Dave Manning cruises into Nevada City
The first time you see Dave Manning, you might be stuck behind him on the highway, puttering into town at his customary 50 miles per hour.
“I drive the same old VW bus I bought when I was 17,” Manning said. “It’s all stock, and likes to cruise at about 50. It was designed right after WWII, when life was slower.”
Manning makes his living driving from town to town, playing music and living out of the bus.
“When I first quit my day-job and went on the road full-time it was to support playing music,” he said. “Now I play music to support living on the road.”
That road takes Manning all over. He’s toured the Rocky Mountain states and all across Europe.
“The good news is, everywhere I go I find great people,” he said. “People willing to share what they have, whether it’s a little or a lot.”
For Manning, living slowly comes just as naturally as driving slowly.
“There’s a billion-dollar industry out there telling us we can’t be happy until we go faster, spend more, get connected,” he said. “The thing is, they are selling us a lie. For me, happiness comes with going slower, spending less, and connecting with those around me in the moment.”
That’s what Manning sets out to do every time he gets on stage.
“It is harder now,” he acknowledged. “People are so used to instant gratification from the smart phone in their pocket, but it’s hollow. I can’t tell them ‘Shut up and listen,’ they hear that all the time from media. But when they look up for a few seconds; when they see the expression on my face, the look in my eye, they get something that they won’t find in their phones. Just a real person expressing the wonder, the joy and mystery of living on Earth. I am just me, writing songs about my life, my loves, and singing the cover tunes that really resonate with me.”
Manning picked the wrong instrument for his lifestyle.
“I started playing the piano because it was so heavy,” he said. “A piano is 500 pounds of wood and steel that resonate under the touch of my fingers; an amazing feeling.”
Five hundred pounds of wood and steel in a VW bus?
“I wish every club had a piano,” Manning said. “And I do perform on a real piano whenever I can, even if it isn’t perfectly tuned.”
For the other gigs, it’s his trusty keyboard, he said, adding, “I’ve had it since ‘99. Now it’s getting to be like my bus, an old friend that helps me along the way.”
Manning’s style is hard to pin down, as are his influences. His voice carries the gruff, working man sound of Tom Waits or Bruce Springsteen.
“But I’m also inspired by the silky voices of the crooners, the New Orleans piano sound, and the rocking boogie woogie of Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis,” Manning said.
His sets are a canvas of contrasts. A raunchy drinking boogie followed by a smooth, tender rendition of a jazz classic.
“I play the songs that inspire me,” Manning said. “BB King said, ‘The blues is truth,’ and that’s what I play, whether it’s blues or not.”
Manning will be performing at The Golden Era Lounge on Sunday from 7:30-10:30 p.m. No cover.
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