The Interview: Manuel Franjo
Conducted by Michael Raver
Singer/songwriter Manuel Franjo is a bit of an anomaly. His relationship with performance kicked off as a dancer, but since then has made a name for himself as a vocalist with a killer set of pipes. Transcending any typicality of the hunky latin crooner archetype, his music has made the rounds on World Music compilations for years, most notably the sultry tune “Tiempo.”
He’s been around the block and has no illusions about the music industry, but maintains a grounded and confident desire to make music. Earlier this year, he appeared at New York’s Triad Theatre and is eager to get back to performing live.
Where were you born?
Manuel Franjo: Venezuela. I was a dancer and wanted to do choreography. I first came to New York and felt like it was home to me. I was here for a year and went to Italy to do television for six years. I did my first album in Italy. I was a teen idol in Italy.
When did you first know you could sing?
MF: I always liked it but I was always put down by my family when I sang. When I was doing choreography, I was working on the original, Spanish version of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in Caracas. The person who was supposed to be Joseph dropped out and because I knew the choreography, they put me in it. I didn’t really fully go into singing until I came back from Italy. Even though I’d already done an album there, which was more connected to my dancing.
And that wasn’t real singing?
MF: It was more that I was a product that was being shaped. At that time, in order to exploit a male performer as a soloist, you need to sing. It was teeny bop. I wasn’t connected to material. But I started writing songs and met a big music producer in Europe and he asked me to write lyrics in Spanish and Italian. We did a few songs and eventually we wrote an album together.
How has the music industry changed since your career began?
MF: Now anyone can take your music and there’s nothing you can do. You can put your music on iTunes, but how do you audit that? That’s why artists now, their money isn’t made on sales of music. Their music is made from shows and tours. That’s why so many people are going independent. The music keeps ending up in major compilations of world music where I’m in the same album as Sade or Elton John.
What’s next for you?
MF: I have a couple of ideas. I love being onstage. I’m a control freak and I love being in charge, but at the same time I’m old enough to look at young artists and see talent that needs nurturing. I do have a band that is pretty unique. They’re all acoustic. Everything is very earthy, which I fought for over the years. We’re working on new music. But, I also have a lot of fun working on other people’s songs and giving them a new shape. For example, I do a very cool version of “Missing” by Everyone But The Girl that’s very dramatic. Very latin.
Check out “Tiempo” below: