Aimee Mann loves the fact that as an independent musician, she answers to herself and herself alone.
"It's refreshing not having to run things by someone who doesn't know what they're doing," said Mann about major record label officials during a phone call from Los Angeles. "It's hard enough to work in a creative environment, but having to do that as well as get permission to do something is even harder."
Mann, who has made solo records since 1993, said working with fantastic artists when she wants to is also a perk of her independence.
"To work with great musicians and offer people a beautiful package of music and artwork is the most rewarding aspect of what I do," she said. "I get to choose the songs and choose the musicians and choose the artist who will design the package. It's exciting."
Mann's new album "@#%&*! Smilers," which was released June 3 on SuperEgo Records, is a perfect example of what Mann meant.
She didn't waste time in the studio writing songs, and she knew which artist she wanted to do the illustrations and package design.
"There isn't a lot of time to do rewrites in the studio," she said. "I knew what I wanted. Although there were a couple of songs I dropped, I pretty much had the songs ready.
"The band and I did rehearse a few times before we started recording, but that was it."
Mann chose artist Gary Taxali, who lives in Canada, to do the cover.
"I've been a fan of his," she said, "and knew he would create a cover that would lend to the album's title and the songs therein within. If Gary didn't do the art, then the album would have been a whole different product."
Mann does lament the fact that she could only create a limited amount of "special edition" versions of "@#%&*! Smilers," that feature a bound, 32-page book, complete with more of Taxali's illustrations.
"I wish I could have made more, but that's the price of what's happening in the industry right now," she said. "With all the downloading and CD ripping, the industry as a whole has taken a hit. And it's expensive to make a CD, after paying for the studio time, the musicians, the producers, the engineers and the artists, there isn't much left. And if no money is coming in from sales, then some musicians' recording careers are over.
"I mean, if CDs go away, then I may not be able to record any new music."
Still, Mann is proud of the new album, which she and her band have called the "Area 51" disc.
If you go
What: Marc Cohn, Aimee Mann
Where: Deer Valley Amphitheatre, Deer Valley
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
How much: $31
E-mail: [email protected]