If there’s one thing keyboard wizard, producer, arranger and songwriter Roger Joseph Manning Jr. knows, it’s how to make the exact right next move as an artist, regardless of the length of time it takes him to make it. To that end, the multifaceted Manning has officially returned to the forefront as a solo artist with a galvanizing new four-song EP, “Glamping.” For more on the self-released EP visit Manning’s PledgeMusic page.
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Sean Ritchie: I want to start off with Los Angeles. What really stands out and makes the city special to you? Where would you send a first-time visitor coming to the city?
Roger Joseph Manning Jr.: It’s really the diversity. It’s so spread out. There’s so much different terrain and a variety of things to do. I mean it’s getting crowded, so traffic is worse and the lines are longer, but the events and the unique opportunities there are still very enticing. We happen to live in an area called Mount Washington, which is a very nature-oriented area, even though we are literally only 10-minutes north of downtown. It’s kind of incredible that way and not unusual to Los Angeles.
Where would I send a first time visitor? If they didn’t want to do the generic amusement park or downtown Hollywood tourist attraction situation, there’s a ton of amazing museums for starters. There’s no shortage of venues with lots of different music either. There’s a surprising amount of hiking and parks all within the city, as well.
SR: That’s awesome. To bring it back a little bit, I wanted to touch base on how you first got introduced to music. Was it something through your family; friends? And how did you get inspired to create your own?
RJM: I was always interested in music as far back as I can remember. I think my mom was smart enough to say, “Well, he seems to have this in his system naturally, so maybe we should give him some sort of lessons.” All I wanted to do was play the drums. But, she was practical enough to realize that cords and harmony are going to be just as important, so lets train him on piano or guitar.
My grandparents had just donated a piano they were getting rid of, because they were moving, so the decision was kind of made for me. I had no interest in playing the piano at all, it was my mom’s idea. I just wanted to play the drums. I pretty much wanted to play drums through junior high. It wasn’t until high school that I started taking piano lessons more seriously. I realized the potential for a variety of things the keyboard could bring to me musically, whether it be the synthesizers or the jazz piano and everything in-between.
I played drums in punk bands at night time and practiced jazz piano during the day, so I became well-rounded pretty quick. I like so many different styles in music. Unbeknownst to me, I had a pretty well-rounded education without really even desiring that.
SR: That’s awesome to have the best of both worlds in that sense. Was the prospect of traveling and seeing the world any part of the inspiration for you?
RJM: Well, it was very bizarre. At that time in my life, in high school, I was so used to living in a small town. If somebody told me, “Hey, there’s a gig for you in New York City or England we’re going to fly there this week,” that whole concept would’ve been completely surreal to me. What I found out, particularly in Jellyfish, was that the whole traveling thing was very surreal and I enjoyed it, but I was in such a business mode traveling. I was trying to make sure everything was going well with the band financially and musically. I was more concerned about videos, photo shoots and things like that, than I was seeing the sights.
As you probably already know, traveling as a musician, unless they work it into their travel plans, there is no sightseeing. You’re lucky to find a restaurant that serves you a semi-healthy meal, and get enough sleep, before you jump into the van/bus/plane and take off again. I have, particularly with Beck, been with people who I’ve wanted to hang out with and see sights. I’m very lucky now, because my fiancé gets to travel, so now I’ve got somebody that I want to do leisure things with.
SR: Absolutely, so to fast forward a bit your new EP, “Glamping,” is out now. I had a chance to listen to it and I really enjoyed it. Talk about the inspiration about wanting, after so many years, to put out new music and stay creative.
RJM: I was originally very driven to make a name for myself and my groups and get success out of original music. I’m very studied in a lot of areas, but writing and realizing original pop songs was my biggest intention. And, to this day, out of everything I get to do, it’s the most fulfilling. You know it’s original music either written by yourself or collaborated on. To see if come to fruition is a very challenging and long process, but it’s very gratifying for me, every stage of it. I’ve been trying to do that since day one.
SR: That’s really great! To tie it into the travel side of things, when you do have some downtime and you’re looking for a vacation somewhere, are you more of a beach guy? Looking for more of a city? Or, trying to be somewhere more remote in the country?
RJM: I do like extreme nature. I was very fortunate growing up, although we were in California where there was a lot of beach access my parents enjoyed taking us to, I spent a lot of time in the mountains actually. I kind of took it for granted growing up. My parents had a cabin rental in Lake Tahoe they rented for most of the year. For Christmas and spring break we would try to get up there to ski and snowboard. My younger brother lives in Truckee, Lake Tahoe to this day. I try to visit him as much as possible, which at this point is once a year.
I’m a total mountain boy. I feel really at peace and on point up there. The beach is great too. Music was actually the reason why I went to Hawaii for the first time. My very first time in Hawaii was because we played a show there and I was just beside myself. I couldn’t believe it. I’ve been to Hawaii three or four times now, mostly for touring. I do love the tropics too. I have a fantasy of getting to Fiji. But, it’s all about the Sierra Mountains for me.
SR: You touched on wanting to go to Fiji. So lastly, I love asking well-traveled people if there are destinations that they’ve never been to that they want to see. If Fiji is your first one, do you have a couple of others that you would like to hit?
RJM: Yeah, I cant think of a place that I wouldn’t want to go to. I’d like to go to Africa and India, specifically in the north where you get the Himalayan foothills. But, I’ve heard many stories from friends going over there and spending a third of their vacation lying in bed with some sort of stomach flu. I’m not particularly looking forward to that, and I’m not into getting 28 vaccines to go to a beautiful part of Africa. Maybe that’s just my own personal hang-up and me blowing it out of proportion, but yeah I would love to see parts of Africa and definitely India.
All of Southeast Asia is very intriguing to me. Particularly from a ancient cultural and spirituality standpoint. Hindu religions and how that all shaped the architecture and the monasteries is super fascinating to me, because particularly when you get into the Himalayas you see a lot of cultures having to live very much with the land. They’re forced to be harmonious with the land.
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For more on Roger Joseph Manning Jr. visit his website: