Photos and Interview by Bill Quinn
Harry Manx, the ‘Mysticssippi’ blues man from Canada, a seamless blender of the East and West, has returned to Australia and is wending away around the country performing to audiences with great support from Yeshe Reiners.
Having interviewed him briefly at the National Folk Festival in Canberra in April (audio link at the end of this article), Bill Quinn managed to track Harry down on a rest break in Darwin.
Bill Quinn: Welcome back to Australia. It hasn’t been that long that you were here last. It was a surgical strike in April for Bluesfest and The National Folk Festival. Does it feel like you’ve been away for long?
Harry Manx: Well, I’m starting to really get used to Australia at this point, and feeling pretty much at home. And I’ve had some wonderful journeys on this trip.
BQ: What are some of the highlights of what you’ve done since you’ve been in the country this time?
HM: Well, I just came through Broome and Darwin for the first time. It’s very interesting to play to crowds who have never seen me before, and that went really good. The land up there is very spectacular. Before that I was in Perth, and Perth and Fremantle – that whole area – has always been good to me. We had a great crowd out at the Fly By Night there, so we’ve been having some fun.
BQ: When you go to the new areas, do you find that people are drawn to the idea of, “Here’s this Canadian blues guy coming to town”, or do they know more about you and the “East meets West”? What is it, do you think, that really sparks them?
HM: I guess there’s some people at these shows that have done some research and found out a little bit about me. It’s so easy to do that these days! It’s good, you can feel like you know the artist already by the time you get to the show. So they were pretty much into it and they were asking for songs, and I think that was a great thing that they had done some homework and knew who I was.
BQ: I’ve looked at the rest of your tour schedule and it looks like a bit of a drunk wandering around the country; you’re doing a few loops, aren’t you?
HM: Yes, well, that would be my agent would be the drunk, then! He books them! People ask me where I’m playing and I say, “Well, I don’t know. I do pretty much what I’m told!”. Except when it comes to playing the guitar.
BQ: And you’re up there in Darwin taking a few days off. Are you getting to see a bit of the country?
HM: You know, when we have a day off, we don’t usually get out much and do things. It’s more like not doing much of anything and trying to catch up.
I’m working on some music for the Montreal Jazz Festival coming up in July and I’m putting together a show called ‘World Affairs’. So I have to work on music like that, and days off and beautiful places like this, they’re a real joy, so I’ve spent the day working on some of that stuff.
BQ: Now you’re up there with Yeshe [Reiners]; is he doing the full tour around Australia with you?
HM: He is, yeah, he’s been getting around the country with me and people have been enjoying him. He’s got a lovely record out, ‘Roots and Wings’, and he’s playing songs from that. But he joins me on stage and sits in for a few tunes and I like that combination of him and I; we have a lot of similarities.
BQ: I believe the next stop off for you is far northern Queensland; is that a place you’ve been to before?
Yeah, I think I’ve played in Cairns at the Tanks Art Centre maybe half a dozen times over the years, and it’s always been wonderful. I’m always fortunate to get to Cairns; it’s a lovely town. A nice bit of the tropics.
BQ: And I will ask you about Canberra where you’re coming back to; it’s a place you’ve played a few times, haven’t you?
HM: Yeah, and you know for many years I’ve played there and it seems like every time I’ve played there I’ve played a different place. I’m not sure why that is! The last occasion was great when I got to play at the National Folk Festival. That seems like a very wonderful event. And I think I’ve got a few good friends and fans around Canberra now, and I’m looking forward to getting back there.
BQ: They’ll look after you for sure at the Canberra Southern Cross Club, so we’ll look forward to seeing you there. Harry, thanks very much for your time.
HM: You too, I appreciate you doin’ this.
Harry’s remaining tour dates in Australia:
Friday 8 June – Tanks Art Centre, Cairns
Saturday 9 June – Riverway Arts Centre, Thuringowa
Tuesday 12 June – Notes, Newtown
Wednesday 13 June – The Brass Monkey, Cronulla
Thursday 14 June – Lizottes, Dee Why
Saturday 16 June – Heritage Hotel, Bulli
Sunday 17 June – Club Sapphire, Merimbula
Wednesday 20 June – Canberra Southern Cross Club, Woden (ACT)
Saturday 23 June – The Palais, Hepburn Springs
Monday 25 June – Wellington Entertainment Centre, Sale
Tuesday 26 June – West Gippsland Arts Centre, Warragul
Wednesday 27 June –Ruby’s Lounge, Belgrave
Thursday 28 June – Caravan Music Club, Oakleigh
Friday 29 June – The Sound Lounge, Gold Coast
Saturday 30 June – Star Court Theatre, Lismore
Full details at harrymanx.com
Audio from interview in April at the National Folk Festival: