Take Five With Jessica Manalo

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Photo by Haley Cox
       

As seen in
Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 16 – Summer 2021
Acoustic Amplified!

Soulful singer-songwriter Jessica Manalo, currently based in Portland, Oregon, is a Breedlove artist and shares new covers every Monday to her Instagram followers in what she calls Magic Monday.

In your bio for Breedlove Guitars, you said, “I want people to feel what I feel when I sing.” How do you feel when you sing?

I get really into it when I sing. I feel there is no point in expressing if you’re not going to bare it all. Everything I sing is a real description of my life and my life experiences. I write my world down, and I really do get emotional when I sing. I picture images of my life, whether it be heartbreak to good times when performing. I want the stories in my songs to relate to my audience in any way that resonates with them.

When did you first pick up the guitar, and what drew you to that instrument?

I picked up the guitar when I was 10 years old. Originally, I was a trumpet player. My mom always played her guitar in our kitchen apartment, and so that immediately drew me in, and I was curious from the get-go. I think the guitar is special to me because it roots me to my mom and my childhood.

What’s your go-to guitar for songwriting?

My go-to guitar for songwriting has to definitely be my Breedlove. I am absolutely in love with it. I named her Marbles!

Who are some of your musical influences?

If I had to narrow it down to five—even that’s a lot—but if I had to narrow it down, I would say Paramore, Amy Winehouse, Adele, Alabama Shakes, and Fleetwood Mac. I could listen to these artists forever and never get tired of their music. They are also teachers in my ears. The different styles and flavors I pick up from each one shape me as an artist. I just love them all.

In your Magic Monday series, you’ve covered songs from a broad range of artists from Amy Winehouse to Michael Jackson, Chris Stapleton, and others. What draws you to a song that makes you want to cover?

There aren’t too many reasons why I choose to cover a song. But what comes to mind is, does it have soul, and how can I challenge myself this time? I usually pick songs so I can add them to my repertoire and have it be a song that many already love. It engages the audience, and familiarity makes people smile. I just always make sure that I actually love the song itself, and I am not straying away from what I truly love and what suits me. When I learn songs from the greats—guitar and vocals—it really sharpens my skills when I practice. Practice has been my teacher in between each Magic Monday video I shoot. I’ve learned so much just running through these amazing songs over and over and over until I lose my voice or my fingers start hurting! I’ve really watched myself grow, and I can truly say that I am proud of all the sweat and tears I’ve put into my content. There is always room for growth, and I’ll never stop learning as long as I have music near.