Since he was a young boy growing up in the remote foothills of Northern California, music always called to Manuel. First, in the form of an old nylon string Spanish guitar his father had sitting around the house. Around the age of 11 he finally picked it up with the serious intention to play. Being a lefty, and a massive Metallica fan, he taught himself the intro to “One” on that very guitar – held upside down.
The muse took hold. Manuel wanted to get more serious about the instrument and it just so happened that there was a classical guitar virtuoso, and former student of Andres Segovia, living in the area. He became Manuel’s first teacher and would have a lasting influence on his playing and musical philosophy. Says Manuel: “I leaned a ton about proper technique and form from him which I know helped immensely as I progressed to other styles of music.”
Manuel continued to focus on guitar through high school, during which time his musical tastes migrated from grunge and metal to more organic, classic rock styles. He cites his experiences at Grateful Dead shows as “pivotal” and includes in this period being impressed by local rock heroes like The Mother Hips and Cake.
He spent his college years at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where he got to witness the early days of the seminal instrumental proto-jam trio The Slip. After returning from college, Manuel expanded his focus from instrumental music to singing and songwriting, developing a strong appreciation for vocals and lyrics.
These days Manuel is still channeling that same passion for music he had as a youngster into writing and live performance. His goal is to let his emotions shine through his instrument and voice. His sound is earthy, natural and heartfelt. His palette – expansive. Besides his trusty acoustic guitar Manuel incorporates mandolin, Puerto Rican quatro, harmonica, jew’s harp and live looping.
For him, it’s about connecting with an audience. Whether it’s an original take on a classic, or a classic original song, if it makes you think, drink, move or groove – it’s all fair game.