We are in La Cacharrería, the gathering room of the imposing and recently renovated Ateneo de Madrid, where a century ago brilliant luminaries Unamuno and Pardo Bazán, among others, discussed their things. In one corner, an ancient grand piano with a cover looks out at us. When discovering it for the photos, Manuel Carrasco cannot avoid ripping out some notes on the fly. Can you play? I ask. “By ear”, he answers, “like the guitar of a neighbor of the town with which I started to compose as a child”. The town is Isla Cristina, Huelva, where he was born and grew up, a fisherman father and a working mother inside and outside the home. His race, his people.
Thanks for coming. I think he doesn’t like interviews at all.
Well, it’s the part of the job that I least enjoy. At first it was very difficult for me, it made me nervous, over the years I have managed to temper it quite a bit. I’m not very talkative, really. On stage, with the music, there is a transformation that I do not control.
It has always been like this?
Yes, since childhood. I remember, when I was seven or eight years old, I would sing anywhere, someone would listen to me, and something would happen there. It was what set me apart from the others. But all that was an environment, my neighborhood, the school, that I controlled. Then you go out into the world and the responsibility weighs on you. I have always sung for someone. I felt that there was something in me, that the burning flame that was burning me could burn others.
Where do those metaphors come from? Have you read much?
Do not believe. I am the only one of five brothers who finished EGB. I don’t feel like I was an educated person, nor did I have books within reach at home. He read in the town library. But I have always had a fondness for words. I like pretty things, beautiful phrases. I am sensitive to that and I look for the beauty of things.
Do you correct a lot when writing your songs?
Very much. I look for the exact word and I don’t finish a song until I find it. Other colleagues write very well and are very inventive. I do not. I’m good at writing things that I feel very close and deep inside. I begin to search and open doors and along the way I find and find myself.
Has sold nearly 75,000 entries for his final tour concert in Seville. Would you pay to see yourself?
No, and I prefer not to think about it. I have had a huge responsibility for years. Responsibility with others, but above all with me. I think it’s the songs that move and touch people’s hearts. As much as things have happened to me, I don’t lose that responsibility. I don’t stay in the flattery, I don’t feel comfortable, I try to change the conversation. I am a foreigner in fame, where there are many lights and many shadows. But I’m from another part, from when the focus goes out. I know that I live an exceptional thing, but I am very aware of being an adoptee in this world. My strength is normality, where I feel comfortable and in control of myself.
Are you class conscious?
A lot. I know what things cost. I have the law of effort to the surface. I am clear where I come from. I’m part of the hustler class. To us, to mine, this does not happen to us. I’m not telling you my family, which is wonderful and you’d flip out with how they’ve taken this, I’m telling you, I’ve experienced it directly. I do not forget, then, I want to feel proud and that they feel proud of me, but not for nothing, but because I am like that. I’m still that one, what’s more, I’m more that one than ever after 20 years, half of my life, in Madrid and in the profession.
‘I’m still that one’. Unintentionally, he has left ‘a Raphael’.
It is so. That Manuel from Isla Cristina has led me to achieve what I have achieved. I have him wide awake. Note that I think that, perhaps, there is something of that in my relationship with the public. Let them feel that I have not lost my essence.
Did you fear losing her after ‘Operación Triunfo’?
Yes. And I stood up. I think I’m very sensitive, but at the same time I’ve been very brave. I have never had a plan B in my life and I was prepared to lose. I used to think all the time that they were going to catch me, that someone was going to say: ‘Who is that guy on the poster, who does he think he is’. Until someone told me: ‘You’re not smart enough to fool so many people.’ And that got me thinking. I’m good at this. For others I will be a bad singer, a bad composer, a bad lyricist, but for many people what I do is worth it. And honestly, I think I had an innate talent that I totally latched onto.
He has two young children. Are you worried about giving them the opportunities you didn’t have?
I try not to have that competitive feeling. I believe more in the example given to them at home. I will not have that requirement with them. Obviously, with everything you can put at your fingertips. But I’m not going to be the typical “my child is going to learn five languages or 10 because I don’t know any” parent. I want them to value things and have a good education.
Have you noticed classism in the world of fame and surroundings?
Yes, but it is not something that has affected me. I understand it as that each one is as he is and has been educated in a way. In that I have an advantage: I have lived in many places. In a very humble neighborhood, in Malasaña, in Barcelona, and I am very awake for that. There are people who are not interested in certain things because they think they are not cool, or they are not cool, or cool. I am interested in how someone who comes from another place can think. I try not to judge anyone.
It gives me that he does not let himself be governed by anyone.
Totally. In that I am a champion. I started very young and the door was open for advice, I knew I didn’t know everything. But I knew when I hit the button not this way. I had things inside and say it doesn’t cost fabric. In those moments, the spotlight dazzles you, but I needed a pause. And every time I’ve listened to that inner voice, things have gone better for me. Imagine now, at 41 years old.
In your hunger, do you rule?
Exactly, even if you’re not hungry. And that is difficult, because you also have your own ghosts dancing.
We all have our brick. I have my fears all the time. He is a faithful friend, perhaps the one who has taught me the most in life.
Fear of what, or of whom?
To disappoint, especially myself. And, as I dedicate myself to this, to the rest. To not be up to par. I’m on the eve of the concert and I’m already nervous. But I will be brave again
Of the 75,000 souls in the concert, how many do you estimate will be women?
LOL. Well don’t believe. You would be surprised. A few days ago I performed in Valencia and there were many men. I think that the boys have fewer objections than before and are more visible in this aspect.
I say this because it talks about love, lack of love, fears, and those things, depending on who, it doesn’t seem very maleYou understand me.
Perfectly. Looking at it now, from the outside, I love that sensitivity. Because mine is a sensitivity that most men surely feel, but they don’t bring it out, or they don’t tell about it. I’ve always told it, and that’s nice. At first, they still saw a 20-year-old boy, half pretty, and they didn’t get the point. But anyway, those young people who now follow me don’t have so much qualms about that. And I love that.
FROM ‘OT’ 20 YEARS AGO
Twenty years ago, in 2002, Manuel Carrasco, a twentysomething from Isla Cristina, Huelva, came second in the second edition of the highly popular musical talent contest Triumph operation. Carrasco, a house painter, sang and composed his own songs, but it was with those of others that he made the respectable fall in love. The rest is on paper. Carrasco triumphed with the route traced from above, until he decided to plant himself, step on the ground and follow his own path. Since then, he has carved out a career that is attractive enough for an audience that, after responding with full houses in previous seasons, last night, he packed the Olympic stadium in Seville in the final concert of his tour. Not even he himself believes it, he confesses. Today, at 41 years old, father of two children with his partner, the journalist Almudena Navalón, he believes that the secret of his success is to be himself, no matter who he is. He keeps learning.
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