Jodie Manross
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Jodie Manross

Band Americana Folk


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The best kept secret in music


"Jodie Manross finds strength in standing alone (Maryville, TN -November 12, 2004)"

Jodie Manross offsets her diminuitive stature with a voice of resounding power, but even its angelic qualities couldn't erase the fear of striking out on her own.

When the Jodie Manross Band called it quits last year, Manross -- who stands 5-foot-2 and could melt ice with her sunny smile -- had established a reputation as one of the best vocalists in East Tennessee. (She was voted Best Female Vocalist in the 2000 Metro Pulse Reader's Poll.) And her songwriting isn't too shabby, either. (LA's Entertainment Weekly said that ``her crisp voice and illuminative songcraft [are] equal parts wistful and urgent; it's atmospheric music that will touch your heart and mind.'')

But standing on her own, without friends she'd played with for years (although oud player and sideman Laith Keilany still collaborates with her on occasion) brought a new sort of trepidation, she said this week.

``It's been a real growing experience playing separate -- it's been scary but exciting, and very fulfilling knowing I can go out there and don't have to rely on anyone,'' she said. ``It's an exciting experience to stand on your own, and it's really helped in terms of communicating, to have that rapport with the audience. It's essentially not relying on anyone but yourself to come up with a sound that's engaging and that people will hopefully enjoy.

``I've played some private parties, and the other night, this little 4-and-a-half-year-old girl asked if I knew any Avril Lavigne. First of all, I couldn't believe she knew who Avril Lavigne was, but I had to tell her, `No, I'm sorry; I'm not really a cover band.' I play some '60s and '70s covers by people like Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin, but I try to do original music.

``Sometimes I feel like I need to prove myself, but it's meant the world to me to lug in all of my equipment and set up and play, even if it's just to a handful of people,'' she added.

If she's proving anything, it's to herself, she acknowledged. After all, she's opened shows for John Mayer, Scott Miller, Keb' Mo', Rusted Root, Ingram Hill, Me'shell Ndegeocello, Norman Blake, Olu Dara and Jonatha Brooke. Her guitar work drifts through an enraptured crowd like fairy dust, and her voice demands immediate attention for both its beauty and soulful intensity.

Add Leilany, who plays everything from the 11-stringed Middle Eastern oud to acoustic to slide guitar, and the result is nothing short of magic. It's no wonder, then, that even after the end of the Jodie Manross band, the two hope to start another group down the road.

``We're eventually going to put a band together, and we've been touring,'' she said. ``We're going to get to play New York City again, and we're playing Virginia this weekend. We're just trying to get out of the Southeast and just play, and it's been a lot of fun.''

New York and Los Angeles, where she's also performed, are cities where her music and voice attract a lot of attention. And although she's thought, in the past, of moving to one of those cities, her East Tennessee success and the allure of the mountains keep her rooted in this area.

``When I came here, I planned to be here six months, but it's been seven and a half years,'' she said with a laugh. ``There's a great community of musicians playing here, and there are people I want to collaborate with here. If you're playing in New York, you're one of 50 to 100 folks who are playing around the city on a single night.

``I actually had plans in progress to move to L.A., but I've reconsidered since then. The more Laith and I talk about new things, the more we're waiting to see of a new band comes up and to see what the future holds. It's great to have Knoxville as a homebase, because it's central to all of these other cities and the cost of living is cheaper.''

That's not to say she'll stay in East Tennessee forever. For now, however, she's content -- and her fans will be, as well, when her new EP, ``Don't Save the Kisses,'' is released later this month.

``It sort of just shows what I've been working on for the past year, just doing a lot of solo writing and playing guitar,'' she said. ``It's a combination of studio-recorded songs I've done with the guy who produced our first CD, `Still,' and just live longs I recorded in Atlanta in Eddie's Attic.

``It's just sort of showcasing what I'm hoping will be the future in terms of a band. It's just a little mit more of what I call intrspective folk songs.''
- The Daily Times

"Jodie Manross is Not to be Missed (Los Angeles Entertainment Today)"

Thursday, February 26 2004

For such a headstrong bunch, Los Angelenos can be distressingly unmotivated when it comes to seeking out burgeoning musical talent, preferring instead the weeknight comfort and safety of shows from buzz-minted bands with an appendage of “the” tacked onto their moniker. Since I can’t physically poke each of you, I urge you to take the goading upon yourselves and seek out Jodie Manross, a singer-songwriter whose crisp voice and illuminative songcraft belie her diminutive stature. The comparisons run fast, deep and varied—Shelby Lynne, Aimee Mann, Sarah McLachlan—but take your pick only after giving the North Carolina-bred, Tennessee-based Manross a half hour of your time. Equal parts wistful and urgent, it’s atmospheric music that will touch your heart and mind. Her special 8:30 L.A. set at the Room 5 Lounge (, with a few surprise sit-in guests, promises to be luminous. And if it makes you feel better, you can call her “the” Jodie Manross. (Brent Simon)
- Entertainment Today

"The Jodie Manross Band Gets Ready to Go Boom (Knoxville, TN)"

When the Jodie Manross Band released its first album, Still, in 1999, the group's rise on the Knoxville music scene had seemed quite meteoric.
Although singer Jodie Manross and guitarist Laith Keilany had been playing together for a while, they weren't really a band per se. Adding Nathan Barrett on percussion and Andre Hayter on bass, the group formed while they were recording Still with the intention of giving the songs a bit more oomph. The chemistry within the group was undeniable—with Manross' booming voice and the group's energetic playing and eclectic instrumentation—and they quickly made a name for themselves.
For the past couple of years, however, there's been a certain nagging question that fans keep asking: When are you going to record again?
In truth, the group's follow-up has been 14 months in the making. Started in June 2001, the band expected to have it finished the following October. Well, they got the month right.
There was no one thing that stalled the project. Between touring and their day jobs, the group found recording more involved than they realized. They recorded the album themselves, with Hayter serving as producer and engineer and his home as recording studio, so there was a bit of a learning curve. "The poor guy couldn't sit down in his house," Keilany says. "We had wires and equipment all over the place."
Once they started putting the songs on tape, they found themselves re-writing and making changes. The vocal cuts proved particularly troublesome. "I have the equivalent of stage fright in the studio," Manross admits.
Part of the problem is she's a particularly harsh judge of her own performance. But it's also the sterility of the setting—she prefers singing live when she can feed off the energy of the audience. Also, there's the frightening prospect of making a permanent record of her voice.
Sitting in a house that Keilany, Barrett, and Hayter have just moved into, the group teases Manross about her fussy perfectionist tendencies, but they also jump to her defense.
"When you're playing live and you make a mistake, it goes away. But when you're recording, they're always there," Hayter says.
The resulting record—Going Somewhere Soon—is well worth the wait. "It's finally representative of the sounds we hear when we play," Barrett says.
The production is sharp and crisp. The band is tight and deftly handles the spectrum of styles. There's a heavy world music influence, accented with djembe and oud. At times, they'll hit a groove and ride it, the way a jam band would. Sometimes, the songs stick to a simpler folk or rock song structure.
Manross' agonizing has also paid off. As usual her vocals are the center of the music. Her singing shows varying shades of emotion, including mournfulness, desparation and jubliance. The a cappella Gospel tune "Ain't That Good News" is followed by the brooding blues number "Given" (which includes some fantastic guitar work by Keilany).
"My voice has changed some. It's lower, more bluesy. I experiment more," she says. "The more smoky bars I play in, the more bluesy I get."
The 15 tracks clock in at more than an hour. Hardcore fans will recognize most of the songs, since they've been part of the group's live repertoire for a while. "It's long, we know. One reason is that it's been so long since our last one and people keep asking when's the next one coming out."
The band hopes the CD will better showcase what they sound like. The group often gets the sexistly pigeonholed as female folk, especially by potential booking agents.
"The singer-songwriter folk label is a complement to me, but it is the kiss of death for a venue. Then I call and they hear my talking voice and are like, 'Oh, are you like Jewel?'" says Manross, referring to her deceptively diminutive speaking voice. "There's three guys in the band. I'm the only girl. I'm influenced by men. I never expected to get treated like this."
The band is thinking about getting a manager to help do the tedious business stuff that they find so draining. And they'd like to eventually be able to give up their day jobs and focus on music. But, they don't necessarily aim for major label success—like many bands, they're suspicious of the majors.
When friend John Mayer told them last year he had been signed to a major label, Manross' first reaction was sympathy. "The first thing I wanted to say was, 'Are you OK with that? I'm so sorry.'" Mayer has done quite well since then, but the fear is real.
"We've seen so many bands go that route and get destroyed," Hayter says.
With the album finally finished, for now the band just wants to concentrate on writing new songs.
"We've put everything creative on the back burner for this album and playing shows," Barrett says. "We're about to explode, mostly out of necessity."

Metropulse (Knoxville, TN)
Thursday, October 10, 2002
by Joe Tarr - Metropulse (Knoxville, TN)

"The Jodie Manross Effect (Knoxville, TN)"

Are you stuck in the moment? Classes come and go like a re-run, and you're yearning for a deep conversation or emotional connection with anything real. We have the answer.
Go listen to Jodie Manross at Barley's in the Old City. She is one of Knoxville's most talented musicians on the local scene. However, we're pretty sure Knoxville will have to share her with the world soon.
The one thing that sets Manross aprt from the many of the local artists is her ability to craft subtle lyrics that pull at the heart strings of nearly every person who listens to her.
We call it the Jodie Manross effect.
The tiny musician's big voice seems to come out of nowhere, and she shouldn't be blown off as another lame song bird of the Jewel persuasion.
Manross said she cannot confine her group's music to a single genre. She summed it up as a fusion of folk and rock with a blues influence.
But we think it's those lyrics that make the difference. So, if you're in need of connecting with those deep emotional thoughts you've been suppressing, go hit Barleys tonight. - University of Tennessee's The Daily Beacon

"The Music Man: Talking Tunes with Ashley Capps, Co-Creator of Bonnaroo Music Festival"

...a lot of people tend to view Knoxville as a place that likes the tried and true, but it also has rather adventurous tastes -and a really strong local scene... RB Morris should be considered a national treasure, and Scott Miller and Hector Quirko are both amazing. Jodie Manross- what a great singer she is...And Donald Brown of course. Knoxville has a slew of great jazz musicians. - CityView Magazine

"Homegrown Musicians: 15 of Knoxville's best-known performers exhibit star power, staying power"

Jodie Manross: An Americana Chanteuse by Steve Row

When she's not singing, Jodie Manross can be found working in the children's book department of the Knox County Library, but talk to her a little while and you realize music makes up and takes up most of her life. Manross say she finally has settled on a description of the kind of music she sings: "acoustic Americana, folk-rock and blues." Her "Big Three" influences were Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel. but she acknowledges that she has loved a wide range of popular musicians, from Aretha Franklin and Sweet Honey in the Rock to Linda Ronstadt and Tuck and Patti. She started playing and singing while a student at Appalachian State University, and some of her songs reflect time spent as a social activist and community volunteer. Manross followed a trail of "really good musicians" to Knoxville after graduating in 1996. "I had planned to be here a year, but it's been seven years now, " she says.
She sings with several back-up musicians - long-time mates were bassist Andre Hayter and drummer Nathan Barrett: she has resumed collaborating with guitarist Laith Keilany and also brings on jazz pianist Ben Maney. Two CDs are out on her own independent label, and she has started work on a third that should be out by the end of 2005. Manross says she has written about 50 songs but in some shows will play half original and half material by others, such as Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, and Etta James. She says her creative output increased sharply "when I found a left-handed guitar. I went on a spree and wrote about 20 songs at once. It was exciting!"
*The other Knoxville musicians featured were: Donald Brown, Copper, Disciple, Drops of Brandy, Dynamo, Jag Star, Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, Scott Miller, RB Morris, Natti Love Joys, Hector Quirko Band, Robinella and the CC Stringband, St. Somewhere and Todd Steed. - Cityview Magazine (June 2004)

"Jodie Manross to play Bele Chere Music Festival (Asheville, NC)"

Her vocals hit you like a freight train...creating a combination of soul with modern folk and rock. - Mountain Express

"Spotlight on Knoxville's Best (Knoxville, TN)"

Jodie Manross fuses the grace of Sarah McLachlan with the power of Aretha Franklin...a terrific musical outfit that has earned fans with a wonderful live reputation…talented instrumentalists who display the capability to rock out with the best regional world-beat musicians. - University of Tennessee's The Daily Beacon

"Raleigh Music Snapshot: Jodie Manross to perform this week (Raleigh, NC)"

July 8, 2004
Acoustic singer and songwriter Jodie Manross appears at Cary's Six String
Cafe tonight. With her acoustic-based Americana and soul-influenced folk
rock, Manross has become one of East Tennessee's top singer-songwriters.
Known as "the little woman with the big voice," this 29-year old
possessess a powerful voice -and surprises audiences with her soulful
delivery of songs. In one of her first appearances in this area, Manross
will open for Jennifer Daniels. When: Saturday, July 10, 8pm
Where: Six String Cafe in the MacGregor Village Shopping Center Tickets:
$7 at the door
- Cary News (Cary/Raleigh/Chapel Hill, NC)

"Knoxville's Best Kept Secret: Jodie Manross (Johnson City, TN)"

Johnson City Press 7/23/2004 •
Sound Check - Manross not to be missed in local show

By Christy Smith

Jodie Manross very well may be Knoxville’s best-kept musical secret. This multitalented singer/songwriter has become known for her heartfelt lyrics and her huge voice.

The first time I saw her perform was several years ago in Knoxville at a barroom that’s since closed. A friend and I had gone down to see some acquaintances perform and they happened to be opening for the Jodie Manross Band.

The Jodie Manross Band has since broken up and Manross now performs either solo or with a revolving collection of friends who accompany her with acoustic guitar, percussion, or jazz piano.

At this particular show, I met Jodie, who was a lovely soft-spoken slip of a girl, who looked far younger than her age and I wondered if she would sing like she spoke, as it is with some people.

I imagined some breathy tunes. Imagine my surprize when she opened her mouth and out came this gigantic blues-infused full-on Etta James-type wail! You could have knocked me over with a feather.

Each song the Jodie Manross Band performed were funky percussion jams with scorching bluesy vocals, and by the end of the set I was hooked. Many friends and fans at this show shouted for a particular song called “Pull of the Moon,” which Manross performed at the end of the set.

This a capella number is still a fan favorite that showcases Jodie’s sweet yet soaring voice to perfection.

I have to admit it is still one of my favorites as well. In this particular song especially, Jodie’s voice weaves a spell around you and the lyrics (as all her lyrics do) pull you in.

While in Knoxville, the Jodie Manross Band may be sorely missed, but Jodie Manross and her bandmates parted as friends and continue to perform together from time to time.

The Jodie Manross Band released two CDs while together, but Manross herself will not release a solo CD until next year.

Recently Manross has been performing in a jazz club in Knoxville called 4620 with Ben Maney on piano playing jazz and blues standards. She currently is embarking on a mini tour, which will have her performing in many venues in the south plus such diverse dates as singing the national anthem at a ballpark to the infamous CBGB’s in New York.

Such diversity in venues is nothing new for Manross — she has performed in coffeehouses, concert halls, festivals, and colleges throughout the U.S. opening for John Mayer, Scott Miller, Keb’ Mo’, Rusted Root, Me’shell Ndegeocello and R.B. Morris, among others.

Recently Knoxville’s Cityview magazine (June issue) included Jodie Manross in its list of “15 Local Acts You’ve Got to See.” Jodie was included along with musicians such as Miller, Donald Brown, Morris and Robinella and the CC String Band.

I wholeheartedly agree with Cityview’s assessment. Jodie Manross is not to be missed. Come out and support this talented singer/songwriter.

I will see you there.

- Johnson City Press


-Still (10 song debut CD, 1999)
-Going Somewhere Soon (13 song follow-up CD, 2002)
-Don't Save the Kisses (7 song EP, live and recorded songs, released in December 2004*)


Feeling a bit camera shy


With her acoustic-based, Americana and blues-influenced folk rock, Jodie Manross has become one of East Tennessee’s top singer-songwriters. She is Pennsylvania born, Greensboro, NC raised and Knoxville, TN based performer is known throughout the Southeast as “the little woman with the big voice." This petite, 5’2” 29-year-old possesses a powerful voice much larger than her size and surprises audiences with her emotional delivery of songs. Johnson City Press recently called exclaimed, "Jodie Manross very well may be Knoxville’s best-kept musical secret."

Knoxville, TN’s Metropulse, who voted her Knoxville’s 2000 Best Female Vocalist, comments, "Jodie’s voice is strong, rarefied and, to risk hyperbole, maybe even angelic. Her singing and intimate songwriting shows varying shades of emotion – mournfulness and desperation to jubilance." Performing in concert halls, coffeehouses, and colleges throughout the United States, Jodie has opened for many talented, diverse musicians such as John Mayer, Scott Miller, Sugarland, Michael Tolcher, Garrison Starr, Mindy Smith, Peter Stuart, Keb’ Mo’, Rusted Root, Jonatha Brooke, Lizzie West, Danielle Howle, Jump (Little Children), Ingram Hill, Me’shell Ndegeocello, Norman Blake, R.B. Morris, The Turtles, Pat McGee Band, Olu Dara and Leon Russell. Jodie also sings the National Anthem at sports events throughout the Southeast.

While Jodie plays her left-handed acoustic guitar, she also often performs with a talented guitarist Laith Keilany. Many have recognized the strengths of their dynamic live show: “With Manross’ booming voice and the group’s energetic playing…they quickly have made a name for themselves (Metropulse).” The Maryville Daily Times recently exclaimed, "Jodie's voice demands immediate attention for both its beauty and soulful intensity. Add Laith Keilany, who plays everything from the 11-stringed Middle Eastern oud to acoustic to slide guitar, and the result is nothing short of magic." Laith Keilany composes on acoustic guitar and oud, an 11-stringed Middle Eastern instrument, bringing a unique element to their performances. Laith brings his strengths of alternative tunings, unusual chord progressions, and incredible slide guitar abilities to the stage.

Their reputation of being committed live performers as well as their onstage banter has created a buzz about their shows. Asheville’s Mountain Express exclaims, “Together they create a combination of soul with modern folk and rock.” Knoxville’s Daily Beacon calls them: “a terrific musical outfit that has earned its fans with a wonderful live reputation…talented instrumentalists all of whom display the capability to rock out with the best regional world-beat musicians.”

Jodie and Laith regularly play in venues such as Atlanta’s acoustic club Eddie’s Attic as well as at many Southeastern festivals such as Asheville’s Bele Chere, Chattanooga’s Riverbend, Knoxville’s Sundown in the City, and Atlanta’s Dogwood Festival. This versatility further demonstrates their unique appeal and ability to reach diverse audiences of both rock and folk genres.

Jodie has also begun recently performing solo shows. These recent shows, including ones in Los Angeles and New York City, showcase Jodie’s intimate writing style, her fiercely personal lyrics and her voice that ranges from powerful and compelling to quiet and honest.

Spotlight Entertainment News likened Jodie’s thoughtful lyrics and songwriting to “lyrical tapestries reminiscent of Ricki Lee Jones and Aretha Franklin.” Jodie has released both her CDs to rave reviews. Knoxville’s Spark* called her second album “a revelation,” while The Daily Beacon described it “a seamless, enchanting project.” From powerful blues riffs to haunting acappela work, Jodie’s original songs showcase her passionate voice and engaging and emotional lyrics. She is a standout among Knoxville songwriters and has been embraced by a supportive Knoxville community. Jodie also embraces and is involved with many benefits and causes, including environmental causes, women’s issues, and non-profit organizations, such as mpower (musicians for mental health).

This up and coming roots singer-songwriter breaks the traditional singer-songwriter mold and is refreshingly impossible to categorize. This year, Los Angeles’ Entertainment Weekly exclaimed, “Soon you’ll be calling her ‘the’ Jodie Manross.” With original music that embodies both grace and power, Jodie Manross is not to be missed.