Erica Manzoli is the 21 year old singer songwriter refuting the British ‘stiff upper lip’ mentality to embrace radical honesty when it comes to mental health. Self-proclaimed sad song enthusiast, Manzoli spent lockdown documenting her own internal battles through her lyrics, proving that breakdowns really can lead to breakthroughs. With songs like ‘My Best Friend is My Therapist’ and ‘Rock Bottom’, the EP tells the story of Manzoli’s loneliness in lockdown and her journey to rediscovering the parts of herself that she thought she’d lost. We caught up with the singer to talk car-songs, heartbreak and the power of speaking up when you’re feeling down.
Rachel Edwards: Hi Erica! First of all, today is Friday the 13th… are you superstitious?
Erica Manzoli: I’d say no but I failed my driving test on Friday the 13th so maybe I should be!
R.E: (Laughs) Apparently it’s the cheapest date to book a wedding on! So how are you feeling about the new release?
E.M: I’m feeling great! It’s been a whole year process from lockdown - just writing it then having it out! I didn’t realise how much goes into creating four songs! It’s all really precious to me. I got to have my friends involved - my friend being my producer who produced it all and also my friends took the photos and I got to have a lot of creative direction over it all.
R.E: What was the most challenging part of the whole process?
E.M: I think the mixing stage! It’s probably the stage no-one really thinks about but when you get 'demo syndrome'. It’s when you hear your first song and you feel like that’s how it should sound because you’ve heard it a million times… but then you get to the mixing stage! There were probably twelve revisions per track so I think it was really hard to let go of what I thought sounded amazing but to other people probably sounded a bit weird in some areas.
R.E: It sounds like a process of letting go as much as it is creating something! I have to ask based on your song ‘My Best Friend is My Therapist’ … is your best friend your therapist?
E.M: Not any more luckily which is a good thing! I actually have friends now which is great. I always thought I was an introvert until I was like ‘fuck it, I’m going to leave my house and meet people’ and ironically me trying to pretend I was having fun ended up in me having fun. Now I don’t have a therapist anymore so they can’t be my best friend.
R.E: (Laughs) My therapist always asked me if I cared whether or not she liked me and I’d be like ‘no!’ and she knew I was lying. Have you always been a deep thinker? There’s a lot of depth in every lyric of your songs, has this always been an intrinsic part of who you are?
E.M: I think yes is the answer. It’s something I need to chill out on sometimes, especially in relationships because literally it goes wrong straight away because I’m thinking of every single situation possible that could go wrong. My mum is actually a catastrophiser so she got a bit of help with that and I realised that that’s a thing with me. Kids go through stuff - I went to a religious primary school where I was bullied, I went to another school where I was not having a fun time and I would go to churches with a bellyache and if I hadn’t put two and two together I might just have thought it was the devil or something but I realised it’s actually childhood trauma. I also realised that some things I thought were my personality weren’t my personality at all. Especially with depression, people often think being sad or being tired is just you. I used to think I had a boyfriend at one point who was a little bit manipulative and he’d say ‘you’re boring!’ and I’d be like ‘yeah I am I’m really sorry’ but I realised later that actually wasn’t me. It was just me being primed to self-hatred and accepting that.
R.E: And then internalising it as being part of yourself!
E.M: Yes, I know I’m not boring but when you’re in that space of feeling shit you tell yourself that’s who you are! It’s very empowering to realise it’s not who you are. It’s like pneumonia, it’s an actual thing that you’re struggling with and it affects every bit of you. It affects your body, it’s a genuine weight on your shoulders, you do feel tired.
R.E: I think it’s a great reminder for other people who are feeling like their identity is tied to these negative associations that it doesn’t define them. It’s great how open you are about speaking about your mental health - is there one thing you do that helps when your mental health is bad?
E.M: I think being open helps! I used to bottle things up a lot and then I’d freak out. It would be such a big secret that I didn’t want anyone to know about. But as soon as you speak out it helps. I’m now overly open - everything that you’d be ashamed of or embarrassed of feels easier once you say it out loud. If I’m ill I tell my managers ‘I’m not going to lie, I’m not going to be able to talk today’ or ‘I don’t feel like doing this’ and they understand. Surround yourself with people who do understand! I personally believe every person has had some mental issues in their life.
R.E: Yes and if they haven’t they probably just don’t know they do yet! Is there anything that you avoid when your mental health is bad?
E.M: (Laughs) I avoid many things! I wish I could avoid social media but unfortunately that’s part of my job. I tend to read, that's really helpful. If I'm on my phone for the first hour of the morning my head hurts all day so I stopped going on my phone for the first hour and it does help to set my brain in a certain perspective. I know it’s cliche but it does really help if you do those little self-care things. Just read a bit, brush your teeth, make your bed and just those little bits of self care set you up for a day that has some potential. One of my lines in ‘Rock Bottom’ is ‘I can’t even take a shower, what’s the point when I’m going back to bed?’ because you can get into a rut of thinking ‘I’m going to sleep anyway, what’s the point in making my bed?’ or ‘I’m not seeing anyone anyway, what's the point in having a shower?’ so these things really help.
R.E: Such good advice, I think it’s the small daily things which seem pointless but can help so much. When was it that you decided to take music seriously?
E.M: I think I really always wanted to be a singer. When I was little I played the flute and joined choirs and things like that. And I’d sing in the car until everyone got really annoyed at me!
R.E: (Laughs) What would be your car song?
E.M: We had a lot of Lorde, Lana del Rey and Lily Allen… all the L’s! It was my parent’s influence, not mine! My friend’s big brother went out with the singer Raye who went to Brit School and she’s doing amazingly. I remember thinking ‘Oh my god I really want to be like her’ so I went to the Brit school as well. I auditioned just doing acapella singing and I got in, I don’t know how. And then I got given a microphone for my birthday and I realised I'm actually quite a soft singer and my airiness is probably a strength of mine, rather than doing an Ariana Grande type of thing. Then I did music production and met the producer who produced my EP.
R.E: Was it an instant click?
E.M: Yes he’s great! It's amazing when it's your friend because you can be really honest about what you like and what you don't like!
R.E: What has been your career highlight so far?
E.M: This is my personal one - I sourced a girl who went to Brit, she was the year above me - and I sourced her to do my ‘Rock Bottom’ video which is a video that took 30 hours to make a 12 second loop. It’s all embroidered, it’s 80 different stills in a beautiful stop motion animation. It was so cool!
R.E: I have to see this! One of your songs is called ‘Silent Movie’. Do you feel like you have an eye for film? Would you want to work in it?
E.M: I love visuals! I’m always planning weird photoshoots and stuff like that. I love those things that are slightly shocking but also beautiful. I love Wes Anderson and he’s to me just the pinnacle of beautiful visuals. Visuals are so important to music, it helps to create the world you want to create.
R.E: If you could only watch one film on repeat for the rest of your life what would it be?
E.M: ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ by Wes Anderson.
R.E: That’s a good one! You have quite a Hollywood look - but maybe old Hollywood like Audrey Hepburn. Do you know what your first ever word was?
E.M: I think it was ‘cat’...
R.E: Wow that's funny, I asked my housemate yesterday and his first word was ‘dog’! I've never heard of animals being people's first word! Have you got any secrets you can tell us that you haven't announced yet?
E.M: Well I’m working on the second EP!
R.E: Are they still going to be sad songs?
E.M: (Laughs) Erica is trying to write happy songs!
R.E: (Laughs) If you strayed too far away from the sad songs everyone might be sad!
E.M: The next EP’s theme is heartbreak I think! Everyone's had a heartbreak… But maybe not everyone’s had a complete breakdown (laughs).
R.E: (Laughs) Yes, everyone says the first heartbreak is the worst which I don’t know if I believe. Do you believe heartbreaks get easier the more that you have?
E.M: Well I’ve only really had one to be honest but that was really difficult. That was the main cause of my sadness! I had these scales and the period I was dating this person my weight went completely down. As soon as we broke up and it hit January 2022 my weight just went all the way back up. This is what I mean by physical manifestations of sadness because that really shows how it can affect you, I just wasn’t hungry.
R.E: Everyone can relate to this! I think your music does feel timeless, you touch on things that everyone goes through and has and will go through for years before and years to come. Okay lastly… What is your favourite F Word?
E.M: My sister eats the weirdest snacks and she just gets a plate of them and eats them!
R.E: That sounds like a great snack!