“The recording process was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had in the studio”, says Nashville singer-songwriter Becca Mancari on her single Hunter. “The emotion is really in the song”.
Hunter, the first single from Becca’s forthcoming new album The Greatest Part, is the perfect example of the emerging talent’s tremendous songwriting craft; a tale told from two perspectives based on her own deeply personal experiences.
It reflects back to a person from her childhood church who, later in life, sent Becca frequent letters in the post telling her to “repent”, calling her a “nasty woman” for the clothes she wore and the songs she sang about.
Her second single, First Time, follows another open, personal path as she takes the perspective looking back at her younger self, asking “did you find your way out?”.
Talking about First Time, she said: “First Time' was a song that I did not at the time have the strength to write when I started, but as soon as the first line of the song came out of me I knew there was no going back.
“I came out years ago, but never really told my story. When touring people started coming up to me after shows to tell me their own stories of coming out and how hard it was for many of them to do so, I wanted to write a song that not only is my story, but also a story that many others share.”
Paramore’s Zac Farro’s production skills on The Greatest Part have boosted Becca’s sonic pallet and elevated her sound and musicianship skywards.
It marks another chapter in her incredible journey so far.
She was born on Staten Island into an Italian/Puerto Rican family who held strong religious beliefs.
After a childhood spent wrestling with identity, belonging and sexuality, she travelled the world embracing experiences from Arizona to India before settling in the global music mecca of East Nashville.
She has since drawn major praise for her honest songwriting and captivating live performances, which will see her support friend and collaborator Brittany Howard in September.
Becca Mancari's poignantly heartfelt melodic style of songwriting touches the soul.
Daily Star Online caught up with Becca to talk about how she’s coping with lockdown, writing The Greatest Part, working with Zac Farro, and her evolution as an artist.
Hi Becca. How are things? Are you keeping well in strange times?
“Highs and lows. Pretty much consistently bounce back and forth between those feelings. It's been years since I have had this much time off the road, so it's definitely taken time to adjust.
“Though I am working on building a new normal into my routine. I have also been spending a lot of my time catching up with old friends on FaceTime, and that has been really helpful and special. Oh, and cooking a ton of things that I have always wanted to learn how to make.”
You’ve released the single Hunter. What was the writing and recording process like? What was it like writing from two people’s perspectives?
“Honestly, Hunter came out of me so quickly! The morning that I was going into the studio to work with Zac, I had received another letter from what now has become this character of a “Hunter" - or like a self righteous saviour figure - and as soon as I put down the letter I basically had all of the lyrics in my head.
“I really liked writing from two people's perspective I actually have been doing that in my writing for a while now, as they say there are two sides to every story. The recording process was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had in the studio. Because it was just a demo at first, we had no expectations other than trying to have fun and embrace what came out. And because it was so fresh, the emotion is really in the song.
The message behind Hunter is extremely personal. It recalls the story of a person from your childhood in church who later sent you frequent letters telling you to “repent”. How important is it for you as a songwriter to be open and honest in your themes and output? Have you ever found it difficult writing songs about personal experiences?
“I think with this record in particular I knew I needed to stretch myself, and push myself to the limit... I knew that I had only skimmed the surface on my last record, and after I toured and met so many different kinds of people, I realised that we all really are just craving honesty at the end of the day.
“We are craving connection though the truth and I knew I really needed to let my guard down for this record. And yes, it's been very difficult to be so personal.
“I have been having dreams of my childhood home and hometown that almost feel like nightmares, but I think that they really are moments of closure... of moving forward as an adult into the light of a new day.
“It's never easy to feel like you are exposing yourself or your loved ones, but I felt in my gut that this was something I needed to do.”
It was produced by Zac Farro from Paramore. What did he bring to the track's production?
“Wow, I mean I think he brought everything! His passion, his skill, his joy! He has such an incredible mind. I was amazed to see how fresh and interesting everything was that he brought to the table.
“He played drums, bass, keys, and guitar on almost every track. He took my songs and with the combination of being a professional drummer and now producer he really was able to elevate my music. I just think that he is going to be one of the greats when it comes to production.”
You’ve signed for revered indie label Captured Tracks. How have they supported you as a label?
“It's a dream to be signed to such an incredible label like Captured Tracks. I mean they have helped launch some of my favourite acts. And they truly are focused on making sure that they support the art of their artists, and are not just in it for the business of making money, you know what I mean?
“I also am so thankful for the fact that Jane Abernethy, managing director for the label, reached out to me and said that she really believed in this new record.
“I really respect her work... she worked for 4AD for many years and discovered acts like Grimes and Tune-Yards, so when she reached out and said she believed in me, I was pretty excited.”
How did your upbringing in Staten Island mould you into the person and artist you are today?
“Ok, so in all fairness I only lived in Staten Island as a very young child, before I moved to rural - and I mean RURAL - Pennsylvania. What I will say is that I always was surrounded by people of all different backgrounds and walks of life because we always went back to the city, and it really helped shape the way that I saw the world which was that it was a whole lot bigger then me and that felt good to know.”
You’ve also travelled around the world before settling in East Nashville. What pulled you to East Nashville and how important was visiting various parts of the world in helping you find purpose?
“I think that it is a privilege to be able to travel that I don't take lightly. That being said, I think if you save all of your money and you really set your mind to it, travel is possible.
“I did not grow up with money, but the one thing that my dad valued more then anything was being able to take us with him on trips, and seeing places during my lifetime like Zimbabwe and India embedded a deep belief that the world is a whole lot bigger then I am.
“It's our stories that make us unique, and that's why I wanted to become a songwriter. So, I think I have the traveling bug buried deep in my blood, and thankfully this job has given me the ability to do so.
“Not a very romantic story of why I moved to East Nashville, but I came here without ever visiting... I just got in my car with a couple suitcases and a guitar and said to myself I think I need to go to the hardest place on the planet to stand out as a songwriter. If there is one thing I can say about this town, it's that they call it the ten year town for a reason: it's hard to break into, but it will teach you a whole hell of a lot.”
How have you evolved as an artist since launching your career?
“I think I have learned a lot about finding your own voice, literally as a singer I think that it's really important to know what YOUR voice sounds like... I think a lot of times people want to sound like someone else and it's kind of sad to me because I think the greatest thing we have are our own voices and stories.
“I also think I had no idea how hard the business side of being a full time musician really is...I definitely am still growing when it comes to that, but it's very important to understand how every part of your team works. Someone once said to me, ‘you set the tone of how your team will work, so you need to be the hardest working person in the room.’”
You’re set to support Brittany Howard on tour in September, your long-time musical collaborator and Bermuda Triangle bandmate. How much are you looking forward to that? How much have you learned from her working together?
“Brittany is one of the greatest artists of our generation, but she also is one of the most down to earth and real humans you will ever meet. I get this question a lot obviously because how can you not love Brittany Howard, but honestly, at the end of the day she's just one of my best friends and as true blue as they get, so I am just thankful that we met.”
You are set to release your next album The Greatest Part in June. What can we expect from it? How did the process this time compare to your previous album Good Woman?
“I hope that people will listen to the record from start to finish. It's one of those records where I feel like I am trying to give you a full story. The story is about learning how to forgive yourself and the people around you, and hopefully the record will help you feel less alone.
“This record was very different then Good Woman... on that record I had my live band in the studio the whole time and we had played the songs out a million times, but with The Greatest Part it was basically Zac and I in the studio alone playing all the parts, and only when we got stuck did we bring people in. It was the most fun I have ever had in the studio, the most off the cuff creative experience I have ever had as an artist.”
Do you have an ultimate goal you want to reach?
“I am a live musician through and through, so I want to reach as many people as I can by playing these song to them in real life. I can't wait for that moment.”
Becca Mancari’s The Greatest Part is out on June 26 via Captured Tracks