Mann's music comes to the Grange
October 18, 2023
In his professional life as an award-winning National Geographic photographer/film director and co-founder of the non-profit SeaLegacy, Niwotian Andy Mann is on the road and in the water 200 days a year. His time away is a mix of adventurous photography expeditions, public speaking, and marine conservation efforts.
The things he has seen and done are big - life-altering and world-changing - like being at this year's United Nations General Assembly where he was part of a team that compelled 68 world leaders to sign on to the first-ever international high seas treaty, a mechanism to put protective laws on international marine waters covering more than half of the earth's surface.
So, when he has time to reflect, perhaps on a sailboat in the middle of the sea under the night sky, Mann's creative juices translate his free flowing thoughts into poetry.
"I've always written poems and songs as a way to sort of journal my life," Mann said. "When I'm on expeditions and I'm making a film or being a photographer, I think artistically and in metaphors and it's kind of hard for me to straight journal the stuff I see and experience because it's just too hard to capture literally, it's just easier to wax about it."
When Mann was 14, his dad gave him a guitar for Christmas and he fell in love with it. On stage performances began with his high school band, but this November he will be performing his own original music - what he endearingly characterizes as "maritime folk music" - to celebrate the release of his first EP, "Full Moon Fight."
Mann said creating music is a way for him to bring about something meaningful with his journaling. Entirely in keeping with his expertise in creating images, his music also paints incredible pictures. He specifically set out to write five song-worthy tracks over the course of a year. To start the process, he culled through his poetic meanderings looking for lines that would serve as "anchors" for songs, and then layering on melodies to accompany the lyrics.
Mann tapped into the know-how of his musical heavyweight friends Gregory Alan Isakov and Cahalen Morrison in his pursuit to learn more about songwriting and lyricism. He also dug deeper as a vocalist by taking lessons with local performer Bonnie Sims.
Encircled by old growth cedar trees and falling snow, in a rustic cabin on the side of Mt. Rainier, Mann met up with his friend, singer and multi-instrumentalist Eli West, an acoustic musician based in Seattle, to film the creation of West's latest album. In exchange, Mann asked if West and his band would spend an additional few days hunkered down in the beautiful surroundings to record his five songs.
The album was tracked live, meaning, unlike traditional recording sessions in a studio, no one was in an isolation room playing their part alone. The band played each song about five times and the best recordings were selected for the album. The result is a musical creation that is authentic and synergistic, visual and visceral.
Even more live than the live album will be Mann's upcoming concert on Nov. 5 at the Left Hand Grange, a place for which he feels a deep affinity, he said. He has been on stage at the Grange while presenting the Willowdale Live concert series he started in 2019 with good friend Nick Dunbar, whom Mann credits for igniting his love of folk and acoustic music to a much greater degree.
The format for the evening is an opening performance by award-winning singer/songwriter David Berkeley, who has played around the world with the likes of Ben Folds and Ray LaMontagne, followed by songs and stories with Mann and West.
Creating the album "Full Moon Fight" was a step toward Mann's next expedition, a musical production about the seas, pairing his photography with music. The first performance is set to take place at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen on Dec. 31.
Tickets for Mann's album release concert at the Grange in Niwot, Sunday, Nov. 5, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m., are available at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/andy-mann-eli-west-full-moon-fight-album-release-show-left-hand-grang-tickets-731322062977. Children 12 and under are free. Wine and beer will be available.
To learn more about Andy Mann, visit http://www.AndyMann.com. His album will be released to the public wherever music is available on Nov. 2.