At the recent Hollywood Show in Los Angles, the usual collection of legendary stars of TV and film were there to meet and greet throngs of adoring fans. A strange sighting was legendary singer/songwriter Melissa Manchester, who sang such top ten hits including “You Should Hear How She Talks About You,” “Midnight Blue” and “Don’t Cry Out Loud.”
Those songs were so popular you forget she had acted as well. But then you realize she appeared as a singing guest on TV shows as diverse as “Roseanne” and “Schitt’s Creek.” And that she played the mom on “Blossom.” Plus, Miss Manchester provided voices in animated features “The Great Mouse Detective” and “Lady and the Tramp 2.”
I took a few minutes with Miss Manchester to discuss her career, her advice for songwriters and her new CD, “The Fellas.”
Question: Is this the first time you’ve done an autograph show?
Answer: It is! My very first time.
Q: What is the reaction from the fans?
A: It’s touching. I have been part of the landscape of a lot of people’s lives. It’s lovely when people share what my music had meant to them or when they first saw me live. It’s really lovely.
Q: You’ve written and performed so many amazing songs. Do you have favorites?
A: Well, I have a certain tenderness for “Midnight Blue” because it was the first. But I love all of the songs. They are like children to me.
Q: What advice do you give singers and songwriters trying to make a career out of it today?
A: It’s an interesting time because if you can dream your way into an independent artist path, then you can achieve it because of YouTube and the nature of music that goes with that. But it is harder to get paid as a songwriter.
And the circle has come to completion: People are back on the road to make a living.
What I would say to songwriters and singers is keep looking for a sign. Keep looking for that next rung on the ladder. Keep taking meetings. Keep hanging out with other musicians because you never know who you will meet.
Q: Are you touring these days, and do you still enjoy it?
A: I tour all the time. There is no substitute for performing in front of live people. Because I sign autographs and give people hugs after the show, I get to see and hear what the songs and memories still mean to people. And it is still vital for me. Touring is a chance to keep in the mainstream of creating and sharing my creations. I still love it.
Q: At the same time, you have a new album?
A: It’s called “The Fellas” and come out on Sept. 8. It is my tribute to several of the great male singers, including Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Tony Bennett.
Q: There are literally thousands of songs to choose from. How did you hone it down to just an album’s worth of material?
A: Oh, please! For every artist there were at least 40 songs that were great. The album is a completion of an idea. I made an album in 1989 called “Tribute” that was my tribute to the great women singers. I had always wanted to do a follow-up. I recorded it with the big band from Citrus College down in Glendora, California. They are spectactually talented students. It was just a joyful experience
Q: When you tour, is it with a big band?
A: Usually it’s just me and two other players, but we use lots of videos and lots of textures in the evening.
Q: Tell me about playing an animated mouse.
A: I wrote and played that character in “The Great Mouse Detective” for Disney. I also wrote the score for “Lady and the Tramp 2.” This photo is me as Delores the dance hall mouse. I’m terrified of mice. But I digress. (Laughs)
Q: What else are you working on?
A: I just finished writing music for a new musical that is at the Pasadena (California) Playhouse called “Shout Sister Shout.” It’s about Sister Rosetta Tharpe. While her actual music is being used, there is a secondary character and I’m writing for him. My addiction is writing for musical theater.
Melissa Manchester’s new CD, “The Fellas, is available at MelissaManchester.com.