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10 Vegas acts to watch in 2016: Jessica Manalo

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Jessica Manalo has moved away from her old reggae-driven sound, opting for a soulful R&B sound.
Photo: Sonia Seelinger

Some would call them rash decisions—moving out on your own, quitting your day job and relying on gigs as a primary source of income. But to singer-songwriter Jessica Manalo, all those things had to happen for her to pursue music full-time. In 2015, the musician dove headfirst into the scene, playing restaurant gigs and bars as often as possible to pay the bills. So far, it seems to be working.

“I started at the Beat,” says Manalo, in those days a constant at that venue’s Human Experience open-mic night. “I was 19, and I would come in before the security guard and then just stay. I didn’t let age stop me; I found a way.”

Manalo grew up playing the trumpet, then moved on to guitar, teaching herself Paramore covers at age 10. “Hayley Williams is the reason why I started singing,” she says. “I feel like I gained vocal power just by listening.” As she began writing, the singer found more influences, like Kimbra, Adele and Amy Winehouse, more evident in her new material. Since releasing a self-titled EP last year, Manalo has moved away from her old reggae-driven sound, opting for a soulful R&B vibe.

With a new band and style, Manalo plans to write and record as much as possible in 2016, with the goal of releasing music videos and landing larger gigs. “I want my audience to feel what I am feeling,” she says. “I kinda just tell it like it is.” jessicamanalo.bandcamp.com

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Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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