Exclusive Interview: Jason Manns Talks Producing, Richard Speight, Jr.’s Album, and More!
Jason Manns is a songwriter, producer, writer and actor, who has been touring, writing and producing music for years and appears regularly at Supernatural conventions around the world. Jason was gracious enough to sit down with myself, Pau, and Julia, with Nerds and Beyond to chat about his current projects. He provided a refreshing, witty, and interesting look into what goes into his producing and artistry. We hope you enjoy this interview as much as we did.
Nerds and Beyond: We are going to start with a question about acting. You’ve dabbled in a little acting through the Mama Bear short that Matt Cohen directed, as well as Rob Benedict and Richard Speight, Jr.’s Kings of Con. Are you interested in pursuing acting in a more serious way in the future?
Jason: I love acting, and when I first moved to Los Angeles, I had a kind of all of the above mentality. I did some theatre in college, and that is where I started singing as well. So my first job in L.A. was actually a musical, but acting [alongside] music takes a lot of work. I found it very difficult to start both of those at the same time. Music thankfully got me pretty busy pretty early, and I focused on that. So to answer your question, I would love to do more acting, but it’s not a thing you can flippantly say ,“Sure, why not?” unless your friends are doing a project and ask you to jump in. So, yes I would love to do more of it, but I’m well aware that I am very busy, and I don’t necessarily have the time to dedicate to doing it seriously.
Nerds and Beyond: The world is in love with Tripp, your son, after a video you posted of the two of you beatboxing went viral. Can you tell us an anecdote about him, or anything that’s cute that we might not know?
Jason: Tripp is the happiest human on planet earth. He will laugh and smile at anything. Even if he’s cranky, tired, hungry, and crying, if you make any effort whatsoever to make him laugh, he will laugh at you.
Nerds and Beyond: He just turned one right?
Jason: He did, we had a little birthday party for him.
Nerds and Beyond: Did it have a theme?
Jason: It did it was Peter Rabbit.
Nerds and Beyond: Can you tell us something special that happened in the recording studio with Rich [Speight, Jr.], in terms of what it’s like producing for a friend?
Jason: With a friend there is always added pressure, and more relaxation. So you know how the in-between times are going to go, you know that you are going to enjoy each other’s company. You know that you are going to have fun, and have things to talk about. However, there is added pressure because when everything is said and done and you have the album, you’re responsible for it, and you’re going to see them a lot, and they’re your friend. So, you want them to have a pleasant experience in the studio, but you also want them to love the finished product, and appreciate what you did on it. Specifically with Rich in his last studio session I just remember we had all the band set up, and Rich was in the control room with the microphone and headphones, so he and the band were all connected and they could hear each other. The band was playing, Rich was singing, and literally when we got done with take one of song one, the look on Rich’s face was something I’ll remember for a long time. He was so happy with it, so excited about it, and it sounded amazing, and it felt amazing to him. I think up until that point him doing his own album had always been this theoretical or ethereal thing, but in that moment it became real for him. He was really, really excited about it.
Nerds and Beyond: On the subject of Rich, what is the timeline for his project, and do you expect there to be release parties?
Jason: There will definitely be release parties. We are going in to the studio next month [April], at the end of the month. We have a few days set aside for it. That will determine the timeline. If we get everything we need in that session, then we will need another 3 to 4 weeks of mixing, and mastering, and printing. If at the end of that session we need another session, we’ll have to push that back until whenever we can get in the studio again. So I would say tentatively we are hoping for late summer, but sometime between late summer and late fall we’ll have a finished product. Hopefully we will have a party in L.A., and a party in New York.
Nerds and Beyond: Let’s talk about your music. Is this the first time you are producing your own album?
Jason: First time I’ve been the sole producer, of my own music.
Nerds and Beyond: How is that going in general, and is there a certain feel that you would say is coming through in the music so far?
Jason: Yes. I have always loved Soul music. Sam Cooke has always been my favorite singer since I was very young. It’s weird being a producer now, and studying music from almost an academic sense. Prior to that it has always been very creative, and only creative. Now that I am really studying it, and learning how to make music sound the way you want it to sound, I’ve learned so much about my musical journey. I’ve learned why when I finished with my albums (I’ve done three solo albums, and every time I listened to them I appreciated them, and they were well produced, and the people I worked with were awesome) but, it didn’t sound like it sounded in my head when I wrote it. It’s because my writing style mirrors a little more of a soul vibe, and I was always produced in more of a folk or a rock way, and I didn’t know how to articulate what I wanted. Now hopefully I know what I want to do, and how to make it happen. At the end of this project, good or bad, hopefully the songs will sound the way they sound in my head.
Nerds and Beyond: What other projects are you currently working on? I know you are working on producing other artists.
Jason: I was hired to produce a Canadian folk singer called Abe Drennan. I was actually hired to produce his single for charity a couple of years ago. I went to the Arctic Circle, and we recorded it in a church. It was an amazing experience, it was really fun. Abe is one of those people you want all the good things in the world for. He’s a father of going on four children now. He’s a teacher, and he’s really socially aware and involved, and he works with First Nations people. He’s just one of those people who is good. We worked on this song for charity which he wrote in response to a family who was all tragically killed by a drunk driver. So he wrote this song. The family actually hired me to produce the song for the charity, and when I was up there I fell in love with Abe and his whole vibe. So I’ve been working on his album, and it’s almost all done. I was also hired to produce a singer, it’s her first record, and it’s been fun to introduce her to the studio and help her figure out her sound, and her vibe, and that’s almost done.
Nerds and Beyond: What’s her name?
Jason: Her name is Terran Labermeyer. Michael Rosenbaum has a band called Left on Laurel, formerly known as The Sandwich, and I’ve produced their record, and that’s almost done. So those three records I’ve been working on for a long time, and they’re almost done. I’m also working on Richard’s record, my own solo record, a new Covers with Friends record.
Nerds and Beyond: There is so much you are working on. You just went on tour in the U.K. and Germany with Paul Carrella. What was the vibe playing with him, and do you ever have moments of it just feeling surreal that you have such a devoted following all over the world?
Jason: Playing with Paul was really fun. Paul reminds me a lot of me. He loves the music, he loves to tour, he loves to play, he loves meeting new fans. He’s very laid back and easy going. So the two of us throwing our guitars in the back of his truck, and driving around England and playing shows was super easy and super fun. He plays Country music even though he’s Scottish. Even though it’s North of England, Scotland is like the South. It’s very rural. It was just fun. Having a devoted fan base around the world will never not be crazy to me. I love it, and I’m so appreciative of it. It still shocks me that I’m a professional musician. That I don’t have any other job. It shocks other people. Especially now that I have children who are in school, and parents at the school ask me what I do, and I tell them I’m a musician. It’s not a common answer in Virginia. I am super grateful to the fans because they are obviously the ones who make that possible.
Nerds and Beyond: If you could give one message to your fans what would it be?
Jason: Thank you. I wish I had a longer, and more articulate answer, but it really is that simple,
Nerds and Beyond: As you know from doing interviews with us in the past, we like to ask nerdy questions. So this one is about reading. What’s the last book you read that you love?
Jason: I read a book called These Truths, it’s a comprehensive history of the United States with a little more attention to slavery, and its effects. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, so much so that I bought it for a lot of my friends which I have never done before. I would say I loved it. On the plane out here I finished a book on Dodge City. Just a bunch of stories about Wyatt Earp, the OK Corral, Doc Holiday, etc.
Nerds and Beyond: So we know you like Star Wars. Who is your favorite character?
Nerds and Beyond: What’s your favorite film?
Jason: I’m tempted to give an answer that’s not true, but I’m just going to be honest. I know Empire was technically the best film, but Jedi was the one I saw in theaters with my brothers. I was super stoked about it. It will forever be the movie that made me fall in love with Star Wars. So Return of the Jedi is my favorite.
Nerds and Beyond: Since the beginning Leia, and more recently Rey, Rose Tico, Sabine, Herra, and others have ushered in the “strong female character” in the Star Wars canon. What is your thought on this shift for Star Wars and beyond?
Jason: Obviously on a broad spectrum I appreciate it, and I like that it’s socially conscious. On a personal level she kicks ass, Rey. I don’t love it because it’s a woman doing the thing that a man does in the first films, I love it because it’s awesome.
Nerds and Beyond: Do you remember what cartoons you watched when you were a child, and also what cartoons you watch now that you’re a dad?
Jason: As a child, I watched Heman. I watched…I’m just going to be real and honest, I was a really big fan of the Care Bears.
Nerds and Beyond: Oh my gosh! Who is your favorite Care Bear?
Jason: That’s a really hard one. I don’t remember their names, but maybe the one who was the leader of the pack.
Nerds and Beyond: I don’t remember his name, either!
Jason: I don’t feel as bad now. It was the show that was on most often when I finally got to the TV on a Saturday morning. I didn’t really love Thunder Cats, I didn’t mind it, but I didn’t love it. Fraggle Rock. GI Joe, obviously. I also loved Looney Tunes. I loved Road Runner, Bugs Bunny. Ducktales.
Nerds and Beyond: What about now, do you watch any cartoons with your kids?
Jason: Yes. I am so happy about [Motown Magic on Netflix]! My kids found one without me showing it to them. I’ll tell you the story. My son [Huxley] was walking around the house singing a Motown song that I did not sing for him or play for him. I was like “Huck, what are you singing?” He got a little bit embarrassed, and I was like, “No, no, what are you singing?” He started singing it, and then I started singing it with him. He was so shocked that I knew that song he had learned from his cartoon, that he thought I had also watched his cartoon. There’s all these kids, and they sing Motown songs.
Nerds and Beyond: That’s amazing.
Jason: Yes, so my son and my daughter walk around the house singing ,“Sugar pie honey bunch, you know that I love you.”
Nerds and Beyond: We love it. Final question. What’s something that you’re passionate about that your fans may not know about?
Jason: I’m a bit of a history nerd. I love tangible historical items. My grandfather collected coins, and if I ever look at his coin collection it’s always a really fun experience for me. To hold a coin from 1700s or 1800s, to think about what that coin went through is really fun. Then there is obviously the added bonus of holding something that my grandfather also held, and had those thoughts about. Then also in kind of the same way, I love first edition books. Like Mark Twain, but they are in horrible condition. If you get one in good condition it’s really expensive, but you can get one that’s falling apart for very little money, but the ones that are falling apart I kind of love more because they’ve been through more hands. You can think of a kid sitting down in 1885 reading Huck Finn for the first time, and that being the book you’re holding now.
Thanks again to Jason for this interview! You can check out Jason and his music, here.