Manu Chevalier is a passionate musician, performer, songwriter, and producer who was born and raised in Marseille, France.
Get on the dance floor, the first single released in August 2022, received excellent reviews and over 1000 radio airplays. The song still merits discovery and dissemination. Get on the dance floor and transport yourself to the DiscoFunk era, ala Justin Timberlake/Jamiroquai. Check out the exclusive interview below:
1. Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and how it all got started?
MANU CHEVALIER: I’m a French musician from Marseille where I still live. My mother was piano teacher and 3 of my sisters are classical musicians. My starting point comes probably from my sisters. They are older, and I grew up listening to their various musical tastes: The Beatles, Franck Zappa, George duke, Supertramp, Genesis, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Al Jarreau, Steely Dan, Michel Jonasz, Claude Nougaro, Julien Clerc to name a few. I can also add some classical composers like Frederic Chopin, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Gabriel Fauré. Then as a teenager I discovered other artists like Earth Wind and Fire, Kool and The Gang, Bee Gees, Shalamar, Michael Jackson, Depeche Mode, David Bowie, Queen, Rod Stewart and many others big names ….
2. Did you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
MANU CHEVALIER: A little bit of both. I started drums and music theory when I was 10 at the « Conservatoire » in Marseille, then I stopped after 1 year, I was not ready to study music. A few years later I discovered Bossanova and Jazz Samba with Stan Getz/AC Jobim and I started to learn saxophone. I already knew that I would write my own compositions. I took a few basic lessons during 2 years, then I explored and trained myself. I also played with Jazz groups, and started to write my own themes. Then, I started to write some songs with lyrics, and I took a few singing lessons to learn how to perform them. In 2015 I took a year off from my job at that time, and I went to a Jazz music school (IMFP in Salon de Provence). I studied harmonies, singing lessons and I kept on training on saxophone. I also took a few piano lessons, but more to play the chord than to be a real pianist. At the same time I was playing in a soul/funk band and we did many gigs. Then I played 4 years in a professional orchestra. My songwriting was already not bad. I even experienced some songs in concerts and it worked fine. But I felt that there was something missing. That’s why, to improve my songwriting skills, I first signed up with SongTown, a songwriting community, mostly « country music » oriented, and I learnt a few basic things with them. Then in 2020 I signed up with the songwriting Academy, an online pop songwriting community/Academy in London. I’m still member and guided by great mentors who worked with big artists like Michael Jackson, Dido, Kylie Minogue, Earth Wind and Fire, to name a few.
3. On the contrary, what would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your life or music career so far?
MANU CHEVALIER: Personally, I’m proud of my family. Musically, I can be proud to have a catalog of songs in different styles that I wrote, arranged, produced, mixed, mastered and sometimes perform. And I like to listen to them, 🙂 I’m also proud that « Get on the dance floor » is played many times on radios and has many good feedbacks. This mean that the music that I share can touch people. I heard it live in some radio programs and it’s a nice feeling. Music is my way, for sure.
4. Could you describe your creative processes? How do usually start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a tune, a beat, or a narrative in your head? And do you collaborate with others in this process?
MANU CHEVALIER: First, I’d like to mention my wife, who is my main inspiration and support. It’s also important to have reference tracks in mind (which is not always my case), but be careful not to be too close to them. I don’t have exactly the same process when I write a song and when I write an instrumental theme. For instrumental themes, I generally start with a chord progression and I play around with the sax or with the piano until I can shape a melody. Then I structure the theme. For songs, it depends, I often got a melody first, sometimes it’s just a chord progression, or a riff, a groove. It also happens that I got the whole song in mind. I usually start with a voice memo, or a piano to play the chords and sing the melody. Lyrics are generally the last thing, I try to phrase/match the words with the music. The mood helps me to find the subject, and I often set a blue print/map of the story or Message that i want to communicate. I can also write or develop a song when I do something else like vacuum cleaning, walking outside with the dog, taking a nap/sleeping … When I cowrite, I generally work with lyricists, and I’m often in charge with music, arrangements and production, but we are always in connection to give the best to the song. We are here to serve the music.
5. Who were your first and strongest musical influences and why the name ‘MANU CHEVALIER’?
MANU CHEVALIER: I would say that Jazz and Bossanova are my starting points. Then my influences are also Soul, Disco, Funk, Reggae, Pop and I love WestCoast Californian music. I can give you some names: Michael Jackson, Bruno Mars, Stevie Wonder, Incognito, Jamiroquai, Herbie Hancock, George Michael, Depeche Mode, Pat Metheny Stan Getz, AC Jobim, Ivan Lins, Burt Bacharach, Kool and The Gang, Earth Wind and Fire, Michael McDonald, Hall And Oates, Toto, Eric Tagg, Bill Labounty, Robbie Dupree, Ole Borud and the list goes on. I’m more funk than rock for sure, lol. Emmanuel Chevalier is my real name, but everybody calls me Manu. My mentors advised me to take Manu Chevalier as an artist name, they said it sounds sexy, lol. I also thought about ManuDeMars (because I’m from Marseille) but it was already taken.
6. What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your life or music career so far?
MANU CHEVALIER: I had (too) many sad events and difficult moments in my life, especially these last years. The loss of people is always the hardest thing to endure…my parents, my uncles and aunts, friends, my dogs, even some known artists like Al Jarreau Michael Jackson or George Michael. But the latest event is the loss of my cousin in September 2021. We grew up together not far from each other, it’s a bit like the brother I never had. When he passed away, I wrote a song in French in 1 hour, that I perform by myself. It’s probably one of my best and most emotional song, a kind of Acoustic French pop style. I didn’t have the strength to sing it at the funeral, so I recorded it and played it. It was a strong. Maybe I will release it one day. But at the moment, it’s a bit hard for me to listen to it. Musically, I would say that my hardest moment was when the band I was playing with during 6 years put me out, we should have all reacted in a better way, but it didn’t happen. I learnt from that…long story.
7. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners, and how would you personally describe your sound?
MANU CHEVALIER: I would say sensitivity, musicality, mood and groove. I like to use the surprising chords and unusual changes that you don’t find so often in today’s pop songs. It gives different « colors » I can’t describe a sound as I’m quite versatile, I focus first on the songwriting, and then I try to find the sound and the singer that fits the song.
8. For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and music maker, and the transition towards your own style, which is known as POP?
MANU CHEVALIER: Due to my versatility, it would be hard to define an exlusive pop style for me. Today I’m on a disco wave, but tomorrow it might be that I go on a soul or reggae direction. Saying this, my development was quite slow. As a kid, I was already imagining some « stories » with music on it, but not sure that I knew the melodies. It might be that I was already on a creative process, but I never used it at that time. I would say that my first learning process is musical culture. The more you know, the more you have some elements for inspiration and versatility. I can be happy to have a very large musical culture and a huge collection of CDs, Vinyls K7 ect…. Then learning and practicing music are essential. But it might be curious, I didn’t want to be an artist, I feel more musician, songwriter, producer. I could release some songs as a sax player, even as a French singer, but this is not the priority for the moment. I also think that my voice is not good enough for styles like disco, funk or soul. And in this business, the singer is very important, he sells the song. Anyway, I perform sometimes adlibs and background vocals. Great legends like Martin Solveig, Mousse T, Quincy Jones or Sergio Mendes are not singers, but they release music under their names and collaborate with top singers. But before releasing my music, I cowrote and coproduced 2 songs with the American artist Tamra Hayden which are completely different styles, and they are on spotify. (Check out my site www.manuchevalier.com for more infos). My debut single « Get on the dance floor » is out since August 2022, and it was initially written for Justin Timberlake. But it’s very hard to get some contacts with that kind of artist. So my mentors advised me to release it, so that I can show up a little bit of my music. A second single is about to come (see below for more details) .
9. Creative work in a studio or home environment, or interaction with a live audience? Which of these two options excites you most, and why?
MANU CHEVALIER: I would say that creative work is probably what I prefer, because I am creative, it’s almost an obsession. But playing live is also a great feeling, I played a lot of gigs, and we often had a great interaction with the audience.
10. Do you feel that your music is giving you back just as much fulfillment as the amount of work you are putting into it or are you expecting something more, or different in the future?
MANU CHEVALIER: Not for the moment. It’s hard to have high expectations when you’re new in this business, and the competition is very high. More than 100 000 new songs are uploaded everyday on Spotify. It’s a lot of work, you must invest a lot and it takes time before having interesting results. Patience is the key. You must also build your connections and a fan base in social networks. When I released « Get on the dance floor » I did a video clip that you can see on my YouTube VEVO Channel. I also did a radio campaigns which gave more than 1200 airplays in different countries, and still today. I got some press reviews and some agencies took it in their catalog for eventual Sync Placements. And all that takes a lot of time. Now a second one is about to be released on July14th, « I belong to you » is the title. I found another great singer (Michael Washington), the style stays Disco/Funk, and I bring some other elements like percussions, horns and a sax solo…and I’m on the background vocals The pre-save link is here :https://wearergm.lnk.to/IbelongtoyoufeatMichaelWashington I hope to get more results with my second single, I’m working on the promotion right now. I also have many unreleased songs in different genres…. I can release them, or/and try to pitch them for synchronisation.