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Multi-faceted guitar player, and child prodigy. "I had some kind of predisposition for guitar." - Matteo Mancuso

Posted: December 14, 2023
Prodigy - a person, especially a young one, endowed with exceptional qualities or abilities.

Photo provided by: Paolo Terlizzi

The first thing I think about when I hear the term Prodigy is the techno group from the 90’s. However, the term prodigy takes on a different application when you think about the accomplishments of our guest today. His name is Matteo Mancuso. He is a self-proclaimed child prodigy. In all applications of this term, it is an exceptional description of his achievements.

According to www.sciencefocus.com to be a child prodigy you need the following:



A child genius needs to be born with brains, with more grey matter behind their incredible intelligence.

Grey matter is a type of tissue in your brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) that plays a crucial role in allowing you to function normally day to day. It consists of high concentrations of neuronal bodies, axon terminals (endings) and dendrites.

Ok, that is a bit more science that what I wanted for this interview. Though there is much science behind the ability to play guitar. Though many artists are not exactly child prodigies like Matteo Mancuso.

His father had much to do with it. Most will tell you that they draw from the experience and inspirations from a better artist. In this case, it looks like it was a gift that was transferred to him through DNA. What are Matteo’s thoughts on the matter? Nothing better than addressing it to the man himself.

About Matteo Mancuso

Matteo hails from the far-away island of Sicily, born in 1996 and raised outside Palermo, had his family relocated to the US, he might well be the best kept secret in the lineage of great Italian- American players like Zappa, Vai, Satriani, Di Meola, Petrucci, Gambale etc.

Back in the 70’s, his father Vincenzo Mancuso made a name for himself as gifted session player on the domestic scene; it was definitely him Matteo looked up to as a primary source of inspiration growing up. While still in high school (of music), he picked up classical guitar and transverse flute, it didn’t take long for everyone around to understand that a kid prodigy was blooming.


Before long, just turned 12 years of age, Matteo takes his first steps on stage at a local jazz festival and since then his acquaintance with live performances turns into confidence and develops through various line-ups and interactions with top local musicians, including a duo with his dad spanning the complexities of Django Reinhart’s repertoire as well as contemporary jazz classics.

Multi-faceted player

Multi-faceted player, classical or electric, what really is astounding and taking everyone aback is the one-of-a-kind technique and use of his fingers instead of regular picking. The killer tone and original sound truly put his talent in a different league altogether.
 



His YouTube channel is now at 130k subscribers, most comments come from all over the world and his international fanbase keeps growing as people catch wind of something new in the guitar world… Many are the names mentioning Matteo as a force to be reckoned with, from Dweezil Zappa, Joe Bonamassa all the way to the legends.

INTEVIEW WITH MATTEO MANCUSO AND GUITAR THRILLS MAGAZINE

Guitar Thrills: Hello Matteo. Thank you for joining us today. I must mention that you have some skills. Did you obtain your guitar skill set from what you learned from your father? Does it just come natural to you? What are the reasons for your natural ability? We need to know. 😊

Matteo: Thank you! I started playing when I was 10 years old and like many things in life, I developed my skills with time and practice. I realized that I had some kind of predisposition for guitar immediately because I was capable of learning things in a short time, but I worked hard to achieve the consistency I have now. About my father I always say that he is more like a listening guide rather than a teacher, because other than showing me stuff on the instrument he always insisted on listening as much music as you can. That’s why I absorbed so many influences, I had a rich musical diet from the start!

Guitar Thrills: Excellent insight. However, did you ever have doubts about your abilities, especially as you tried to live up to your father’s reputation?

Matteo:  Well, I think that especially at the start I wasn’t aware of how good my father was as a guitar player, my heroes were people like Hendrix, Blackmore, Angus Young and so on but the more I studied the instrument, the more I understood how good he is! I think he is the perfect example of how a professional guitar player should be, he always knows what to play on a song and he is insanely good at playing in many different styles, to be honest there were times where I thought “will I ever be able to do everything he does?” The answer is still no ahahah but I enjoy listen to him a lot and I think we both have different strengths and weaknesses.

Guitar Thrills: With so many dynamic guitarists that have an Italian background, did you think you could fall into the same category as them one day? Guitar legends.

Matteo: Honestly, I don’t know! There are so many Italian players that I enjoy and honestly the bar has risen so much that nowadays is hard to find bad guitar players!



I don’t want to fall in any category or list, I really like the fact that guitar is a very personal instrument, that’s why it has always been hard to make lists, and I like the fact that my music cannot be easily labeled as rock, jazz, fusion, it is just my music.

Guitar Thrills: You have a distinct sound. Is it something that you have developed on your own, or do you pull from other inspirations?

Matteo: Thank you!  It is always a mix of both, I think that to come up with your own style you need to study a lot of different material and then do your own synthesis, very easy to explain but hard to achieve! I’m still trying to figure it out too, in some contexts I can sound very personal but sometimes I sound too much like the players I love, having your distinct sound is a hard balance to achieve!

Guitar Thrills: You have mast together quite a following. What are your expectations for when you perform for them on stage?

Matteo: Honestly the only thing I think about on stage is to have fun, if people see players that are really enjoying their time it will make a lot of difference! I put a lot of emphasis on the interaction with the musicians I’m playing with, interplay is the key especially when you are with a trio.

Guitar Thrills: Who is your favorite guitarist? I know you have a list of names that you consider to be legends. What specifically stands out you regarding that guitarist?

Matteo: I can name a few that had an incredible impact on my playing, just one is impossible for me! Eric Johnson, Frank Gambale, Scott Henderson, Allan Holdsworth and Greg Howe are some of the players I enjoy and love!

Guitar Thrills: What great artists have you had a chance to work with? Also, who would you like to work with that you would like to make happen?

Matteo: Well in reality I don’t have many collabs mostly because I’m concentrating more on the solo artist thing, but If I had to name one collab that literally changed my life it would be working with the legendary PFM last year, we made a live CD together, playing some of their masterpieces like “la carrozza di hans” and “impressioni di settembre” , it was an experience I will never forget! Regarding some of the artists I would like to collab with I’ve always been a big fan of Jacob Collier, he is one of the most gifted musicians I’ve ever heard, and I really like his philosophy about music in general.

Guitar Thrills: How often do you practice playing guitar? Do you still hear room for improvement?

Matteo: Of course! I’m always practicing new things and I believe there’s always room for improvement. I try to play every day at least 4 hours, sometimes is more, sometimes is less, but I try to never skip a day. I used to practice a lot more especially when I was younger, but now I have much less free time.

Guitar Thrills: What are you currently working on, and it a solo act or do you plan on collaborating with another artist?

Matteo: I’m working on a new solo album! Right now, I’m in the writing process so I still don’t know the exact musical direction I want to take, but I’m sure it will be something different from the first one!

Guitar Thrills: That is awesome.




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