and then connect words or a story to what those feelings are, and that’s kind of the way I write.” 

Throughout Straw Into Gold, part of the Audible Words + Music series, Mann explores the link between mental health and the healing aspects of creativity and music within a collection of 90-minute, intimate conversations with artists, including semi-co-host and actor and comedian Connor Ratliff, filmmaker Charlene deGuzman, bandmate Ted Leo, comedian Maria Bamford, and playwright Jonathan Marc Sherman.

Speaking with Ratliff in her first episode, Mann discusses how she began writing songs and how it helped her dig into her subconscious. When writing, Mann reveals asking herself questions like “What does this feel like? Does this suggest a story? What kind of feeling, and is there a story that goes with that feeling or that mood?”

“It’s like really rummaging around the subconscious,” says Mann. “Creative expression in so many different forms, allows us to handle or re-contextualize things that otherwise are repellent to people. Even if people want to come over and comfort you … if you have a sad song, maybe everyone wants to sit around and listen and think about how they also feel sad. That’s different than if you’re just sobbing in a room.”

Throughout the podcast, Mann also shares new renditions of songs from her 1993 solo debut, Whatever, and her eighth album, Charmer, released in 2012, as well as tracks off her 2021 album Queens of the Summer Hotel, which are also featured in the upcoming Broadway musical adaptation of Girl, Interrupted

“The thing about music, for me, is that the music part has the feelings in it,” says Mann. “You hear a piece of music, and you feel a thing. And then with the words on top, it tells a very complicated emotional story. So if you have a sad piece of music, but the words on top are kind of funny, or sort of raw or sarcastic, the story that’s being told is ‘I have a lot of feelings about this, but I don’t want to show them which is fucking sad.’ That’s sadder than ‘I’m going to tell you all the feelings that I have.'”

Mann adds, “People hiding their feelings is really sad. Covering up your feelings or having your feelings frozen, or feeling like you have to mask your feelings or put a different feeling on top that is very trauma-responsive.”

Photo: Sheryl Nields / Sacks & Co.

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