Thursday, May 23, 2019

One-on-one with RJ Manulid

BEING an artist far from Metro Manila, where the center of opportunities are believed to be in, may be a challenge for budding artists here in Davao City. This may be seen as a discouragement or actually something to keep the artists motivated to do better each time.

Recently, local artist RJ Manulid released his self-produced album Reassurance at Suazo Bar, Davao City. SunStar Davao is fortunate to talk with him and learn more about his journey towards his debut album and the learning he got along the way:

1. What were the challenges you faced and what are the learning while creating your first album? What was a typical day like during your recording period?

Making Reassurance taught me a lot of things. I learned to produce music on my own and how to be more comfortable with expressing myself lyrically and musically.

The biggest technical challenge for me was finding a quiet time long enough for me to record. I’d record while my siblings were at school and work so I wouldn’t bother them. During recording sessions, I hoped that outside noises like dog barks, airplane sounds, and roosters wouldn’t force me to reschedule (laughs).

A typical day while making the album was usually focused on one thing at a time. I’d write the lyrics and figure out the basic chords for the song first. Then, I’d record and produce the full song. I wouldn’t listen to the finished song for a few weeks more while I worked on the next one, then I’d come back to it to check if it still sounded okay. I’d tweak the song as needed.

2. Why "Reassurance?"

I named the album Reassurance because it’s an album about hope in the middle of anxiety, doubts, and insecurities. It’s much harder to decide to be better than it is to give in to negative thoughts. Working on this album was a therapeutic experience that let me acknowledge my feelings, process my emotions, and move on.

3. Out of the 11 tracks, which is one is your personal favorite and why?

Impostor would have to be my personal favorite at the moment because it says that you don’t have to fit in if you don’t want to. It’s freeing to be yourself without listening to outside pressures and expectations. Everything I went through to come up with that song makes it one of the closest to my heart.

4. Which one is the easiest and the hardest?

Take My Life Back was the easiest to record because it’s one of the simpler songs on the album. Leafshade Bench was the hardest to record because each verse on the song has a different emotion, and I had to go through my memories to feel it deeply. If I had to feel sad while singing, I’d remember the saddest experience I had before that would fit the lyrics. That’s aside from the fact that I to record multiple layers of my own voice.

5. Can you tell us the layout and the colors you chose for your album cover?

I decided to go with different amounts of purple because it has an ambiguous meaning. It can represent sadness and anxiety, and it can also have a calming effect depending on the shade of purple.

For the album art and layout, I collaborated with Gleb de Pio. I explained the visual concept I had for the album, then he listened to a few of the songs before coming up with his own interpretation through art. I worked on the text layout of the album cover.

6. How does it feel like to finally have an album of your own? What do you look forward to as an artist in Davao City?

After countless setbacks and frustrations, it’s surreal to finally have the album out. It’s a huge weight off my shoulders, but I know that this is just the beginning for my music. There’s still so much more to do and learn.

As an artist in Davao City, I look forward to seeing the music scene flourish further and become even more diverse.

7. Which Filipino and foreign artists do you look up to?

Among Filipino artists, I’ve always looked up to Rico Blanco and Eraserheads because they have relatable songs while still being innovative. For foreign artists, I admire Chvrches, Jon Bellion, Twenty One Pilots, Lauv, and Dean.

8. Where can people buy Reassurance?

People can message my Facebook music page if they want to buy physical CDs of Reassurance. To buy it digitally, they can buy it on Bandcamp. If they’d like to stream Reassurance, it’s on Spotify, Apple Music, and Deezer.


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