ANNIE O: Where are you based now?
CARRIE MANOLAKOS: Currently both in LA and New York. In the coming months, I’ll be mostly in LA.
Tell us about your new music.
These songs are are the deepest pieces of me this far. I left New York for a while and started exploring what it would be like to really be a songwriter and to write for my voice. I have sung all styles, so it was incredible to find out and choose what hit most. I spent a couple of years between New York, Los Angeles, and Nashville, and I wrote everyday—almost 100 songs. The big through line to this music is that it really taps into the deeper questions about the extremes of the human experience and connection.
"Take me Down" is a bit of a baptism, cleansing, or rebirth. In it I wanted to explore the spectrum of of human emotion and the extremes of being alive, mostly through dynamics and the power of the song. "Made of Stars" really asks the question, "Why do we do the things we do to each other when we are all made of the same thing?" "No Religion" is the one that is most near and dear to me. That song really came through me. And the first lyrics and melody stayed with me for months before I wrote it. The song is not about not having a religion. It’s about believe in something bigger than yourself, whether it’s God, the universe, or each other.
Tell us about the moment your cover of Radiohead's "Creep" went viral. Were you totally surprised? And how did it change your journey?
I was completely surprised and it was entirely unexpected. It was completely organic. I had just released music for the first time. My heart was so full and when we did the release show and sang that song. I did a speech just before we sang it. I put my hand on my heart, thanked everyone for being there, and was just so happy. And then we sang "Creep." And that’s what happened.
When I got the video, I just put it on my Facebook. And it found its way to Reddit, Gawker, and then got picked up by multiple major news outlets. At the time I really didn't know a single person in the music industry and was getting so many emails and phone calls from people I didn’t know.
I’m a firm believer in the universe. It was that moment that I really got a sign to keep going. I didn’t know what that looked like or how much writing I would be doing, but what I did get is that actually being myself as a performer and an artist was something I needed to really explore. I believed that maybe I would make a difference in that way that I couldn’t even imagine. And the fact that people kept sharing that video, completely organically—a video that was simple with no bells or whistles, just me and my band on stage—it gave me faith in what was possible.
You're a veteran stage performer. Tell us about some of the shows you've been in. Do you have a favorite part you've played and what's a role you're still dying to play on the stage?
My favorite role I’ve played is Lizzie (in Lizzie Borden on Broadway). I strangely play a lot of dark parts and do rock shows pretty often, but this was the most interesting and complex. I am quite a light person, and playing a murderer had me dig really deep. And the music is some of my favorite from any show I’ve ever done. Or course Elphaba in Wicked was iconic, and playing Sophie in Mamma Mia was the most fun first big professional show to ever have.
Tell us about your experience in The Greatest Showman.
Incredible. I was a part of the very first reading of it. Hugh Jackman was also there. And I have been singing for Pasek and Paul (the songwriters) for years. In 2015, and even the first time we read through, we all knew this was something crazy special. There has always been an energy around this show. The people involved, the cast, the creatives, and Hugh at the helm. We did another workshop to get the movie green-lit in 2016, and when it got green-lit, it was one of the most magical moments I’ve had in a room ever. Hugh was told by his doctor not to sing because he got some skin removed on his face and every major executive for the movie was in the room. The last song, he out of nowhere starting singing. As if he literally couldn’t stop it. He actually burst into song right in front of us. It was insane. And that was also the day Keala took "This Is Me" to an entirely new place. And that day booked her role in the film. We all knew it would be big, but we didn’t know this big. I most recently sang at the Oscars and then again with Hugh Jackman for a private event. It’s been a wild ride. And it makes me so happy to see people falling in love with the show and with a new, original movie musical.
Favorite karaoke song?
"I Will Always Love You."
Are there any tracks by other artists you've currently got on repeat?
Good question. These are the first few that come to mind that I are pretty often running through my playlist.
John Splithoff's "Sing To You." Jack Garret's "Surprise Yourself," and Sia's "Bird Set Free."
If Carrie Manolakos had a superpower, what would it be?
People have often said to me that my voice is superpower, that I walk around with a secret. I definitely think that’s part of it. I think my other superpower is really connecting with people. Healing. And holding space for people to be however they are. When I’m onstage, I lean into my truth. It is also where I feel like my most powerful self. It takes me to another space and dimension, which really heals.
What can we expect from your performance at The Annie O Music Series at The Standard, East Village?
I will always tell the truth. And I will always promise to be with the people who are there with me. I also promise to share myself. And anyone at The Annie O Music Series can expect to have an experience.
What are your touring plans?
I am finishing up a residency in LA at Hotel Café. The next show is June 6. I also am planning some Northeast dates. And now I am planning on playing through the fall, both on the East and West Coast.
Annie O Presents: Carrie Manolakos
Friday, May 4, 7-9PM
The Standard, East Village Penthouse
Free with an RSVP to AnnieO@StandardHotels.com