Chris Mann Interview: Hit YouTube Adele Parody Provides Comic Relief for Coronavirus Quarantiners
Image attributed to Chris Mann
Singer-songwriter Chris Mann came in fourth on the second season of NBC’s singing competition The Voice in 2012. He came in first on Team Christina Aguilera and represented her in the final round. His album, Constellation, was released in 2016. Mann toured for two years with the North American tour of The Phantom of the Opera, in which he played the lead role of the Phantom.
Mann has written and produced a series of videos, most with a funny twist, on life in quarantine during the coronavirus pandemic. One video is his own version of The Knack’s 1979 hit single “My Sharona,” renamed “My Corona.” Another is “Stay Home Vogue,” in which he parodies Madonna’s “Vogue” in order to spread the viral COVID-19 message.
"I love acting, so this is a totally unexpected reception. I’ve never made a video like that and posted it. So the response is insanely flattering, and I am very humbled by it."
After millions of views on YouTube and thousands of new subscribers on his channel, Mann continued his cover series with “Hello (from the Inside),” to the tune of Adele’s megahit “Hello.” That video is currently closing in on 10 million YouTube views. Then there’s Mann’s moving tribute to all of the people on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis. “Thank U Frontline,” set to Alanis Morissette’s “Thank U,” is a nearly five-minute music video acknowledging and applauding those who are showing up and working hard during these challenging times.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: How are you, Chris?
Chris Mann: I’m great. Sorry I’m late, but I just took a long shower for the first time in three days, and I just lost track of time while blissed out (laughs).
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Totally understand. I was hoping you’d call and say, “Hello. It’s me.” (laughs)
Chris Mann: Oh (laughs). Hello. It’s me.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: (laughs) How are you and your family coping with the quarantine?
Chris Mann: We’re doing well. We’re in the same group as parents whose day cares are closed. We both work from home anyway, so we are used to it, but it certainly changes things when you’re full-time entertaining a toddler during the quarantine. But we’re doing well.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Have you had family or friends affected by the coronavirus?
Chris Mann: Yeah. We’ve definitely known a few people that have COVID, and luckily, so far, everybody has worked through it okay in the end. My dad is a pharmacist, so he’s working every day, and that scares me that he’s dealing with so many people, but he’s one of the people I thanked in that frontline video because there are a lot of people that have to go in and help the community keep functioning.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: “Thank U Frontline” is excellent, Chris. Very emotional and a much needed “thank you” to those that are giving of themselves during these incredible times.
Chris Mann: Oh, well, thank you. It was a beautiful experience. I’m really proud of it. We used crowdsourcing to obtain the footage seen in the video, and fans were invited to contribute photos and videos to say “hi” to people. I was really overwhelmed by the response and the footage I’ve gotten since. Of course, we enjoyed taking the time to thank people we know personally.
We noticed the comments section has essentially become like a safe haven community of love where people are commenting like crazy, thanking people, tagging people. Someone said that I didn’t thank the airline attendants, so people are thanking that person and sharing their own experiences and their fears. It’s really amazing that people are sort of rallying though the comments section under the video.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Yes, and I didn’t realize until I watched the video that your dad was a pharmacist.
Chris Mann: And he’s right in the target age where you’re supposed to be worried. So we’re always worried, but he wants to go. So that’s great.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: I like the lines, “How about governing without all of the politics”? “How about working together for the greater good”?
Chris Mann: Politics, yep. It’s taken the whole world falling apart to really bring back to the core of who we are and humanity and that you can’t play political games and withhold help, which has become a strategy when so many lives are at stake. Yeah. I think we’re all just really tired of the back and forth, and we just are ready for the government to just sort of take care of us and to stop fighting (laughs).
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Are those comments a nod to Donald Trump and his administration?
Chris Mann: Well, you could read into it however you like, sure.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Just like millions of others, I can’t also get enough of the Adele parody, “Hello (from the Inside).” You’ve been described as a comedic genius. Have you ever wanted to be a comedian?
Chris Mann: (laughs) Well, sure. I mean, I love acting, so this is a totally unexpected reception. I’ve never made a video like that and posted it. So the response is insanely flattering, and I am very humbled by it. But I’ve always wanted to act and do television and stage work, and it’s really been fun to basically direct and create my own show without intending to through this process. And it is very funny that various people now think I’m a comedian before a singer. So my mom, of course, freaks out. She says, “You’re a singer.” In my whole life, that’s all I’ve ever done, so it’s an interesting identity change (laughs).
Smashing Interviews Magazine: (laughs) And I do think the most relatable part of “Hello (from the Inside)” is not wearing pants.
Chris Mann: (laughs) I’m not wearing pants right now.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: We have a pantsless household (laughs). Have you gotten any comments from Adele, Madonna or Alanis about the videos?
Chris Mann: Not Adele, and I would love to. You’d think at this point that she might’ve seen it. Madonna definitely saw it because the day after I posted it, she did a similar improv thing from her bathroom that was very reminiscent, so I felt that Madonna literally imitated my imitation of her, which was pretty cool.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Chris, do these song lyrics come easily to you?
Chris Mann: Yeah. So far, they’ve been pretty easy, and I’ve been a songwriter for a long time. I have a career outside of comedy videos. I’ve been on a couple of major labels, and I have records out. But for some reason, this sort of comedy is coming quite easily. I’ve noticed that really I’m just sort of saying exactly what I would say anyway and not filtering, and that seems to be a good thing because everybody’s thinking the same thing as it turns out.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: I have noticed that the vast majority of the country loves the videos. However, there are a few critics who may say that you’re making light of a serious situation. How would you respond to that?
Chris Mann: First of all, there’s basically the better part of a million comments, and I would say they’re virtually all positive. That alone is remarkable. In this day and age of internet trolls, there’s hardly any bad ones. I mean, that’s ridiculous. So I think, for the most part, it’s an overwhelming approval. But one thing I have consciously done, and I’m proud of, is that the lyrics I’m writing, I stand behind. “Vogue” is literally encouraging you to stay home and follow the rules to slow the corona curve. So if I do that in a funny way, the message is still there. It’s not making light of the disease or disbelieving its seriousness in any of the videos.
Then of course, the “Thank U” video is blatantly asking for government assistance and thanking and encouraging and loving on the people that are out there including the people that are sick. So I would say that. Of course, if I offend someone, I’m deeply sorry, but I think they’re missing the message, which is that music heals in time of need. I did not set out to do this. I didn’t plan this. I had no idea this would happen, but this is what’s happening, and the entire world seems to be on the same page that they’re looking forward to having some levity through this stressful time. If I can provide that while reinforcing positive messages and responsibility, then that’s a win-win.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Indeed, it is. How did your interest in music begin, Chris?
Chris Mann: I’ve been singing my whole life. I started singing when I was 15 seriously and got voice lessons in Wichita, Kansas, and started competing classically and doing well. I always wanted to be a recording artist. That was always my dream. I would write letters to David Foster and icons in the music business begging them to discover me and, and I sent CDs out and all those things.
After college, I ended up moving to New York and got my first deal as a pop artist. That’s what brought me to Los Angeles. Since I’ve been here, I’ve worked many times and have given them a hard time for not responding to my letters as a child (laughs). But it’s always been who I am and what I do. Of course, I was on The Voice, so many, many people know me as a singer. Then for this happening and having an even bigger audience that think I’m a comedian is a little strange. But I’m not mad at it. I’m having a great time. Why limit ourselves?
Smashing Interviews Magazine: So very true! Are you still releasing singles from your album Noise?
Chris Mann: That’s before Corona (BC). I was actually getting ready to release a new single and then the last single with the full album. That was the plan for 2020, but then everything has just been turned on its head, so I’m not really singing anything right now. But Noise was getting back to my pop side and my singer-songwriter side because for eight years after The Voice, I’ve been doing covers and really big symphonic stuff like Phantom of the Opera and using that type of voice. I wanted to sing my own stuff again, and that’s sort of where Noise came from.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Who do you listen to, Chris?
Chris Mann: I have a very diverse listening taste. I love country music. That’s my hidden secret that I’m obsessed with country music. I wish I was a country singer, but I’m actually like a classical singer (laughs). I love everything from John Mayer to Ariana Grande to NPR, which is not music, but I listen to it constantly if only to keep up with what’s happening out there in the world (laughs). And of course, a lot of kid music right now because of my toddler.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: How old is he?
Chris Mann: He’s two and a half.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Where did the name “Hugo” come from?
Chris Mann: We just thought it was a cute name and a strong name. We don’t have any connection to it other than that. But we just loved the thought of it, so that’s what we went with.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Is Hugo too young to realize what daddy is doing at home?
Chris Mann: Yeah. He doesn’t know what’s going on, and that’s great. For him, it’s just like mom and daddy play time all the time, which is kind of great. There’s something really lovely about the simplicity of life right now for a lot of us who are at home and not directly impacted by this. It’s kind of nice to sort of get back to the basics. We’re enjoying him and coming up with lots of different activities at home. But of course, we’re also worn out and waiting for bedtime at the same time.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Do you think that after this health crisis is over, each of us will become more sanitary and get used to constantly washing our hands and faces and stay six feet from one another at least for a while?
Chris Mann: Oh, yeah. I think so. It’s changed everybody. It’s going to take a long time for people to settle back into life. I don’t know. I think we’re probably going to be surprised at how long and how lasting this will be. For people like me, my entire livelihood depends on crowds, performing for crowds, so it’s a direct hit.
I think it’ll cause a shift in everybody’s life in some ways. It certainly has mine. I think everything will get back on track, but it’ll probably take a year to reschedule stuff. I’m fully committed to these videos, so I’m doing one a week. They take a lot of time. Actually, when we hang up, I’m going to work on some of the ideas I’ve got. No rest for the weary.
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