Photo courtesy of Manny Blu
With a whole new sound he calls “Country Punk,” Manny Blu is taking Nashville by storm. I loved it the minute I first heard it and I couldn’t get enough. Before you pass judgment, meet the artist behind this fresh spin on country music. What you’re imagining “Country Punk” to be, and what it actually is, might be very different. Grab a cold one and listen in on our conversation, as it happened, during CRS 2021.
Manny Blu: Hello.
Patti McClintic: Hello. How are you?
Manny Blu: I’m pretty good. How are you?
Patti McClintic: I’m good. I’m so glad to talk to you!
Manny Blu: Yes, I’m happy to be here.
Patti McClintic: Welcome to Think Country. I have to tell you, I’m so excited to talk to you because no sooner did I book this interview, I was scrolling randomly through Facebook and a clip of one of your videos came up and I went, “Wait a minute, wait a minute. Hold on.” I just had to scroll back to the video clip and I looked at the name again, and I went, “I’m interviewing this guy!” The music just jumped out at me. I went, “This is the guy that I’m interviewing? Oh, my gosh!”
Manny Blu: Oh, wow. Thank you, that’s good to hear.
Patti McClintic: I was just absolutely amazed and the next thing you know, I’m just getting everything I could find on Spotify of yours, and watching the videos, dragging my husband in and saying, “You’ve got to hear this guy!” He was like, “Oh, wow, that guy’s a rock star.” So, yeah, we’re fans.
Manny Blu: What video was it?
Patti McClintic: The first video I saw was for “Blow.”
Video courtesy of Manny Blu Music and YouTube
Manny Blu: Yeah.
Patti McClintic: Then after that it was all of them. I watched them all, “Sink,” and everything. All of ’em.
Video courtesy of Manny Blu Music and YouTube
Manny Blu: Awesome. Well, thank you. I appreciate that.
Patti McClintic: So, then I started doing my homework on you a little bit and I just couldn’t wait to talk with you. So, to introduce yourself, tell our Think Country world about yourself in your own words.
Manny Blu: Well, I’m Manny Blu, born in Canada, now live in Nashville. I fell in love with country music after my friends basically forced me to play it for them, and here we are. I’m having fun with it and trying to create my own sound, and I want to create this vibe of “Country Punk,” and I want to do something different with a little swag that I think country can use and I’m here for it. So, I’m having fun with it.
Patti McClintic: It’s definitely working. It’s absolutely working.
Manny Blu: Thank you.
Patti McClintic: I can sort of relate to your story so far. I got kind of dragged into country. I was a rock fan and my daughter was a country fan in high school, and we used to do the radio wars when I would drive her to school, and she won being the high school kid.
Patti McClintic: That’s how I got dragged in, and once I was in I jumped in all the way.
Manny Blu: You know, that’s what I think is cool. I jumped into country and I was doing, what I thought at that time, what I should be doing, and I kind of let go of all my musical influences that got me into music for a little bit. Until I got to Nashville, where I realized that country music had so many different flavors and colors that you can play with, and you can use all your influences to kind of create your own sound. I think over the last year I’ve been really enjoying doing that, and I think that the more that you dive in, the more you learn, the more you understand it and the more you can kind of stray away and do your own thing. I think that’s super cool and that’s definitely what I’m looking to do.
Patti McClintic: Yeah, I think it’s absolutely working and I think you’re going to have the most amazing fan base in the universe.
Manny Blu: Oh, thank you.
Patti McClintic: I was reading your background, it’s pretty interesting. You have an MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) kind of a background, and hockey and all these other sports, I mean, that’s switching gears.
Manny Blu: Yeah, well, I grew up playing hockey, I’m from Montreal. I grew up playing hockey and all my friends did, and I think once I realized my friends were getting scholarships, or scouted to play elsewhere and I was not, I kind of quickly switched gears and went into MMA just because I loved competition. I love competing and I had a buddy who was doing karate, you know, Saturday morning classes, nothing crazy, just kind of self-defense type things. He took me to a UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) event in Montreal and I was like, “I don’t know what this is, but this is cool.” He was like, “Yeah, come to some karate classes with me,” and I was like, “No, I wanna do this. I wanna fight, I wanna kick people, I wanna punch people and I wanna do this whole thing.” He’s like, “No, no, you don’t have to start there. You can start karate and see what happens.” I said, “No.”
Manny Blu: So, I ended up doing four years of MMA and competing, sparring and just learning a lot about myself. I think there’s not a whole lot moving forward that I’m gonna go through that is gonna test me and take me to some interesting places, mentally and emotionally, like MMA would. Even though I thought maybe at one time I had some grueling training and sparring sessions, and I think that’s quite a lesson to learn, it opened up my mind in moving forward.
Patti McClintic: So, then you had an injury and taught yourself guitar and how to sing, and next thing you know, here you are?
Manny Blu: Yeah, that’s right, tore my quad. I was always like the guy who could kinda sing, I was never shy to sing. My dad loves to sing, my mom loves to sing just for fun, so it was never, like, a weird thing, so I was always like the guy in the room that was okay to sing. So, once I saw some guys playing guitar and thought that was super cool, and thought if I could do it being able to accompany myself without having a backing track it would be a lot of fun.
Patti McClintic: So, here you are.
Manny Blu: Here we are. (Laughing)
Patti McClintic: Exactly, and you must be feeling a little bit at home because here we are in the ice right now. (Nashville’s weather was extremely icy the day of our Zoom interview.)
Manny Blu: You know, I left for a reason besides music and I guess it found me, so I’m not too thrilled about it, but I guess it’ll pass.
Patti McClintic: Yeah, I left for a reason too. I’m originally from Buffalo, New York and here I am, so I’m kinda feeling the same way as you. So, looking forward, what’s going on with your music? What’s coming next?
Manny Blu: Well, we have a couple more Live and Turned Ups. We have two released right now. Basically, the idea was because we couldn’t tour, we have the rig, and we worked really hard on our live show last year because we planned to tour quite a bit in 2020, and obviously didn’t get a chance to do that. So, I was trying to come up with a way that we could still try to salvage whatever it was that we worked so hard on for the live shows. We had a showcase lined up and then the tornado kinda took that away from us. We just decided to play certain songs that we love to play live that have, you know, differences than the recorded track. I wanted to do that, and I wanted to just play with the band again.
Manny Blu: So, we have “Old Money,” we have that sort of adapted intro and outro that we do live, we recorded that, that’s out. We did some covers as well, that show a bit of a different side of things I’m able to do that I had been working on, and hadn’t gone to showcase yet. It’s hard to belt and sing hard like that acoustically when we’re doing Zoom calls and stuff like that. So, I wanted to show off that I’ve been working on my craft and my ability, and kind of came up with this concept of “Country Punk” and what that is, and those Live and Turned Up videos are exactly what “Country Punk” is. It’s loud, it’s fun, it’s fast and it’s cool. The video you mentioned, “Blow,” is one of them and we’ve got more coming out. We’ve got four more coming out every two weeks through April.
Video courtesy of Manny Blu Music and YouTube
Patti McClintic: Awesome! You have some songs that are written by the rock stars of songwriting. Not everybody gets to do that. How did that happen for you?
Manny Blu: Yeah. Well, I was lucky enough to be able to work with Aaron Eshuis, who is the producer on my EP, New Ink, and he’s related to SMACKSongs, the publishing company. As he was producing the album, SMACKSongs were the ones who sent me songs, so I was able to go through them, and I don’t know who wrote the song most of the time when I’m looking and listening and just going through. I think we went through close to 60 to 70 songs just for the five I picked for New Ink. I was able to go through them and I don’t really see the songwriters until I decide, like, “Here’s my top 10 that I’m interested in.” Then I get the lyrics and I go through it and make sure that it’s something I wanna say, that there’s no hidden messaging that I missed in the first few passes. So, once I get the lyrics I’ll have the songwriters on the top of the sheets, and then I have to Google to make sure there weren’t other guys with the same names, to make sure they were the right guys because I couldn’t believe it.
Patti McClintic: Yeah, well, you obviously know how to pick some good songs because you picked the songs by the songwriters who really know what they’re doing. You have good taste.
Manny Blu: Yeah, well, I think there aren’t too many bad songs coming out of SMACKSongs anyway, but luckily, I think there are some guys that keep recurring, like Josh Osborne. There must be something in his writing that I connect with because I picked three of his.
Patti McClintic: Yeah, it’s incredible. Really great writer, all really good songs.
Manny Blu: Thank you.
Patti McClintic: Tell me, when you first moved to Nashville, being a Canadian guy, and I can ask this question because living in Buffalo my whole life I was constantly accused of being Canadian myself. (Fun fact: Buffalonians are often accused of being Canadian. Downstate New Yorkers are especially fond of throwing out this accusation for some unknown reason.) When you first moved to Nashville, did you take a ribbing for being from Canada, or not being a good ol’ boy or a southern guy? Was that at all difficult in any way?
Manny Blu: Not really because anybody that I work with or I know, they’re all from the north, as well.
Patti McClintic: Really?
Manny Blu: My drummer’s from New York, my guitar player’s from Connecticut. I’ve got another buddy who’s an artist here, he’s from Upstate New York, as well. The only one is my manager, who is from Arizona, from Flagstaff, but he dealt with the cold too because they’ve got mountains there. So, yeah, it’s funny how it worked out. Our sound engineer, our production manager, he’s from Montana. It’s just funny how everyone I happened to connect with because of X, Y and Z,, we work together and hang out, everybody is from the north, as well. So, I really haven’t had that sort of issue and I also think I just came in and embraced the vibe of the city of Nashville. I wasn’t hard headed enough to be like, “This isn’t how it works up there.”
Manny Blu: Actually, when I left and I came and recorded my first album, I fell in love with the vibe in the city and the way Nashville is as a southern state. I thought it was so simple in comparison to the city where I’m from. I fell in love with it right away. I thought it was simple, it was the simplicity and the kindness that people have, that was something I was attracted to right away. As soon as my manager was like, “Hey, it would be a lot easier if we worked in the same room together.” I was like, “Great, I’ll come down to Nashville.” It happened pretty quick, so no, I didn’t get that, but I think a part of it is just my way of sort of falling in love with the city. I call it a small city in a big town. I don’t know really how you describe Nashville, but…
Patti McClintic: That’s a perfect way. That’s what I would call it.
Manny Blu: Yeah. I fell in love with it right away and I think that definitely kind of helped me immerse myself in the whole city.
Photo courtesy of Manny Blu
Patti McClintic: Oh, for sure. For 2021, do you have any actual live shows planned? I know it’s going to be hard, but anything?
Manny Blu: No, not right now. I know we’re keeping our eye out and we’re talking to some people, so we’re hoping that it can happen for us, at least in the summer through the fall. It would be nice to play a couple shows, but we’ve got recorded music coming throughout the whole year. We’ve got the live videos up until April. In May we’ve got more singles coming out and an EP. The idea is to drop two EPs this year since we aren’t touring.
Patti McClintic: That’s exciting. Well, it seems like you’re doing really good and that’s great to know. I’m a new fan and I hope we can bring in a whole bunch of new fans from Think Country too. Next, I have this little box of cards, it’s called a Chat Pack. The cards all have random questions on them. Are you up for one?
Manny Blu: Let’s do it.
Patti McClintic: Alright. The card says, “If rain could fall in any scent, what scent would you want it to be?”
Manny Blu: Lavender.
Patti McClintic: Lavender. You sound just like my husband, I know that’s what he would say too.
Manny Blu: Lavender‘s a great scent, so if you can get that, if it makes a rainy day a little more exciting, than why not?
Patti McClintic: I can’t agree more, and because we are Think Country, when you “Think Country,” what do you think?
Manny Blu: Wow. Storytelling. I think country music is, at the core, all about the storytelling and songwriting. Obviously I’m doing something that’s a little more alternative, and we’re going down this road, I’m self-proclaiming it “Country Punk,” but I think as long as the storytelling is there, the music can be whatever you want it to be. I don’t think it has to have a steel or a fiddle to be country. I think the storyline has to be there and the songwriting has to be good. If you’ve got that, then you can wrap it up in whatever style of music you want.
Patti McClintic: Absolutely. I’m gonna sneak in one more. Best Canadian band ever?
Manny Blu: Oh, wow! Best Canadian band ever? Damn, there’s a few good ones.
Patti McClintic: Oh, I know. There’s a lot of good ones.
Manny Blu: I’m gonna go ahead because I just listened to the new song, and I’ll say Avril Lavigne. She was my first concert I’d ever been to and I think she was my first celebrity crush too, so we’ll go with Avril Lavigne.
Patti McClintic: Okay, so we got a bonus answer out of that one with the first celebrity crush. Awesome. Perfect. Loved talking with you today and I hope we can see you live down the road, hopefully not too far.
Manny Blu: Yeah, I hope so too and I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me today.
Patti McClintic: Yes, you’re welcome and happy CRS.
Manny Blu: Thank you, you, as well.
Patti McClintic: Thank you.
What a pleasure it was talking with Manny Blu and learning more about him and his music. I always walk away feeling a lot better knowing I’ve spent a good deal of my time listening to someone’s songs and then finding out what a truly nice person they are. This was one of those occasions. If you want to listen for yourself, you can go to all the usual digital platforms and find him, or simply click the links listed below. Get on board this train while it’s still at the station, because it’s going to be taking off with a quickness pretty soon. That’s my prediction.
For more news, interviews, reviews and features that always bring country closer, visit thinkcountrymusic.com
Photo courtesy of Manny Blu/Photo credit: Russell and Raw
MANNY BLU CAN BE FOUND:
FACEBOOK: Manny Blu on Facebook
INSTAGRAM: Manny Blu on Instagram
TWITTER: Manny Blu on Twitter
YouTube: Manny Blu on YouTube
*Featured photo courtesy of Manny Blu