Spotlight: Manisha

Tell us a little about yourself and your musical journey.

A huge part of who I am is that I am Filipino-Indian and I grew up in Manila, Philippines. At the age of 10, I began songwriting, coming up with melodies and lyrics on drives home from softball practices or theater rehearsals. But being a successful musician in Manila is very difficult especially when you don’t come from a “connected” family. My mom and I would even travel for 2 hours one way for a 30-minute writing class (it just wasn’t sustainable). Although I had an amazing piano teacher, I didn’t know how else to hone and grow my songwriting skills. So then at 15, I accepted that music was just going to be a hobby. 

All of that changed when my family and I migrated to Seattle, Washington–in my junior year of high school. On top of having to make new friends and navigate in this new environment, starting at a new school in junior year meant being thrown into the US college application process. It was my biggest challenge, but also my biggest ally. I had a Music Technology Teacher who showed me the possibility of turning songwriting from a hobby into a full-time career. And by the powers of the universe, the immense support from family and teachers, and after a lot of hard work, I got into the Berklee College of Music (class of 2024). 

Since being at Berklee I have been getting nothing but mentors, learning from both classmates and professors. I found myself learning things about songwriting that I wouldn’t have imagined I could comprehend a year, two years prior to being at Berklee. Over the last 3 years, I honed my writing, my sound, formed a band, learned how to arrange my songs and performed my originals in many gigs across Boston, NYC, Nashville, and Seattle, and entered many open mics.

I’m now a senior and in my final year at Berklee. Although there is still so much to learn, I heard a quote that really resonated with how I feel about being an artist and songwriter today: “I’m tired, but I never get tired of it” (Taylor Swift). The hustle is going to keep hustling, but I know that the joy of creating something magical will be worthwhile. 

Your music is such a beautiful mashup of so many influences!  How would you define your sound and genre, and who are some of your musical inspirations?

Whenever anyone asks me what my “sound” is, I always fall back on pop-jazz-theater. 

Growing up I was HEAVILY inspired by the Singer-Songwriter icon Miss Taylor Swift. A lot of my storytelling style comes from her, mixed with my musical theater experiences. Nay, my mom, introduced me to Broadway. From Wicked to Mama Mia, I adored musicals, both listening to and performing them. They felt larger-than-life, a characteristic I always wanted in my own life. My Papa introduced me to jazz legends like Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Bill Evans. I fell in love with the melody writing and chord changes in a lot of these artists’ songs. 

My core has always been storytelling over jazz-y chords. But my pop bone really came from who I believe is not just a genius songwriter but also a vibrant arranger and producer: Jon Bellion. 

What is your favorite part about writing and performing music?

The BEST part is when my writing reveals a truth in me that I had not recognized, or didn’t allow myself to recognize, before. Writing has always been an outlet for extreme emotions. Be it ecstasy or anxiety, writing is my way of actualizing my feelings. I’m a big journal girlie, because writing is one of the only ways I can get something off my chest, understand it, and (hopefully) move forward. 

I am 100% myself on a stage. Ever since I was little, being on stage just felt right. The BEST thing about performing is when you and your bandmates get “lost in the sauce.” There are magical moments on stage that not even the players can understand. Everyone just transcends and EVERYONE can feel it. That’s the best part about performing: the moment when the music takes you somewhere else. 

Do you have any dream cities or venues that you would love to perform in?

My current dream is to have a sold-out show at the Roadrunner in Boston. I have lived in Boston for almost 4 years now because of college, and throughout that time I’ve gone to several concerts there. There’s something so communal and honest about the space that I adore. 

I would also like to someday fulfill little Manisha’s dream of performing at the Araneta Coliseum in the Philippines. I watched my first concert there (Taylor Swift) and little me would not believe it if I got to do my own show at that same venue. 

Honestly, I don’t have a dream city. I do hope to find myself living in NYC at some point. I’m one of those people that thrives in chaotic-energy spaces. But the dream is to be able to make enough money through music that I can just travel the world–maybe even make my way to cities I don’t even know about yet! 

How did you get involved with Music Forward, and what did you gain from your Music Forward experience?

Funny enough, Music Forward reached out to me for one of their Virtual Open Mic Fridays. It’s pretty incredible because they reached out during a time when I was just starting to really dig into my music, form a band, get on my social media grind, etc. I took it as just another outlet for me to get feedback from Industry Professionals on my songs. Never would I have thought that this opportunity would open doors for me, connecting me to Professionals even outside of the Music Forward sphere. I truly gained a lot of learning and networking opportunities through Music Forward and am so grateful for their continuous support in my artistry

Any new music we can expect from you on the horizon?

Well, if you’re asking… I have my first single “Minor Details” from my debut EP coming out in mid-September. The date will be announced on my social media @manishasmusic (IG, TikTok, Facebook) so definitely be on the lookout for that! The song is about the opposites-attract trope. At the end of the day, the differences between you and a possible partner are just… minor details 😉 

Finally, how does music move you?

Music has a unique way of putting emotions into words, which makes me feel less alone. I’ve always admired artists who have the courage to talk about difficult-to-say, nuanced, “looking like the bad guy”, not afraid to be “cringe” stories. Growing up, I didn’t talk a lot about my emotions, out of fear of judgment–both from others and myself. 

People can feel honesty in their bones, and when artists become so vulnerable that they name and paint their feelings through song, I believe they turn into healers. What I find so magical about music is that it stems from healing or loving oneself, but then has the power to heal and love whole communities. 

Follow Manisha on Instagram

Get Involved