Singer/songwriter Dave Manning is no stranger to the Sierra Nevada. In fact, at his latest show at Cottonwood Restaurant on Aug. 24, he had a table of friends and groupies nodding along to his ballads and funky piano and harmonica tunes against the backdrop of dinner conversation and clattering cutlery. How many times has he played the popular local venue?

“If this tells you anything, I told them for three or four years, ‘could you update my bio hanging in the front, because that picture’s from years ago and no one will recognize me.’”

Back when he was 18, Manning bought his first car: an unrestored, 1965 Volkswagen bus (lovingly referred to as Vincent) for a mere $800 — and he’s had it ever since. So step aside #vanlife Instagrammers who bought their tin homes for anywhere between $10,000 and $50,000, this guy beat you to the punch. He’s originally from the suburbs of Chicago but spent six years living in Alaska. And while his mail now gets delivered to a P.O. Box in Arizona, Manning has called Vincent home for the last 20 years.

In fact, his attachment to Vincent has attracted the attention of Volkswagen itself, which has flown him back to their headquarters on several occasions to interview him for a documentary movie about the iconic VW buses.

“I actually have to contact Volkswagen and tell them it either has, or is just about, to turn half a million,” Manning laughed as he relayed how many miles are racked up on the odometer. “So I think they should just rebuild it for me as a prize or something.”

Manning has played shows throughout the Western states, most notably in the Rocky Mountain Range, an old wild west saloon in Jerome, Arizona, and in Folsom Prison. “I originally went out on the road to keep playing music, and now I play music so I can stay out on the road,” he said.

Manning’s songs tend to be at least partly autobiographical, drawing inspiration from his life on the road. He knows the roads between Arizona and Montana like the back of his hand and he’s not slowing his roll anytime soon.

Catch him in the coming months playing in Truckee at Cottonwood on Oct. 11, and in Nevada City, Reno, and Grass Valley. In the meantime, he’ll head from Burning Man to Missoula, Montana, on to Ketchum, Idaho, and then stop in various towns in Washington State.

“The big thing is, you can go to a casino and see someone play along with tracks, and in a lot of ways I respect that, but mostly, whether nobody’s listening or everybody’s listening, I just channel it and play it,” he said. Manning has a passion for performing and a passion for the outdoors. It’s no question why he’s fashioned his life around both.

“I was always fascinated with the mountains and the big wide, open spaces,” he said.


INFO: cottonwoodrestaurant.com