Singer Manny Torres Talks Faith, Health and Having Perspective
Written by Vocalo Radio on November 14, 2019
To say Manny Torres is charming would be an understatement.
Hailing from Flint, Mich., Manny is the son of a Pentecostal pastor, who came up, like so many other great vocalists and songwriters, singing in church. His faith is still a big part of Manny’s identity as an artist, fitting holistically into the large and generous persona that he radiates. If you’ve ever heard or seen Manny perform you know this quality … It’s a warmth and familiarity infused in every note that makes it impossible not to root for the guy.
Manny finished in the top 14 on “American Idol” in 2016, and his career was rocketing forward when he received a diagnosis that sent him back to Michigan for a year of treatment and reflection. Now he’s back, with a new perspective and the same intense work ethic, performing live and working on a new project that examines his first 25 years of life.
We sat down with Manny to chat about “American Idol,” beating cancer and being a light to others.
Let’s start at the very beginning for you … What role has faith played in your work as an artist?
It’s played a huge role. It’s continuing to play a role as I evolve as an artist. Growing up, my dad was a pastor in a Pentecostal Church, which is a very charismatic and energetic environment. Every Sunday I was at Church playing music, just putting in my time. But as I evolved and moved out to Chicago, I felt like I had to separate my faith and my music. I felt like I couldn’t write about this or that, but the reality is that it all goes hand in hand. We’re all trying to do this day by day or struggling with something. We’re all just trying to wrestle through life no matter what kind of background we come from. That’s what I use for inspiration in my music. It’s definitely been a journey. I’m still involved in my Church out here because that’s a way that I can still be involved in the community.
Tell us about your experience with “American Idol.” How did that all come to be?
I moved out to Chicago and I was grinding. I was doing open mics and putting myself out there. Coming into the music industry, you just gotta pave your own path. You’ve gotta grind and figure out how you can build relationships. I first had the opportunity to audition for “The Voice” when I was in high school and I made it all the way to the blinds, but then all the teams filled up before I could audition. Fast forward a couple years later and one of the producers from “The Voice” is now on “America Idol” casting. He reached out directly said they had some private auditions, and I was ready to go. Then it was a domino effect. Things just started happening before I knew what to expect, but it was a great experience. My favorite thing about it all was definitely the relationships and the people that I met out there. It also gave me that taste of where I’m going and who I’m trying to be onstage.
What spurred you to make that move to Chicago?
I feel like Chicago is on another level. It’s an established world class city. When I was 18 years old, I knew that I wanted to do music and I thought, “If I can stick it out in Chicago, I got a shot.” But actually getting to come out here and seeing all of the talent and community and cultures, that’s what has made me really passionate about the city. Once I started to network and really get in there, I was sold. Community is what I live for. I believe we are here to be a light to the community and to serve others.
Chicago’s sound has a way of getting stuck on you, too. You can’t be here and get away from the Chicago soul, R&B or hip-hop. On a personal level, Chicago has offered me so much. The city offered me a completely different sound that I wasn’t necessarily familiar with.
So, you do a lot of performing?
I do a lot of performing. The way I’m wired is as on a performance standpoint. Even in my writing, I’m thinking, “how is this going to be performed in an acoustic set, in a full band set, in a track set?” That kind of all that kind of stuff. That’s just how I’m wired.
Who are some of your current music influences?
Right now I’ve been really into the Chicago scene. I’ve been listening a lot of Ness Heads’ new album, she’s Puerto Rican. In Chicago I tend like to listen to a lot of the people who have a similar kind of fan base.
In regards to mainstream, I’m definitely in the pop lane. My voice is an R&B, raspy, soulful kind of deal. But when I’m thinking about music, I’m thinking about songs, I’m thinking about hooks, I’m thinking about how is this going to get played at a club, I’m thinking about the overall construction of what makes a good pop track.
I like listening to Vocalo so much too, whenever I’m in the car it’s either Vocalo or my phone.
What does the next year hold for you?
I’m super excited for it because this year has been the return, so to speak, because I got sick for the year. I was in Michigan, doing treatment for an entire year basically. I was out for the count. I did my chemotherapy and was good to go, came back to the city and a lot of that year was reestablishing because, being a full time musician, we’re constantly thinking about the next move.
You dip out for a year and you come back and you can’t just hit up the old connects and pick up right where you left off. We’re here basically re-establishing these connections, doing the shows, doing the festivals, dropping a couple of singles, kind of getting the fans back in there.
For 2020 I’m working on an EP. This is going to be more of a full project that people can dissect and really get a feel for where my story is now and where my sound is now. I’m trying to drop hella collaborations with Chicago bands, with Chicago hip-hop artists, with pop artists. I’m about to start dropping so much music and I want to use this time to just evolve and grow and see where the sound of the city and the music takes me.
How has that experience of being sick shaped your music and life in general?
It’s a full circle back to the faith thing. I stayed healthy, you know, I basically thought I was invincible – I’m in the gym every day, I’m grinding, that was at the peak of Idol. I was moving at a million miles an hour. And then I kind of get hit with this, you know, back pain turns into a three centimeter mass, three centimeter mass turns into surgery and surgery turns into cycles of chemotherapy. But it’s just that reality that life’s short. You cannot lose sight of the things that are important to you and the values that you hold. The fame will come and go, but my values are not. I build my foundation on top of that, which is my family, which is my faith, which is my music, my relationship to people. I’m not just trying to link up, I’m trying to build rapport, I’m trying to be like, hey, how can I help you? How can you help me?
That experience was a great reminder for me at a young age – I feel like a lot of times people catch a buzz and they get all this hype, but like when they’re in the peak of their success, then that’s when they start wrestling with this stuff. Like I was wrestling with that years ago, and I feel like it’s a blessing because when I was in that hospital basically getting nuked for five hours a day – there are little kids next to me, you know, saying there are old people next to me who have been there for for years and years and years and years, like I only had a year to do it. I am blessed. Life is short, be a light to others, be a blessing to others and be a light through your music.
Follow Manny Torres Here
Listen to Manny Torres Here
Shot by Brendan Carroll
Interview by Seamus Doheny
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