Copyright 2000 Nylon Magazine

Nylon Magazine

November, 2000


LENGTH: 2,204 words


BYLINE: Jonathan Van Meter




Excerpts from an electronic friendship: five years ago, writer Jonathan Van Meter went on tour for ten days with singer-songwriter Aimee Mann for a piece he was reporting about women in rock. At the time, Mann was with Geffen Records and touring in support of her second solo album. When the tour ended, they continued the conversation.

From: Jonathan Van Meter

Date: Thursday, 7 March

To: Aimee Mann

Subject: just checking in

Hi. I'm establishing our e-mail relationship. For the record: I went through a fair measure of withdrawal after I parted ways with you and your people. I really hate that part of my job: the separation anxiety. I was really enjoying myself and didn't want to go.

So, what's been going on since last Tuesday? How's the recording going? Any news or stories or anecdotes that might further illuminate a) you; b) the life of a woman on the road; c) you?

Stefan, my ex-boyfriend, wants to know: Did you actually date an older man named Mr. Harris, as you sing in your song "Mr. Harris"? He keeps bugging me to ask you.

When I get down to the actual, painful business of transcribing all ELEVEN HOURS of tapes, I will surely have more questions. I would like to try to ask some of them online, but if you don't feel like answering them in writing we can just talk on the phone.

Also, if you get any news about further touring (i.e. dates) please let me know. Trying to figure out when to schedule this piece.

All my best


From: Aimee Mann

Date: Friday, 8 March

To: Jonathan Van Meter

Subject: Re: just checking

What a pleasure to hear from you I had sort of felt, after the shelling had stopped, that we never got to talk after all I don't know, those scheduled conversations always seem to lack a bit of spontaneity I'm still busy as fuck, and haven't even done my laundry yet. Pathetic. My band and I are having a little reunion/goodbye party Sunday night. We're all finding it difficult to adjust, especially Drew, who discovered for the first time the phenomenon of coming home and all your friends have kind of moved on without you in subtle but heartbreaking ways. He's leaving to go on tour with his band Monday. Lucky and I have a few more weeks, in which we must find replacement musicians. It's all very sad.

I must just take a moment to say how nice it was to have you around, even in such odd circumstances. Having other intelligent people in the vicinity always acts as a sort of life preserver even if I can't actually talk to them.

Anyway, we'll continue this e-mail experiment. The latest thing that's happened is I'm getting a lot of criticism for being "negative" in my interviews, about touring, I guess, and about the music business. I think THAT'S pretty funny- I mean, what was your first clue? Did anybody at Geffen actually LISTEN to my record? They just can't believe it when anybody says anything besides, "Yeah man, I love to tour-it brings me closer to my fans." As if I wasn't so busy schmoozing that I ever even SAW a fan.

Tell Stefan there was no Mr. Harris, only a misplaced romanticism of older men. Another bubble burst.



From: Jonathan Van Meter

Date: Wednesday, 13 March

To: Aimee Mann

Subject: confession

Ahh, the beauty of e-mail. Had you not been online, we may never have spoken again, because I would have thought it presumptuous to call you on the phone directly. Bottom line is, I just like you a lot and am happy that our correspondence is continuing. Also, you being a person who seems to understand the many levels and contours of "the crush," and seeing that you use the word liberally, I figured it would be okay to admit that I have developed a bit of a professional one.

It seemed to me as well that we didn't get enough time to really talk, but that's why this is so cool-we can just keep going at our leisure.

So who is giving you a hard time about being "negative?" The label? I didn't find your riffs about touring and the music industry negative, just critical and honest. You're supposed to hate the music business a little bit. Otherwise, you'd be Mariah Carey, living in a ridiculous 50-room mansion, literally IN BED with your label's president. Am I wrong?


From: Aimee Mann

Date: Friday, 15 March

To: Jonathan Van Meter

Subject: crush and industry

I've been having a discussion about crushes with Michael and we're trying to decide what to call the friend crush (new friend, call them up all the time, trade clothes and shoes) versus the romantic crush (needs no definition). My problem is, those two things can alternate, depending on the climate of the moment. And (for me) depending on gender. If the new friend is a guy, then a little romantic stuff is bound to creep in, I think- one just has to be aware of the co-factors. Michael calls the friend one an "infatuation" and the other one a crush. I don't know-I think they're really the same thing, but, for me, what makes it seem romantic from time to time is the level of stress in my life, calling out for a distraction. Crushes are good distraction devices you must allow.

Anyway. I've been talking to various people about this "problem" of me being "negative," and the consensus seems to be that I'm just doing way too much to be able to do it all perfectly all the time. So the pressure on my manager to keep me constantly working will ease up a bit, hopefully. One hopes.

Other than that-I do feel a little less frantic now that I'm back and have had time off, here and there. You can call me anytime you like, by the way. I'm not really considering this a "business" relationship, exactly.



From: Jonathan Van Meter

Date: Monday, 18 March

To: Aimee Mann

Subject: rant, plus questions

Hi. So, every fucking time I turn on the TV or open a magazine, there's a big "Women in Rock!" piece, and I feel like it's polluting my story: the psychic space in which this piece is developing, that is. I hate the media. They have to make everything into a big hammer and beat you with it until you hate everything. I want this piece to be informed with the subtext of the current climate for women in all culture right now, but God forbid if it reads as another Women in Rock! piece. I'll shoot myself. Just had to get that off. Sorry.

So, I hear you might be opening for Bob Dylan. Do tell. If so, how did it come about? How do you feel about it? What's the deal with opening for another act? Do you have any reverence for Dylan that would make this feel like an honor, or is it just another gig? Or would it be better to be playing to your own, decidedly smaller crowd?

Also, been meaning to ask: Is Aimee Mann (spelling and all) your God-given name? Speaking of God, were you raised with any particular faith? Do you count yourself as part of any religious group? Do you "believe?"



From: Aimee Mann

Date: Tuesday, 26 March

To: Jonathan Van Meter

Subject: various

Sorry I haven't gotten back to you and what have I been doing? I can't even remember I was in Denver doing promo stuff for a few days, and I'm starting rehearsals as of today. We're going to be a four-piece, and the new guy is great. I feel exhausted, as usual. I can only apologize again and again. I feel like there ought to be a way I can control my energy level by sheer willpower, but I can't. Goddamnit.

Women in Rock: There should be a way that you can address this issue head-on, as it ought to be addressed. It's time for the notion that women (and their viewpoints) are some specialty item" to be blown right out of the water, or at least have it acknowledged that that is what people are saying when they refer to things like "the women's perspective" or whatever. I'll tell you this, there's getting to be a Pissed-Off Person's Perspective, because it is highly irritating to be told your ideas and words and stories have no global value, no human application, just this interesting novelty slant, as if a woman's sense of loss or anger or happiness was qualitatively different from a man's. I'm not being super-articulate right now but you get the idea. So maybe THAT'S the story: How is my perspective any different from anybody else's, male or female? Sure, I've been slighted, ignored, made to feel trapped by stereotypes and expectations, but who hasn't? There must be, oh, a zillion men who, from time to time, have felt like that. And as to relationships- which I've been told over and over is what I write about, meaning that any relationship that a woman writes about MUST be a "love story," because that's all we care about- what do I experience that is unique only to women? Is loss, is dashed hopes, is feeling like you want to make out with the whole world? Are crushes? Is love? Is fear of being close? Anyway, this rant must be familiar to you now sorry if I'm repeating myself. I'm so tired I feel like I'm drunk.

Bob Dylan: Yes, I'm doing three weeks opening for the Odd One I of course think he's great but I'm not incredibly excited, only because I know how loony those old rock stars can be. I have no doubt that he won't say a word to me, and, you know, why should he? The issue of opening for someone, for me, comes down to these points: 1. I go on earlier so I have to play guitar in my hotel room after the show, plus more likelihood of a good night's sleep; 2. shorter sets, but harder to get a vibe going; 3. better equipment, but you might not get a soundcheck; 4. probably catered so we eat every day; 5. routed well so we spend a couple of days in a few cities, and drives between cities are shorter; 6. responsibility on Bob, not me, to show people a good time; 7. not my crowd, but then again, playing to new audience who might buy my record.

My name: Yes, it's my own. In fact, I asked my friends, in the early days, if I should change it cause I thought it sounded dumb.

God: I believe, but it's a trick question- I think that by WHAT you believe, you program the universe to start delivering along those lines. I would say I believe in God, but on specifics, I'm still doing research.

And on that note, I will sign off. I wish you were around so we could have brunch after brunch together.

love and crushes,


From: Jonathan Van Meter

Date: Wednesday, 27 March

To: Aimee Mann

Subject: you're back

I was beginning to worry. I figured, if something terrible had happened I'd be called upon to do AIMEE: THE LAST INTERVIEW.

Another question I've been meaning to ask: How big of a deal WAS the Jules Shear relationship? Do people ask you about it too much because of the last 'til tuesday album? Do people think EVERY SONG is abut him? Fill me on the drama of that if you can, or if you feel like it.

I'm really looking forward to seeing you again. Make sure you give me plenty of warning when you come to New York.

Crushed to death,



From: Aimee Mann

Date: Thursday, 28 March

To: Jonathan Van Meter

Subject: Re: you're back

Jules: We were only together for about a year-and-a-half, maybe two I was a mere 24, and he was 33. I think "seriousness" in relationships is a pretty relative concept when you're 24 you take it for granted that the other person is serious if you're talking about love and the subject of marriage ever comes up now, of course, I know better- you have to factor in everyone's personal demons. But 24 can't imagine the problems of 33. You're in love, they're in love- what's the problem? So it took me a while to realize it's much more complicated than that yes, I do find it irksome to have it assumed that every song is about Jules, as if I have no skill as a songwriter aside from straight diary entry, which, by the way, ain't so fuckin' easy anyway; and as if, in the space of 10 years, there was no possibility of me having another relationship (let alone the six or seven I did have) of any importance whether personal or literary. (You'd be amused to know who some of these songs are really about.)

I will certainly call you when I see the Chrysler Building.