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Songwriters & Tour Riders Podcast, Episode 4: Johnny Manchild

This is Songwriters & Tour Riders, a production of KOSU and Oklahoma State University and hosted by Matthew Viriyapah. On this episode is Johnny Manchild, lead singer, pianist and namesake for the piano rock band Johnny Manchild and the Poor Bastards.

Johnny Manchild formed the band while at the University of Central Oklahoma jazz program in 2016, a decision that was sudden and out of character for him. They've released two albums since then, but Manchild didn't want to release another album for 2019. At least, not all at once.

Instead, he and the band spent all of 2019 releasing one song a month, which culminated in their latest LP, One Big Beautiful Sound.

In this episode, Johnny Manchild talks about the challenge the band set for themselves last year, plans for their next album, and how collaborating with a YouTuber helped them reach a whole new group of fans. 

Listen to Songwriters & Tour Riders above (or subscribe on Apple PodcastsStitcher and Spotify) and read some highlights below.

On having a large band

It started when I was 20. From the beginning, it was always a bigger group. That's just kind of how I wanted it for whatever reason, which has made everything so much harder but also the music sounds good so whatever. It works.

It's a little sloppy, but like it's controlled chaos basically at this point. We're making it work.

On putting out a single every month

This last year has been weird. I had all of these songs prepared. And just the process of getting it all together, arranging it with all the instruments, getting everyone rehearsed enough, and then recording it all in thirty days twelve times in a row, it ended up getting some weird results.

So there were some songs that are a pretty natural sound. I think that "Stay Awake" sounds like something that could have been on the last album or even the EP.

Stuff like "Fortified" or "Alright," we sort of got into more like this electronic stuff. Honestly, stuff that I don't think would have made its way in if we weren't limited by the monthly release thing.

On the start of their "good year"

So my friend, Jacob Rabonis a video game Youtuber. I've been friends with him since I think I was 16 or 17. And the album, Insomnia had come out in late 2018. And he hit me up saying he really liked it and wanted to do something together.

And basically he had become a massive Youtuber. He is one of the leading Smash Youtubers. And so he said that there's this video game, Persona 5. It was a cult-classic video game and he said, "We should do a song from it." And we ended up picking "Last Surprise."

I can honestly say that it was that connection and Jacob Rabon that helped kick us off. I'll admit (having) a Youtube video gamer as an old friend was a weird reach that we ended up make work. 

Video gamers are some of the most loyal fans of all time. And not just that—their sense of community and how they talk to each other and how they spread stuff, it's crazy. It's radically changed the landscape of what we're doing this year. It kind of just entered us into the land of content creation as a band.

Music featured in this episode:

  1. Johnny Manchild and the Poor Bastards - In The Morning
  2. Snarky Puppy - Semente
  3. Ben Folds Five - Steven's Last Night In Town
  4. Justin Hurwitz - Herman's Habit (from La La Land)
  5. Justin Hurwitz - Summer Montage (from La La Land)
  6. Justin Hurwitz - Planetarium (from La La Land)
  7. Johnny Manchild and the Poor Bastards - Stay Awake
  8. Johnny Manchild and the Poor Bastards - Fortified
  9. Johnny Manchild and the Poor Bastards - Alright
  10. Johnny Manchild and the Poor Bastards - All In My Mind
  11. Johnny Manchild and the Poor Bastards - Valencia
  12. Johnny Manchild and the Poor Bastards - One Big Beautfiul Sound
  13. Chicago - We Both Reached For The Gun
  14. Johnny Manchild and the Poor Bastards - When You're Grown
  15. Johnny Manchild and the Poor Bastards - Four Years Gone
  16. Johnny Manchild and the Poor Bastards - Last Surprise
  17. The Dresden Dolls - Coin Operated Boy
  18. Johnny Manchild and the Poor Bastards - You Want a Song
  19. Johnny Manchild and the Poor Bastards - Radio
  20. Snarky Puppy - Tarova
  21. Johnny Manchild and the Poor Bastards - The Message

Matthew Viriyapah is KOSU's production assistant and host of the music podcast Songwriters & Tour Riders.
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