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Interview: Demi Lovato Guitarist Mike Manning on Music, Social Media and Les Pauls

Anne Erickson
|
06.03.2014

Mike Manning by Jesse Dacri
Photo credit: Jesse Dacri

Mike Manning is the guitarist for one of the biggest stars of the moment, Demi Lovato, but that doesn’t mean he has stopped mastering the guitar.

“You never stop learning,” Manning told Gibson.com. “Even the best are still learning. Or should I say, the best keep learning. I always know when I get stagnant in my playing because I got lazy in practicing or learning new things.”

He added, “I try to pick up things from everyone I play with and as long as it's an inspired musical environment and not just trying to one-up each other, there's always something to learn!

During a busy tour with Lovato, Manning checked in with Gibson.com about how he approaches music with Lovato, his biggest influences and why he loves using social media to stay connected with fans.

What guitarists did you look up to growing up?

I had a couple great teachers in Dallas – Dave Barnett and my late guitar teacher Earl Bailey – that I looked up to and learned a lot from. I was also influenced by Van Halen, Mick Mars, Jimi Hendrix, Brian May, David Gilmour and pretty much any rock guitarist I could listen to.

How did you end up joining Demi Lovato’s band? Was there an audition process, or have you played together for a long time?

I met Demi when she was ten at a local showcase in Dallas. Vocal coach Linda Septien held these big music showcases for her students and we performed in a couple of them, while I was playing with other artists. I became friends with Demi and her family through that and used to go to their house and play music. She was always super talented, and I was fortunate that when she was offered her first tour opening for the Jonas Brothers in 2008, they called me and offered me the lead guitarist position. Within 36 hours I quit my job, flew to Los Angeles and I've been with her ever since. It was a total whirlwind.

How do you approach your music with Lovato?

In the early days most of her music was guitar/rock based. As she's grown as an artist and explored more R&B and EDM tracks, it's given me opportunities to expand my playing as well. I look at guys like Nuno Bettencourt who's playing with Rihanna and other rock guitarists playing with dance/pop artists. I think it's a really cool marriage that's going on between rock and dance. In my opinion, the best artists are the ones that can take great recordings and make them sound even greater live, and that's what I try to do with my parts for Demi's show.

Mike Manning by Jesse Dacri
Photo credit: Jesse Dacri

You play a wide range of musical styles. What’s your favorite style?

Rock ‘n’ roll! I should've been around on the Sunset strip in the ‘80s. I was meant to be in the hair metal era!

How did you learn to play guitar?

I started by trying to figure out guitar tabs by listening to my favorite songs and trying to figure out what the numbers on the tabs meant. Out of the 15 years I've been playing, I've been mostly self taught, but I took a couple years of lessons from the guys I mentioned above that taught me a lot. I believe talent is learned, and I spent hours and hours practicing, sometimes playing the same parts over and over for hours straight driving my family crazy!

What Gibson guitars are in your arsenal?

I have a Les Paul Axcess with a Floyd Rose that I LOVE, a Cherryburst Les Paul Standard, a 335, a Hummingbird, an ‘82 Explorer and my favorite guitar, a Silverburst Les Paul Custom.

Why do you choose to rock Gibsons?

Gibson guitars are solid, great guitars and they just embody American rock ‘n’ roll to me. I love the look and sound and the people at Gibson have been great to me.

What make Gibson products special?

The history, man! And all the legends that have played Gibson guitars and the quality that the Gibson company has maintained all these years.

You’re really active on Twitter (@MikeManning85). How do you use social media in your daily life and with your music?

My Mom always complains to me that I don't post enough pictures on Twitter! I just use it to try to stay connected with the fans. It's such a great platform for fans to stay connected with their favorite artists and I try to reply to as many as I can, because without their support, we'd never be able to do what we love.

I grabbed this quote from your Twitter: “Be who God wants you to be. Everyone else will let you down and they don't matter.” How does faith play into your music?

I believe we were made for a purpose. My faith is the center of me as a person, so that inspires every area of my life, especially music. There isn't another language on the planet like music, or another art form that touches people like music. I believe we were all put here for a purpose and if my purpose is to touch people through music and inspire or make a difference in someone's life through music, then that's what it's all about!

Photo credit: Jesse Dacri

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