One-man band Billy Manzik prefers towns to cities, hits Steamers Saturday en route to Canada

A traveling troubadour may seem like an affectation from America’s distant past, but that’s Billy Manzik.

The one-man folk blues band is headed to South Shore, stopping in at Steamers Bar and Grill for a Saturday night show on Sept. 19.

Billy Manzik vertRaised in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Manzik acquired his love of music from his mother, learning to play the guitar as a young man. It wasn’t until his early 30s, however, that he began to play in public.

“I’ve played all my life,” Manzik said. “In high school I was more of a visual artist, I was too shy to sing in front of people.”

In 2007, Manzik assembled a crew of experienced musicians into the Billy Manzik Band.

“There’s a big folk kind of clique in Canada, and I was influenced more by rock music, although I guess I was kind of in the folk genre,” Manzik said.

“But when I went to record a record and put a band together I went for all these jam band guys that had played a ton of gigs.”

The group debuted at the Juno Awards (Canada’s equivalent of the Grammys), and toured around the country. The group released an album, “AllTogetherNow” in 2009, but split up after a few years.

Soon after, Manzik’s Canadian producer referred the musician to Brad Haehnel in Southern California, and Manzik decided to head south. A well-respected producer, Haehnel had spent years working on the music scores for Pixar films, as well as working with artists such as Nellie Furtado and Dr. Dre.

Haehnel immediately took a liking to Manzik, and hooked him up with a number of Los Angeles musicians; the groups would sit down with Manzik, learn one of his songs, and record the track in one or two takes. The result: “Black/White,” Manzik’s third album, soon to be released.

“It was done over the course of the last four and a half years,” Manzik said of the album. “It’s rootsy; it’s folk with the elements of blues and bluegrass. I’ve been going more into a country style now, country blues.”

Onstage, Manzik offers up the iconic one-man band performance, playing a resonator guitar, a harmonica, a kick drum and a tambourine pedal.

“At shows a few years ago, I was always stomping my foot to the music,” Manzik said.  “And I was like ‘Why am I stomping my foot, just get a kick drum and actually get some noise out of it.’ ”

Manzik tends to vary the intensity and volume of his performance based on the locale he is playing.

“Depending on the venue, I play a lot of wineries especially here in the Central Coast, where you have to play kind of mellower, but at clubs and bigger venues I like to rock out a little more,” he said. “I try to make it sound like a full band, you know?”

Manzik plays about 150 shows a year he said, across the Western United States and Canada. While he covers a lot of ground, Tahoe is one area that he has only visited briefly.

“I’ve only played there once,” Manzik said of Steamers. “The people there were nice. It seems like a cool little venue.

“I haven’t played hardly at all in that area though; a friend hooked me up with that gig, so I’m hoping to come up there a lot more.”

The area could hardly be more to the musician’s liking, evoking memories of the mountains near his hometown. Manzik prefers open and secluded areas over urban environments.

“I used to play a lot in the city,” he said. “I used to play Friday nights at a piano bar in Hollywood that was a pretty hip joint. But I found that I was making more money and having less stress playing rural areas.”

After the Tahoe show, Manzik is making his way back up to Canada, where he will reunite with the members of his old band for the first time in years. While he normally plays several shows a week, this trip is about assessing the group’s chemistry.

“I’m not even gigging up there, this is more of we’re all going to regroup and see if we can hang out number one, and then maybe write some music,” Manzik said.

His friend and producer, Haehnel recently founded a record label, with Manzik functioning as a guinea pig of sorts. Haehnel also recently secured Manzik a manager. With access to top-notch sound and studio equipment and professional backing, the musician aims to try to get the old band back in gear and down to Southern California for some recording.

“That’s the plan, we’ll see. We’ve set it up with no expectations so we can have fun,” Manzik said. “It doesn’t have to be perfect as long as the feeling is there and its fun.”

Aside from the regrouping project, Manzik is keen on the prospect of life with a professional manager.

“I want to see what happens with the manager, he’s talking about getting me on some tours and on a bigger act,” he said. “I’ve done that a bit, opened for some bands, but just one-offs, it would be nice to get on some tours.”

Above all, Manzik is enjoying his musical odyssey.

“I love my life, I pretty well wake up every day happy, where before when I was trying to be this or that I wasn’t extremely happy,” he said.

At the core of his philosophy is the elegantly simple pleasure of playing live music for people.

“That’s what I’m doing now is trying to get people up dancing, emptying glasses and shaking asses,” he said.

  • Billy Manzik
    When: 6 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 19
    Where: Steamers Bar and Grill, South Lake Tahoe
    Tickets: Free show





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Tahoe Onstage is an online entertainment and sports magazine covering Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Reno, the Carson Valley and June Lake.


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