The human heart is the most important organ in the body. It is the very engine for life itself. Harnessing that energy, New York-based singer and songwriter Carrie Manolakos let the heart lead on her 2017 independent full-length album, The 44th Chord.
“I have always felt my heart has a direct line to my vocal chords.” she smiles. “The way that I use my voice is simple and extreme. Singing that way takes me somewhere else. Nothing feels more connected.”
That voice continues to enchant, engage, and entrance listeners everywhere. Following the release party for her 2012 EP Echo, a video of Carrie covering Radiohead’s “Creep” at New York haunt (le) poisson rouge went viral. Not only did it quickly notch over 3 million YouTube views, but she also earned praise from Entertainment Weekly who proclaimed it among the “Top 12 Best Radiohead Covers of All Time,” The New York Times, The New Yorker, Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, MTV, and Gawker writing, “will make your ears orgasm.” Fans chose her to be a part of Elle’s “30 Under 30” as she sold out venues across the country.
Along the way, Carrie began writing what would become The 44th Chord in Nashville and Los Angeles alongside top writers and producers such as David Hodges [Céline Dion, Christina Perri], busbee [P!nk, Christina Aguilera], Shane McAnally [Kelly Clarkson, Kacey Musgraves], and more.
“Writing music was not what I expected to be doing in my life. However, I follow clues and trust my instincts. In a way, it chose me.” she goes on. “When I started writing more consistently, everything changed for me, and my whole purpose shifted. I wrote about 100 songs in two years. I always was fascinated by being human and the extremes that entails as well as the connection. I marvel at how the universe is so insanely big. I had no idea what was to come when I was writing these songs. Sometimes, the music knows better than you do.”
She faced a series of life events that broke her down and only made her more resilient. Following the dissolution of a relationship, she survived a harrowing break-in at her Los Angeles apartment, the dissolvement of her team, and an unexpected family tragedy as she relocated back to New York.
“I believe that the more vulnerable we are, the more powerful we can become,” admits Carrie. “That’s a big part of this whole story. Things started happening in succession that were out of my control, and it wrecked me in a way I had never experienced. To make music through that was the greatest gift of all. It is when we fully break that we are lucky enough to have a choice: to live in the broken or pick up the pieces and create someone new. That someone might be a little wiser, a little more in tune, a little more real, a little more accepting of themselves, compassionate and protective of the rest of the world.”
In 2015, she entered Avatar Studios with engineer and producer, Jason Agel [John Legend, Meghan Trainor]. Together, they cut the eight originals and three covers that now comprise The 44th Chord. Powered by her expansive cinematic delivery, delicate alternative mystique, and keen sense of mainstream palatability, it’s best described as “Heart Pop”—pop music of the heart.
“It’s the spectrum of human experience,” she says. “The covers were chosen very intentionally to cope with real things that happened to me at specific times in my life. Singing is how I get through. I wanted to speak to life’s vastness as much as possible.”
The first single and opening track “Take Me Down” begins with resounding piano as Carrie’s voice crescendos into a heavenly and hypnotic refrain, “Take me down to the water’s edge.”
“It’s a bit of a cleansing, rebirth, or baptism,” she explains. “Throughout the album, there are a lot of undertones that have to do with this theme.”
Elsewhere, she breathes new life into Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”—“the best song ever written,” in her words—while imbuing The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Disarm” with a tearful intensity and adding a near-operatic hum to John Lennon’s “Let It Be.”
The duet “Made Of Stars” is one of her personal favorites and asks the question, “Why do we do the things to each that we do, when we are all made of the same thing?”
“I Should Have Told You” weaves together a confessional narrative that’s both elegant and engaging. Second single “No Religion” sees her robust intonation reach for the heavens accompanied by bombastic percussion and stark, stirring harmonies.
“It’s not about not having a religion. It’s about believing in something bigger than yourself.” she continues. “Something that makes you better. It’s the last song on the record, and it’s the biggest stand for what I believe.”
Carrie has devoted her whole life to music. Post-college, she took Broadway by storm, starring in Mamma Mia as the lead Sophie before assuming the role of Elphaba on the second national tour of Wicked. She lent her voice to Lizzie for the Original Cast Recording of the rock opera based on Lizzie Borden. Along the way, she turned the likes of Alec Baldwin, Josh Groban, and Trey Anastasio into fans, joining the latter for Phish’s epic New Year’s Eve 2013 gig at Madison Square Garden singing ‘Tweezer Reprise.’ Academy® Award nominee Hugh Jackman sought her out to join him during his 2016 performance at the Metropolitan Opera. She performed the part of Éponine as he reprised the role of Jean Valjean from Les Misérables. Carrie also joined Emmy® Award winner Peter Dinklage for a Game of Thrones spoof penned by Coldplay’s Chris Martin. She also delivered a powerful rendition of Aerosmith’s “Dream On” during a PBS special entitled Rocktopia.
However, The 44th Chord opens up her voice like never before, resounding with a timeless spirit. She leaves off, “When listeners hear the album, I hope they find a little of their own truth. Being a human on this earth can be so strange, magical, and beautiful. It can also feel crazy sometimes, but it’s all a part of it. This record is about connection in its purest form: to ourselves, to each other, and to something bigger.”
"Manolakos, whose background is in musical theatre, performs the song with perfect earnestness, closing her eyes and choking back tears. She floats lightly over the soft notes and reaches up to a stringent wail towards the middle of the song."
Andrea DenHoed, THE NEW YORKER full article
"While her high notes are nothing short of stratospheric, the subtler notes of Manolakos' performance really shine."
"I tried my best. I really did. I tried my best to get through this without any Creep covers. But this one is so good that I'd be crazy not to include it...And man, she just crushed it. There's really not much to say besides: God Almighty, that climax!"
"This cover of Radiohead's Creep will make your ears orgasm. If you're in a hurry, skip to 2:25 for the crescendo, but you should really listen to the whole thing. It's upsettingly good."