Acclaimed Nashville musician Becca Mancari (they/them) recently released their third album, Left Hand. It’s a record that came out of a dark period in Mancari’s life, yet the self-produced album is anything but. Wide-open and welcoming, the music beckons all listeners, encouraging community among strangers. To that end, Mancari surrounded themself with some friends and long-time collaborators for the making of Left Hand. The album was largely co-produced with Juan Solorzano, who has played on all of Mancari’s records, and was mixed by Carlos de la Garza, the producer of Paramore’s last record. Daniel Tashian (Kacey Musgraves, Demi Lovato) also co-wrote and co-produced one track. The album also features trusted friends like Brittany Howard, who Mancari plays with in Bermuda Triangle, as well as Julien Baker and Paramore’s Zac Farro.
Becca will play Montreal on Saturday 30 September at Ursa as part of this week’s Pop Montreal festival.
We caught up with them over Zoom to chat music, relationships, survival and hope.
Watch the full interview below:
Montreal Rocks: So, Becca, how are you?
I’m doing well, thank you.
It seems like the obvious question to start an interview with, but I feel like after I’ve been listening to your music for a while and paying attention to the lyrics, I feel like I want to know how you are.
Wow. That is a very nice thing to say, and I think it’s really interesting. I always joke with friends like, “Maybe you should ask me how I am doing because I’m saying it in my lyrics more than I’m saying it always in real life or in my conversation.”
So, yes, I am doing much better, and I am very thankful to be here, and I think that is testament to the work I’ve done in my life and also the music that I’ve made. It keeps me going. I said that to the audience last night. We’re on tour right now, so I was saying that to them. This is the reason why I’m still here, is the music that I make, and being able to play it live is pretty much what I love the most about being a musician, honestly.
Your lyrics are very personal, and a lot of musicians leave their lyrics very open to interpretation. Some of your lyrics are like that, but a lot are very just like you’re bearing it all. Is that why people connect with it, do you think? And also, do you ever worry about sharing too much?
Yeah, I mean, I would say that I’ve had some conversations with some friends about the left hand in particular. They said, well, number one, they all said that they cried through the record. And then fans have said that too. They’re like, “Oh, I really felt that.” I think for me, it’s like this. It’s always a risk to bear your truth in front of strangers because people can interpret that and misuse it and even abuse you at the end of the day. But that’s their choice. And the world is so, I think, equally as beautiful and as cruel as it is. And I think for me, I just want to provide a place where people are allowed to be honest. And honesty isn’t always sexy, and it isn’t always fun, but it is important, and it makes me, I think, feel connected to others in a really real way. And I need that as a person. Like, I can’t be a liar, you know? It’s just not in me to do that. So, yeah, it’s a risk, but it’s the one I take, and I appreciate the fact that people are responding to it and allowing themselves to open up as well.
Left Hand has been out a few weeks. You said you’ve been out on the road. What kind of feedback are you getting from people about it?
I’ve been pretty overwhelmed. I’ve gotten a lot of, you’ve really like levelled up. I think that there’s been a huge shift in me as an artist. I’ve put a lot of time and money into my touring rig. I have bought my own Play Black rig, which are in-ears that we run ourselves.
So, last night, we played a show, and it was amazing. And the feedback, so we’re opening a tour right now. We’re opening for my friend Joy Oladokun, and we just had such a good show. I think this is always an indication, when my merch line is super long right after a show, then, you know, you killed it. So, yeah. That’s nice.
Do you stick it around to watch Joy every night?
Oh, yeah, I love Joy. Joy is a good friend of mine. We’ve known each other for a long time. And we talked a lot last night, actually, after the show. And I just think that the two of us on a tour together is so powerful and so on purpose, like Joy really did want to support other people of colour. Like, you know, I’m Puerto Rican. And I know for me in the indie world, especially the indie world, she’s more in the pop kind of like almost mainstream at this point. The indie world, it’s funny. It’s I always thought it was going to be more accepting than the Americana world. And I have found that it’s even worse.
There’s so many barriers, I think, still there for people of color to really be celebrated. It’s still like the white folks are at the top of the indie world. So like everything else, you know, so it’s very important to us to be on a tour where that’s being celebrated. And the fans, I think, are really responding to that. It’s really, really special.
So you mentioned that she’s a friend, and you have a few friends on the album as well. Tell me about how that actually happens, and what about your friends that are not on the album? Do they feel like they want to be, and they get left out?
Funny question. Nobody’s ever asked me that. Oh, I don’t think so. I mean, maybe. I think it’s just about who’s around; you know, I live in Nashville. So a lot of us live there. And so one of those things is like with Julien (Baker), in particular, Julian’s gone all the time. And it was just so last minute that I was actually not going to have Julian sing on this record because she had sang on the last record. And I had somebody else in mind for Over and Over. And then that didn’t happen. And we were working so fast, and I needed to wrap it up. And then I was like, you know what, Julien? I know that you really want to start engineering records. So do you want to engineer your vocals? And she was like, absolutely. Like, come over. Like, let’s do it. And it was something that was so organic. And with Brittany (Howard), though, that was very particular. I really wanted to do that. It was very intentional because we both were in a band together for years, and we’d never written a song, truly just together. And it was something that I really wanted to experience. And, you know, she’s like my dream producer someday. I’m working on that one. That’s going to happen someday because she’s like she’s just like my best friend, but also the best musician I know. I tell her that all the time. I’m like, you know, Brit, we’re like brothers. We hang out all the time. But you are my favourite musician. You don’t forget that. Like, don’t lose that. I think you’re the greatest of our generation.
Do you ever go fishing together? I know she’s keen on fishing.
So, talk about producing. It’s all you this time. Tell me about some of the challenges of doing that.
It’s a really big challenge to put it out and have a response from people and friends in particular, you know, I’m working on not caring what other people think and just being like, that’s nice. That’s a nice opinion. That’s great. You know, moving on. But it’s definitely scary. It was definitely very anxiety-inducing just to be at the end of the day, these are my decisions. And I had so many incredible people. My very close friend and collaborator, Juan Solorzano, co-produced the record with me, and he’s just so pure, and he’s so in it for the music. He’s not in it for the ego. He serves the music only. And I think that was our guiding light, which was like we are not afraid to make something really beautiful and emotional. I wasn’t afraid to allow things to be emotional. And I think that’s something that my last record, I was very emotional in the words, but the greatest part had an undertone of like the feeling was very light. And I think allowing Left Hand to feel dark at times was something I needed to do because that’s how I felt. And I wanted you to feel all of it with me. So in that way, the production was very pointed towards that, like allowing it to be something cinematic, almost like it feels like something. It’s my story, and I want you allowed in a universe with me. And so it’s scary, you know, because it feels like you step out bravely and it was a big step, you know. And I had a lot of people say, this sounds expensive. This sounds incredible. And I was like, well, I get really lucky to work in a city where I have friends that are unbelievably talented. Like I can just go down the street to a backyard, to a studio that is unreal, you know.
So it’s just choices. I made that choice. Maybe I’ll make my next record like a punk rock record in a garage again. I’m never going to make the same record twice.
I have to congratulate you because I’m quite picky about my sound. You might call me an audiophile, but I hate that phrase, really. And I have to say, it sounds beautiful. It’s really, really well done. So I know what your friends are talking about when they tell you that.
I wanted to go back to something that you said at one point. You said that you felt like a passenger in your own life. What do you mean by that? And how has that feeling changed, if it has?
Yeah, I mean, for over 10 years, I had to dissociate to survive. You know, I think for me, I had some stuff going on that I didn’t know, even like coming out was really traumatic. When I came out as queer, I knew that my family would basically kick me out of the family. But I think to survive for a lot of queer people, we have to not talk about it. And the truth is that I wasn’t OK. And that was happening for so long. This behaviour of dissociating that when I went to therapy at the end of 2020, I started waking up again. I started actually being in my body and feeling that trauma again and then healing from that and then allowing myself to be part of my own life again, not just surviving.
I have a lot of compassion for myself, for other queer people, and for other people who have experienced severe trauma. So now I think I’m allowed to say I love myself, I forgive myself, I forgive others, and I’m working on it because that’s the journey, you know, the one thing I would say about for me, especially as a queer artist that writes for our experience, there is no end story yet. Like a song on the record, I Had A Dream. There’s that line, “I had a dream where we make it,” but I don’t know if they will. I don’t know if we actually will. It’s a dream. It’s a hope. But you have to be OK. I’m now in the driver’s seat where I’m like, it’s OK, Becca, if they never accept you, if you never get that, you get to still live your good, gorgeous life. And that’s what I’m doing right now.
Do you think therapy helps your songwriting in any way?
I think so. Yeah, because, you know, I think with therapy, you realize that it’s two sides to a story and you have more compassion, I think, for the person that has hurt you and the things that hurt you in life. I have a song called “I Needed You” on the record. And at first, it was directed only towards the person. And then I went back and was reflective on it. And said, well, what did my choices do to that person? Even if they were wrong in the way they reacted to me, they still have a feeling. I think as we get wiser, I think you realize there’s nuance, and I think nuance makes you a better writer, in my personal opinion.
You mentioned about your family, like disowning you after you came out. But I read that your granddad was one of the first people that came around to the idea.
Can you talk to me about how that happened? Because I know he’s featured on the album.
He’s pretty cool. He’s a really funny guy. Yeah, he’s 93, and he’s still going. He’s sharp as a whip. You know, he’s Italian. His dad’s from Italy, from Calabria, Italy, and he’s first-generation American. And he’s Catholic, blue-blooded Democrat, grew up in like Delaware, a union guy, you know, tough guy.
His thing is just like God is love. And he just really never understood ever. I’ve always loved this about my grandpa. Even racism; he was just never part of that. He was just like, I love people. And if God is supposed to be loved, then that is supposed to be what we do for others. And this is the guy that’s tough. Like my grandpa is equally the best person and the toughest guy I know in a lot of ways; you know, to live to 93, you have to be pretty tough. So, yeah, he’s just somebody that I knew was a risk because I didn’t know because he’s old school, I guess, in some ways, but he’s always been a feminist. He’s always thought that women should be the president. I mean, like he was a big Hillary Clinton fan. He was like Hillary should have won, you know, like that’s his vibe. He’s just one of those guys where I think for me, that’s the kind of phone call I get from him all the time. Hi, sweetheart. I love you. Hi, baby.
Me and my band, that’s the kind of relationships that I have in my life and have kept me alive. So my best friend is my family. They’re like my chosen family. And I think that’s something that has kept me going for a long time.
So they’re looking after you. Your friends. How do you look after yourself these days?
I don’t drink on the road. That’s a big one. Like I can’t. I used to be a really big partier. I struggled going to sleep at night when I was on tour. So I would just like… drink! I’d just pass out. And that’s really been huge to not do that kind of lifestyle anymore. When you’re kid starting, they give you no money, first of all, like you get paid maybe 100 bucks and then they give you drink tickets, you know. And it’s just the culture of how we kind of make it through the night. And I was definitely a road dog when I first started making music. I toured and toured and toured.
So now, you know, I’m still a good time, and I love hanging with my friends and talking to people after shows. But I spend a lot of time alone now and centre myself. And I do meditation and stuff. I appreciate myself now.
So we appreciate you, too. I appreciate your time. So thank you for talking to me. And I would just like to know what hopes you have for the next 12 months now.
You know, my hope is that Left Hand for me is a slow burn. I feel that about this record. I feel like it’s almost like a record that you need to listen to a few times to be like, oh, this is really hitting me like this feels like something that’s like a book, almost like it feels like a story. And that’s really different than just writing a record that just feels fun or instant. I think Left Hand is going to have its moment even a while after its release date. I’ve always felt that way. I am deeply working on my live shows; on my communication with fans. I’m like on my socials all the time, responding to their messages. I’m building something to last me the rest of my life. I don’t see myself as a flash-in-the-pan artist. I’m a career artist that I think will make such good records that people will go back and be like, oh, they’ve been making really good music since 2017, you know? And I know that my breakthrough is coming. Whatever that looks like. When people say, well, what does that mean? I just mean like fans that are coming to my shows, and they feel like I’m an artist that they want to live with in their life and live in their homes with them. And that’s really special. And I don’t take that for granted because we only have so much space in our brains and our hearts for something. And I want to earn that. So next 12 months, I’m earning their love.
Left Hand is out now via Captured Tracks
Photo credit: Sophia MatinazadShare this :