Introducing Manika

TFK chats with the 17-year-old singer about her debut single, "Just Can't Let You Go"

May 20, 2011 | By Vickie An

If you don't know her name yet, you will soon. Meet up-and-coming singer-songwriter Manika Ward (pronounced Ma-nee-ka). The 17-year-old's catchy first single, "Just Can't Let You Go," featuring rapper Lil Twist, hit the airwaves on May 15. (Watch the official music video above.) Recently, we sat down with the Nevada native in the TIME For Kids offices in New York City to chat about her new song and her musical influences.

TFK:

How did you get started in music?

MANIKA:

I have always loved music ever since I could remember. I've always loved to sing, and when we got instruments in the house, I took to those too. I play piano and guitar. Growing up, I was really shy, but once I got on stage I was the total opposite!

TFK:

What inspires your songwriting?

MANIKA:

Everyday activities and things people might experience. Or things people might talk about, gossip about and laugh about. My songs are a time capsule of myself.

TFK:

How does your mixed heritage help shape your music?

MANIKA:

I'm a mix of Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian and Spanish. I feel this diversity makes my music more universal. My parents are so supportive of me. They see how much I love making music, so they're behind me 100%.

TFK:

What do you think listeners will like about your music?

MANIKA:

I really believe in expressing yourself and not being afraid to be who you really are. In my music, I'm not afraid to express myself. Hopefully, it will encourage others to do the same.

TFK:

What is your first single about?

MANIKA:

Anyone out there can relate to "Just Can't Let You Go." It's about the feeling you get when you have a strong love or passion for something, whether it's a guy or a girl or music, and you just can't let it go because it's a part of you.

TFK:

Being new to the music industry, was the recording process what you expected it to be?

MANIKA:

It's been surreal. I'm working with such an amazing team of peopleā€”the same people who have worked with music legends, like Michael Jackson. I was nervous at first, but they put me at ease right away.

TFK:

What's your favorite part of it all?

MANIKA:

It's all so incredible. But my favorite part would have to be listening back to what we created after a 10-hour day in the studio. It's a rush!

TFK:

Who are your musical influences?

MANIKA:

I love Alanis Morissette. Her music has such a unique vibe. Her vocals are incredible, and she's not afraid to say what she wants to say. I like Avril Lavigne, Pink and Aerosmith. And I loved Michael Jackson. He put 100% into his performances.

TFK:

Who would your dream duet be with?

MANIKA:

Alanis Morissette or Aerosmith.

TFK:

Have you been watching American Idol?

MANIKA:

Yes, because of Steven Tyler (of Aerosmith)! He's so funny on it.

TFK:

What do you think he would say about your performance?

MANIKA:

I'm going to have to wait one day and find out!

TFK:

You're also an author. Can you talk a little bit about your children's book, The Exciting Adventures of Boo?

MANIKA:

My dad is an author, so I took after him on that. I first started writing when I was 11. I've been a straight-A student my whole life, and I wanted to do something that would benefit others. So, I wrote out a list of all the important lessons I'd learned as a kid. It came to about 150 lessons. I narrowed it down to the 10 that I thought were most important and turned them into 10 stories in my book.

Boo [the star of the stories] is a dog, but he takes on the persona of a child. He talks, he goes to school, he has friends, he has pets . . . "The Hamster Chase" story is the one kids like best when I do readings. In it, Boo begs to get a hamster, but the hamster hears Boo complaining about taking care of him, so he runs away. My mom is so funny. She was reading the story, and she said, "I got so emotional, I almost cried! Is the hamster going to come back?"

TFK:

Will there be more books in the future?

MANIKA:

I'm working on a second book right now. I love writing and seeing how something starts off as just an idea and then turns into something bigger. For example, "Just Can't Let You Go" started out as an idea, an emotion I wanted to get across. Then, my producers added the beatboxing, and we added the instruments and the melody and recorded it. Seeing it come together into something people can enjoy, it just amazes me. I love being both an author and a songwriter, because they are both great ways to express yourself.

 

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. During this time, communities across the nation celebrate the culture, traditions and history of Asians Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States. To learn more, visit asianpacificheritage.gov.