GLEE Star discovers aspiring Pinoy Artist

The Glee Kids

I am a self-confessed GLEEK.  And who isn’t?  Who isn’t a fan of Fox’s hit musical series, Glee?  Surely, the show has taken the world by storm with its story, talented cast, and its choice of music (most of which are now on my iPod).  After watching the fall finale last week and seeing the Glee kids win sectionals, I just could not wait for the next episode on April 13.  It’s such a long wait!

Certainly, the show has made me much interested in knowing more about the songs they have been performing, as well as find out the original performers behind the featured songs.

Last night, I watched on YouTube the original version of Wicked’s Defying Gravity, sung by Idina Menzel.

But my pleasant surprise was discovering an emerging artist in the United States.  Truth be told, I first thought he was Chinese-American.  But when I checked out his well-performed and yes, well-enunciated rendition of Gary Valenciano’s Sana Maulit Muli , I just knew that he’s Filipino.  And yes, he’s Pinoy!

His name is Manny Garcia.  He is 22 years old, and was born and raised in Chicago.  He is 100% Filipino, with his mom and dad coming from Dumaguete and Manila respectively.

A Gleek himself, the show inspired Manny to perform and upload a mash-up of two songs: Defying Gravity and True Colors.  Shortly after he uploaded it on YouTube, Cory Monteith, who plays Finn, discovered Manny’s performance and told the whole world about it via Twitter (What Twitter can do!).  Consequently, several US publications (no less than TV Guide, for example) have taken notice of Manny.  And his YouTube performances are slowly but steadily catching the attention of netizens. As of this writing, his versions of the Glee remakes have been viewed over 40,000 times. His performance is spreading like fire.

Ralph: Cory Monteith has twitted your song, and now, people are recognizing your work.  How do you feel about it?

Manny: “I’m so overwhelmed and speechless! When I saw it, I didn’t know what to say and I couldn’t believe it was happening! My hands were shaking and my heart was racing as I watched my inbox flood with notifications from YouTube and Twitter! The video has gotten nearly 15,000 views in just the past 24 hours, just because of Cory’s tweet–and the resulting “retweet” from FOX itself, an article on “The Wire” entertainment news site, and even TV Guide! I’m in complete shock and disbelief, constantly questioning, “Me!? My little video? Are you sure!?” It’s truly a blessing and I’m giving thanks every minute, and am hoping and praying that it takes me further.”

Before the mash-up, in 2008, Manny studied and lived in the Philippines.  He was able to perform at a party of actress Ruffa Gutierrez and also was a guest in one of Allan K’s shows.

Manny explains: “I lived in the Philippines for most of 2008; I had the opportunity to study abroad at Ateneo de Manila University. I went a few months early to just experience life in the Philippines and to try out music there. It was truly a blessing to be able to do that–something most Fil-Ams don’t get to experience, but should! It allowed me to become pretty fluent in Tagalog (though Taglish at most times haha); to become closer to my cousins there with whom I didn’t get to grow up; to discover my culture and heritage first hand; and to spend part of my college life in the same school/area where my parents spent their own. As an artist, it allowed me to grow immensely with my music. I had a weekly shows at Magnet Bar in Katipunan for most of my time there, and also did session work for other bands. It also inspired me as a songwriter. I wrote a track on my most recent CD called “Don’t Cry (Huwag Kang Umiyak)” about the amount of poverty and inequality I witnessed in the country. The proceeds of that song all go to a charity called Mahal that helps feed families in the Philippines.”

Manny had been offered by a television station to write songs and produce for one of its artists, but arrangements to do so did not pull through.  He hopes that a deal would be offered soon.  Still, he has successfully manage to record and produce his own album already.

Ralph: How hard is it now for a Filipino to penetrate the mainstream US market?

Manny: “So hard! For Asian-Americans in general, actually! There has yet to be a full Asian-American artist in mainstream music–there’s a bunch of half or quarter ones, but not full. But I do think our time is coming very soon with the growing popularity of Asian-American (and especially Filipino-American!) artists on the internet. This entire Glee thing has given me so much more confidence in that fact; because even if it may just be for this one day, Cory’s tweet allowed me to break that barrier and share my music with so many more people, regardless of ethnic background–and the response has been amazing! I’m truly thankful for everything that has happened over just the past 24 hours, and if I could thank Cory personally, I would love to let him know how much it meant to me!”

Aside from the mash-up of Defying Gravity and True Colors, his version of Gary Valenciano’s Sana Maulit Muli is very well-performed.

Ralph: Why did you choose to sing “Sana Maulit Muli“?  Who are your favorite Filipino artists?  Favorite Non-Filipino artists?

Manny: “I chose “Sana Maulit Muli” because it’s a beautiful song (and one of my favorite Tagalog songs). There’s the original version by the amazing Gary Valenciano, as well as an English version by Andrey Silva of the 90s group Kai. I thought I’d do a little mix of the two to bring the beauty of this OPM song across the language barrier–so people could appreciate both versions no matter what language they speak.”

“OPM artists, I of course love Regine (Velasquez) and Lea (Salonga). I also love the timeless Apo Hiking Society and Jose Mari Chan. Regarding mainstream artists, I love listening to Kyla and Jay-R, and I also love bands like Bamboo and Parokya ni Edgar.”

“Non-Filipino artists, my idols are John Legend, Alicia Keys, and Stevie Wonder because they do what I do. I’m also heavily influenced by Michael Buble, Corinne Bailey Rae, Jason Mraz, John Mayer, Justin Timberlake, Patti Labelle, Luther Vandross…too many to name!”

Ralph: Tell us about your upcoming album — its release and where it will be available.  What songs will be part of the album?

Manny: “The album is going to available for order on my website (www.iammanny.com) next week on December 23! It’s called the Come with Me EP and is 8 tracks of original music–a couple of which are posted on my YouTube (“Proud” and “Next to You“). It’s just $12.50, shipping and handling included, and a dollar from every album will go to help feed families in the Philippines. The themes of my songs always center around three things: love, respect, and giving thanks. I think those three values are the basic foundations of life and should be things that we all do on an everyday basis.”

Already, there are suggestions for Manny to appear as guest on Glee. Why not? That is something we will watch out for. Will he be the next Pinoy international singing sensation? Well, Manny certainly has what it takes to make it, and we all wish him success. And thank you for the interview!  Here’s to a great artist who is again placing the Philippines on the map!

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