With Aimee Mann’s deep yet immediate 2005 album, The Forgotten Arm, Joe Henry demonstrated that his “live-on-the-floor” approach is as effective with contemplative guitar pop as it is with eruptive soul. Most of Mann’s previous records “were carefully assembled by very talented people, but over long periods of time,” Henry points out. “And I think she was looking to do something else.”
The Mann/Henry collaboration began with sucker-punch spontaneity. “We both take boxing lessons from the same trainer,” Henry says, “and we were sparring one day—if you can imagine that. We were getting coffee afterward, and she made a comment to the effect of, ‘I’d love to make a record with somebody for whom The Beatles isn’t their only frame of reference.’ I said, ‘That would be me.’ ... So we tried an experiment. I said, ‘Lemme put a band together for you, and let’s take three days and go in and cut two songs—record, do vocals, overdubs and a rough mix—and see what happens.’ And in fact we recorded five songs in two days. I think it blew her mind a little bit, because the music was very exciting to her and felt very alive to her… and there was plenty of time to get coffee afterward.”
They reconvened a few months later at Studio A of Hollywood’s Sound Factory (Henry’s favorite workspace) and in less than a week completed the most free-spirited recording of Mann’s career. “There’s nothing like the energy that happens in a room when everybody’s playing together,” Henry raves. “The song kind of stands up and identifies itself. You can’t possibly get that any other way. It’s a real high.”
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