Exclusive: Melissa Manchester ft. Stevie Wonder, 'Your Love Is Where I Live'
Melissa Manchester got a little bit of schooling from her own students while making You Gotta Love the Life, her first new album in a decade.
In advance of the album, Billboard is exclusively premiering her track with Stevie Wonder, "Your Love Is Where I Live." Manchester tells Billboard she was introduced to the idea of crowdfunding by students she worked with at the University of Southern California's Thornton College of Music, which led to an Indiegogo campaign to fund You Gotta Love the Life, which comes out Feb. 10.
"I'm still in an old paradigm, thinking-wise," Manchester tells Billboard, "and it wasn't until talking to them that I got a chance to figure out another way to get my music out. They all said, 'You should do this,' and I didn't know what they were talking about. But one of my students became my project manager and walked myself and my tour manager through the whole process and a lot of my students became my street team, and it was just unbelievable as it unfolded."
And, Manchester adds, "It became this resonant adventure for so many of my fans who not only became contributors but they just loved the process. They loved the Facebook posts and they loved the Indiegogo posts and they were so nurturing and patient. And some of the big contributors were invited to the studio. It was really delightful in so many ways."
Recording for the album was done at Citrus College, where Manchester is an honorary Artist in Residence. Manchester and co-producer Terry Wollman even made use of student ensembles -- including the Citrus Singers, who appear on Manchester's rendition of "I Know Who I Am," a gospel-flavored song she co-wrote that Leona Lewis sang for the 2010 Tyler Perry film For Colored Girls.
Other magic moments on the album include guest appearances by Al Jarreau on "Big Light" and Keb' Mo', who plays guitar on "Feelin` For You." "Other End of the Phone," which features Dionne Warwick, is the final lyric the late Hal David ever wrote and features one of the last recorded performances by keyboardist Joe Sample.
Stevie Wonder, meanwhile, wound up doing much more than just playing harmonica on "Your Love Is Where I Live." "I've known Stevie off and on for many years, and I was very honored when he said yes and he came down and brought his box of harmonicas and couldn't have been more generous and played enough for 1,000 songs," Manchester recalls.
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At one point, Wonder caught wind of a student ensemble rehearsing down the hall. "There was a group of people running after Stevie as he's running towards the rehearsal room. And he went in there and listened for a minute and one of the young singers said, 'Would you like to sing with us?' And he said, 'Whatcha got?' and they said, 'Well, we've been rehearsing 'Superstition' and he said, 'Oh yeah?' And he went up to the mic and he sang and they just brought it. It was like the roof was gonna blow off the stage. It was a golden moment."
Manchester will be hitting the road on Feb. 15 for a quick eight-date trek. She has other shows booked throughout the year, with more to come.
And though the shows will be with a duo, she plans to bring You Gotta Love the Life's guests with her through the magic of technology. "I'm going to be bringing tracks and singing to them while we're playing, because I want people to get a sense of the sonic world of the album," she explains. "I'm really proud of the collaborations. I'm proud of the musicians who showed up and I don't want anybody to have to wait to hear what it's like, so I want to bring it on stage the best I can."