Q & A: Las Vegas singer songwriter Jessica Manalo keeps it real

By Lyn Collier

Jessica Manalo is a Las Vegas singer/ songwriter who plays various venues across the Valley. A native of Corona, California native, Manalo grew up in Las Vegas. Last month, the 25-year-old as invited to perform at Springboard West, a musical festival in San Diego.

When did you know you wanted to be a singer/songwriter? Can you describe that aha moment?
I think I’ve always wanted to sing and write. I used to have a portable recorder I’d take with me everywhere when I was 10, and just sing Disney songs. Particularly, “The Lion King” soundtrack. My mom played guitar, and, I used to watch her. I was very intrigued. Shortly, I got my own guitar and taught myself, At 11, 13 and older, I started making Youtube covers of all the songs I knew, and people were giving me great feedback; and, actually thought I was decent! That boosted my confidence in singing and playing guitar. So, I never stopped. Shortly after that, I started writing my own songs. It was definitely a gradual process.

You have described your musical style as Indie soul? Can you tell us a little bit about what that is and how you choose it?
The guitar style I play is very folky, acoustic, fi nger picking style and I have been told several times that I have a sultry, soul voice. So, I’ll stick with that, hah! On a real note. My musical infl uences include Amy Winehouse, Bon Iver, Adele, Daughters, Shaky Graves, Paramore and Alabama Shakes. And, the list goes on. I don’t think I choose it. I think the variety of music that I listen to shaped me as a unique artist — Indie and soul. Both genres are very emphasized in my music. Indie with the guitar. Soul with the voice.

Do you experiment with your style and sound?

Always. I’m always innovating. I’m always experimenting with new gear Which in turn, helps create new sounds. I’m always trying to see what can I do to create a “spark.” That “wow” moment when I create. Lately, I have been creating music that I would listen to instead of trying to fi t a certain mold. I want to fi t my own mold and be really happy with what I am putting out into the world. I will never put something out that I don’t truly believe in. I’ve picked up a looper, a simple pad for drum loops, a delay pedal, and TC-Helicon harmony singer. All of these things would help me create a one-man band deal., which I have been practicing alone in my bedroom until I’m confident with it. Who knows if I’ll roll with it forever, like I said..I’m always experimenting.

Can you tell us a little bit about the messages in your songs? They seem to be self-reflective. Are there others — political, etc?
Everything I write is very self-reflective, but I write to where my audience can relate. Everything I write comes from my own personal experience. I usually only write when something in my world gets shaken up. It’s the best time to write for me. I do have one political-ish song called “On My Way,” I’d say it was more controversial. At the time when I wrote it, I was opening up about my sexuality and being more confident with who I was, but I wasn’t OK with some of the world on this topic. In this song I explained my frustrations about how “some” of the world doesn’t accept us and asking questions like: “Why can’t we just love each other regardless of sex, color or sexual preference?”

Can you describe the connection you have with your audience when you are singing to them?

I think the previous question translates to this one for sure. The way I connect with my audience is to be as real as possible. We are just all living a human experience, expressing ourselves diff erently. I am basically storytelling to my audience in hopes that I made them feel and/or experience something within and hoping that my story was relatable.

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