Interview By Daniel Margolis
Taryn Manning doesn't want to be thought of as an actress doing music. "My first record came out and Rolling Stone reviewed it and the whole review was about how I was an actor turned singer. There was nothing about the music, nothing about the production, nothing about the beats, nothing about the songwriting—the most retarded review ever," she says. "Just because they couldn't get over the fact that I'd been in a couple films."
To be fair, Manning was already making music with Boomkat (a duo that consists of her and her brother Kellin) years before she broke out in films like 8 Mile, Crossroads and Hustle & Flow. The group's sophomore album A Million Trillion Stars drops today, so we decided to chop it up with Taryn about her everyday struggle between movies and music...
Complex: Do you write your own lyrics in Boomkat?
Taryn Manning: Yeah, me and my brother usually write together. Our first record was basically pretty much him and I, but my second record I wrote with a couple other writers here and there. I write on my acoustic guitar a lot and I play my guitar live for three songs, so I can play.
Complex: Where do you draw from for your material?
Taryn Manning: Last night, for instance, I kind of had a rough day and my brother has this one beat that evokes a more sentimental, sad song and we put on that one beat, because we live together, and started writing to it. The song ended up being called "Wall Around My Heart," about like building a wall around your heart.
Complex: What was behind the decision to get involved with music in general?
Taryn Manning: It's just something that's part of me. It's not like I made a decision, Oh I'm going to sing. My brother writes the music, I can sing, the decision was, "Oh shit, let's form a group together."
Complex: What were the circumstances surrounding Boomkat losing its recording contract in 2004?
Taryn Manning: Dreamworks went out of business and Geffen didn't want to pick us up. They didn't want to honor our second record because whoever took over wasn't a fan, and they basically only really took over the big artists like Papa Roach and Nelly Furtado. Newer, up-and-coming artists were overlooked. It sucked at the time, but that was a long time ago.
Complex: So what's up with Boomkat's new album?
Taryn Manning: The new album is cool; it's much different from the first one. It's produced by Mike Elizondo, who did a lot of production for Dre and is pretty much like a hip-hop producer.
Basically me and my brother have to get back out in the game, because it's not necessarily awesome to be on a label now; times have changed so much. If you have a fan base and you have the material, you can do it all yourself. We're really excited. It's been a long time since we've put out a record of ours. A lot of people have missed us.
We're about to go to South By Southwest, doing two shows, and we're going to do a Canadian tour and then I start on a couple film projects. Then after that we're going to see what happens with the record.
Complex: Did your background in music lead to your involvement in music-based films like Hustle & Flow and The Perfect Age of Rock 'n' Roll?
Taryn Manning: Maybe, because when I'm reading for films, the directors see that I'm authentic. They can sense and feel from me that I am an artist and a musician. It's not like I set out to get those films because of that reason, I think I just have ended up in movies like 8 Mile and around people like Britney in Crossroads because all those people helped cast me.
Complex: When you were filming Crossroads with Britney Spears in 2001, did you see any signs that she'd unravel in coming years?
Taryn Manning: Not at all, to be honest.
Complex: Did you observe the pressures of her pop stardom?
Taryn Manning: Yeah, it was absolutely insane filming that movie. We'd be trying to film a scene and that whole hour, borders of our set would be filled with screaming fans holding up signs as we're trying to go, like, "Action." For the PAs to try to like shut them up was a joke. And I mean, I was just like, "Holy shit;" I'd never been around somebody with that level of fame. It made me feel almost like getting off the plane back in the days when the Beatles arrived in Japan or something. But I always thought she took it with such style and grace. I really didn't sense what was coming. I know that I sensed a little bit of turmoil between her and Justin. I could just tell that wasn't going so well by little things she would say.
Complex: Do you envision yourself reaching that level of fame as a musician?
Taryn Manning: I don't really like approach music to become famous. I've actually consciously made the decision that I'm just going to do music because I love it. A lot of people want to judge the fact that I'm an actor. That's just like, ridiculous. No one knows what I was doing before I made my first movie. I just happened to do it as an actor all the while I've been doing music, but never with the intention to become a screaming famous pop star. I just happen to make music and if that happens along the way that would be cool but that's not why I do it...Actors get so ridiculed for wanting to sing. I'm not going to sit there and invite the ridicule. It's just like discover it's me you know and then decide if you like it.
Complex: How did you come to contribute songs to soundtracks to films you've been in such as Crazy/Beautiful, Crossroads, 8 Mile, Weirdsville... ?
Taryn Manning: Every single one of those opportunities happened organically. Like, a lot of times when I'm working on a film, I bring my guitar to my trailer and my bro used to come and hang out on set because there's a lot of downtime when you're filming, it can get a little bit boring. The director would say, "Oh, you play?" and I give 'em my CD and I end up with a song on the soundtrack. I never ask, they always ask me.
Complex: You don't really show up on gossip sites like The Superficial or Perez Hilton, but last year there was this dust up outside a club involving you, your boyfriend and Jesse Metcalfe. What happened there?
Taryn Manning: It was me and my ex out together and Jesse started talking to me. My ex-boyfriend has an anger problem and aggressive nature, and he decided to knock Jesse out for talking to me. It's actually pretty funny if you watch the video of it. My ex-boyfriend got a little bit carried away. It was kind of retarded actually and a little bit over the top with the jealousy. But it is pretty funny.
Watch Boomkat's latest video "Run Boy":