The story of her moving new album…

On ‘First Time’, the second track of her new record ‘The Greatest Part’, Becca Mancari sings the words: “I remember the first time my Dad didn’t hug me back…”

It’s a stunning track about the judgement she faced when she came out as gay to her Evangelical Christian family. “I had so many kids come up to me, or adults even, at shows, and be like, ‘Hey, just so you know, you being open makes me feel strong enough to maybe come out’,” Mancari says. “Or, ‘I did come out, and your record makes me feel less alone.’ When I was growing up, I didn’t have very many people to look up to. I wanna be an artist that I didn’t have.”

Born in Staten Island and raised in Pennsylvania, Mancari spent her young adulthood travelling, living in Appalachia, Arizona, and as far as India, before settling in Nashville, Tennessee.

Now embedded in the creative community there, Mancari worked on this – her second record – with collaborators such as Paramore’s Zac Farro and singer-songwriter Julien Baker.

Clash caught up with her about the journey that led to ‘The Greatest Part’.

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One theme on the record is your experience of coming out. Have you found any redemption or forgiveness from that experience?

That’s been hard, I’ll be honest. It’s still so painful. I came out almost ten years ago, and I’m writing this record. I think because, for a lot of queer people, when you do come out, and you face that intense separation and opposition, you almost go into survival mode. You just kinda have to breathe; you just have to be like, ‘Okay, keep going.’

So throughout the years, it’s been very difficult. I’ve gone through different seasons of my own personal journey with my close family. But that being said, the hope is always to have some kind of reconciliation with people who are different from you. I’m controversial in this – I’m not trying to change anybody.

I grew up an Evangelical Christian. Always trying to evangelise you to believe something. My thing is like, I can’t influence you, I can only live my life and hopefully you’ll see something that is good, and maybe it will change your mind. But I’m not gonna try to change your mind.

I think I’ve had to realise they will probably never accept that part of me, but how can we build a bridge to each other? I wanna create bridges with this record too. I never want to break those down.

There’s this line on the song ‘Stay With Me’, where you talk about ‘children raising children’. Is that a part of you finding that kind of grace?

Yeah, that was one of the hardest songs for me to write. I just remember writing it and sobbing. They are, they are children who were hurt when they were young, by their parents, or family members, or the world. They’re just trying to do their best.

Is religion still a part of your life?

I think it always will be. Religion is difficult for me. I’m interested in the history of things, and all religions are interesting. But I don’t feel like I have a religion. I do believe most definitely that it’s not just Becca wandering around the universe. I think there’s something else, that has guided and loved me.

I was taught you are innately bad, you cannot trust yourself. Which is very difficult, when I believe in having an inner voice. I quieted [that inner voice] for so long, because I was like, ‘You’re bad, there’s no way you can guide me’. Whatever God was, I think was always trying to speak to me, but it was inside of me.

Once in a while, I talk to friends who grew up very religious too, and I’ll be like, ‘Do you ever get scared sometimes?’ And they’ll be like, ‘Oh yeah.’ I’ll go, oh God, am I wrong? Am I definitely going to Hell? But I’m not gonna live in that worldview anymore. I definitely feel like I still believe in this inner, fundamental thing: there’s something beautiful that’s love, that is inside of us. It’s very real to me, and I want that voice.

How does going through such judgement affect your perception of yourself?

I spent years hating myself. Outwardly, I’ve always been a happy, positive person. A lot of funny people are the saddest people on the planet. When Robin Williams killed himself, it was devastating to me. Because I know what it’s like to be the one who’s always trying to joke, bring people together, and be so devastatingly sad. I had a fight to stay alive, many times.

I think why I chose to make this record upbeat sounding, is that as I get older I still feel these things, but I want to be well. I want to be happy. People want to steal your joy, and it’s a choice to really let it happen. So I’m gonna choose to keep my joy, however I can.

Much of this record seems to be about looking for belonging. Would you agree with that?

Oh, yeah. When you live in a world where you’re afraid of losing that belonging; you’re afraid of losing your ability to be with a group of people because of who you are – it’s scary, and it’s like having to find your way back to yourself when you’ve lost all indicators of where you came from. It’s about forgiving people; forgiving yourself, even, for being who you are.

I have hurt people, and that’s really hard, to not let bitterness or constant hurt dictate how you’re gonna live. I feel like the record is about that cathartic release of telling the truth for the first time. And then all the after-effects that come from doing that. And then, hopefully learning how to let it go and be free.

Have you found a place within the creative community in Nashville?

It’s amazing, yeah. I’ve found the best people to play with in the world. If you let it, you can get what you need, artistically. When I first moved here in 2013, I felt like the women in the industry were pitted against each other. It’s a very male-dominated industry still. At the time it was like, ‘no two women could be celebrated at the same time.’ 

So I started these nights. I texted Brittany Howard, Margo Price, Jenny O, Erin Rae. And I just said, why don’t you come over, bring your guitars, and let’s drink and play music, for fun? Not for an audience, not for a show, not for somebody filming us, but because we just love to play music and why are we being pitted against each other? It’s been amazing, we’ve been doing them for years now.

How has working with other LGBT artists helped you find a belonging?

It’s so nice to be around queer people. I love all my friends, but there is something very special about this unspoken, understood world. We know what it’s like to travel in the south east of America and know that it’s better to have one of our bandmates walk with us.

I’ve been to deep Mississippi, Alabama, where I’ve felt afraid because I’ve been openly gay on stage. Or I’ve been walking to gas stations and had people whispering. I haven’t been beaten up before, which a lot of my friends have, but I’ve been pushed, I’ve been harassed, I’ve had my hand ripped out of partners’ hands while walking through a bar.

So yeah, when I’m around my friends – like Julien [Baker], even. She sang on ‘First Time’, and I was just like, ‘You get it’. We come from different worlds. When I first met her, she was still very in the Christian queer world, and I was not. My experience was not positive coming out in the church, whereas she’s had a different experience with that.

So it’s interesting, I like the perspective of all different types of queer folk. I think it’s very important to me to be around those folks. We’ve all been there for each other, and we all get it.

What would you say to your past self?

Be kind to yourself, and don’t be afraid to tell the truth. That’s it.

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‘The Greatest Part’ is out now.

Words: Mia Hughes

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