To truly become herself, Alex Maniak had to become someone else.
The Detroit native, who writes and records under the name SHORTLY, has been in the business nearly her entire life. She grew up in a musical family, and began acting at age 7 before transitioning into modeling. Music followed her throughout all her endeavors, but over time she grew increasingly disillusioned with the demands of the industry—and the shape her art was taking as a result.
“My name had become connected to music I didn’t identify with,” she says. “The music had become so commercial and something really driven by monetary gain.”
So she shut it down, teaching herself piano and casting a wide net in search of her true musical voice. She’s found it in Shortly, an achingly melancholy sound that swirls pop, indie rock and folk together with an unflinching honesty.
Shortly’s debut single, 2016’s haunting “Matthew,” introduced the world to Maniak’s confessional storytelling and heartbreaking vulnerability, qualities only amplified on “Spare Time,” her first song for new label Triple Crown Records.
The track, which precedes a new set of songs that will be released via Triple Crown in the coming months, is underpinned by delicate finger-picking and reflective lyricism that soon give way to crescendos of guitars and drums to propel it forward.
It’s an emotionally complex thread that runs throughout Maniak’s songs. Musically, the songs she pens are gorgeous—but when juxtaposed against their weightier lyrical themes, they’re especially resonant. Most importantly, they accept catharsis as a short-term fix for pain but ultimately understand the only way to personal growth is through hard-fought change.
“The resolution is so important to me when I’m writing songs,” she says. “Otherwise I’m yelling ‘I’m sad!’ over a guitar. No one wants to hear that. I don’t want to hear that.”
In a short time, her honesty has earned her spots on bills with The Decemberists, Phoebe Bridgers and Mitski, as well as recognition as one of the brightest up-and-comers in the recently revitalized Detroit music scene. It’s ultimately validation for trusting her gut and, having come out the other side of a cutthroat industry in one piece with a truer sense of who she is and the music she really wants to make.
“If I get happy, I pick up my guitar. If I get sad, I pick up my guitar. I breathe, and I pick up my guitar,” Maniak explains. “It’s just what I do. No one else could write these songs, because they’re not me.”