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For Musician Dayna Manning, Creativity is a Driving Force

Dayna Manning leans against a tree, holding a guitar, against a grassy backdrop.

Photography by Marina Dempster Photography. Makeup by Mau's Makeup.

“Many people think of me as a singer,” says Dayna Manning, a Juno-nominated folk musician and Stratford resident. “And I do love songwriting… but I feel like my life is a work of art.

“What is deep rooted for me is that I want to live in a better world. So I have ideas for how I want to make the world better through artistic endeavours, which I value deeply.”

Creativity is a value we share with Manning, a long-time Resonator. We recently caught up with her to chat about shared values ... and snap a few pics of her in Fall 2020 finds that work for her life.

This spring, she's been busy getting ready to launch a video for "You, You, You" a song from her 2019 album, "Morning Light." The melodic ballad has that delicious feeling of a move-your-body-and-sing-along song from musical theatre.

"When I wrote it, I was thinking about bringing someone to Stratford and going with them to the theatre," she remembers. It makes perfect sense, then, that the video for the song features Colton Curtis. His dancing in the 2016 show impressed Manning. She loves to attend theatre productions.

"A Chorus Line" is my favourite musical of all time. I saw it seven times! A little excessive, yes. But I was so drawn to Colton's lines and his dancing style. He's just magnetic. So I'd always wanted to work with him, and we finally got around to it."

At right, Dayna is shown in an outdoor location holding a guitar. At left, she stands in a blossoming garden.

Katy Blouse Indi & Cold. Eike Skirt Part Two. Belize Earrings Hailey Gerrits. 

A local way of living

The "You, You, You" video also features snapshots of local people in iconic settings around Stratford. Highlighting the town's beauty and community was important to Manning, who calls herself a "100-kilometre artist."

"About five years ago, I decided to make investments in what was around me," Manning explains. She began digging deep in her own life for ideas, and focused entirely on telling homegrown stories. She sought to deepen connections with artists who could collaborate locally.

That approach has helped Manning cope with massive setbacks to the live music scene because of public health measures in 2020. She's been promoting her latest album from home, rather than the road.

"The investments I made locally started paying off as the pandemic began," she says. "Everyone's lives started to get smaller. So I feel like I can be a resource for artists who are figuring it out now."

Her local lifestyle means Manning is a familiar face at Resonance. And her resolve to shop locally has been strengthened by the pandemic.

"Shopping locally right now makes a lot of sense," she says. "We can be community conscious when we buy online. We can think about whether we can get that here, rather than from far away."

We resonate!

Dayna Manning in Resonance, looking over her shoulder, wearing a navy blue bomber jacket.

Supporting young women 

Manning's focus on local living also connects her with young people in Stratford.  In 2016, she launched Folk Army, a music and leadership academy for girls.

Manning is now revamping the program to make it more accessible online. As well, she's producing a Christmas album featuring Folk Army alumni Hannah Thomas. Manning bubbles with excitement when she talks about how the album sounds.

Taking an entrepreneurial approach to creativity is a key part of her message for young women, Manning explains.

"I’m trying to teach them that they can’t do just one thing. You can’t be Joni Mitchell and just go out there and sing. You have to make it work by doing other things. And being an artist means being a community leader."

Dayna manning wears jeans and a navy bomber jacket outside the front door of Resonance. Stratford City Hall is in the background.

Charleville Jacket Saint James. Geo Rayeur Scarf Saint James. Miniquidame T-shirt Saint JamesElinborg Jeans Part Two.

Dressing is expressing

Manning shops for two different categories of clothes at Resonance. First, she's attracted to feminine, earthy items for performances, either in person or, these days, on camera. 

"I’m drawn to warm colours and browns, and a cozy, folky feel for sure," she says. But her stage style often reflects the visual concepts she stores in her head for each song she writes, each video she produces.

"I have a movie in my head for almost every one. They come from genuine, real places in my life. ... I think a lot of people just have a certain style, but my style is different, it's always changing."

She's also on the lookout for comfortable, casual items that work for teaching, travel, sound checks and meetings. She knows she can find clothes that work for both worlds at Resonance.

"I’m a massive fan of Jo's taste and direction in fashion," explains Manning.

"Because the quality and style at Resonance is timeless and classic, I easily find pieces throughout the year that go with other items in my wardrobe. But I love purchasing at least one new outfit each fall and spring."

Congrats to Manning on her gorgeous new video! It shows Stratford in all its glory. Click the play button below to watch.👇🏻



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