Johnny Manuel sets his sights on new horizons

US singer Johnny Manuel (pictured) is now living in Sydney and relaunching his career with a new single and concert tour. Photo: supplied.

America’s Got Talent, Eurovision Song Contest and The Voice Australia alumni Johnny Manuel has moved to Sydney, released a new single and is preparing for live shows. He spoke with Danny Waterson about his exciting new life Down Under.

Seasoned American singer-songwriter Johnny Manuel has already had an eventful long-term career in the music industry – yet at the age of 36 he is, in some respects, just getting started. Launching his new solo pop single ‘Lost in the Music’, Manuel has started afresh with a new sound, a new life in Sydney and a renewed passion for his musical future. 

Since at least the age of 14, the Michigan-born singer knew his destiny was music. “It’s been years of trying at it, working hard,” a warm and friendly Manuel explains over a vegan brunch. Manuel signed a record deal and released his debut album prior to his 16th birthday and went on tour across the United States under the guidance of record industry heavyweight Jermaine Dupri, writer and producer for Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, Jay-Z and Aretha Franklin, among others.

He gained further popularity and exposure with television roles across Nickelodeon, as well as America’s Got Talent (2017) and The Voice Australia (2020).

Johnny Manuel’s take on Whitney Houston’s ‘I Have Nothing’, which received a standing ovation in Week five of America’s Got Talent, season 12 (2017). Video: Top Viral Talent/YouTube.

Speaking about The Voice Australia experience, Manuel says “there was more of a community and friends vibe” among the Australian production.

Manuel headed to Australia to live with his partner after releasing various singles in the US over the past few years, and is now determined to reignite his musical career and do things his way.

‘Lost in the Music’ sees Manuel team up with American songwriter David Ryan Harris and Australian producer Michael Fatkin to create a fresh pop-funk vibe. Speaking about the song, Manuel explains: “I started thinking about relationships, and at the beginning there’s this honeymoon phase and everything’s perfect about this person – and then, the longer the time goes, it’s harder to maintain that.

“I started to see parallels between that and my music career.”

Johnny Manuel performing his new single ‘Lost in the Music’ live at 301 Studios, Sydney. Video: Johnny Manuel/YouTube.

After the opportunity to travel the world and live in London, Canada and LA, Manuel decided to move to Sydney with his partner in 2019 – at first, living at Terrigal on the Central Coast and now based in Haymarket.

Manuel’s enthusiasm for Sydney is evident: “I love the beaches, it’s super laid back, I love the feel. I love the energy of the people. Everyone here is nice and direct, and I appreciate that.”

When asked about his favourite Sydney spots, he enthuses: “I love the Shift Eatery in Surry Hills and I love exploring the city. I really like Haymarket, good vibe. It feels like you could be anywhere in the world.”

A highlight of Manuel’s career to date was performing as part of Bulgaria’s entry in the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, flying to Lisbon to compete.

“I worked with a producer who liked my voice, and he sent me a song he thought would be really good for me and submitted it to Eurovision,” he says excitedly.

“There were two Americans and three Bulgarians, and we formed this supergroup called Equinox, it was such an enjoyable experience”.

Johnny Manuel performing as part of the group Equinox at the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon. Video: Eurovision Song Contest/YouTube.

Keeping the momentum going, some cool remixes will soon drop for ‘Lost in the Music’ as well as a brand new single titled ‘Sober’, set for release in early June.

Manuel will soon be taking to the stage for concerts in Sydney and Melbourne with a live band, performing at Sydney’s Oxford Art Factory on Saturday, 19 June

What can music lovers going to the live shows expect to see? Manuel says: “There will be some fan favourites, as well as my original songs. I want the show to have an upbeat tone to it all. We did a few showcases after The Voice and it will be similar to those: some originals and covers, and some acoustic songs.”

Johnny Manuel will be performing at Sydney’s Oxford Art Factory in June. Photo: supplied.

When I cheekily ask if there’ll be any Justin Bieber type moves, Manuel laughs.: “There’s no choreography, but I definitely move.”

Speaking of moves, one thing seems sure: this is a man on the move, whose star is ascending.

Watch this space.

Johnny Manuel’s single ‘Lost in the Music’ is out now. His next single, ‘Sober’, is due for release in early June.

The Harbour Agency is presenting Johnny Manuel live in concert at the Oxford Art Factory, 38–46 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst at 6pm and 9.15pm, Friday, 18 June, 2021. Tickets ($50 plus booking fee) and further info is available at www.moshtix.com.au/v2/event/johnny-manuel/126467.