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SiS Featured Songwriter: Nate Manuel

15 May Posted by in Blog, Featured Artists | Comments
SiS Featured Songwriter:  Nate Manuel

Playing to sold out stadiums, having #1 hits on the Billboard Charts, climbing the stairs at the Grammys to receive accolades… these are often daydreams that enter the thoughts of up-and-coming artists. But for Pacific Northwest singer-songwriter Nate Manuel, his dreams come true not with notoriety but in a kind of anonymity where the music makes the listener feel something deeply even if the writer is unknown. His vision of success is simply “to play smaller more intimate venues every now and then and have my music played in movies” because, as Nate explained, “ hearing music during movies always leaves a lasting impression… all the emotion can be captured and bottled in a short scene.”

Nate’s early exposure to music created a varied soundscape that suits his aspirations to capture the wide range of human emotion through a backdrop of music. “My earliest experiences in music involved a lot of The Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel from my Dad, and Iron Butterfly and Black Sabbath from my Mom. Led Zeppelin was also a favorite of hers along with Aerosmith. My dad was a softie, while my mom was more into the heavier rock at the time.” He went on to say, “Mom tells me she got this from when she grew up in the Philippines. She and my brothers lived down the street from a bar where lot of sailors would be singing Karaoke.”

Unlike writers who knew from an early age that writing or music was a passion, Nate reflected, “To be honest, I never once dreamed about writing music when I was little. The only singing I’d done was at church and during the Karaoke gatherings my parents would have from time to time.”

Though Nate started writing music in high school while playing bass for a band, he offered, “I never really shared any of my music at the time because it was too personal, and I didn’t want to get shunned for my style of music when the popular music at the time was Punk and Indie rock. I kept all these pent-up songs in secret for over six years, never sharing anything publicly, until the girl I was with encouraged me to do an open mic show at the local Edmond’s Tunes. There I was given 20 minutes to showcase my songs and got a really good response from the listeners.”

Now an active performer and honing his own songwriting craft, Nate says he, “writes songs as a vent for emotions and to cope with the daily struggles of life and love. My inspiration comes from my unsaid emotions. I tend to be passive-aggressive in a lot of situations and never express emotion in a healthy way other than through music. It’s a very obvious cliché, but music has helped me get through a lot in life.”

One of his favorite examples, “Ode to My New Low” is one Nate says he, “can always relate to… it has to do with the songwriting process in general because I’m usually in a state of darkness when I’m writing, and instead of shunning it and treating it as taboo, I’ve learned that sometimes the writing is welcome to help cope with my emotions.”

Nate went on to explain, though, that music has also, “taken a lot from me because I usually write during a low time of my life… revisiting a memory or still handling a current one. So it takes a lot out of me because it’s like putting all my problems on a kitchen table and forcing myself to eat them and enjoy it.”

As Nate works through those complex emotions musically, his writing process is both instrumental and experiential. “I usually start my writing process from either just messing around on the guitar, or trying to figure out other songs for the most part. Sometimes I’ll hear or say something that I like out of the blue, or out of hearing a conversation, and try to sing it into any sort of melody.”

Though Nate continues to grow as a performer and songwriter, like most artists, self-doubt looms in the background. “My greatest challenge as a writer is accepting my music without over criticizing it. I feel like I’m constantly looking for acceptance whether it’s from me or from the audience. As a performer, I never know what to say or how to say things given the pressure of performing and entertaining the public. Trying to make music my life will always be a challenge because there’s so many other great musicians I feel deserve a spotlight, and I never want to take it away from them.”

Nate encourages other writers wishing to grow to follow a simple piece of advice that he applies to his own writing. “I would suggest to never be satisfied easily with your songs. Try to hone your best lyrics and melodies and don’t be afraid to return to them if they’re not exactly what you want them to be. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rewritten songs because of this, but I am happy with the end result.”

Another resource he found helpful was Songwriters in Seattle. He explained, “I’m not trying to brown-nose, but this group has helped me hone my performance skills at the open mics and showcases. I’ve gotten to collaborate with other musicians and listen in on other musicians who have helped me with my own songs. It’s also been a comfortable group of people who are very supportive during your sets, building your confidence and giving you positive feedback when it comes to your own songs.”

Looking to his future, Nate sees, “more recording and also hoping to help inspire other musicians to keep doing what they love even if they aren’t selling out shows or playing in front of millions of people. I haven’t done any of that but am very satisfied just playing in front of supportive people and also being supportive.”

That desire to be in a supporting role will serve songwriter Nate Manuel well as he continues to seek ways to become the subtle musical soundscape for the complex emotions of characters and conflict in the cinematic genre. And as to how that will unfold, as Nate expresses through his own favorite Mill Davis quote, “If you understood everything I say, you’d be me.”

Char Seawell
Char Seawell is an award winning singer-songwriter, a novelist, and essayist from Bothell, WA. A journalism graduate from Colorado State University, she is currently working on two historical fiction novels, one based in the North Cascades and one in pre-Nazi Germany,

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