Monday, June 04, 2012

HEAR THIS/INTERVIEW: Manika is a "Good Girl"

It's almost been a year to the day since I first stumbled upon popstar-in-training Manika through her debut single showcase here in NYC. Now at 18 years old, the hustle train is definitely bustling for Team Manika, as homegirl not only has recently debuted single #2 in the SoulShock-produced "Good Girls," she has also released her first EP, dubbed The Middle of Hollywood.

Oh, and she scored an opening slot alongside Olly Murs for some boy band you might have heard of called One Direction (insert fangirl shriek here).

I was lucky enough to ask Manika some questions about her career, being a "Good Girl" both in song and in general practice, her mentor and champion Frank DiLeo, and yes, One Direction. But before we get to that, take a listen to "Good Girls" below:

As a single, "Good Girls" definitely crackles with sass and teenage petulance with a noticably harder edge than her previous single. This is much more in the pop-rock, "Katy Perry-esque" vein Team Manika seemed to be shooting for when I saw her at her showcase. In the song, Manika bemoans being played a fool by her shady BF, despite doing everything right (She is nice to animals! She even does charity!). Show me one teenager who can't relate to this at some point in their lives. Seriously. Just one.

The Middle of Hollywood, named as such from a lyric in "Good Girls" chorus, is available for purchase at iTunes and for perusal on Spotify. Bubblegum debut single "Just Can't Let You Go" (featuring rapper Lil Twist) is included, along with the sunny, very California "Woo Hoo" (defintely not to be confused with the Christina Aguilera dirge single of the same title), which I mentioned as a highlight from her showcase.

Check out my interview with Manika beyond the cut below. My many thanks to Manika for taking the time to answer my questions.

When did you first start singing?
I don’t think there was one particular moment. In fact, I can’t ever remember not singing! Music has always been the thing that mattered most to me and allowed me to be me. I was so shy when I was younger, I wouldn’t even look or talk to people, but when I was on stage, v was completely different. Also, my mom is from the Philippines and music is a big part of the culture there, so whenever my family gets together, we all have to do karaoke, LOL! So singing is in my DNA!

How did you meet Frank DiLeo? Were you initially intimidated?
Yes! I mean the last person he worked with was Michael Jackson!! I was like I better be good, ha ha! Basically, I was in Vegas just singing, writing songs on my own and performing whenever I could. Then a friend introduced me to CeCe Sammy, who’s a really well known vocal and performance coach from the UK who’s worked on the UK’s "POP IDOL", "X FACTOR" and with a bunch of big artists. She introduced me to Frank and we all just clicked and they both decided to co-manage me. Then things just took off from there. CeCe and Frank were so great! They really set me at ease from the start and taught me to trust myself and express myself through my music.

How Involved Are You In The Songwriting/Studio Process?
I’m very involved. I love every part of the creation process. It’s amazing the transformation of a simple idea into a full-out song! I’ve written on many of the tracks that I’ve recorded so far. I also love going over with the producers, where we should take the music….throwing in the unexpected beatboxing riff here or adding some heavy guitars there and so on.

Your debut single, "Just Can't Let You Go", was produced by Kizzo. How'd you meet up with him? What other producers are you working with?
CeCe introduced me to Kizzo. He’s so funny! Like a big brother! He’s always teasing me and threatening to chase the boys away, LOL! I just worked with SoulShock on my latest single "GOOD GIRLS". He’s incredible, he’s worked with everyone from Whitney Houston and Tupac to Chris Brown, Pitbull…you name it! I love him! His energy is incredible and he totally understands me as an artist.

What is your favorite song you've recorded so far?
That’s hard to say! I can’t choose…I mean I’ve seen all these songs blossom from just an idea and grow into what they are now. That’d be like choosing your favorite child! Should never be done, LOL! But I’d have to say I am really digging my new single "GOOD GIRLS".

I heard you wrote a book a few years ago? Can you tell us about that?
Yes, I wrote and published a children’s book called "The Exciting Adventures of BOO" when I was 15. It’s 10 short stories based on the ten most important lessons I’ve leant growing up so far. It’s a fun book from the viewpoint of a dog named BOO :) I MIGHT HAVE TO ADD A FEW CHAPTERS SOON!

When I saw you at your showcase here in NYC last year, not only did you sing and dance but also played guitar. How long have you played? Do you play any other instruments? Do you plan on playing guitar on tour/in your recorded work?I play piano and guitar. I’ve played both for years now. It really helps to be able to play an instrument when you’re songwriting. I actually use my guitar on tour. I’m sponsored by Daisy Rock Guitars and they gave me an awesome guitar, which is specially made for girls, so it’s lighter, but plays really well!

You also covered the Alanis classic "Hand In My Pocket". Do you have any future plans to do more covers, whether in a live setting, a YouTube setting or for a recorded work?
Definitely! Part of my set for the ONE DIRECTION tour includes a couple of my favorites from Justin Bieber and Avril Lavigne! I might have to throw in some of my gurl Alanis too!

Your new single is called "Good Girls" and is about being the proverbial 'good girl' who on paper does everything right, and still gets clowned on by the boy. Can you relate?
I can totally relate! Sometimes you’ll try so hard to do everything right just to see things go wrong. You know those moments where you’re like, "Seriously?? You’ve got to be kidding me!" But no matter how crazy things get, I believe love is worth it! Never give up.

I love that you are such a role model for young women. How did you get involved with the Girl Scouts?
Well, I was a girl scout myself when I was younger! The girl scouts invited me to perform at a gig last year and then I heard that 2012 was the 100th year anniversary! So the different chapters of girl scouts started inviting me to play at their big celebrations, which have been so much fun! Now, I have so many girl scout cookies though, I don’t know how I’m going to get through them!! LOL!

What's one album that you feel is an absolute MUST for anyone's music collection?
Alanis Morissette: Jagged Little Pill.

You're currently on tour with One Direction (swoon)! For all the 1D fangirls out there (myself included, shamelessly), what's your opinion on the guys? What is your impression so far?
All the boys are extremely sweet and down-to-earth. You can tell that they’re just having so much fun. The other day, just five minutes before the show they were running down the halls fighting each with dart guns! There have also been a few close calls to where I have almost gotten water dumped on me…but I won’t go into that ha ha!

Given your connection to the boys (and to take a hand from, in your opinion, what makes a guy beautiful/handsome to you?
That’s a tough one because there are just so many cute guys out there! I find that there’s not one particular look or type of guy I am mostly attracted to. Just like with ice cream, I love all flavors. Ha ha!

You're just 18 years young -- what do you like to do for fun when you’re not being a popstar?
Going out with my friends, dancing, blasting music and going crazy!

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Obviously I see myself doing music! I also love to express myself through my fashion. I love wearing funky, crazy stuff with bright colors so I’d love to maybe start a clothing line. Plus pursue some acting.

What's one random fact about yourself most fans wouldn't know?
You’d be surprised at how many Eminem songs I know all the lyrics to! Ha ha!

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