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Aimsel Ponti

Aimsel Ponti is a Content Producer at and a music writer for and the Portland Press Herald. She has been obsessed with - and inspired by - music since she listened to Monkees records borrowed from the town library when she was six years old. She bought her first Rolling Stones record at a flea market when she was in 7th grade and discovered David Bowie a year later. She's a HUGE fan of the local music scene and covers it along with national musical happenings in her "Face the Music" column and with artist interviews that appear in print in the Portland Press Herald and online at You'll also find her out and about absorbing live music like a sponge and roaming around local record shops and flea markets. Aimsel is also the host of Music from 207 on 98.9 WCLZ and appears monthly on the News Center Maine TV show “207” to talk of course.

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Posted: July 1, 2015

Singer Melissa Manchester headlines Portland’s Stars & Stripes Spectacular

Written by: Aimsel Ponti
Courtesy photo

Credit Randee St. Nicholas

Singer Melissa Manchester can now be counted among independent artists who have released their own records on their own terms. After years on major labels, the Grammy Award-winning artist released her 20th album, “You Gotta Love the Life,” earlier this year.

The album includes a dazzling list of guest stars including Dionne Warwick, Keb’ Mo’, Al Jarreau and Stevie Wonder. The record is a jazzy affair with originals and reinterpretations of classics like The Ronettes “Be My Baby” and a melding of Irving Berlin and Cole Porter’s “Let’s Face the Music and Dance/From This Moment On.”

Manchester rose to fame in the ’70s and ’80s with songs like “Midnight Blue,” “You Should Hear How She Talks About You” and “Don’t Cry Out Loud.” She’ll be singing the latter in Portland on Saturday during the Stars and Stripes Spectacular on the Eastern Prom, backed by the Portland Symphony Orchestra.

Read more: Portland’s Fourth of July Celebration continues this year with a tradition of fireworks and a symphony concert

Manchester also will be singing a duet with PSO Conductor Robert Moody. The pair will be performing “Whenever I Call You Friend” a song penned by Kenny Loggins and Manchester that Loggins and Stevie Nicks scored a hit with.

Manchester’s three-song performance will begin with “Open My Heart to Your Love” from “You Gotta Love the Life.”

We caught up with Manchester from her home in California to get the low down on the new record, the ever-evolving music industry and her Fourth of July performance on Portland’s Eastern Promenade.

You have a long history of being a major label artist but now you’re an independent. Have you been following the news of Taylor Swift calling out Apple on their streaming service and how in turn Apple changed their mind about paying artists for songs played during the three-month trial period?

She stood in her light and in her courage and used it for the greater good. The interesting paradox is while there are many, many more ways to gets ones’ music out, it is harder and harder to get paid for your music. And so we are back to the original paradigm in terms of how to get paid. Mostly you get paid by touring. Most really can’t rely on record sales. Good on her for using part of her huge light to shine it on the greater good and to do it with such a quiet defiance. The ultimate is that when she tweeted she finished off her tweet with “Love, Taylor.” Apple responded in kind, with “Love, Apple.” I thought, look at that peaceful revolution; it was beautiful.

Watch Melissa Manchester: Don’t Cry Out Loud

How does it feel to be an independent artist?

After being part of corporations as a very young artist then as a maturing artist, I benefited from the big engine for sure. But then on a personal level it was very difficult to have people trying to understand what I was trying to create in earnest. Because their agenda was simply to be able to classify me so that it would be easier for them to sell me. And I understand that, I really do, but I wanted to not miss the adventure of this moment in time where my industry has been completely redesigned. It is literally the reinvention of the wheel that is not entirely round. And the industry just keeps unfolding, it hasn’t settled yet and I don’t think it will because of technology. When I was teaching at (the University of Southern California), my students were the ones who said, “Do this, do crowdfunding, we’ll help you, you can do it.” And we did. One of my former students was my project manager, and it was just the coolest, grandest creative adventure I’ve ever been on. Honest to god. It was awesome.

It’s satisfying for fans to know they’re actually investing in the making of a record and that the money is not going into some label exec’s pocket. Do you agree?

That’s the thing. That really is the thing. It creates a different paradigm up and down. My village of people that I work with is very small. I’ve gotten rid of most of the people in my village and so I know what everybody’s job is and what everybody’s responsibility is, including my own, of course, and that’s a really clear place to be.

How did it come to be that you’re coming to Maine to perform with the Portland Symphony Orchestra?

I love working with symphonies. I have beautiful charts and the music lends itself and the symphonies are always so surprised at how musical the charts are. (The PSO) reached out and we said yes and I’m very excited to sing three songs with them and actually sing a duet with the conductor, Robert Moody.

Are you coming to town a few days early to do some rehearsing?

Yes, and of course to partake of your glorious blueberries and lobster whenever possible.

Does Independence Day have any special meaning to you, especially with so much going on right now in the country?

I think that this year’s Fourth of July, this year’s celebration of independence is underscored by recent awful events; that is, the massacre in Charleston. I think the notion of independent thinking and people at last pulling away from past paradigms and reframing them and really lifting up everybody by saying, “No, no, we have to change our thinking,” whether it’s about the Confederate flag or guns or whatever, I just think this could be a very momentous time that is connected to a rediscovered independent thinking.

More upcoming live music!

Fare Thee Well Grateful Dead 50 Live Stream
7 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland, $10 in advance, $15 day of, $24 for 3-day pass, 21-plus.
It’s the end of one of the most iconic bands in rock history. The Grateful Dead, 20 years after the passing of Jerry Garcia, are giving The Dead a final send-off that culminates with three shows at Chicago’s Soldier Field. The four original members will be joined by Trey Anastasio, Jeff Chimenti, and Bruce Hornsby. And in typical Dead fashion, each show will be different. Catch a live high-def simulcast right here in Portland and witness a true moment in musical history.

James Montgomery Band
8 p.m. Friday. Jonathan’s, 92 Bourne Lane, Ogunquit, $17.50 in advance, $21.50 day of show. tickets.
The latest CD from blues harmonica player and singing legend James Montgomery is called “From Detroit to the Delta” and you’ll surely hear tunes from the ten or so that came before it. Montgomery’s been serving up his smokin’ blues since the early 70s.

Powerman 5000 with Soil and 3 Years Hollow
9 p.m. Sunday. Asylum, 121 Center St., Portland, $19, 18-plus.
They formed in the early 90s and have since released eight albums, including last year’s “Builders of the Future.” Hard rock band Powerman 5000 cracked the Top 40 over the years with songs like “When Worlds Collide” and “Nobody’s Real.” PM5K’s founding member Spider One is the younger brother of Rob Zombie. Metal band Soil has also been making noise since the 2013 return of their original frontman Ryan McCombs. Consider donning earplugs and get ready to rock out…big time.

James Taylor and his All-Star Band
8 p.m. Tuesday. Cross Insurance Arena, One Civic Center Square, Portland, $75 – $105.
Perhaps it’s time to shower the people you love with tickets? And you don’t need to go to Carolina, not even in your mind. You’ve got a friend in James Taylor and he’d be thrilled to see your smiling face.

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