Singer-songwriter Aimee Mann and poet Billy Collins have teamed up for a handful of shows dubbed “An Evening of Poetry, Acoustic Music and Conversation,” including a Monday performance at the Mondavi Center in Davis.
Mann has had a successful solo career after recognition in the ’80s as a new-wave artist as part of Til Tuesday. Then in 2011, there was a chance encounter with former U.S. poet laureate Collins at the White House.
In a recent interview, Mann had much to say about her upcoming shows along with details of her recording and touring life.
Q. Were you an avid poetry writer or fan long before meeting Billy Collins?
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A. Honestly, I don’t write poetry, but I like collaborating with my music. In many ways, a lot of poetry is harder to deliver onstage and is also read in a rather flat voice. I also know very little about poetry and think Billy is extremely witty and clever. We met at the White House for a celebration of poetry. Thankfully, someone on the White House staff was already a big fan of mine and invited me.
Q. How much pressure did you feel when releasing your first solo record?
A. There was a gradual die-off of my band Til Tuesday, and by the third full band record I had already started on my first solo record (released in 1993). Eventually, I was so tired of the major label system where if you aren’t a priority, it’s impossible to get anything done. When Geffen (her former label) was absorbed into Interscope, I used that opportunity to leave. I started my own record label called SuperEgo records in 2000.
Q. You’ve had an extremely successful solo career since 1993. What do you attribute that to?
A. The landscape for women completely changed over the years. I was told by A&M records before signing with Geffen they couldn’t sign me since they had another woman on their current roster.
Q. Do you see a marked difference in the way women are treated on the live circuit today as opposed to when you started?
A. Definitely. I think it’s hugely different. The Lilith Fair (Sarah McLachlan’s short-lived but highly successful package tour, which included Mann) was great for me. Back then, you couldn’t have a woman open for you or open for another woman. What Sarah did was an amazing thing for all women.
Q. Is there a meter or cadence for these shows of poetry with acoustic music?
A. We will alternate regularly from night to night. One thing that we did add to my live music show and his spoken word poetry is talking to each other and having the audience participate when needed in between pieces. These shows are interactive and a whole lot of fun for everyone.
We’ve probably done a dozen shows in the last three years. Because this is a small part of what we both do, the poems he chooses to read and the songs I play change from night to night. When we first started playing live together in 2013, I didn’t really know what to expect.
Aimee Mann and Billy Collins
What: An Evening of Poetry, Acoustic Music and Conversation
When: 8 p.m. Monday, April 25
Where: Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, UC Davis, One Shields Ave., Davis.
Information: 530-754-2787, www.mondaviarts.org