The story behind the meeting of Patsy Topp and David Baird – otherwise known as contemporary country music singer-songwriters “The Long and the Short of It” – is worthy of a Hollywood film.
Twelve years ago, Patsy, then president of the Williamstown Maritime Association, was running a fundraising sausage sizzle at the Pirates Tavern in Williamstown.
David was also at the Pirates Tavern that day, but for a different reason. He had been invited to play during the main act’s break time. It was only his second-ever public performance and he was so frightened that he sang the entire set with his eyes closed.
As David sang, Patsy was stopped in her tracks by the sound of his voice. After his set, she strode up to him, still wearing an apron and wielding a sausage on a barbecue fork, and said in her typically straightforward manner “Will you sing a duet with me?”.
David was taken aback. He had no idea who this strange woman was or what she wanted from him!
After that first fortuitous meeting, Patsy and David discovered that their voices and musical talents blended well together. They started rehearsing in garages and bedrooms, late at night after their day jobs (lawyer and signwriter respectively). After they realised that this musical partnership could really go somewhere, they decided that they needed their own rehearsal space and found the site of Mantra Kitchen Bar Studio for sale.
So Mantra started as a private rehearsal space for Patsy and David, who travelled to Nashville to record their first album in 2013, and then released an album of their original works in 2016. They’ve played every year at the Tamworth Country Music Festival, even scoring a billing at the opening concert at Tamworth, a huge honour.
But over the last eight years, Mantra has evolved into a community hub for lovers of live music and good food and booze.
Over the years the vision for Mantra has become bigger and bolder and this off-the-beaten-track Yarraville space is now a multifaceted venue.
The heart of Mantra is a live music performance space fitting seventy people but there’s also sound and recording equipment so that performances can be uploaded for online viewing or sold as future recordings, a recording studio and control room containing a vast mixing desk that was used by Oasis during one of their Australian tours.
Not to mention a popular Pan-Asian restaurant, bar and function spaces over the two storeys, a custom-made three-quarter size billiards table, huge Balinese doors and a greenery-filled atrium.
So what’s the next evolution for Mantra? “Our passion now is to help young, upcoming artists to have a safe space to perform and sell their work,” explains David. “We will be focusing on our live performances, including Sunday sessions every week with jazz and swing music from 3 to 6 pm.”