Having been in the music business since her teens, singer/songwriter Dayna Manning has experienced almost everything an artist can go through over the past 20 years. She’s documented it all in her debut book entitled Many Moons: A Songwriter’s Memoir, published this month in conjunction with a new self-produced album, Morning Light.
It’s all a testament to the Stratford, Ontario native’s creative drive that helped her endure the highs and lows of being signed to a major label at a young age, to going indie and collaborating with fellow singer/songwriter EmmGryner in the group Trent Severn, to mentoring a new generation of artists through her Folk Army program.
Morning Light finds Manning pushing her songs in new directions through the help of arranger Ben Bolt-Martin. The aim was to recreate in part the sound of classic “chamber-folk” records that any fan of Wes Anderson movie soundtracks will immediately recognize. But the album is also a tribute to Manning’s deep love of her hometown, and the inspiration it has given her.
Dayna Manning officially launches Morning Light and Many Moons in Stratford on Oct. 27—accompanied by the string section on the album—at Revival House. The ensemble will also perform Nov. 15 in Toronto at Hugh’s Room Live and Dec. 15 in London, Ontario, at The Grand Theatre. For full details, go to daynamanning.com.
What makes Morning Light stand apart from your past work?
I wanted to explore sounds associated with chamber-folk, so this album is quite different production-wise. I’m singing and playing as I usually do, but it’s all lovingly arranged by Stratford Festival alumnus Ben Bolt-Martin for French horn, flute, violin and cello. I also wanted to make an album that’s a snapshot of the music community here in Stratford. It was almost entirely performed and recorded by local professionals, which was extremely important to me. In terms of the songs themselves, I consciously didn’t try to write a “hit” on this album. I was interested in capturing stories, moments and feelings; it’s the kind of album I think is best heard in the morning as you’re having your first coffee of the day.
What songs on the record are you most proud of and why?
From a production standpoint, I am thrilled with how Charlie Lake [written for a location in northern B.C.] turned out. I love how the orchestration captures the depth of the area’s history and the feeling of the Northern Lights I enjoyed there one September evening. That night the locals taught me that if I whistled at the lights, they would dance.
From a musical standpoint, I love King Of The Background, which I wrote as a tribute to one of Stratford’s heroes, Richard Manuel of The Band.
You're also publishing your memoir Many Moons along with the album. What made this the right time for you to write it?
I’m mentoring many young women singer-songwriters in my community. I wanted to share how being a songwriter has changed and guided my life with them, so I wrote a memoir told through my songs. It’s really to show the challenges and positive effects of choosing to live a creative, musical life. Depending on the chapter, I share how I was inspired to write a particular song, or how it was brought to life, or how it led me to my next idea or the incredible adventures that ensued because I wrote the song. I want readers to be inspired to follow their dreams and to document the strange, unexpected ways in which my life has unfolded because of songwriting.
What's your best touring story?
I’d say it’s how in 2013 I ended up in a VIP section at the back of Parliament Hill watching the Canada Day fireworks with the entire Snowbird Demonstration Team and two astronauts. I tell the full story in the book, but it was all because I wrote a song!
What song by another artist do you wish you had written?
Where do I start? Off the top of my head, I’d say the entire Beatles album Help, Crazy by Gnarls Barkley, These Eyes by the Guess Who, Rolling In The Deep by Adele, The Story by Brandi Carlile, Free Man In Paris by Joni Mitchell, Lay Lady Lay by Bob Dylan… I could on!
Twitter: @ daynamanning
Instagram: @ daynamanning
Press: Jane Harbury