Since 14, Johnny Manuel’s powerhouse vocals have resonated throughout the music industry. From stints on various singing competitions to working with some of the music’s best talent, Johnny Manuel continues to find ways to push his artistry and career to the next level. His first EP, Younger Skin, introduced his story as an unapologetically Black queer artist to the public, while his second EP, Blue, is ready to evolve his narrative.
Blue channels the influences of the artists who inspire him, like Tina Turner and Sade, to create a sonic direction that springs from his R&B roots. Johnny Manuel brings more confidence and the same immense talent to an EP that marks the start of a new era for the R&B artist. With bops like “End of the Night” and “Molotov,” Johnny Manuel is blazing a trail for himself in the music industry.
INTO asked Johnny Manuel 5 quick questions on how music and pop culture have impacted his life.
You’ve had 20 years within the music industry and you’ve probably changed your sound over that course of time. How would you describe your sound now and what’s the inspiration behind your artistry?
My sound has evolved over the years, but the foundation of my sound remains the same. My roots are in R&B and there is always an element of that in my work. I’m inspired by the thought of being a fully realized artist and creating the best music I’m capable of creating. I don’t feel I’ve done that yet. So as long as I have that feeling, I’ll continue making music. I also draw inspiration from studying other artists. I study the careers of the artists I respect the most, like Tina Turner, George Michael, Lenny Kravitz, Lauryn Hill, Maxwell, David Bowie…my list goes on and on. I can spend hours online watching their old interviews and performances, and listening to their catalogs. Ultimately though, it’s their work ethic, and drive to continue despite the ups and downs of their lives and careers that inspires me the most.
You were signed to a label at 14-years-old and have had an incredible career since, including participation in well-known singing competition shows. Has it been challenging removing the stigma of these shows and establishing yourself as a unique artist with a distinct point of view?
Yes, it has been challenging, but as you said, I’ve been doing this a long time and I haven’t lasted this long by shying away from challenges. I’m grateful to have found a team that supports me and my growth, and together I think we’ve been doing a great job of re-establishing me as an artist with a place in music far beyond singing cover songs on a competition show.
Many of us have a pop culture moment that defined our childhood. Which one defined yours?
It was Diary on MTV for me. I think I watched every episode. I was obsessed with that show! I loved seeing artists in their everyday lives and all the [behind the scenes] on shoots and video sets, and seeing what it was like getting ready for red carpets. I thought it was so cool that they allowed us access into their lives in that way. I was also very inspired by it all because I was a young artist who had just been signed to a major label and aspired to that life.
What’s your go-to movie, song, or book when you need to “realign” and why?
Deepak Chopra’s The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. At home I keep it on the nightstand next to my bed and I always travel with it. About 10 years ago, I really needed to realign spiritually and this book (along with some daily practices) really helped me get back to myself.
Lastly, what does a dream musical collaboration look like for you?
It’s always been a dream of mine to perform with an orchestra. I think it would be amazing, once I have a more extensive body of work, to bring that to life with an orchestra at an opera house. That excites me. At the moment I’d also really love to collaborate with Jungle. I sent them a DM but I haven’t heard back yet haha.
Johnny Manuel’s EP Blue is out now.
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