Talk about Australia’s blues and roots music scene and it’s impossible to avoid Phil Manning’s name.
But the renowned Australian blues guitarist hasn’t just made a name for himself back home. During five decades as a professional picker, Manning has played all over the world, including in Cambodia. He wowed audiences with his distinct blues guitar sounds last year at the FCC Phnom Penh — and he’ll be back this month.
“It was a real pleasure playing to a totally new audience and a real mix of people,” Manning said.
The Melbourne-based bluesman will be playing a mix of old songs as well as some new material from his new album in his solo acoustic guitar performance at the upcoming Phnom Penh shows.
“Well, some parts will be the same but there are always differences,” he said, adding “because much of my material is blues-based, there are always parts of the performance that vary each night.”
The Early Years
Originally from Devonport, in the Australian state of Tasmania, the 62-year-old began listening to rock ‘n roll artists — including Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly — and country music when he was 10. He even played classical piano for eight years.
But as a teenager, when Manning got his first guitar, he took a keen interest in the blues.
“When I was about 15, I started to hear blues records and that continued when I went to art school. It has been a bit of a passion really, and I had the great opportunity to tour Australia with many great international blues acts,” Manning said.
Manning’s influences include Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, B.B. King, Freddie King, Robert Johnson, Lonnie Johnson and Blind Blake.
On The Road
Manning has been a full-time musician since he was 18 years old, and he has spent a fair chunk of his life on the road. In a country as big as Australia, he said he never had any choice but to travel. While he doesn’t play in Melbourne as much as in the past, he still performs sometimes with Chain, the legendary blues-rock band he’s been associated with since its inception in 1968.
In more recent years, Manning has toured the UK, Ireland and Southeast Asia, where he and his wife can enjoy some holidays.
“I tend to work very hard for a period then have a complete break for a couple of weeks or so. This gives us a chance to get away to places like Cambodia, Vietnam, Bali, etc. and enjoy different cultures,” he said.
Manning and his wife plan to travel around Cambodia’s countryside on this trip.
“I’m really excited about seeing the temples up north — it must have been an enormous civilization in the past,” he said. They also plan to eat Khmer food and do some shopping.
“We’ll definitely be shopping at the Russian Market,” he said.
Phil Manning will play shows at the FCC Phnom Penh on the rooftop on Nov. 26-27 at 9 pm and again on Nov. 28 from 12:30-2 pm. Manning pays a fourth show at the FCC Angkor on Dec 4, the weekend of the Angkor Half Marathon.