Manuel Grajeda of Manuel The Band

by Dan MacIntosh

Although the group is called Manuel the Band, Manuel Grajeda, its leader and namesake, realizes its music requires a group effort. Although a pop/rock act, it's not unusual to hear unlikely elements, like a trombone or some pedal steel guitar, finding their way into the mix. The group took time to talk at Music Tastes Good, a hometown gig for the band in Long Beach, California.
Dan MacIntosh (Songfacts): Let's talk about the song "Casual Love." What inspired it?

Manuel Grajeda: A relationship - they all do [laughs]. Yeah, it was a relationship I was in. It started off as kind of a mutual agreement of something temporary that turned into not temporary, then it turned into temporary once again.

Songfacts: The evolution of a relationship.

Grajeda: Yeah, exactly so. The whole song is about going through the transition and in the end, just being like, "whoa, I think we can move on."

Songfacts: So, you're not promoting casual love?

Grajeda: If you want to go back to the 1960s we can talk about it [laughs].

Songfacts: So as a band, is there a process to writing songs? Do you write first, and arrange the songs as a band later?

Grajeda: Oh yeah.

Songfacts: Is it the melody that comes to your mind first before the words or does it ever go the other way around?

Grajeda: It's kind of funny, sometimes they come at the same time, where I'll dig a melody and just kind of let it pour out. So, it's really all over the place.

Songfacts: You mentioned that "Casual Love" was a relationship-inspired song. Do most of your songs come from relationships?

Grajeda: Yeah, there's a few exceptions, but I would say that for the most part, yeah, most songs come from there.

Songfacts: Who are your songwriting heroes?

Grajeda: John Mayer is my biggest one. I love John Mayer.

Songfacts: Really?

Grajeda: Yeah. 100 percent look up to him. As a musician he's fantastic, but as a songwriter, the stuff he comes up with is very personal, but you can hear it and be like, yeah, been there.

I like that mentality when listening to a song and writing a song, but I also love a band called Dispatch. There are a lot of talented members of that band, and they all write. I love that relationship they have with the songwriting.

Songfacts: What other songwriters do you like that might surprise people - that don't sound like what your band sounds.

Grajeda: I love Josh Groban. I saw him live with my mom one time.

Songfacts: One of the few things you can do with mom.

Grajeda: Exactly. She took me to Sergio Mendes once, I didn't like that too much. That's a bit too '60s.

Songfacts: One of my favorite concerts was when I went to the LA County Fair and I saw Boyz II Men and I took my son. My son was a metal-head at the time, and every song was lovey-dovey and he was squirming the whole time.

So, let's talk about another song. "Thinking Of You" is another one that you mentioned as one that you're particularly proud of. Why is that?

Grajeda: I think it's because it's one of the first songs Brandon [drummer Brandon Charles Worth] and I started working on together. We were playing together back in 2011, and we live together now, so most of the time he hears the songs I'm playing in my room. But like with any musical group I've been with, it's always kind of been there, and it just stuck out, and over time it's kind of moulded into this whole new atmosphere, whether it be Rich [Fernandez] playing a trombone solo or pedal steel riffs, it just depends. But the song has really transformed from what it first was to what it is now, and I think just the fact that it has lasted so long, to me it's one of my favorite songs. It's what we opened up with here.

Songfacts: You mentioned pedal steel with trombone - not the usual rock mix.

Grajeda: No.

Songfacts: Let's talk about one more song that you're proud of.

Grajeda: Maybe Strong Indie... It's called "Strong Independent Woman." Guess what that's about?

Songfacts: That's not timely at all. Go figure. And who wrote that one?

Grajeda: Our buddy Thomas and I. A while ago, I had written this melody and these lyrics, and our buddy Thomas DaVinci, who actually played with us, I reached out and I was like, "Do you wanna write the second verse to this?" and he was all for it. He came up with this really cool kind of R&B-sounding second verse. So there was definitely this collaboration process that came up, and then when it was brought to the studio with these guys, everybody adds their own part.

The musicality of things really is a shared experience. The melody and the lyrics, I'll come up with them, but really at the end of the day, what you hear is a combination of everybody coming together and playing their own part.

November 7, 2018
Here's our interview with Chad Urmston of Dispatch
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