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Manuel Bellone has his roots in the tradition of folk and American country music, fused with a strong spirit of rock ‘n’ roll.

Posted: December 27, 2021
“Classic, but unique: that’s what I like, and it’s also how I’d like to be seen.” — Manuel Bellone

A folk-rock songwriter from Palermo, Sicily, Manuel has played all around Europe, more recently showcasing songs from his last two albums, “Light From The Grave” and ‘Split Pot’. He writes and performs his own songs and is influenced by many artists and genres, especially classic folk and blues rock. Audiences (and music critics) loved the gigs – as did the band – so now Manuel is looking forward to heading out on tour again, with the hope of making the experience even better. He has already played in a number of significant festivals including Live At Heart in Orebro (SWE), the Jazz & Blues Festival in Motala (SWE), and the Folkest Festival (IT).

His first solo EP was 2013’s “Lost Every Night Alone”. This had influences which ranged from artists such as Ryan s Neil Young, Bob Dylan and Gram Parsons, to early 70s Stones and Zeppelin. Later, Manuel was also inspired by Alfons Maria Mucha’s paintings and Sicily’s countryside, leading to 2015’s “Light From The Grave” LP which was followed up by countless gigs in clubs all around Europe, highlighting him as one of the hardest-working Italian musicians abroad. 2016 saw the release of “You Need A Plan B To Stay Alive”, a live EP that celebrated a year and a half of constant touring before going into the studio in 2017 to record his next LP “Split Pot”.

For Manuel, ‘Split Pot’ was “the treasure chest containing what and where we have been during the last ten years, the people we’ve met, everything we’ve done, all of which inspired our songs.”In October 2020 Manuel released a new single, “A Case of an Endless Blue”.

He says: “This song represents feelings I had during a hard year, a state of changing emotions that cannot really be expressed in spoken words.” Followed by “Shall We Dance” Produced with his mate Gianlorenzo Mungiovino.

These new tracks are part of a trilogy of singles that came before the release of the next album., scheduled for 2022.

Manuel was born in Merano, in northern Italy, next to the border with Austria. At the age of 12 he moved south to Palermo, Sicily, just a few miles away from the African coastline. While his grandparents listened to American folk music, he developed a different way of understanding music, starting, at just 14 years old, to write his own songs, highly influenced by traditional Americana, African beats and Gypsy music from central Europe.

Over time Manuel played with many different bands and musicians, sharing with them his love of folk and, in return, learning many different musical styles himself. After sharing a stage for more than eight years with his first band “The Licks” Manuel then started a solo career in 2013, finding his identity as an independent songwriter. His first EP “Lost Every Night Alone” was written and recorded with just a couple of acoustic instruments, surrounded by the wild nature of Sicily and its seaside. Promoting his solo album, Manuel and his band then toured Europe while writing new songs, each with its own geographical influence - the sounds and smells of Poland, the bustle of London, and the bohemian atmosphere of Paris. Nine of those songs from life on the road made their way onto 2015’s “Light from the Grave”.

Guitar Thrills Magazine has known Manuel Bellone for years. We have always followed his progress and releases. There is something inspirational about his sound. We’ heard many other artists that consider themselves “folk artists” but there is something unique about Manuel. It’s been a couple of years since we last caught up with him, so here he is again…

Interview with Manuel Bellone and Guitar Thrills Magazine

Guitar Thrills: Hi Manuel. It’s great to get the opportunity to ask you some questions. You know, we’ve been keeping tabs on your progress, and it seems like you’re still the talent we always thought you were. I have to start by asking you about the old school telephone, and how that relates to your sound - I see that you have also used it in a couple of recent videos and photos. Why is that?

Manuel: Hi there, first of all, thanks so much your interest in my music, I really appreciate it. The telephone thing is a funny story. I’ve always tried to get my live sound as close as possible to the recorded version, and I’m constantly trying to find out the best way to achieve that. I was touring in Sweden, and this friend of mine spoke to me about a guy that transforms old Swedish telephones from the 70’s into microphones, So I got one of them and I found the right sound for an old-style rusty radio voice. I use it a lot - for example to switch from the verse to the chorus, and also in studio just to record weird sounds. Sometimes the best way to get an old effect is simply to use old stuff.

Guitar Thrills: I was listening to your live performance of the song “I have drawn my way”. Usually, I can easily compare one singer’s voice with another but with you it’s more difficult. I couldn’t do it with that song. But I also heard you do “Empty Word” and Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam came to mind. Have you yourself ever compared your sound to someone else? If so, who?

Manuel: That’s a very nice comparison for me, I love Eddie Vedder’s voice. To be honest though, like many other singers such as Bob Dylan or Jimmy Hendrix, I’m not a big fan of my own voice, so I don’t focus on it very much. But is very funny and interesting to hear other people comparing it – some have mentioned Ben Harper, Chris Robinson, John Mayer and, yes, Eddie Vedder - which makes me pretty happy!

Guitar Thrills: I did some research before this interview and came across a group called “The Licks”. Guess who was playing guitar in the background? Manuel Bellone. Were you just jamming with them, or were you in the band?

Manuel: Yes, of course! The Licks was my first rock’n’roll band. We started as a Rolling Stones cover band, but after a few years and many gigs we decided to write our own songs. We were five good friends, in love with the rock’n’roll life. I was the bass player, but I also played some live guitar. Me and the singer used to meet almost every day rehearsing and jamming, playing each other tunes that we had written the day before, and then performing them with the rest of the band later. We did some pretty good stuff, released two EP’s, and we were about to get quite “big” back in the day. Maybe we could’ve been the Maneskin of that time, but apparently it wasn’t our moment. Life is a strange thing, isn’t it? When you’re doing something you really believe in it seems the whole word is against it. Then, as time passes, it seems the whole world wants exactly what you were once fighting for. Anyway, when we stopped being a band, I still had loads of songs that I needed to get out and spread to the world, so I started my solo career and released my first EP.

Guitar Thrills: Interesting, I thought they were very progressive. A little bit like the Clash. But it’s good that you’re now taking center stage. Tell us about your latest release “Shall we dance”. Great video, which is certainly one we would like to play on our channel. And the song itself, what was your inspiration behind that?

Manuel: "Shall We Dance" is the second single from a trilogy that comes before the release of my next album. It's a path placed between the past and the future. When the pandemic started, I was about to release my new album, but of course, it wasn’t great timing. So, during quarantine I started to write and record new songs. The first track of this trilogy was “A Case of an Endless Blue” that reflected my state of mind at the time. “Shall We Dance”, the second single of the trilogy, is a sweet ballad that came to me like a lightning bolt in the dark. It’s a little sad but behind it there a lot of hope. It started as an “unplugged” song, just acoustic guitar and voice. But then, during the recording sessions, I worked more on it with my mate Gianlorenzo Mungiovino – he is the guitarist and also the producer of my next album. Gianlorenzo was instrumental in getting a more contemporary sound production (like Phoebe Bridgers) combining it with classic folk rock like Neil Young, along with some Nick Drake-style guitar vibes.

As for what inspired me, it’s hard to say - sometimes it’s just an idea, or a feeling, a feeling that perhaps you get for just a second or two but you try to hold on to it until you finish writing the song. You must hug that feeling, care for it and try to connect to it, then you’ll hopefully have a great song from it.

Guitar Thrills: It seems like you are always in the studio a lot. Are you currently working on any other releases? From what you’re saying it seems like there’s an album in the pipelines, right?

Manuel: Absolutely, yes. As I told you, I’ve got a brand new album, produced with Gianlorenzo Mungiovino, ready to being released. But before that we’re going to release the third and last single from the trilogy, recorded with Alessio Arena at CFM. It’s a fresh version of one of my first releases and it’s called Take It Easy. After this, the new album will follow, hopefully in early 2022.

Guitar Thrills: We also have to know if you plan on performing in the U.S. anytime soon. I know there are some restrictions due to Covid, but do you think it’s possible?

Manuel: I would love to. Me and the band have been taking about that a lot. Before Covid, with the generous help of some US bands we were very close to touring over there. I really hope to get that opportunity again soon. Keep the faith!

Guitar Thrills: The pandemic has been difficult for many people, and in terms of work, especially for artists. What kind of impact has it had on you, and your band? What kind of precautions have you had to take?

Manuel: Well, in terms of working as a band it was and still is a disaster. At the beginning of the pandemic, I really wasn’t in the mood to play and sing, or even to rehearse or write songs - everything seemed pointless to me. But after a few months, my love for music came back and I ended up with a bunch of new tunes in my mind. In terms of precautions, well, I think is the best thing we can do is to be careful, prudent and follow the usual guidelines to look after ourselves and others.

Guitar Thrills: Well, I hope you all stay safe. Because in the future we have to hear more songs from Manuel Bellone! We also have some other projects that we would like to include you in. We’re currently working on live streaming, which might be an excellent way, to give you some more exposure.

Guitar Thrills: I am really stoked that we managed to catch up with you. You can count on me to keep talking about your music. Hopefully after we are done, there will be many more people asking about you, and where they can get your music. If you have a particular platform where fans can get your music, feel free to let them know.

Manuel: I’m very happy to have spoken to you too, and I want to thank you for this opportunity. I’ll be more than happy to take part and be considered for all of your projects. For any potential fans, the first platform I would like to share is Bandcamp, I think nowadays Bandcamp is one of the best music platforms where an audience can connect directly with musicians. So, if you folks want, you can check my page here: https://manuelbellone.bandcamp.com/

And also of course my website https://manuelbellone.com/

Thanks a lot once again.

Guitar Thrills: That is awesome. Thank you for taking the time to interview with us today. We will be in touch soon for a follow up.

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