The Nashville-based artist turns a room of strangers into neighbors
On a rainy Thursday night in Brooklyn, Becca Mancari bounced onto stage at local venue Baby’s All Right to a room full of supporters. The Nashville-based artist, born in Staten Island, played through the first three songs with high energy and enthusiasm, echoing the momentum present in their newest record Left Hand. After song three, Mancari took a moment to address the crowd, mentioning their New York roots, and shouted out their two siblings in the crowd. Throughout the set, they had an easeful way of making the room feel warm and connected, carrying with them an infectious kindness.
When interviewing Mancari a few days before the show, they mentioned their upbringing in a Christian home. “My dad was a pastor,” they shared, “and I was raised very religious. I started playing music because it was an outlet for me. I knew I was queer very young, and I also knew that I was so in love with making music. It was my haven to get my emotions out.” Their family left Staten Island when they were young for a small town in rural Pennsylvania. After growing up in this restrictive environment, they wound up as a substitute teacher in Southern Florida, then finally landed in Nashville.
“When I first moved to Nashville, being queer and open about my experiences was not really celebrated by the business.” Mancari has been in the city for 10 years now, and has grown to be a prominent figure in the music scene, and a fixture of the queer creative community. They’ve collaborated with Brittany Howard of The Alabama Shakes on many occasions, releasing a driving and mysterious track “Don’t Even Worry” on Left Hand. They speak of the beauty of “the community where I am right now… I get to have Julien (Baker) on songs, and only because Julien is my friend and lives down the road!”
This neighborly and community-oriented perspective came through in Mancari’s live show as well. Their presence on stage was vulnerable, and they weren’t afraid to share the stories behind the songs on this newest album. In both the show and our interview, they spoke to the difficulties of being a queer person of color living in the South. At the same time, they “know that people like me who choose to stay and fight for the South and fight for communities like that, it’s so important because there are so many queer people there.”
Accompanying them on tour was the Nashville-based project “Wilby,” who took on the early 7PM slot with grace. The lead singer Maria Crawford’s voice was clear and luminous, atop the band’s raw backdrop. Their songs were full of tasteful time signature changes, satisfying melodies, and an obvious sense of connection between the band members. After chatting with Maria at the merch table afterwards, she spoke of the joy of playing shows with Becca, acknowledging her kindness, which seems to be uncontested.
On stage, Mancari moves gracefully between moments of emotional intensity and intimacy, then also allows the music to speak for itself, letting the band shine. A favorite song from the set was “Don’t Close Your Eyes.” It’s driving and upbeat with a catchy shimmery guitar line. The lyrics “Don't close your eyes/ Are you ready? / Only get one life, only get one time” echo back to a moment in their interview when they shared that people come up to them and say “this music helped me stay alive.” The artist shares that after the process of writing this album, “I finally get to say I’m gonna be around, and I’m gonna see what’s coming next. And that’s something I didn’t know was going to happen for me.”
Mancari also shared about their production journey on Left Hand, after a difficult experience with a producer who had an aggressive approach to making an album. After this incident, their long-time friend and collaborator Juan Solorzano encouraged them to take the reins on production and co-produce alongside him. “I had already done the pre-production, demo-ing out everything in sessions. We ended up using a lot of those sounds…re-amp’ed to give them a different feel.” After reclaiming this creative agency, they shared that their “next chapter in life is to try and create a space for women and non-binary, queer people to start to learn how to produce.”
This production prowess came through in Mancari’s live performance as well. With a simple rock band setup – Mancari on electric guitar, April Lee on electric bass and Moog, Nathan Wahlman on drums and Thom Chapman on lead guitar, the band weaved in electronic elements seamlessly with live instrumentation. Some songs were tender and intimate, like the Gillian Welch-inspired “Golden” and their ode to mother nature, “To Love The Earth”, and others gritty, driving and raw with Becca’s resonant voice ringing like a bell above the band. For the final song, they asked everyone to bring it in closer to the stage, ending the show with that same warmth and sense of community. “I think I’m in a place where the ‘thing’ is with me right now, so I’m just gonna keep riding that wave.”
written by Nan Macmillan