Oliver Manning describes himself as a red-wine drinking, rock and roll and Mad Men enthusiast. Now that his LP and EP are available on busk.co, we decided it’s the perfect time to ask Oliver more about his music, new songs and experience busking in Sheffield.
Davi: You’ve described your sound as “Red wine rock and roll”. Can you explain what you mean?
Oliver: Firstly, I really like red wine. It’s my favourite drink, and it has a very strong history. I trust things that have been around for a long time. Combining red wine with rock and roll happened when I was with a friend listening to the Velvet Underground’s third album a few years ago. After a bottle or two of wine, one of us remarked that that album is the perfect album to drink red wine to. I said my dream was to make music that would be perfect to drink red wine to. That was how “red wine rock and roll” was born. I don’t know how close I’ve come to my original goal.
D:On busk.co you have an EP entitled “Don Draper” and a LP called “ManBoy”. How did you come up with those titles?
O:I’ve always had heroes from TV shows and films. When I wrote the song Don Draper, I was watching Mad Men a lot, and really looking up to Don Draper, the main character. He’s fascinating. So I decided to name the whole EP after him. I was originally going to name the “ManBoy” LP, “The Hank Moody LP” just because Hank Moody from Californication was my favourite character at the time. Somehow it became “ManBoy” instead. I don’t remember how. ManBoy was a nickname given to me by three people, all of whom claim credit for it. I suppose because my name is Manning, and it implies that I’m half man, half boy… I don’t know. All I know is that I didn’t think of it myself.
D:You recorded most of your “Don Draper” LP in your living room. What was that like?
O:I love recording in a house, as long as it isn’t full of people. You can work at your own pace, it’s relaxing. We actually recorded drums and bass in my best friend Joe’s garden, in a cabin, and then I finished it off in my living room. At that time I was living in a big house with three people, but they all went away for the Christmas holidays, so for a week or two I seemed to just wake up, record, eat steak and eggs, watch The Office, and drink Rockstar energy drinks. Those are my memories from that time.
D: You’re currently working on a second album. What has been inspiring your new material?
O: More than anything, I’m just desperate to write some really good songs – that inspires me more than any particular subject matter. I got engaged a few months ago to a lovely girl called Emma, so I’m sure that’s getting in there somehow. I’ve also been inspired by people like Leonard Cohen and Warren Zevon and Lou Reed who write a lot of songs that are also really good stories – I’ve never managed that myself. I want to have songs that are really good stories but also have really good choruses.
D: You’ve recently challenged yourself to write five new songs everyday. How and why did you start this challenge?
O: I started writing the new songs because I’ve agreed to write and record an album as part of my new residency at Bank Street Arts – I’m writing and recording the album entirely within their building. So I’m turning up each day and sitting at a nice wooden table and writing some new songs. The reason I’m doing five new songs every day is so that after about a month I might have a few good ones.
“Writing (whether for songs or for prose) is something I really struggle with, but unlike singing, I really enjoy the process of trying to get better. Trying to get maximum emotional impact through a minimum of words.”
D: In addition to being a musician, you’re a writer. How is your creativity expressed, similarly or dissimilarly, via your singing, guitar playing and writing?
O:They are all different. As a singer, I am limited by my technique – I have a fairly deep voice that can’t really do very much. It does what I want it to do most days, so I’m happy. Guitar playing is something that I just love to do – it comes very naturally. I could sit and play all day and just entertain myself. Writing (whether for songs or for prose) is something I really struggle with, but unlike singing, I really enjoy the process of trying to get better. Trying to get maximum emotional impact through a minimum of words.
D:I know that you have a blog. How do you come up with content?
O: At the moment I’m using my blog as a journal for the making of the new album – I don’t plan the blog, I just sit down before dinner each day and spend an hour or so trying to craft a post.
D: When did you start busking full time? What motivated you to become a busker?
O:I started busking full time in 2011. I originally started going because I had no job and nothing to do and was living with my parents and needed not only cash but purpose and something to do with my days. I actually got the bus into town three times and then came home without playing because I was too scared. Then one day I actually played and it was all fine. The first day there was a little bit money in my case, the next day a little more, and so I decided that until something else came along I’d just busk.
D:What is your favorite part of busking in Sheffield?
O:I like the characters we have. There are so many characters in Sheffield.
D: Last question. On average, how many times a week do you hurt yourself trying to dance in the shower?