One year ago, HumanHuman user Ruth Jiang added an exciting, alternative pop talent to the site. He was just about to release his debut single ‘Wasted My Love’ - a track which is now approaching a million streams on Spotify. The single lit up the blogosphere, Axel Mansoor’s sumptuous blend of smooth melodies, glassy guitars and fizzing beats was a winning one.
Since then, the Los Angeles based songwriter has received significant editorial love on streaming platforms and landed a major sync on General Hospital which led to an Emmy nomination. I had a chat with Mansoor, touching on his new EP ‘Somerset’, living in Los Angeles, keeping some semblance of balance as a songwriter and blasting Andrea Bocelli.
What's your earliest musical memory?
My mom blasting Andrea Bocelli. We went hard in the Mansoor household.
Were there particular influences during your childhood that you feel have bled into your sound?
Absolutely. My older brother (Misha Mansoor of Periphery) is 8 years older than me and he definitely formed my early taste in music. Lots of grunge, progressive rock, technical metal. I was a complete metalhead from 4th - 8th grade.
Can you tell us a bit about how you got into songwriting?
From the moment that I picked up guitar I was writing. At first it was just guitar riffs which eventually turned into “songs” that was just a bunch of guitar riffs strung together. They weren’t good, but since I couldn’t read / write music (no lessons) I had a natural draw to just creating stuff of my own. It just steadily evolved from there, becoming more therapeutic over time and eventually becoming the most important thing in my life.
It's obviously a deeply personal activity, do you find that to be emotionally taxing?
It’s definitely emotional. When it all comes together it’s the most liberating feeling, but getting to that point is so variable sometimes. Not all my songs are from a deeply emotional place where I’m realizing something about myself / life, sometimes I just wanna write because it’s SO FUN TO CREATE.
How do you keep balance - writing enough to satisfy your creativity but giving your self enough time to decompress?
“Keep” is the important word here. I think we all experience moments of balance, but actively maintaining it is the most difficult part. Anyway, I do a lot of personal things (journaling, scheduling, meditation, etc.) but it’s all with the goal of doing more feeling than thinking. I tend to overthink things.
Where are you based?
I’m based in LA.
Has the city had an effect on your music?
Totally. I think the city has had an effect on my entire being. Which in turn affects my music. LA is a place of extremes and the competition plus lifestyle make it a bit of a meat grinder. You either get much stronger from it and learn more about yourself, or you can’t handle it and have to leave. I think I’ve gotten stronger.
Tell us a bit about Talk To Me.
I guess I can “talk to you” about it. Hohoho.
The original Talk to me was a first foray into writing sexier songs. Historically I haven’t done much of that. It’s super fun and I’m definitely going to be exploring that further.
This acoustic version was super fun to make because I had to craft the guitar parts to fit the vocals, usually I write the other way around. I got to play around with arrangement and melodies and make something that feels new but familiar.
Is it part of an upcoming album?
The acoustic version is the 4th track on my new EP, “Somerset”. It’s a collection of 5 acoustic songs. 1 out of the 5 songs will make you cry guaranteed, or your streaming $$$ back.
What are you looking forward to, musically, in the second half of this year?
Collaborating. Releasing the new songs I’ve been writing, writing a ton more. Playing in new cities. Listening to all the new badass new music being made every week. It’s going to be a good year.