It might seem strange for a Grammy winner and Oscar-nominated singer/songwriter to make an album through a grassroots crowdfunding campaign.
But that is just how Melissa Manchester — immortalized for her megahits like “Don’t Cry Out Loud” — created her most recent album.
“I was teaching at the University of Southern California, and my students are all young singer/songwriters and they’d come in with their latest CDs shrink-wrapped and looking so professional,” she says.
Impressed, she asked if they had signed with independent record labels.
“They said ‘No, we’ve been crowdfunding, and you should, too,’” she recalls. “I said, ‘Great! What is that?’”
Inspired by their creative freedom, she soon created her own Indiegogo page, saw contributions fly in from a lifetime of fans, and made a new album in just two weeks.
“It’s very rigorous, but to not have any corporate executives insinuating their artistic opinion upon your work is really delicious,” she says with a laugh.
This is just the latest of many bold moves that have made Manchester a household name.
An Immense Career
Exposed to a wide variety of music during her youth, especially by her father who performed with the New York Metropolitan Opera, Manchester always refused to box herself in musically.
Often blending genres, she focused songwriting on themes reflecting her real-life experiences.
“When I’m writing for myself, it’s frequently about what I’m up to, what I’m seeing in the world, what I’ve overhead,” she says.
This was the approach to her greatest pride and joy, “Midnight Blue,” the first of her songs that became a lasting hit.
“I have a soft spot for it,” she says with a laugh. “We knew it was good. We just didn’t know it would be successful and mean so much to people.”
She wasn’t afraid to adapt her style when she branched out to writing music for films, earning two Academy Award nominations for her songs used in “Ice Castles” and “The Promise.”
“You’re in the world of purpose, serving the characters to help define their musical motif,” she says.
Meeting Her Idols
Manchester’s most cherished experiences include collaborating with artists she looked up to throughout her life.
This includes penning a song with Hal David — the lyricist famous for co-writing many Burt Bacharach staples — for her most recent album.
This was the last song the now late David would ever write.
“To be able to co-write a song with one of my songwriting heroes and it turns out to be his last, is so touching, on so many levels,” she says.
To honor him fully, Manchester reached out to another of her long-time heroes — acclaimed singer Dionne Warwick.
Knowing Warwick had been a longtime collaborator of David’s, Manchester invited Warwick to record his last song together.
“It was the completion of an extraordinary circle,” Manchester says. “I’d seen Dionne when I was 16, and I sent her a fan letter that night and she kindly sent me a sweet response, which I’ve saved to this day.”
Manchester looks forward to discussing more heartwarming tales of her career during her upcoming concert, she adds, which she feels “creates an instant community” with her audience.
“I love to be a part of it,” she says.
“Melissa Manchester – The Platinum Standard” runs at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, August 19 at Cabaret Jazz at The Smith Center.
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