The legendary Canadian multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Harry Manx, last here in 2010, returns to our shores with a massive national tour visiting almost 40 locations. He spoke to Mandy Nolan ahead of his gig at the Mullum Civic Centre on Sunday.
You studied with the inventor of your signature instrument – the 20-stringed mohan veena – VM Bhatt in India for five years. How did you discover that this eastern instrument could be used to create western music? I suppose I’ve always been someone who likes to find their own way of doing things. I took whatever knowledge I could from Indian classical music and armed with the mohan veena I proceeded to find out what exactly ‘doing my own thing’ would sound like on that instrument. I bend the rules of Indian music but I always try to retain the spirit of it; that to me is the essence of playing ragas.
What’s been the reaction to your ‘mysticcssippi’ blues by other blues musicians? Who do you count among your fans? Yes, apparently blues musicians are into anything that has at least five per cent blues content (same as any decent beer). The blues community has honoured me with a bunch of awards over the years and I’m glad to be a part of their world. I attend the Blues Awards in Canada every few years.
You’ve returned to solo touring this time. Why? I always return to playing solo every once in a while because it gets me back into the songs the way they were first created. The audience seems to want that from me too. It’s very challenging and interesting for me to play solo; I like it.
I understand you’re working on a new CD of originals. What subjects interest you for the new material? Well, my new CD is going to be instrumental. It will be the first instrumental release for me. I’ve been recording some of it already. Of course there is an Indian element to some of the pieces; others are more African rhythmically with an undercurrent of blues. The music will deal with my usual subjects (ie love, life, death, laughter) but the words will be replaced by (more) notes.
You’ve been touring to Australia over the last 12 years. What’s special about Australian audiences to you as a performer? The audience here get involved in the performance. They give their attention and their energy to the show. I don’t know that I get that level of attention everywhere; it works here… I’m grateful. I find every show is like the first show if the journey is captivating. I try to make that happen by being present during the show.
You’re a busy internationally touring musician with a family. What’s the secret to making that work? Come home bearing gifts, lots of them, and try to buy your way out of any disgruntled attitudes. But the real secret is that when I’m home, I’m totally there, not on the phone or watching shows etc. I pay attention to the ones sharing my life. Having them there allows me to go out hunting and gathering!
Sunday 13 May, Mullumbimby Civic Hall, 8pm showtime, 7pm doors open for Open Table dinner. All tix: $45 + bf @ oztix.com.au and at the door if not sold out. Info: Management – Bob Charter 0414 882 355. National Publicist – Alison Pearl 0428 845 570.