The Voice artist Ricky Manning‘s memories of being a subway busker, coupled with comments from Adam Levine that he resembled Joaquin Phoenix (Taylor Swift also said Manning has a Robert Pattinson-y vibe), made it difficult for some viewers (including myself) to look past his telegenic appearance and intriguing history.
The Knockouts completely changed the game for Manning, as he delivered a heartbreakingly dramatic and effective performance of the Miley Cyrus power tune “Wrecking Ball.” Though he was roundly praised by judges, he lost his Knockout round to Elyjuh Rene (Pharrell, probably realizing Manning would get stolen, wanted to continue nurturing Elyjuh’s growth).
But all’s well that ends well, as Manning is now being coached by Gwen Stefani for The Voice’s Live Playoffs. He’s also one of the artists who’s carrying a ton of momentum heading to the next round.
During our chat, Ricky Manning reflected on his “Wrecking Ball” experience and he also expressed sincere gratitude for the fans that have followed him throughout his journey. If Manning continues to connect with his song choices, he could go deep into the competition, as he has enough moxie and natural talent to pull it off.
Is there an advantage to being stolen on “The Voice,” since you’re gaining experience from two different coaches (Pharrell and Gwen Stefani). Are you looking at it from that aspect?
That’s exactly how I’m taking the steal because I got to work with Pharrell who’s an incredible producer – and that’s just one side of it. That’s kind of the reason I chose him – a producer works with an artist and shapes an artist and makes them a better singer and performer. That was one of my strategies picking Pharrell.
And now, working with Gwen, I feel like I’m getting the best of both worlds because I’m getting to work with an incredible, legendary performer now. The energy Gwen has on stage is remarkable and I can’t wait to hopefully take in some of that energy and learn from her.
Honestly, it’s such a blessing that I am getting to work with a fantastic producer and now a fantastic performer. I feel super lucky about that and that’s exactly how I’m taking the steal.
Where did you get the stones to take on such a huge song like “Wrecking Ball,” and how good does it feel to get such a positive reaction from the coaches and fans of The Voice?
When I chose ‘Wrecking Ball,’ I knew it was a big song but I guess I didn’t know how big it was or how monster of a song it was as Pharrell said. I knew it was going to be challenging. I didn’t know exactly how much. I never really dove into the song like I did until I got it.
The hardest part for me was finding a place to sing that song from. I have a girlfriend who I’ve had for the last four and a half years and we’re very happy and I’m not heartbroken.
So it was very hard to come from a heartbroken place but I got there. Luckily thanks to some acting classes in high school – thank you!
So that was pretty cool, and to get the immediate praise from the coaches was so – it was hard to hold back tears. Because with The Blinds, it wasn’t my strongest performance, and Battles got better but to get this praise from Adam Levine who I’ve been a fan of since elementary school. It’s just so amazing to hear (him) tell me I’m becoming a star and that I had a moment on the show. Blake (said) that it was his favorite (performance) of the Knockouts. Yeah, like I said, it was hard to hold back the tears. It’s just so much confirmation that (music) is what I’m supposed to be doing.
Getting the good reviews from America, and even other countries. It’s been really awesome because the reviews from my Blinds weren’t the best. It’s awesome seeing the websites that gave me not so great reviews on my Blind Auditions give me awesome reviews for my Knockouts. So that’s been a pretty gratifying thing for me.
The support from your fans even before you were on The Voice must mean a lot to you.
It’s so surreal. I had a little bit of a following before the show because of Vine. I posted six second covers, and I had like 170,000 (followers) before the show. I have some fans now, but it’s just a whole different ballgame. Millions of people watched me and thousands of people want to follow me now – “fannings” are what my fans are called.
I had a meet and greet two days ago in my hometown and I thought maybe 20 girls would show up. But it ended up being 150 or more girls lined up outside the restaurant just screaming my name. There’s videos of girls chanting my name.
When I walked into the restaurant, they were banging on the windows. Some of them were crying, some of them were shaking. It’s just like ‘wow’ – this is everything that I’ve wanted and it’s happening right now.
It’s hard to kind of live in the moment because it’s happening – you don’t realize the moment until after it’s happened. But I’ve got to really put myself in the moment and realize, ‘this is your dream and it’s literally happening right now.’
There’s no price tag to this experience.
It seems that you are really enjoying your time on The Voice, whether you’re getting massive amounts of support or even if haters critique your work. No matter what, you’re working hard and just appreciating your journey. Is that a fair assessment?
Of course. Who am I to be bitter about anything that’s being said about me? There’s so many talented people that auditioned for this season that didn’t make it past Blinds, or Battles, or Knockouts. I can only be grateful for anything that’s being written about me.
Any press is good press. Whether it’s good or bad, my name is somewhere. Honestly, the most important part for me on this show – of course I want to advance on the show and potentially be the winner. But, an even bigger part for me is growing my fanbase and keeping a fanbase that’s going to follow me after The Voice and buy my original music and show up to my concerts.
On the social platform, I’m just trying to engage with people who want to meet me and want to be a fan. I’m trying to be like, ‘Hey, I appreciate you and I really love you for loving me.’
I’m just grateful for anyone who’s talking about me – good or bad. Especially the love I’m grateful for because there’s so much of it. I have nothing but gratitude for this show and this experience.
Going into the live playoffs, have you learned to put your heart and soul into your songs? Or is that something you’ve always had?
Actually one of my biggest strengths is being emotional when I’m singing and really connecting to the song. Luckily, that’s something I’ve been blessed with. I realized after performing “Wrecking Ball” and watching it back that, wow, I think I kind of have something here with this whole emotional performance thing.
I’ve received so many messages like ‘Wow, Ricky Manning, I just want to tell you that your Wrecking Ball performance touched me, it really made me emotional.’
The fact that I touched people like that? It’s nuts, man. For the next round I think I’m going to try to do something similar to that – another soulful, emotional performance because that’s what people responded to and really liked from me. I think I’ll try and stick with that for the next one.
Awesome – thank you Ricky for your time. And, go big or go home, right?
That’s exactly right man. Thank you for having me.
The Voice airs tonight on NBC (8 pm et/pt).