Grammy-nominated Vanessa Carlton recently embarked on an approximately two-month tour to perform songs ranging from her original 2002 album, Be Not Nobody, to her newest 2015 studio album, Liberman. The Hustler was able to talk with her over the phone and get a glimpse into Vanessa’s views on her musical messages, styles, and what to expect from her tour. She will be coming to Nashville at 3rd and Lindsley on March 19th, 2017.
The Vanderbilt Hustler: What inspired you to make your two live albums, Liberman Live and Earlier Things Live?
Vanessa Carlton: This is my first live album ever in fifteen years. I personally don’t think I was ready to go live up until now. It felt like the right time. However, it still wasn’t even my idea. It was my manager’s idea to record the last show of my last tour, which was in Nashville. As my voice changed over the years, I felt like I could get away with doing a live record that could stand on its own. The live performances had become so much stronger over the years, so it made sense. Both albums are from the same night. So Liberman Live is all of the Liberman stuff, and Earlier Things [Live] is all the other songs we performed that night.
VH: Were there any challenges to producing the live albums that you did not encounter in your five studio albums? How was the process different?
VC: It was effortless. All I had to do on my end was just perform well, and that’s it. It’s all the other guys behind the scenes that have to get the audio right and come up with the artwork later on. It was the easiest album I’ve done in my life.
VH: So you’ll be coming to 3rd and Lindsley on Sunday. What do you like about that venue?
VC: I like venues that feel homey. I either like small sit-down theaters or venues that feel like you’re home. People are able to just chill. It’s a good venue for that style.
VH: How does it feel to perform in your new home of Nashville compared to other cities?
VC: I’m excited because I’m going to be home. I get to see my baby and my husband that day, and friends will come out to see the show. I feel like the Nashville crowds are a little jaded sometimes. You’ve got to get them out. People are so used to getting the best of the best. In Nashville, you’ve really got to earn your people, and I’m totally down to do that. I’m looking forward to it.
VH: What can fans expect from this tour in general?
VC: I think that the show that’s put on is really musical. I tell a lot of stories behind what the songs are about, where they come from. There’s a lot of faith to the set where we give ourselves room as musicians to play. I dug out some more straightforward songs from the older records. And then about halfway into the show, I ask people to come with me to the future, and we start going into Liberman stuff. It starts to feel dreamy and leading to where I’m at now. I’m not a very nostalgic person, so I literally start the set with older songs and then move into new.
VH: How has your style changed over the years, and where do you see it going in the future?
VC: Honestly, if you listened to me ten years ago versus now, it would sound like a different artist to a certain extent. I have similar sensibilities in terms of how I play the piano for sure. Everything else has changed. When I left the major label system in 2010, that was the beginning of a level of authenticity and inspiration in my life that I’d never been able to find before or never allowed myself to find before. There was a paradigm shift in me and my sound when I left. Obviously, that started with Rabbits on the Run, which is my first independent record that came out very much under the radar. For me, it was the beginning of the rest of my career. I’m just starting to write my next record. We’ll just see where the wind takes me. I’m following my gut instincts, so we’ll see what happens.
VH: If you could give a piece of advice to your younger self before your first album, what would you say?
VC: I would’ve probably said, “Just be more patient and wait.” I was given a record deal and a publishing deal really early in my life, and I think I probably would’ve been better off if I was an artist that was discovered later on. I probably would’ve been like, “Patience, girl.” And my response would’ve been like “Not in a million years. I’m going.”
VH: Can you tell me the story about a specific song that you’ll be performing on this tour?
VC: I can give you the synopsis of “Take It Easy.” It’s the first song on Liberman, probably not the only song with that title. My story is inspired by reading Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth. It’s about how people recover from chaos in their lives and what human beings especially seek. For that song in particular, I’d come out of a really turbulent time. I’d lost my health for a while, and I was in England at that point working on Liberman. I think that song speaks to that message which is that no matter how bad things get, it will end. Everything comes to an end, and it’s really about seeking balance and telling someone to take it easy. It’s something that should just wrap around your brain and make you feel good. It’s all gonna be okay. In the chorus of the song I sing, “As your castle crumbles down and it will, take it easy.” Everyone’s castle crumbles. That’s part of life, and it’s how you handle the aftermath and how we build up again. It’s not the end of the world.
VH: How do you feel your classical music and ballet background has influenced your musical style?
VC: It’s natural the way it influences my style. It’s all instincts, and you just follow them. I do know that the way that I play [piano], I use all of my fingers, which is much more of a classical style. When you’re learning classical pieces, you have to play with every finger. Rock and roll playing is a bit chunkier. And jazz is really intricate. Everyone comes from different backgrounds, but more specific melodies feel more natural to me rather than just chunky chords.
VH: Have you had any especially memorable experiences with fans?
VC: I’ve met many special people over the years. I met a girl in Manchester on a European tour last year. She had juvenile arthritis, and she was in a wheelchair. She was the most gorgeous girl, and she played piano beautifully. Her father brought her in early for the sound check so I could meet her. I couldn’t believe her strength and her elegance. And I saw the pain that her father clearly is in, seeing his beautiful daughter on that stage. It’s incredible how children can teach us. She played piano, and she wanted to meet me. It was a privilege to meet her. I feel very lucky to have had moments like that throughout my life.
Photo by Jesse DeFlorio