At the end of 2018, Beka Mankari Found himself in a low place. The previous year, he would make his countrywide debut, Good lady, Nonstop travel with artists like Julien Baker And Joseph, And the guy starred in the trilogy The Bermuda Triangle As well as this Brittany Howard And Jesse Lafser. But after so much, he returned home to Nashville – estranged from his manager, uncertain about what would happen in the future.
So, he started writing, and from that uncertainty came his recently released album, The biggest part. Produced by friends and Paramour Drummer Jack Farrow, a huge change for LP Mancari, trades his soft toang for rhythmic pop with the weight of the song. It’s a very personal collection, a unit that helps with his religious upbringing and processing his humorous identity বিশেষ especially the unemployed. “For the first time, ”Which reveals the details of his experience. We talked to Mancari about how sharing his story through music has changed his words, audience and himself.
Spotify for Artists: Which Inspired You to Write “First Time”?
Beka Manakari: For curious people who go through a lot of traumas with coming out – for me, at least – I just knew how to survive year after year. I didn’t know how to grieve or feel these things, because if you want to live, there’s no time for that. I know it’s heavy, but I just realized I wouldn’t be physically here if I felt all these things when I first came out.
[“First Time”] In particular, this line came to me, from the story of my arrival: “I remember the first time my dad didn’t hug me.” And I went back to that back porch that hot night in Virginia and it came to me. I have to believe – a lot of people come to me on the show and say, “Hey, being open and visible helps me believe that I can be even happier” -[that] Happiness is about sharing. I wanted to [The Greatest Part] It will feel good when you hear it but bring out the stories, bring out the heavy things. That song in particular is about learning how to re-parent yourself, love your child and move on.
“First time” speaks to both your past and your identity. What was it like to share that part of you?
The day it came out, I panicked. This whole record only turns to the next chapter, which asks itself, “Have you found your way? Are you okay? And if you have to leave your whole world in a sense, how do you find your way to the next world?”
The response has been overwhelming. People reached out and said, “I got it, thank you.” Even the parents reached out and said, “I don’t understand my trans child, my weird child, but I want to. I don’t want to reject them. It’s too much. I didn’t know I had signed up to take on that responsibility but I think, as an artist, what could be a better time than this to create music that would help change the world?
What was the most challenging aspect of that responsibility?
It’s hard to hear that so many people are living in such fear: the fear of losing family, friendships, and often the communities in which they have grown up. It also annoys me to think that this is still happening all over the world every day, and I hope that one day there will be no need for a song like “First Time” and that funny people will be fully embraced. But until that day comes, I want to be visible and, as I do, I am optimistic for my own family and life.
The repetition of the song “Hey, have you found your way?” Really strong. Did you manage to do it?
I know the feeling of running for so long that I wanted to be there, “No, really – have you found your way?” Really ask yourself this. Spend time. I’ve only played it live a few times and people immediately sang the line to me. They already knew the song.
How did that reaction affect you?
It certainly made me feel like I wanted to be stronger, the more I embraced K. The “first” picture we chose was a picture of me without my shirt on. It’s not a provocative, sexual, masculine-looking picture. This is a very strange picture. It’s something I’ve never accepted yet. My friends have noticed this, and other artists who are curious have said, “Here you go! Claim who you are. Be proud of who you are and how your body looks.”
The shift is amazing, telling this kind of story. Every little curious kid, every weird kid, every color man-these are our stories. I always had a lot of heroes who were old whites and I realized that there are a lot of heroes I’m discovering now who are like me, and that’s pretty amazing.
What advice do you have for other artists who are hesitant or unsure of how to tell their own stories through music?
Someone I saw as a writer once said to me, “Beka, write what you know” and it hurt me a lot. Since then, I’ve chosen to write about the thing I know most intimately: my own life. But I will personally tell him that I am writing to be polite to myself and others, but do not be afraid to write what you know.
– Robin Bessier