Years before he criss-crossed North America as an acclaimed country singer and a true road warrior, Manny Blu spent his days in the gym, training for a career as an MMA fighter. When a leg injury left him unable to compete in professional matches, Blu found himself at home in Montreal, recovering from a torn quadricep and looking for a new passion to pass the time.
“That was how it all started,” Blu remembers. “All of my friends were living in other towns, playing hockey. They’d come back to Montreal during the summer, once hockey season was over, and they’d ask me to play the country songs they’d been listening to. I learned all the hits…and I learned there’s a culture and a vibe to country music that’s like nothing else.”
In Nashville, he began piecing together a new record — one that showcased the lessons he learned on the road.
From “Sink” to “Old Money”, these songs tell relatable stories about love, loss, breakups, and everything in between, rooted in an amplified mix of country twang and heavy rock and roll attitude.
You were raised as a versatile athlete, playing hockey, soccer, and football before starting MMA training at 16-years-old. What’s your opinion of how professional sports are being played (or not) during the pandemic?
Well, I think the bubble idea that the NHL and NBA are utilizing is a really good one. I don’t really watch basketball, but from what I can tell, the NHL is doing an excellent job of thinking of everything and keeping the players safe. I would have liked to see the UFC take a little more time before putting on fights mid-quarantine to be sensitive to what’s going on; however, it was the only thing on TV, and I watched it anyway.
How has the guitar-driven blues of B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and John Mayer influenced your music?
A love for blues music has always lived in my ears. Finding a way to incorporate that in my new project, New Ink was a lot of fun and really important to me. I got away from that a little bit on my first EP, but I couldn’t be happier with the way this album turned out, and I think it’s just a start to what’s still to come.
The line … “We outrun the night”… how does it represent your single “Born to Ride”?
I think that line could be interpreted in a few ways. The way I see it in the context of the song is that you’ve lost track of time by being with that person. The next thing you know, you both are still having a great time as the sun is coming up in the early AM.
“… it’s a track about finding that ‘ride or die’ person who will have your back as much as you have theirs.” Did songwriters Rhett Akins, Ross Cooperman, and Josh Osborne pitch the song to you?
Haha, no, none of those guys sent it to me directly. However, I am fortunate that I got to meet and work with Aaron Eshuis, and with his connection to SmackSongs, I was able to get this high of a quality song. Once I heard the song and knew I liked it, I sought out the lyrics and saw those three names at the top of the lyric sheet. I couldn’t believe it, honestly.
I love working with those guys, I’ve worked with Sean and Ryan on almost every video I’ve done, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results every time. I can’t remember how we came up with this concept exactly, but I do remember having many discussions with them about the video. Once we talked it through, I remember thinking it would be awesome to have a video that resembles our live show. I was blown away by the finished product.
Location, location, location. How did you choose to film in a huge blimp hanger out in Smyrna, Tennessee?
After working on a few videos with Sean and Ryan, I really trusted them to find a suitable location for the feel we wanted. They just told me where to be and what time, and I showed up excited to see what was going to happen. That’s why I love working with them so much. I don’t get to do that without the trust I have in those two guys, and I feel fortunate that I’ve found a group of people that are that easy and enjoyable to work with. They hit the nail on the head again!
“rooted in an amplified mix of country twang and heavy rock & roll attitude”. What can fans expect from your upcoming EP New Ink?
Exactly that! I think New Ink has a great balance of both country twang and rock n’ roll attitude, and it was exactly what I wanted for the follow up after my 1st EP. I think it’s the perfect set up for future projects and grasps where I want to position myself within country music.
“I’m that guy, the one your mama warned ya ‘bout.” Outlaw Country, ala Brantley Gilbert, Jason Aldean, and The Cadillac Three. How does the instrumentation differ from your debut album Leave It Like It Is?
It’s different in that it’s bigger and louder than Leave It Like It Is. Having played nearly 70 shows in my first year of touring in 2019, my band and I have discovered and perfected our sound. The first album was just me picking songs I liked. It was such an interesting process to go through the song soucing period, not knowing my band and how everyone plays and what the guys could do. This time around, there was a lot more thought, knowledge, and ideas in the mix. I believe I had to make an album like Leave It Like It Is and tour with it to understand what kind of music I want to make and put out moving forward.
First show post-pandemic — you will be performing at your dream venue. Where will you be singing?
My dream venue to play would be the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. However, first show post-pandemic, I think I would be way too excited to enjoy the beauty and the experience there, so my answer is Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, haha.
How have you been able to stay safe in the pandemic world besides shooting pool?
We were on tour in Toronto when it all got canceled and shutdown. Not thinking it was going to last this long, I thought if I took a quick flight over to Montreal, I’d get to spend time with my brother and parents. So, I’ve been hanging out with family quite a bit, and it’s been nice, especially knowing that once everything opens up again, it might be a while until I get to spend this kind of time with them again.