Lisa Mann — Talent and Heart

Confucius says “Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”

I think Lisa Mann may have read that advice and taken it to heart about 35 years ago.   All of the leading experts say that the road to happiness is to figure out what your natural gifts are.  Find your passion and follow it.  Trust your instincts and do what you love and let the chips fall where they may.

It all sounds great.  Wonderful.  Nirvana.  Why didn’t I think of that?  How utterly simple!  Unless of course you discover that your natural talent it to be a performer in the music business.   I would guess that over 99% of the people who realize music is what they love to do end up selling out for their second choice for the simple reason that there’s no money in it.  It’s fine for a lot of people as a second source of income, which is why most keep their days jobs.  To try to make it in the music business full-time, most musicians / singers end up working the business from at least 3 different angles.  Teaching is common.  Some do some recording on the side.  But if your real passion is performing and you’re trying to make the rent from gig money, good luck my friend.  The math just isn’t there, no matter how good you are.

That’s why it’s impressive when I run into local musicians who have taken up the music business full-time come hell or high water.  It’s what they love to do, so they put their hearts and souls into it, 401k be damned.  These people understand the term “personal sacrifice” all too well.

One such local musician, Lisa Mann is a full-time musician ( bass player ), and singer who has taken this road.  Lisa is very much an “in-demand” performer whose motto is “I’ll gig anywhere, anytime.”  She has the flexibility to go out as a duo with just a guitar player for smaller venues, can put together an awesome trio if the budget is a little higher, or if you want the full meal-deal, go with Lisa Mann and her Really Good Band.  Any/all of these configurations I highly recommend.

I first noticed Lisa as a volunteer at the Waterfront Blues Festival.  I was lucky enough to get a “back-stage” assignment for an afternoon which basically amounted to monitoring the stage surroundings to make sure no kids were clowning around underneath.  Tough job.  One one such sunny afternoon in July, I had duty on the North stage and the first act was some kids from the Midwest who had incredibly high energy and stage antics.  I couldn’t tell you the band name but watching them perform you got the impression that they were geared up for Woodstock.  I think about 3 people were paying attention.

Next up was the “Northwest Women in Blues Review” which, near as I could tell, was sort of All-star cast of the best female performers in the Pacific Northwest.  Sonny Hess I was familiar with as I’d seen her at the Blues Festival in previous years and was struck by the fact that she handles leads incredibly well.  You just don’t see women shredding the neck on guitar like that very often so when you do, obviously you remember it.  I was looking forward to seeing her perform with the other NW Women in Blues Review but I wasn’t too familiar with the other names on the list.

So I’m back stage and the women are setting up and I’m watching this short little bass player, all of about 4′ 10″ I reckon, setting up front on the big stage.  Hmmmmm, I wonder who that is?  Pretty soon we all found out.   The vocals were so powerful.  She belted out tunes Aretha Franklin style that echoed across the park and half way down into River Place.  There may have even been some folks on the Sellwood bridge groovin’.  What-a-voice.  The crowd went haywire.  How can so much energy come out of that tiny framework?  I was wanting to find out more about this little dynamo on stage.  Come to find out, her name was Lisa Mann.  So noted.

It’s always good to discover another local talent to follow on your weekend musical diversions.  Portland is rich with local talent that’s for sure.  The bar is set pretty high for being considered in the top tier.  Some of the local musicians we have — a few names come to mind — Erick Hailstone, Tim Ellis, Sandin Wilson, Jason Moore, Norm Whitehurst, Marty McCray, Tiffany Carlson, Jim Walker — and I would include Lisa Mann in this group as a vocalist and songwriter, are just one lucky break away from playing much bigger stages.  The talent is there, no question.  All that’s missing is that one lucky break a person needs to get the national level exposure and things could take off.

Talent aside, that’s not what this blog post is about.  Portland is rich will talent, sure.  But so are a lot of cities.   Big deal.

This post is about heart.  We see benefit concerts fairly frequently on TV. You’ve seen them.  Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Elton John, Neil Young and a whole cast of others get together to give relief to Hurricane victims or Aids relief or whatever the cause.  That’s nice and highly commendable, but these are all millionaire musicians.  They can afford it.  God love ’em for taking the time and I don’t want to take anything away from them for their efforts, but it’s a personal sacrifice of limited measure.

What IS impressive is when you find someone from the non-millionaires club whose finances are anything but flush, offering to throw a benefit for someone less fortunate.  Enter Lisa Mann, some friends and the Rally for Aly

Aly, age 11, is Lisa’s next door neighbor who has been dealing with cancer.  They thought they had it under control and in remission, but apparently it’s back.  I don’t know Aly.  I don’t know Lisa that well either.  I’ve just spoken to her a few times in passing.  But this benefit for her next door neighbor impresses the shit out of me because I know for a fact that a local full-time musician does not have the funds to be doing this all the time.  So there’s only one explanation.  Lisa has a humongous heart and she’s following it.  She’s going to worry about her retirement plan on another day.

Please join me in supporting the Rally for Aly, and while you’re there, let’s thank every participating musician.  In my estimation, these are local heroes that deserve our thanks.

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