MEB staffer Tim Dodderidge recently chatted with Chris Greenwood, the mastermind behind rap-rock group Manafest. They discussed his most recent album Fighter, the meaning behind the lyrical content, and how Manafest’s sound has developed over the last decade.
Manafest are currently on tour with Saving Abel. How’s that been so far?
Chris: It’s been good, man. Really good. Good turnouts. Good dudes to hang with. It’s just been really positive overall.
I hear you tend to play a lot of live shows each year. How do you keep the heavy touring schedule from wearing you out?
It’s all about balance, you know what I mean? You can’t overwork it. Last year we played 173 shows, and I’ve pulled back a little bit because it does start to get too crazy. You definitely have to get a balance or you get worn out, and then you get numb and you’re no good to anyone.
You released your most recent album, Fighter, in April. Did you have one goal in mind when you created the album?
Yeah, we just want to inspire people, and that’s the main goal with the message and what I do. I also just want to entertain people.
What was the writing and recording process like for the album? Was it any different than you’ve done in the past?
We went with a new producer, Tim Scheffer in Nashville, and he works a little different than Adam [Messinger], who was a previous producer we worked with and he did two songs on the new record as well. I was traveling as usual, writing on the road, saying stuff over the wire and through e-mails back and forth. Then came stuff in the studio, but nothing was really articulated differently. It’s all pretty similar. Some people have different writing techniques and the way they do stuff in the studio. But it’s still always a learning experience.
What’s the story behind the album title?
I wrote that song [“Fighter”], the verses for that when I was home. They’re just super-inspirational to me. I felt like I hit something where I was like, “Okay, I really have something there.” The verse is about forgetting your past and not quitting, and to still overcome the storms of life. A lot of people can relate to getting over stuff and getting through stuff, and having a rough patch at times. So it’s not a physical fight, but more of the fight that goes on inside.
What other bible passages could refer to this “fighter” mentality? How have they found their way into the album’s lyrics?
Proverbs 24:16. It kind of shows how a man falls down sometimes, but gets up and goes again. I think that’s a pretty good example or reference for something like that, you know what I mean? Just not quitting and persevering.
Just like The Chase, it tends to be a lot rockier than your previous albums. How did the “rock” style end up being such a significant element of your music?
I started doing more rock stuff in 2001 on my first EP, and there’s a song on there called “Freedom” that’s very rocky. And so it’s always been there, it just really came to the forefront more on The Chase when I did that for the whole thing, and the response I got was absolutely awesome. I felt like I was really hitting something and just really connecting. I always talked about doing a full rock record and a full hip-hop record, and I still want to do a full hip-hop record.
The Chase could be considered your breakthrough album. What makes it stick out from all of your other albums, or at least your albums up to that time?
I think it was all just hit songs on that record, man. Every song was just really good. I grew a lot lyrically and matured a lot. And then Adam Messinger, who’s a Grammy-nominated producer, helped produce and write some songs. The level of quality was at a much different level.
Manafest is – in a nutshell – a rap-rock band. How did those two genres end up influencing you enough to make the band sound the way they do?
As a kid growing up I listened to the Beastie Boys, Michael Jackson, Rage, Linkin Park, Eminem. There were so many bands I listened to growing up – the TFK [Thousand Foot Krutch] guys obviously. And the list just goes on; there’s just so many influences out there.
Trevor McNevan is featured in many of your songs. How did you guys become friends, and what made you want to use his voice so much in your music?
I just think we’re on the same page when it comes to writing music. We just really get along; it’s a smooth process. There’s no ego. There’s no fights. It’s just all love, and the same passion and the same heart, so we mesh well together.
What’s the process like working with McNevan? Does he help write a lot of the music and melodies?
He works with the hooks a lot, and as far as production, he did help with production on “Every Time You Run” and “Impossible.” Sometimes we’ll write in the studio together, and sometimes we’ll just send ideas back and forth.
Fighter could possibly be your most commercialized release to date. Where do you hope this album takes you?
It’s taking me into some new countries. The album released in India for the first time, and Europe and China, and it’s just exposing me to more territories. The music industry’s just so big. I kind of started in the Christian aspect, and that doesn’t even exist in many other countries, so it’s cool to make music for everybody and not just a select group of people.