interview: Stephen G. Kelly of ManDancing

interview: Stephen G. Kelly of ManDancing

In 2016, ManDancing released their album Everyone Else, and we here at TGE totally slept on it. The album, which touches on themes of growing up, overcoming depression, and getting through life, is now getting a re-release and is officially out (again) on Take This To Heart Again Records. Before we get up in our feelings with a listen, Stephen G. Kelly of the band was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding the record, writing, turning to personal experience for inspiration and more.

 photo:  Maegan Monico

photo: Maegan Monico

The Grey Estates: What prompted the re-release? And how has the band changed or evolved since then? Do you find yourself still relating to the material?

Stephen of ManDancing: The re-release came about through happenstance. Joe from Take This to Heart was sent our record after we had played a gig with Tyler from Save Face. He liked it enough to put forth the idea of releasing it through T3H in order for more people to hear it. We have been happy and grateful for the response since we put it out on our own 2 years ago, but doing this seemed to make sense. Our band is constantly aiming to grow, but this hasn't affected us in any immediate way aside from potentially growing a willing audience. As far as relating to the material, I will always have a place in my heart for these songs and where they came from. The songs from Everyone Else continue to reveal new things to me as we continue to play them.

What have you been working on since then and what's ahead for the band?

Aside from performing and booking future tours, we've working on what will manifest itself as the new full length. We have an EP finished that we're releasing relatively soon and we're very excited to share that with those who want to listen. We don't know exactly what's ahead of us in the grand scheme, but we're stoked and willing to find out. 

 A lot of your music is really personal and touches on some super important topics. What inspired you to open up about these struggles and how does it feel to put those moments to song?

I tend to write songs that come from the the places in me that I don't normally want to visit. That's due in part by the artists that have given me peace of mind, and the music that has made me feel 'okay'. Partly, it's giving back to that which made such an impact on me. I try to look at my songwriting as a way to come up with answers to internal questions that I struggle to contend with, and to share what I've learned through that process with people. There's something to the idea of sharing the dark parts of your life while including the ever present light. I feel good about doing that. If my experiences can help, then I feel I've done my job. 

On one track "Broken" you broach the subject of depression. Is that something you've dealt with personally and do you feel it's important to touch on mental illness through song? Is there something you hope listeners hear or find in listening to the song?

Writing broken helped me cope with my life at the time. Death in the family, recognizing my own shortcomings, having finally left the safety of my childhood home, surfacing and overcoming depressive and manic states are some of the specifics. Although I've never been diagnosed with clinical depression or any other mental illness(if I had health insurance, I'd investigate further) I don't deny that any individual can have a really tough time with being alive. There's been more than handful of points where I've considered ending it. It's not easy to deal with the tragic nature of suffering. Mental illness and Addiction run heavy through my family's history, so learning to get better in the midst of that has always been a theme in my every day. It's important for me to extend a hand that says "it's going to be okay" because that's something that I need to hear for myself. I hope people feel okay after listening to that song. 

Is what you sing about on Everyone Else inspired by personal struggles or experiences? What was the writing process like for the album? When did you first begin writing/recording and how long did it take?

Yes. Writing this record was the most important thing for me at the time. January 2015, I met Ben Petty(the first collaborator, now one of my best friends, and guitarist of MD) at a show, and within 2 months, through serendipitous occurrence, we were starting flesh out my acoustic songs. It took roughly a year to record and complete everything. Our schedules and limited time during sessions made for that. 

Give us an idea of how ManDancing came together and what your goals are/were for the band? Have you all always been interested in music?

So yea, Ben and I met at a show. One thing led to another, and March 2015 I was at his house and I explained the idea of the record. He was on board. Tom(drums) found his way to those sessions after we had met another show, and through Ben's suggestion that we work together. I had been in a band with Mark (guitar) and knew of his audio engineer work and recruited to him to mix EE and eventually we were rehearsing as a 4 piece. Ben and I both knew Adrian (bass) through mutual friends/bands we knew and before we knew it, the MD5 came to be. I never intended on having a band, but hey, if ain't broke don't fix it. Also, we're all pretty much best friends now. We share the same goals in the band, and we also support each other in other areas of our lives. To answer the last question, yes, we're all music nerds in some capacity. 

With an album that centers around the ideal of growing up, what's one piece of advice you'd tell your younger self OR what's the most important thing you've learned in growing up?

One piece of advice I would give my younger self is "Life don't get easier, so you need to get better" 

Also, "Don't blame anyone for where you are" and also "Don't smoke cigarettes" and also "Save your money" and lastly "Don't go longboarding down that big hill right now, you're way too messed up on a cocktail of drugs and this is a bad idea. the health of your right shoulder will be compromised for a long time and it will remind you constantly of what not to do. So maybe, actually, go for it. You'll need reminders of what not to do. Just don't complain, because you did this knowingly."