It was a privilege to have “A Conversation” with fellow Kansas native Chris Mann.
Since his appearance on the sophomore season of The Voice, where he was a member of Christina Aguilera’s team, Chris has blossomed as an incredible recording artist.
He released his debut album Roads last fall and it peaked at number five on the US Classical charts.
In addition, Chris also has performed on multiple television shows and specials.
Chris also sang for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as part of TNT’s Christmas in Washington and recently paid tribute to America’s fallen heroes as part of PBS’s National Memorial Day Concert, where former Secretary of State Colin Powell was in the audience.
During our interview, Chris talked about recording his debut album: Roads, his latest single: “Unless You Mean It” and his ongoing tour.
Jacob Elyachar: How has your life changed since you appeared on The Voice?
Chris Mann:My life has changed completely. I have been in the entertainment industry for years and I was waiting for an opportunity like The Voice to come along and give me that break that I needed. More importantly, I was able to go onto this national platform and take the chance to say “I am only going on here and sing the type of music that I like and believe in for myself.” Even though I had some people discouraging me from that, I did it anyway, and to have this country embrace me was probably the biggest thing I got out of the entire experience.
JE: Last fall, you released your debut album: Roads. What were some of the most memorable experiences recording that album?
CM:We made Roads really fast and that was fortunate for me. I had been waiting to make that record for years and I had a vision of what I wanted to do. Luckily, I had a great team of people around me who agreed with my directions. There were so many good memories while recording this album! I enjoyed working with Ron Fair; he was the one that signed Christina to a record deal. Christina and I did a duet together on “The Blower’s Daughter,” which is my favorite Damian Rice song. It was really exciting to have her come in and support me.
We recorded some tracks in Nashville with a full orchestra. It was very exciting to have a full orchestra on the record; I was really excited when I heard the instruments play my music. Another huge highlight for me was Paul Anka re-writing “My Way” for my album. I will talk more about this at my concert, but it was so cool to work with him and it is a staple on my album and a staple of the show. Fans are always excited and wait for me to sing it at the concert.
JE: Recently, you released your latest single: “Unless You Mean It.” Is this one of your most personal songs that you have recorded so far in your career? What motivated you to record this song?
CM:My friend wrote this song and I loved this song so much, that I wanted to record it myself. The song is certainly personal and it is a lot of fun to perform it. “Unless You Mean It” has a great message for everyone to dive deep into love and to love each other. This song is great way to start a concert.
When I made this song’s music video, a lot of the material came from my fans on Instagram. I used photos of items that they loved and incorporated them into the video. I did this format before when I did my cover of Kanye West’s “Heartless.” It was something that really went well and I wanted to do a follow-up video for that.
JE: You are currently on tour supporting Roads. What are some of your favorite parts about touring?
CM:I had the opportunity and pleasure of performing on television a lot in the last year-and-a-half, but that does not allow me to connect with people out there listening. My favorite part about touring is getting to meet and getting to interact with fans, who have been so supportive of me in the last two years. I am having so much fun doing that and getting to do a 90-minute show. At events, I normally sing one to two songs, but a 90-minute show allows me to sing an entire evening’s worth of songs, plus tell my story, have a lot of laughs and that is what I have been waiting forever to do.
JE: While you have been on the road, you sang on several high profile shows that include Conan, Ellen and the Tonight Show. In addition, you had the opportunity to perform in front of President Obama, Mrs. Obama and Former Secretary of State Colin Powell. What goes through your mind when you rehearse for these big performances?
CM:(Laughs) They are all amazing in their own way. I got really nervous when I appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. I have watched that show my whole life and when the curtain rose in front of me and when I was filming, I had this real nostalgic moment. But when I did Christmas for Washington for the President, nothing quite prepared me for when President Obama looked at me six feet away while I sang.
This past weekend, when I did the National Memorial Day Concert, it was probably the hardest performance I ever had to do, because it honored the servicemen and women. I sang specificallyto a family who lost a family member and another one who was a wounded warrior. Again, nothing can prepare you for those performances. People ask me: “How do you get through that?” I am not really sure but I just focus on what I am singing and I try to move people as best I can in whatever situation it is and I try to enjoy the moment that allows them to get through these daunting situations.
JE: How has social media helped your career? Do you have a favorite social network that you like to connect with your fans?
CM:I am on social media all the time and it allows me to stay in touch with people who saw me on tour four to five years ago. You can follow me on Twitter (@IamChrisMann), Facebook (ChrisMannMusic) and now I am using Instagram as well (chrismannmusic). Social media is awesome and it allows me to connect with people who have seen me perform and follow up with them and answer any questions that they have. It is pretty amazing to see what social media has done and I have always tried to stay on top of it because I want to make sure that I have a strong connection with my fans. I also used social media to make the “Unless You Mean It” music video. I do not know if I have a favorite but I like Facebook because I am addicted to it.
JE:. What can fans expect from your concerts?
CM:My concerts are fun and varied. What you can expect is to have a really emotional and dramatic experience but still have a lot of fun. I like to talk during the show and really get to know the audience there that night. I will be singing songs that they might have seen me do on The Voice. I will also sing some songs that they might have seen me do on my PBS special…which is re-airing this summer. In addition, I will share some stuff on the piano and songs from Roads. It is a good mix of songs, no matter how you discovered my music; I am going to touch that part of my journey.
JE: If you had the chance to work with aspiring singers who want to work in the recording industry, what advice would you share with them?
CM:I would share with them a number of things. One, you can never give up. My road, as the song says, is long and it still is. Everyday, you have to fight for your career and for yourself. Another thing I went through a lot of trials with was with the sound of my voice. Having influences try to tell you that it should be or should not be in a certain way and being affected by that…ultimately it is
your voiceand it is the most unique part of you. You have to trust that your voice is the correct sound for you. That was what happened to me on The Voice, which was accepting and being validated for my voice, where before I tried to change it all the time because I thought it would please other people. So I would advise them to
NOT EMULATE OTHER PEOPLEbut
SING LIKE YOURSELF.
To learn more about Chris Mann, visit his website: http://chrismannmusic.com/
Also, keep an eye out for his PBS special: “Chris Mann in Concert: A Mann for All Seasons,” which will re-air this summer.