Catch up with singer-songwriter Manny and listen to his single, "Out My Way", taken from his new album, Prequel, out now.
What got you interested in music and songwriting?
Manny: I actually started making music at a young age, I was like 12 years old when I started writing lyrics. As far as why, I'm not really sure. I grew up listening to a lot of RnB and my sister used to play a lot of Boyz II Men and I just really got into music from her and her boyfriend at the time who's now her husband who was a DJ. I got a lot of music from her and I just really loved the music so I started making music and I just kept doing it, so that's how I got started.
You said you started writing at 12, do you remember the first song you wrote?
No, I definitely don't remember the first song I wrote - I've written a lot of songs. I said 13 or 12, but I do remember when I was in 5th grade - which I don't know how old I was in 5th grade - I wrote something and somebody had sent me to perform it at the front of the class - it was a substitute teacher that day - and I ended up rapping it in front of the class, but I have no idea what it was. That was probably one of my earliest works, but I don't remember the song at all [laughs].
Which musicians would you say you've been influenced by?
Man, I listen to so much music that I'm influenced by a lot. I'm just a really big fan of music; every single Friday I'm listening to whatever's new and I listen to a lot of different things. If I had to choose a style - when I was coming up I thought about that question a lot - I really was inspired by Ne-Yo as a songwriter for a very long time, I was a huge fan - I still am a huge fan. In terms of rapping, I was inspired by Lloyd Banks - he was really big at the time. In terms of producing, I was really inspired by Timbaland, I just liked everything about Justin Timberlake's album and I just thought he was an amazing producer. Then, a lot of different RnB artists just gave me the style that I have now. The artists that probably inspire me the most today are The Weeknd and I'm a big fan of Bryson Tiller's work.
How would you describe your sound to someone who had never heard you before?
I would say it's around that. I don't really like to categorize it, I'd like people to listen to it and say, 'oh, you know, it sounds like Manny, it doesn't sound like this or sound like that'. I have been told that I definitely have some influences from The Weeknd and Frank Ocean - big fan of his work too - and I guess you can hear a little bit of everything in one, but I would love for people to listen to it and be like, 'you know what, it sounds like Manny'. I want other people to listen to music and be like, 'that sounds like something Manny would do'. Soundslikemanny is actually my Snapchat username [laughs].
What were your inspirations behind your single, "Out My Way"?
I was in my studio and I was going down my Facebook feed and I remember somebody wrote a paragraph talking about how every man is the same and - I don't remember what it said verbatim - they were done with love, so that was what triggered it in my mind and I just started writing this song and then it became "Out My Way". It was basically just something that I've seen one too many times. I can't remember actually the particular girl who posted that, but I've seen it too many times and it just kind of hit me like, you know what, no, it's not that way, don't say that. So that was the inspiration behind the song.
Could you tell us more about your new album, Prequel?
I designed the album to tell a story. Just recently, my music started moving to New York, so I just moved to New York to pursue my music and I reached out to a lot of my fans and I do a lot - I do the production, engineering, songwriting, the performance when it comes to the music - so I wanted to get an idea of what my fans really like when they are listening to music and by far they said it's the songwriting. So, what I decided to do was I grouped the music in order, so if you listen to it from Track 1 through Track 9, you'll actually hear me tell a story. You can be imagining me with a girl and just see it go through and then, on the later tracks, you can see what I'm going through as far as trying to make it in the music business, so that's why I ended up calling it Prequel, because it's like an introduction to a story that I'm going to be writing in music.
So, on my next album, I'm going to call it Chapter 1. It'll have that title and, basically, it's going to be a continuation of the story, everything that I'm going through now - even this interview with The Music Rag might end up being on a lyric, I don't know - so when you hear the album [Prequel], Track 1 through Track 9, it's basically an album about making music. Hopefully, down the road when I'm on Chapter 3, people that are listening for the first time will want to binge listen from the beginning and just go in order. It's kind of an interesting idea.
Obviously you love all your songs, but is there one from the album that stands out to you?
I definitely love all my songs but, if I have to say one is more personal to me, it's "Come Back" by far. I just kind of explain everything, in terms of when I was in Miami I had my music, but my fans were in New York and I wasn't there, I needed to come back; most of my family was in Boston and I needed to come back; I wasn't making music for a while and I needed to come back, so that song is definitely more personal. In terms of favorite or what I'm listening to the most is, by far, "Easy" and it's really just because - even though lyrically I love everything about it - it was just a magical moment I had when I was making the production of that song and I listened to it and was like 'I did that?'; it was one of those kind of feelings, so that's one of my favorites.
What do you hope your fans are able to take away from your music?
To be honest, I just make the music and get in the spirit: I don't really think about what I'm going to do before I do it, I just do it. I'm in a position where I can't even believe how many people really love it, because it's not like I'm making it for a mass group of people, I'm just literally putting my ideas on a track, so I would just love to inspire more people. Countlessly, every single day I get people who hit me up and say that "Out My Way" basically changed their lives for the better, which is exciting for me. To me, it's unfathomable; it's crazy. Songs like "All In" have inspired a lot of people to just do what they love and they really are starting to take stuff to do it, so if my music and stories can just inspire people, that's really what I would want but, at the end of the day, I'm just grateful that people are listening and people love what they hear.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
Definitely check out the music! I'm really, really connected with my fans on social media and I try my best to talk to everybody - I know most artists don't normally do that - and I hit up people in their DMs just to thank them for listening to my music and they're so happy that I've even reached out to them and I really love it. That's something about all of this that really gives me a lot of happiness, is reaching out to my fans, so I would say, if you are a fan, just definitely reach out to me.