“You listened to my music, where do you think it fits in,” is the response from Ballinger-raised musician Manzy Lowry to my question about what genre his music fits into.
His sound is honest, genuine and represents the path his life has taken from growing up and graduating high school in Ballinger to graduating from Angelo State to now making his living playing his music around the country. He now calls San Marcos home but he spends most of his time touring.
“We just did a 33 day tour across 10 states but we plan on staying close to Texas for the rest of the year,” he said.
Lowry was in town to play the 8thtoberfest and put on a set that received a great amount of applause and appreciation. His music is not like the over-used “red dirt” term people throw around these days. Lowry’s music represents the true depth of west Texas and is as homespun as the cotton here once was. The music ranges in depth but it’s never shallow, never superficial. When Lowry performs he’s laying bare part of his soul for everyone to see and the fortunate ones actually understand it, “The vulnerability is in expressing your soul,” he says as he talks about opening yourself up for all to see.
Unlike many musicians who started playing music at an early age, Lowry didn’t learn to play music until he was at Angelo State University, “I started playing music in college. I had a roommate who moved here from Austin and he taught me to play. Around 2005 or 2006 I started teaching myself. Within a year or two I started writing my own songs and playing around town.”
Lowry is a cerebral, intelligent man who graduated from ASU with a degree in Animal Science with a double minor in range and wildlife management and Agronomy. His passion for music took soon took over and he found himself making a living at it quickly.
Lowry views being a musician as a job but it’s a job that courses through his veins with every note he plays on his guitar or harmonica, “It’s a trade, just like being a plumber or carpenter and sometimes you’re lucky enough that you do get paid for it.” The journeyman musician appreciates every moment he has in front of an audience, “Entertainment is not a necessity. It’s an opportunity for people to go and forget their problems. People don’t always realize the amount of work that goes into a show. We spend 6 weeks getting everything right for just a one or two-hour show. It’s a lot of work but there is nothing that compares to performing.”
One of the songs the hometown product played was “Lasting Impressions.” Lowry tells a short story about writing the song in honor of his grandfather who was a veteran. He speaks of missing his grandfather and the good times that they had together while recognizing the sacrifice his grandfather made as a veteran with time spent away from his family in service to his country. “Lasting Impression” is a worthy homage to the impression his grandfather has made on him. Through that sixty-second introduction you suddenly feel as if you’re listening to a friend perform on stage and not just some musician in on a bill. It endears Lowry to fans as you get a glimpse into a most personal aspect of his life, his relationship with his grandfather. Lowry is the real thing, a glow that isn’t lost midst of blinding Nashville and Austin city lights. His voice cracks with emotion as he reflects as he talks about his time with his grandfather. It’s a breath-catching dive in the depths of what makes him Manzy Lowry.
Songs like “Lasting Impressions” seem to be the best because the verses are pieced together seamlessly, they are dictated by the soul and there is no hyperbole in them, they are pure. Those songs are the essence of songwriting as Lowry points out, “I was in a hotel. I bought a 6-pack and sat there with my guitar and wrote that song in about 20 minutes. It’s one of my most requested songs. The best writing advice I ever received was ‘Write about what you know and don’t try to fake your way through a song.’ I’ve always followed that advice.”
Another key to success in the music industry is longevity as Lowry points out, “The people who rise to the top are the people who don’t quit. Some people show up for a couple of years and disappear.” In this day and age of numerous “one-hit-wonders” it’s not lost on many that Lowry is now going on a little over a decade and is still putting out original, meaningful music. Lowry wouldn’t trade a few decades of live shows with original music for 1 minute of radio airplay of the same song over and over again for those same decades. Lowry’s dedication is to the process and to the craft, not the pursuit of one overplayed song of a false idol.
Having a good band is also a key to putting forth good music. Lowry’s lead guitarist is another west Texas product, Colby Tate from Mertzon. Tate’s loose, un-tucked long-sleeved shirt has the sleeves rolled up to his elbows with an old pair of jeans comfortably hanging from his 6’+ frame. He is the epitome of a relaxed, talented musician, comfortably covering the range of Lowry’s songs. Tate graces strings with his fingers as he plays, coaxing the deepest sound from those 6 pieces of taught wire that perform the perfect partnership with Lowry’s lyrics. Those strings can lead the charge into a lively, up-tempo song or they can become the perfect backdrop for aching lyrics, like the sound of a soul breaking. Tate’s riffs are unique and explode with the sound of creativity. He lives his music from the top of his trucker hat to the cigarette dangling from between his lips. His head down as he plays, more bowed in reverence to the music coming from the guitar and the instrument itself than anything else Tate switches gears on cue.
Lowry’s bass player and drummer form a solid rhythm section, “Everyone in the band has a past. They are a very eclectic group of individuals and I’m blessed to be around these cats.”
Lowry’s dose of hometown flavor is a key ingredient to his success, “Balling is a big piece of the puzzle of my life. I don’t get back as often as I’d like but I usually come down to hunt with dad once or twice. Ballinger has obviously played a large role in my life.” Dad is Rex Lowry who works at Toliver Brothers car dealership here. The senior Lowry was out there catching his son’s show at the festival.
As to the question Lowry posed to me regarding which genre I felt his music belongs to; I feel it’s part of the Manzy Lowry genre, because it’s that unique.
If you’d like more information on Manzy Lowry, his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and his website it www.manzylowry.com.