I had a chat with multi-talented Manuela Panizzo – composer, arranger, performer, backing singer and music teacher.
Can you tell us a bit about your last single – Temporary?
I used a different type of approach when composing Temporary, which is unusual for me because I started with the lyrics. I wrote down my thoughts, as I sometimes do as a form of therapy for my overwhelming emotions. Then I forgot about it and found the lyrics again one lucky day. I built the music around the rhythm of the spoken lyrics and the song basically wrote itself. I played every instrument and followed my instinct in a sort of trance while arranging. I love the result because it has a strong mood that expresses exactly that moment.
What’s been the biggest success in your career to date?
My financially most rewarding release so far was a house track I wrote with Andrea T Mendoza and producer Steven Tibet, We Are Family. We reached number 3 in the official UK Club charts in 2005.
You’ve been a backing singer for some really well-known artists – how has that been as an experience? How did this come about?
I grew up in Italy recording my own music and arranging the vocal harmonies to my songs, so when I moved to UK the musicians I hired to perform on my songs started recommending me as a backing singer. I understand the discipline and the concept of blending in with the other singers. I can work fast thanks to my good ear training.
Their tones are like heaven, it’s so humbling and inspiring to work with them. Doing backing vocals is enjoyable when all the harmonies are properly arranged and tidy, all the backing singers are perfectly in tune and rhythmically tight, otherwise it can be musical torture for my ears…
Are there any challenges you’ve faced as a backing singer?
The challenges for backing singers are underestimated: you must get along with everybody, stick to the part, have discipline, great memory and ear training and blend in with the others. To be honest, most days I am too restless and focused on my own music to be working for someone else in such a regimented way, I can often feel suffocated.
How did you first get into composing, arranging and performing (singing and playing instruments)?
I’ve written songs on guitar and piano since I was nine, then in my teens I learned Cubase from my brother, Steven Tibet, who then used to arrange and produce demos of songs we co-wrote.
You also teach singing – tell us more!
I love teaching what I do and what I love. It’s great to be able to share knowledge, the fruit of dedication and passion. Depending on what the student needs, I teach vocal technique for pop, soul and jazz and ear training. I encourage singers to learn harmony and music theory, but most importantly I try to teach them to really listen. If you can hear the difference between yourself and your favourite singers – your biggest inspirations – then you can improve with hard work and dedication.
What have you got coming up for 2019?
I plan to release as much original material as I can. I have almost finished about 20 unreleased songs that I believe in and have piled up for too long. This year I aim to release about 10 singles – one new single every six weeks. I arranged, performed and produced all the songs in different genres from electronic pop to jazzy soul.
I’m also finishing my new neo-soul album. I have some killer ballads with massive string orchestra arrangements and orchestrations arranged by my brother Steven Tibet who is producing classical music. I am looking forward to showing them off! I also want to get a lot of jazz festival gigs and perform all my original songs live.
Manuela’s new single, I Don’t Wanna Wake Up, is out now. Listen on Spotify.