Check it out
What: “A Musical Evening with Melissa Manchester and Vatrena King”
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 27
Where: Woodland Opera House, 320 Second St., Woodland
Grammy winning singer-songwriter-actress Melissa Manchester is only tired of being asked one question.
“How did you get your start?”
With a career spanning decades and punctuated with hits, awards and a legion of legendary collaborators, that’s a fair response.
While her music may return those of us of a certain generation to our past, it is clear that Manchester herself is always moving forward.
“I’ve had a 40-year career doing something that I loved doing in my mother’s living room and now I do it all over the place. … I’m very, very blessed,” she said via telephone just days before heading to New York on a tour that includes New Jersey, Hawaii, Nevada, Texas, and, on June 27, the Woodland Opera House.
Manchester’s enthusiasm and passion for music resonated throughout the conversation.
“I never go stale. The more I do this the more grateful I am,” she said, “the more I understand the value of a song. The song is a very sacred piece of work for me — I’ve seen how the song changes hearts and minds and nations. Songs can be dismissed, but I’ve seen the value of song in someone’s heart.”
She acknowledged the challenges of the music business, calling it “not for the faint of heart” but said, “it suits me.”
Manchester did take a hiatus from actively performing and recording to raise her children, but continued to write, an impulse that she said “kept bubbling up.” As she returned to an industry that had shifted during her absence, Manchester adjusted with a shift in her own trajectory.
“Coming back to see that the landscape (of the music industry) is completely unrecognizable, I found it hard to get my bearings,” she said, explaining her solution. “The way to get my bearings was to teach.”
Manchester is an adjunct professor in the popular music program at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music.
“It was my students who taught me about crowdfunding,” she said, explaining the production of her upcoming album. While she realized that independently producing a crowd-funded album meant that she would be missing the support of a major label, “the trade-off is the ability to create your own musical world. It occurred to me that this was an adventure that I didn’t want to miss.”
Her awe at the collaborative nature of the experience still resonates in her voice.
“It was unbelievable how involved the fans were; it had never occurred to me. … I wanted to recreate the experience of what making records was like.”
Some fans contributed enough to the campaign to be in the studio during the production. “We had great musicians and some of my students in the studio as well.”
The process, Manchester said, “became very living and breathing. It was gorgeous.”
She calls the shift in music production “just a different way of getting business done. Who knows how it will morph. Really, the wheel has been reinvented, and I’m not sure it’s as round, the same shape that it was.”
Manchester’s upcoming appearance at the Woodland Opera House is both a nod to changing methods of entertainment production and old friendships. She will be joined on stage by singer-songwriter Vatrena King, a Winters resident, as part of a fundraiser for “Zuccotti Park,” an independently produced musical for which King is the composer.
“Vatrena is an old friend of mine; she was a background singer for me for a while,” Manchester said. “She’s very gifted as a singer and as a writer, and she’s working on this project, and I’m happy to help her raise funds for it.”
The title of Manchester’s upcoming album, her 20th, perhaps says it all: “You Gotta Love the Life.”
And it is clear that Melissa Manchester does. “I’ve never lost the hunger. Life shows up for me in song form. That’s just the way it shows up.”