Dean Manning is an Australian indie pop musician, painter and filmmaker. He’s currently based in Athens, Greece. Manning is well-known for his music as a member of Holidays On Ice (with Frente’s Angie Hart) and Leonardo’s Bride, winning awards and reaching number four on the Australian singles chart with the latter group.
Last month, Dean released his second solo album, Sunday Mountain. He’s joined on the record by multi-instrumentalist Justin Stanley (Prince, Beck) and drummer Stella Mozgawa (Warpaint, Kurt Vile). It received quite a bit of buzz on Hype Machine blogs and in the Australian music media. American Pancake praised him saying, “An exquisite sense of not overselling and knowing that less can be more.” The album is now available on vinyl, CD, digital download and streaming services via the label Cloudy But Fine.
Below is a link to the album on Spotify, as well as an official music video for the single “Messy Time”:
Learn more about Dean Manning in the following All Access interview:
Thank you for your time! So what does a typical day look like for you lately?
I’m usually up around 6.30 am. Black coffee and a few hours work on whatever needs doing which lately has been music related. At about 9 am I head to the local pool. I do laps 3 – 4 times a week. Back home for breakfast, coffee & more work. This month I have been scoring all the songs in the live set for cello. Lunchtime, read a little, siesta. Afternoons are given over to playing music or maybe a few hours work in the new apartment. Evenings can be anything, a movie, theatre, an exhibition, doing nothing. That sounds kind of mundane.
Now that we are in the latter half of the year, how has 2019 treated you?
I think I’ll look back and think phew.
What are some goals that you have had for yourself this year? What are you already looking forward to in 2020?
My new solo album Sunday Mountain was released along with 3 singles and videos. I found a bigger place to live because I am going nuts in this bedsit. It’s taking ages to fix up but I should in around Christmas. I’ve also tried to eliminate plastics from the household – packaging, bottled water etc. I’m looking forward to playing live in 2020 and traveling a little.
Growing up, how important was music in your life?
My parents took me to guitar lessons when I was about 10. There was a piano in the house and I taught myself that so music was all around. I started writing songs in my early teens. At school a few friends and I spent most of our lunchtimes in one of the small music rooms going through David Bowie and Led Zepplin songbooks trying to figure things out. I met Justin Stanley around this time and he invited to join a band he had. We played parties, school dances and occasional venues.
Can you recall the moment when you decided that you wanted to be a musician?
I remember playing at one particular party and having an outrageously good time and thinking mmm I could do this forever.
Was there ever a time when you thought about doing something else?
There was a darkroom at high school and I loved photography. I went to art school and majored in film & video. I could have been a cinematographer I guess. After I graduated I went to Los Angeles and found work on a feature but then I ended up in New York playing in a piano bar. Music has lassoed me back more than once. I enjoy painting too and 10 years ago I had my first solo show. I’ve had a few since then.
If you weren’t a musician today, what else could you see yourself doing?
Ok, so if wasn’t any of these things first I could be a carpenter. Wood is a beautiful thing.
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music in your career?
Maybe that I get the same buzz making music now as I did when I was a kid.
What has been the best part about it all?
The friendships. Looking back, I’ve met nearly all my lifelong pals through music, either other musicians, video makers, managers, publishers.
Let’s talk about your new solo album, “Sunday Mountain.” What was it like putting this collection together?
Sunday Mountain came together pretty quickly. I didn’t set out to make a record, it just fell into place. I worked with few old friends, Justin Stanley, Stella Mozgawa and Ben Moore so it was a great excuse to hang out.
How did you celebrate the release of it?
I was in Athens on release day. It was summer and hot. I know I should have been out on tour promoting the record but I wasn’t. I went out with a few friends for drinks. Everyone seemed to be celebrating something that evening.
How do you think your track, “Messy Time” prepares listeners for more music from you?
“Messy Time” is a kind of indicative of the music I make – the self deprecating lyrics, minimal production. That said, I do traverse dream pop, electro, alt country.
What was the inspiration for this song in particular?
“Messy Time” is a 3-step program to accepting you fucked up.
How creatively involved with the making of the music video for this song were you?
I enjoy making music videos. I worked with a Greek artist Anastasia Carrots who drew the line portrait of me. We filmed as she drew it. I later re-shot that footage, coloring it, messing around with it.
What has been a favorite show of yours so far?
My old group Leonardo’s Bride was winding up after 10 years. One of our last shows was an outdoor concert in the Sydney Domain to 80,000 people. Lots of the crowd were singing along. That was special.
What do you think makes an ideal show for you?
In the early days of Leonardo’s Bride we had a long residency at the Strawberry Hills Hotel in Sydney. At every show we’d put the names of each song in a hat and passed the hat around in the audience. The crowd randomly called the songs. I loved those shows for their spontaneity and mayhem. I know the audience did as well.
Where can people see you perform next? Do you have any upcoming tour dates scheduled yet?
I’ll be playing shows in Australia this December. In Sydney I’ll be at the Bearded Tit in Redfern on December 22. It’s an afternoon show, 4pm. More AU dates to follow. Early next year I’ll be playing in Europe and hopefully the US mid year.
How do you think you have grown as a musician since you first started making music?
I think I approach music much the same way as I did when I began. It’s always been about a group of people coming together to make something glorious.
What if anything has stayed the same about your music-making process?
Writing lyrics. I’ve always stitched them together slowly.
How do you feel about social media? What do you think social media has done for your career?
To be honest, I’m not a great exponent of social media so I guess I haven’t enjoyed the benefits I know it’s afforded many other musicians.
I started releasing music before the internet. It was a very different time of interacting with your audience. I’d go to the post office box every week to collect the fan mail. There’d be all these colored envelopes in different sizes with handwriting and interesting stamps. I have to say, I really enjoyed receiving mail. I answered every letter the group received. I know I sound like a dinosaur but I preferred that pace.
I appreciate social media is convenient and musicians can bypass the old school gatekeepers to succeed and connect to their audience but I sometimes wonder if the nature of it places more emphasis on the cult of personality rather than the work. There’s a tendency now to want artists to reveal everything about themselves which can often overshadow the music.
What has been the best thing a fan has told you?
I think he was a fan. I was outside a pub sneaking a durrie when I struck up a conversation with a fellow musician who told me all about how he’d written one of my songs.
Where would you love to hear a song of yours played?
From a passing satellite.