Sometimes, the best things happen when you’re not forcing it. That much can be said about Manu Dia’s debut full-length album, Often Inside, out today. After two years inside, the new album was created while traveling by train through Romania, Belgium, Spain, and the South of France, and surprisingly, Manu Dia wasn’t even setting out to write an album when he began working on it. In return, he managed to capture the true magic that happens when working on something that you’re really excited and passionate about.
As his debut full-length, Often Inside finds Manu Dia solidifying his sound while experimenting along the way. The ambitious album is out now – listen to it and read more below.
Prelude Press: You kicked off 2022 with the release of a handful of new singles, most recently “Often Inside” from your upcoming album of the same name. What has the reception of the new songs been like so far?
Manu Dia: It’s been nice to see the warm reception for the singles so far. What especially got me feeling good are the kind messages I got by people who discovered my music for the first time. Its been very fulfilling to see so far!
With Often Inside marking your debut full-length release, did you have any major goals in mind when you first started working on it?
When I started working on the project, I did not specifically set out to work on an album. It is only with time and when I started to figure out the visual identity with my friend and collaborator Valentin Folliet that I started to think about this project as an album. The main goal was to approach music from a careless and fun perspective, to try and capture the magic of the creative process, which in the end is the reason why I enjoy making music so much.
Often Inside is also your first release since your Surface EP in 2019. How do you feel you’ve grown as an artist between then and now?
I would say that a whole lot of life happened since then, and it directly impacted the way I approach music and how I work on my art. I graduated university, did a masters, I got into a relationship, moved a couple times, started a job. So I feel like I had to adapt as an artist but also do some growing up as a human.
But to address your question of the artistic evolution, I would say that I finally was able to find the direction I want to take with my sound and art, and where I want to be. Where as in 2019, I was still trying to figure everything out, from visual identity to the actual music. I am nothing but excited for the future, and where I can take things from now.
You’ve mentioned that you began working on Often Inside in the midst of the pandemic and it came together after isolation ended. How do you feel that the isolating nature of the past few years have affected the album both sonically and lyrically?
I think the sheer nature of the events happening around me and my loved ones clearly affected the sounds and the tone of the songs. You will be able to hear it, I can’t really put it into exact words, but nevertheless I wanted the album to instils a sense of hope rather than look back at what an awful time we all had. It is not about that at all, but It clearly influenced everything. During isolation I was not able to work on music whatsoever, so I had some sort of creative realization and outburst when I was finally able to go out and travel. Coincidentally, that first proper trip after a covid was to meet with the Photographer and creative director of the project (Valentin), which was probably the best timing ever. After that trip, I immediately went on like 4 or 5 of the songs for this project, which I like to think compensates the lack of creative input during lockdown.
Were there any subjects that you wanted to touch on with the album?
Not specifically, really. But as I mentioned in one of the other questions, all I wanted to portray in this album is a sense of hope and opportunity after a rough time. I especially think this is reflected in the opener of the album “Still Here”.
What was the most challenging or difficult part of working on the album during the pandemic?
Just finding any sort of creative energy to do it. I got into this pretty bad state of mind and was telling myself “Why make music if the world is going to shit and there is so much suffering around me? What is the point?”. Thankfully, I eventually realized that if anything, music and art in general is even more important during a time of crisis. I would say getting out of that state of mind was the most challenging aspect, and with this came the idea of falling in love again with the creative process.
What was the most rewarding or exciting part of writing and recording the album?
I think overall, the most exciting part was trying new things. From recording in a professional studio, using actual hardware for the sound design, but especially being able to work on music on the road. Before, I had always worked on music on my desktop computer, but in 2020 I finally decided to buy a MacBook to be able to work on music on the go. Ironically, despite the pandemic, I think this played a huge role in shaping the album. I would find myself working on songs on train rides, on the plane, on a cafe, in a park. It all suddenly made sense, and it unlocked a new dimension that I had never had access to.
With Often Inside out now, do you have any other big plans coming up? Any shows or tour dates in the works?
I am already working on my next record, which will be an homage to Spain and its culture (my home country). Still early, but im very excited. Regarding touring, I have some things planned that will hopefully take shape as the year progresses ! I am still working on my live, and I want to be ready for when the opportunity comes.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Slava Ukraini !