Detroit, Michigan native Ali McManus has just released her debut album, Unbreakable, which is a testament to her unwavering strength and positive attitude. McManus has a rare bone disorder that leaves her confined to a wheelchair, but McManus doesn’t let the disorder or wheelchair deter her passion and love for writing and creating music. With Unbreakable, the songs are drawn from her experience. Read on to discover more about McManus, and where she gets her resilience from, working with the renowned Jack Douglas (Aerosmith, The Who, John Lennon, Cheap Trick), and her tour.
Guitar Girl Magazine: My first question for you is you just released your incredible debut album called Unbreakable…That’s a great title.
Ali McManus: Yes, thank you.
Guitar Girl Magazine: How do you feel now that it’s out?
AM: I feel amazing. It’s been a long time coming. Because of things coming in the way like medical stuff and surgeries, it’s been a long time coming and getting all the songs together, and getting with the right people, so it feels amazing to have it out. It feels incredible. I don’t even know how to describe how it feels.
Guitar Girl Magazine: What was it like recording your album with the legendary Jack Douglas and more so, how did you two connect?
AM: First off, even being able to work with him was incredible. He’s a very, very genuine, down-to-earth person and he really took my ideas and how I wanted my songs to be and my input, and he really listened to it. He’s not like the type of person to be like oh, it needs to be my way or the highway. He’s not like that. He actually took everything that I said into consideration, which was really awesome. I honestly feel like he’s my friend now. He’s just a down to earth, normal person like everyone else, and we connected really well. We had a lot of fun and it was amazing to work with people of that level.
Guitar Girl Magazine: Absolutely. How did you guys get introduced to each other?
AM: It’s kind of crazy how we came about that. I met my manager Susan Michaelson through a fundraiser, and we were buying tickets to go to that event. My mom was talking to the lady online and on the phone, and she was just a nice lady, and somehow it came up talking about me and what I do. She then invited me to be in her video, and sing on it. And that was played at that event. And then they wanted me to talk at the event.
Being at the event and talking to them, I met Susan, who is my manager now. Then, crazy enough, Susan was at another place where I was and she was one of the agent’s and judge that I performed in front of at this convention called Launch in Chicago. I’m not a shy person. So my mom left me for a minute and she was at a booth, and she was all alone at this point. I went up to her and I’m like just point blank, “I said hey Susan, would you ever consider managing me?”
I think I caught her off guard a little bit but she was like “Maybe, I have to think about it.” She thought about it and then she decided that she wanted to. Through Susan, who has been friends with Jack for a long time, had to go out to LA for something, and she told me to give her all my materials of songs, lyrics, photos, and videos, and she was going to play it for her friend Jack.
And I didn’t really know much of it at that point. She played it for him and he tells me later, he’s like okay, keep playing for me and he was really interested in it and intrigued. At first, the cool thing was that he didn’t really say anything about me being in a wheelchair. She just let that be and then after he heard all my stuff, she told him and he said the most amazing thing. He didn’t (and doesn’t) care. He sees me as an artist first. And I’ve always wanted people to look at me like that, [no sympathy votes and stuff like that.] Just really feel the music instead of feeling bad…
So, that was really cool. He liked my material so much; in the winter, he flew to Detroit to meet me at my house and see how we got along. From there, after we hung out for a weekend, he said “I would love to produce your album.” I was in shock, honestly. He’s this super, super amazing guy and that’s how we got all connected with him.
Guitar Girl Magazine: You are living proof that you can do anything you put your mind to and nothing will stop you. Where do you get your strength and inspiration from besides music obviously?
AM: Well my parents have always helped raise me as a normal person, like anyone else, so I believe that helps me a lot. And it’s kind of how you’re brought up. But also, music, of course, was a huge part of that. It gave me something to look forward to, and when I couldn’t go outside and play with my friends, I would be inside with the piano. Besides music, I like proving people wrong. I feel like there’s so many people that are worse off than my situation. I have my brain. I have my ears and my arms; my legs. My hip might not work very well, but I’m very lucky compared to others.
Guitar Girl Magazine: What do you want your fans to take away from your album Unbreakable?
AM: I want them to take away that no matter what happens in your life that you can be unbreakable and stay that way. It’s kind of hard. It’s easier said than done. But the more you think about it and the more you try to think positively and think about things in a non- negative way, it’ll be easier. And everything else that comes your way that’s hard, if you think about it in a positive way, it’ll just go way better for you in that hard time and your purpose is better and everything will be better, is honestly what I’ve found. I want them to know that they should love what they do and not stop for anything or anyone.
Guitar Girl Magazine: Is there a tour in the works perhaps. Or a small tour?
AM: Yeah, a small one.
Guitar Girl Magazine: What’s going to happen?
AM: Well, I have shows booked right now. One past show I did was at the Mint in LA. That was really cool. I’m actually doing something in New York coming up. It is actually at the Playstation Theater in New York, and is part of TJ Martell Foundation’s Family Day. I’m going to be doing two songs on stage, which will be really cool. I have quite a few other shows coming up too.