An Interview With Manuka
A debut release from Manuka shines with a beautifully descriptive journey that reaches into the inner depths of living a life that boasts a purpose and a freedom most wish for.
"Tribal Man" begins with spoken word and flows seamlessly into a gorgeous indie-acoustic song that showcases a youthful yearning and passion with strumming guitars and floating vocals that feel both angelic and impactful.
This single has an existential undertone that peeks through most of the time and makes you think as Manuka's vocals swim through the air and harmonize giving the song an atmosphere that feels personal and pure.
There is tons of heart and love for her craft featured on this single and it makes for one hell of a debut for sure.
Using her voice as an instrument gives the song an added ambient tonality and she really paints with a wonderful palette of notes and does so with a gracefulness.
Before long you're humming the melody line in your head and once it's over you shake it off, and start it again.
This was absolutely engulfing and performed with a tastefulness and subtlety that grows into an intensity and exhales back down again.
The single comes with an actual spoken word version of the song which is a must hear but after you've heard the full version of course.
With such a great release, we wanted to have a talk with Manuka about where this song came from and what may be next for the artist.
TSWS: Okay so let's begin with "Tribal Man". This song has a naturally ethereal undertone to go along with its acoustic pop style. Where did this song come from?
I had actually written this song in 2016. Tribal Man was one of those songs that was made after experiencing something revelatory. A burst of creative adrenaline came over me when I first put pen to paper and started playing the guitar. It was after I had been addressing other matters of life around my mental health. Looking to find balance in work, music, and the general social life. I am the sort of person that likes to handle everything alone, naturally, placing expectations on myself because I never like to let the people I care about down, nor do I not want to give it my best when working or doing anything I'm passionate about. This created a lot of underlying pressure and tension. My glass was just getting too full with so many things I was trying to balance...
It took a few days, but I mustered a lot of motivation to take time for myself. This was very difficult to do because at that time in my life self-care or 'me-time' was something I thought was sort of silly and unnecessary. So I took this step and went out for a walk across a farm and woodlands near my home, Yorkshire has a lot of scenic and serene spots on your doorstep which I love! After an hour's walk and sitting in the field I zoned out to the wind, the water, and the birds. Gradually everything that I had been carrying for months, lifted and flew away. I can remember every detail of it even though it was such a long time ago. I came home with a completely different energy, and as a result of this so-called liberation, creativity knocked on my door and I wrote this song in dedication to nature and how she healed my mind and heart.
TSWS: We see there is a spoken word version of Tribal Man as well. Did the song come from that version at first?
Yes, in a way. Deep down I had always felt that way and throughout the years this thinking only grew into something, well...more. It was when I started performing my songs I experimented with my sound many times improvising my delivery on the spot and going with the vibe of the audience. When I tried spoken word with a few songs I felt a huge shift in the impact this had on the audience. People would come to me and share how much it moved them, and the significance of the lyrics and storytelling experience. I carried on creating this environment with all of my songs and decided to not only offer it at my gigs but also to everyone who streams my music.
TSWS: I'm hearing some great pop styles on this track. Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
Quite a variety! I love listening to artists who hone their originality. They're the ones that inspire me most. From a teen I loved listening to Corinne Bailey Rae, India Arie, Sheila Chandra, Nelly Furtado, Sandi Thom, and Rihanna (all women!) growing up; then as I started writing my own songs I became a devotional fan of Mumford and sons, I am Oak, Rising Appalachia, and The Paper Kites.
TSWS: So, how did this all start for you?
I had always had a habit to write creatively when my feelings are involved; as a young child I filled up notebooks writing poetry and short stories. My mum nourished this interest and got one my poems published and a subscription to a young writer's magazine. My parents also introduced me to singing in the genre Indian classical, where I went to India to learn for 6 months. This really helped train my voice and gave me the tools to develop my voice as it is today. I didn't pursue this path as I didn't find any inspiration to further develop I always wanted to sing 'my own way'. I was quite the rebel compared to my peers, come to think about it, haha. It was years down the line when I went through a phase of not being interested in music and singing (uni days); I actually got inspired by my flatmate when I worked and lived in Haywards Heath down in West Sussex for a few years. She had a guitar and told me to play it whenever I felt like it. Little did I know it would start me down this path, but as I started playing and singing I never stopped.
TSWS: What do you think is next for you as an artist?
Gosh, I don't know. What I have learned from the past few years is that not everything goes the way we plan. I'm sure many can relate. The pandemic really got me thinking about how I need to approach my music career and life. I guess for now I just want to share more music with the world. I have so many songs in the process of being developed so you will definitely be hearing more from me hehe.
TSWS: This song is beautiful! Will you be planning any new releases or maybe a music video soon?
Thank you so much. I am so happy you connected with this track in this way. I am actually very happy with the response for Tribal Man. Well, there is an Audio Video out on Youtube, the artistic music video will be out in some time as I am working with a group of people to get this done. My channel is 'justmanuka' so you can head on over to have a listen and watch the self-made video I had made at home in lockdown with what resources I had around me. It was a lot of fun!
TSWS: Do you perform live at all?
Yes definitely! I LOVE performing. I usually perform an acoustic set, giving a storyteller experience with just me and my guitar.
TSWS: How do you write your songs? Is it lyrics first or guitar chords? It's different for everyone. How does it work for you?
For me, it's all about the feeling. If I am already immersed in an emotion (whether it be love, sadness, grief, happiness) this directs my creativity; I let that energy guide and create something either melodically or lyrically, and in the case of whether I want to deliberately sit down and write a song for a project/commission I influence my heart and mind to embody a feeling and then let the music and words flow. I usually create different concepts if I am consciously trying to write a song so I will have a few different song drafts and then I will go with the one I like. This way has always worked, I guess because it aligns with who I am.
TSWS: What sort of things really inspire you to write?
Nature is a key part of my inspiration because it gives me the balance to think reflectively and creatively. I always like to reference her in my songs and use her imagery to navigate the tone in my songwriting.
Who are you listening to right now? Literally right now haha. Lucy Rose - Shiver. It's a song that just sets me in nicely for the day. I have created a Spotify playlist called 'Tribal Way' that I listen to pretty much every day. It sets a vibe for my morning.
TSWS: What are you doing when you're NOT working on music?
Currently, music is a huge part of what I do, but if I am switching off creatively I like to catch up on my Netflix, right now its Downton Abbey haha I never had the time to watch it before and I have just started - it's surprisingly entertaining, I'm quite enjoying it! Other things I love to do is exploring healthy foods and flavours, I love to eat so love to cook! A new interest is networking with local people in my area and picking up their waste. Haha! it's not what it sounds like - at the moment I am focusing on fabric mainly, collecting different types of waste material, and using it to make quaint accessories, and clothes to wear all through slow stitching. I'll be sharing what I make up on my socials soon. Very excited!
Over the years whilst working on releasing music I have always had a job. For the last eight years, I have been in the field of mental health and right now I am a self-employed Music Wellness Practitioner. I had spent a significant time building to combine my music with my work in mental health as I felt that there is a space where music can be used as a medium to better the mind and health of everyone. At the moment I am working online, delivering sessions and supporting people with learning difficulties, mental health, and Alzheimer's and their carers in group and one-to-one work. I've really enjoyed the journey into this line of work that it's inspired me to go back to uni and further study Psychology and Neuroscience in Mental Health which I plan to apply in my practice in the future.
TSWS: The artwork for Tribal Man is great! How did you get that done?
Aw thank you so much. Yes, I am so happy with the artwork! I actually got this done by an artist I found on Fiverr. She had never done this sort of commission before but I loved her signature pieces, so we spent some time on it, and in the end, she created what I envisaged. I really loved working with her!
TSWS: Before we go, what would you like to say to fans of the music?
I just want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has already shared their love for this song and to my dedicated fans who have been patiently waiting for this song. It was an anxious journey to release as its the first one where I had worked alone, but the support has been so much more than I had imagined. I'm truly happy and very grateful.
To newbies, if you haven't already heard or not come across my music before, do have a listen to Tribal Man (both tracks hehe) and share your thoughts and feelings with me. It's available on Youtube, Spotify, and iTunes. I would love to know what you think. You can message me directly if you like - my socials are @justmanuka