The Thai Johnny Cash
Some call him the “Thai Johnny Cash” and you don’t have to listen to him or look at him for long before you realise why; if his suit, suspenders, sunglasses or bowler hat don’t give it away — sometimes…
I want to thank Bangkok Post and Catherine Faulder for this great article.
Music is Soranut “Beer” Masayavanich’s medicine. It heals him. Ten years ago, back when he was an actor for hit sitcom Heng Heng Heng, his name was blasted across the pages of Thai newspapers that made stories out of his attempted suicide.
“I cut my wrists. The rest I don’t completely remember too well. I was in a really bad place, but instead of extending their hands to help a man whose head was in the ground, they watched, and took photos. I’ve grown from that experience though. Ironically, whenever I play my guitar now I feel like what I did to my wrists makes me play even better,” he said.
Today, he’s well, recently caught in one of his music videos strumming his guitar with a spoon. The singer-songwriter rocks out regularly at concerts, singing blues and country folk-inspired ballads as he alternates between playing the harmonica and his acoustic guitar. Sometimes he plays solo and sometimes he plays in his band Eagle 16 or with other artists.
His second last performance at the Noise Market back in November was memorable, especially the full minute when he sang and played standing on top of a drum kit; his nonchalant drummer looked like he was used to it so just went with it.
Next month he will be joining “Nong & Friends Helping Hands” charity concert at Thammasat University that seeks to raise funds for the impoverished.
Beer’s father, Manit — owner of Mode Thai and a major fashion apparel investor — always wanted him to take over the family’s shoe business. However, one year ago, Beer decided to quit that 9-to-5 lifestyle to pursue his passion for music and to heal that pain he had carried inside his heart for so long.
“You can always start again. Life is worth living and every day you’re born again,” he said.
Some call him the “Thai Johnny Cash” and you don’t have to listen to him or look at him for long before you realise why; if his suit, suspenders, sunglasses or bowler hat don’t give it away — sometimes he wears denim too — his blues gospel folk sound just might. Yet, you just can’t help but think how? He was not born in the 1930s and he has only ever spent one month in the US throughout his entire life.
His music can easily help you conjure up the image of a 1950s Arkansas country road. It seems very out of place as Soranut is in fact fully Thai. A kind of melancholy, born again and light at the end of the tunnel tone consumes his songs and you cannot but help appreciate the honesty that comes across in his music and in real life.
“I don’t lie; that is the sacrifice I make as an artist. Writing music for me takes so long because I genuinely have to feel it; otherwise it would be a lie and a waste of time,” he said.
“When you’re honest with yourself, you set yourself free. For so many years, I kept things about myself from people; it felt like I was living a lie, like I was dead inside.”
When you listen to his story though, you cannot deny what a musical anomaly, even human anomaly, Beer really is. He is the only person in his Buddhist family who is Christian — he converted six years ago; he only sings in English as he feels it is the only language that he can “express myself nicely” in; he owns over 40 different types of guitar that he collects wherever he goes; some of his best friends are actually his father’s, as he just always “got along better with guys over 40” and he was always the problem child turned problem adult.
His lyrics in Too Cool For School and Mama Said certainly reveal as much.
Yet, where his first album, Session One, was about being honest with who he was previously and coming to terms with it, one gets the inkling that his albums to come will mirror his transformation as a human being. “I just want to do good and help people with my music,” he said. What’s striking about him is what he calls his “biggest mission”: “I want to reach out to my dad, through my music ideally. I just gotta find what makes him tick.
“At first it was like watching a new species on the National Geographic channel, but the older you get, the younger your parents become”.
Being the classic rebel growing up and not taking over the family business, one can understand why his relationship with his father was strenuous at times.
Speaking to him on the phone two weeks ago, he explained: “I’m in Nong Khai [province], I’ve been here for a month. No guitar. I’m hungry all the time and all I want is a burger!” He was with his father who was ordained for the second time in his life on his 60th birthday. Back in Bangkok last Monday night, he was already back in the studio recording with the likes of electro-pop act Cyndi Seui (the name given to the male artist’s alter-ego) and Thai band FWENDS, working on a charity album featuring many different artists.
“It’s sad to think that now my dad and I are not at the temple there will be no ice cream for the kids at lunch,” he said.
“Being there has taught me how important gratitude is. I’m so grateful to have my dad in my life. And I’m definitely glad I’ve got my guitar back. I’m ready to make some more music”.
photo by Chardchakaj Waikawee
Article by Catherine Faulder