From gypsy jazz to La Voz and back

Manu González has dedicated his life to music.
Manu González has dedicated his life to music. / SUR
  • Manu González, Musician, singer and composer

A successful career in the music business is something that most musicians can only dream about, but 37-year-old Manu González believes that simple determination and passion is the key to success.

Born in Malaga in 1979, Manu González knew from an early age that music was his calling.

Fascinated by the music of Tony Bennett, Sting, Stevie Wonder and Cyndi Lauper, Manu acquired his first guitar at the age of thirteen.

His biggest influence has been George Benson, and this is evident in Manu's West Coast jazz style, but he also attributes much of his early inspiration to his cousin, Ricky Vivar.

Manu doesn't descend from a musical background; in fact, the only other musician in the family is Ricky - one half of a popular duet called Gypsy and Dixie.

Manu loved the feel of the New Orleans Gypsy swing music that his cousin performs and he soon became engrossed in the music.

"When I went to my cousin's house and heard him play the guitar, it was something special, it was like magic," Manu says with excitement in his eyes.

Manu decided at a very young age that he would concentrate on his passion and not be sidetracked by anything that would affect his music.

"Obviously there are good times and bad times, but if you have another job to fall back on, then your art will suffer," Manu explains in his Mediterranean-tinted English accent.

He began securing work in some of the glitzy clubs of Marbella and he was soon making his living doing what he loved most.

Although he finds stability performing in the classy venues of Marbella, he would obviously prefer to sing his own compositions, instead of singing what the audience want to hear.

Manu believes that a voice is a remarkable instrument. His voice has incredible range and adapts well to soul, blues and jazz: when he rearranges a well-known song, it almost becomes his own composition.

"To have a voice, is like having a very expensive guitar, you need to know how to use it. I always try to change the covers that I do, because I think to be a copycat is too easy," he says with modesty.

Manu has become one of the most popular performers on the coast, and aside from his solo act, he also performs with a 24-piece big band.

One of the big challenges of his career came in 2016, when he was selected to appear on the popular television show, La Voz.

At first he was not too interested, because he didn't have much faith in talent shows.

"A contest cannot choose the best musician, because music is not a competition," Manu points out respectfully.

After being approached several times, Manu decided to participate; although he was still not completely convinced it would be a good career move. Following the initial video casting, off screen interviews and studio auditions, Manu joined the team of Alejandro Sanz; one of Spain's most popular performers.

Usually contestants spend about ten minutes per show with the captain of their team, but Manu claims that Alejandro Sanz was more personal with his group. He even invited them into his private quarters to have lunch.

Manu demonstrated his respect for his team's captain by saying, "Alejandro Sanz is the kind of person you instantly feel comfortable with and it was a great experience being with him. He was incredible."

Manu made it through to the quarter finals of the show, but, as he astutely points outs, it is not only about winning.

"I had lots of fun, because it's a big stage, a big band, and great people, but it could be a little nerve-racking at times," says the musician with a radiant smile.