Beau Mansfield Trio release new CD “It’s Not All About Me”
Mansfield’s Norman-based group is playing the Paseo Arts Festival on Memorial Day.
By Doug Hill
“I’ve been playing piano in public for 37 years,” Beau Mansfield said. “But I’m still learning about live performance.”
The Norman native wasn’t even in grade school yet when he tickled the ivories for his first audience. Chosen "most talented male" at Norman High School in 1988 he also won the coveted Kochanski Award that year for piano playing excellence. Mansfield is also a vocalist with remarkably deep and voluminous basso profundo pipes.
“The most important I’ve learned on a technical level is that I am a bass singer and have been since my voice changed when I was 12,” he said. “Then I didn’t know how to scream like I do now.”
Mansfield demonstrated a few notes of a healthy soul song shout-out. He’s not just deep he’s loud, too.
“I used to sing in keys that were entirely too high for me and I’d crash and burn,” Mansfield said. “I’ve learned to just live in my body as a singer and only save the screaming craziness for very special moments. Knowing that allows me to maximize the colors in my whole range.”
These lessons well-learned are expressed in the Beau Mansfield Trio’s 2013 album “It’s Not All About Me” (Zanzibar Records). His trio includes bassist Jason Ethridge and Ken Dedmon on percussion.
“Playing with Jason and Ken really feels like a groove,” Mansfield said. “It feels natural and we fit each other beautifully and I’m pleased with the work we’re doing. There’s positivity to our music regardless of how people are struck by the lyrical content.”
The album’s 10 tracks have eight original songs written by Mansfield. They are remarkable for fearlessly examining his personal life. Certain ones may give the listener an uncomfortable feeling of emotional voyeurism. “Maybe I’m Wrong” would be difficult for any musician with typically artistic egotistical temperament to write. The self-examination detailed in its lyrics is brutal.
“My songs are about the struggle to relate to other people whether romantically or platonically,” Mansfield said. “There’s a dilemma that heterosexual man in modern America faces trying to balance masculinity with egalitarianism. I tend to have a desire to poke holes in the balloons of cliques.”
Enmity for exclusive groups has always informed his song writing and isn’t lessening with age.
“In my daily life I hold a lot of resentments in,” Mansfield said. “But in song form and on stage it’s safe as long as you do it in a way that doesn’t actively frighten your audience.”
He has found that to be honest with himself and listeners there’s no choice except to be explicit with his feelings. Mansfield doesn’t deny an exhibitionistic nature and actively cultivated that as an entertainer when he lived in New York for eight years.
“It’s one of the most vulgarly over-priced places to live in the entire world so I always had to work a day job,” he said. “That sucks all the energy away from your art work. Also, you can’t get anyone else in New York to want to do your songs, they want you to do their own songs. It’s a cluster f---.”
One redeeming value in the Big Apple was that at least there everyone was honest about their competitive natures.
“Talent and money will out,” Mansfield said. “Here nobody has any money but they’re trying to be supportive of each other but that just depends, it can be weird.”
Love interests and relationships in general have naturally been part of his creative inspiration with song topics expanding beyond that with maturity.
“The older I get the more I’ve been thinking about history, cultural circumstances and first world-third world perspectives,” Mansfield said. “On a more concrete level I go hang out with (Norman singer/songwriter) Doug Rader.”
Their friendship and even just Rader’s home gives him lots of ideas for songs. Mansfield credits remarks Rader made during the 2012 Norman Music Festival for inspiring his composition titled “Carnies and Hipsters.”
“Within 30 seconds I had the first verse in my head,” he said. “Its friends who make you feel comfortable with yourself and then the ideas just happen to come from various areas of life.”
If You Go
What: Beau Mansfield Trio in concert
Where: Paseo Arts Festival, 3022 Paseo, Oklahoma City.
When: 12 noon, Monday, May 27
Beau Mansfield performing at the 2013 Norman Music Festival.