By Kienan Briscoe, For the Reporter
If Henry Mansfield had to describe his music, he would say “Ben Folds meets Elton John, although that’s just the surface.”
His new album, “Nothing But the Myths We Make,” hits streaming platforms Aug. 12, featuring singles “String Theory” and “Let’s Make a Movie, “each with approximately 1,000 streams so far on Spotify.
Mansfield got an early start to his music career growing up in Mercer Island, the son of musically-inclined parents and an early passion for seeking creative ways to articulate his thoughts and feelings.
Beginning with playing trombone in his elementary school band, he later joined the school’s choir program, finding himself spending after-school hours navigating chord sheets by The Beatles and Queen on an upright bass.
“It just made sense in a way that nothing else really did at the time,” said Mansfield. “I have really fond memories of teaching myself these songs and the discovery of figuring it out as I went.”
In middle school, Mansfield took the leap to songwriting as an emotional outlet and fun source of creativity. Even then, Mansfield’s approach to songwriting was an interesting one — trying to find engaging ways to “intellectualize happiness,” an approach that makes itself clear through his 2016 album “Aside” and even his most recently released singles.
“I feel like the folly of a lot of songwriting is people think that sadness is more interesting than trying to articulate happiness in a really deep way,” said Mansfield.
Although he continued playing music through high school, at the Boys and Girls Club and various coffee shops around Mercer Island, he said one of the most validating experiences was winning a Battle of the Bands competition while attending Mercer Island High School. It was then that he decided to pursue music academically, going on to receive a bachelor’s degree in professional music from Berklee College of Music in 2019.
After college, Mansfield moved to Los Angeles to pursue music full time, but quickly realized the music scene he wanted to be a part of was back home.
“Having grown up here, I think people are very prone to keeping to themselves, and having an excuse to communicate and engage with the people around me always makes me happy and more joyful, so trying to create spaces that engender that for people I think is really important to me,” said Mansfield.
There really wasn’t an “ah-ha” moment to when Mansfield decided to do music full time. It was more a “series of events,” he said, driven by the pandemic and a need to articulate complex ideas. His number one objective with his music is building an ever-growing audience of people who resonate with the music he creates.
“I think it’s really, really, deeply meaningful to be able to describe things and articulate things in ways that we can communicate them or make sense of them. What I’ve realized, at around the age of thirteen — which ironically I couldn’t articulate at the time — was that music, and pitches, and instrumentations, and genre are all wonderful mechanisms to describe the world around you or talk about how you’re feeling,” said Mansfield. “I feel very very grateful to finish a song and think ‘I’ve said it,’ I’ve said the thing I was trying to say.”
Since taking his music career more seriously, Mansfield has opened for bands like the Rural Alberta Advantage and has played in several venues around Seattle including Chop Suey, the Sunset Tavern, and most recently Seattle’s 52nd annual Northwest Folklife Festival.
Mansfield currently lives in the Eastlake neighborhood of Seattle, but still pays homage to his home in Mercer Island. He said it was because of the public school system’s support of the arts that helped cultivate his interest in music. He stressed the importance of funding arts programs, including music, in public schools and hopes to see more delegation supports public school art programs in the future.
“Mercer Island was a wonderfully safe and comfortable pace to grow up,” said Mansfield. “There are so many resources on Mercer Island and I wish more of them were going toward the arts to continue inspiring people like me.”
When his upcoming album releases next month, Mansfield plans to have an album release party at the Skylark Cafe and Club on 3803 Delridge Way Southwest in Seattle. For information including times and tickets, follow him on Instagram at @henryplayspiano.