1000 Miles Later: An Interview with Vanessa Carlton

Becca Damante ’17
Arts Editor

On Oct. 23, Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Vanessa Carlton released her fifth studio album, “Liberman,” to critical acclaim. In advance of her show at the Iron Horse in Northampton on Dec. 4, I had the chance to talk to her about her new album and some of her favorite moments as a musician.

Tell me more about your new album “Liberman.” What was the songwriting process like, and where did you find inspiration for the stories you told?

The album, I call it a “dream record” because I want it to feel like a dream to the listener. It’s kind of made for headphones … [It has] a sonic landscape and a feeling of escape, and I think that idea started to shape itself within me when I was probably three songs into writing it … I was reading a Joseph Campbell book called [“The Power of Myth,”] and that really sent me in that direction of wanting to write lyrics that were not very personal but just soothing to a human mind … And I wanted the music and the arrangement to match that.

I read that you recently moved to Nashville and recorded some of the album there. How did Nashville influence the sound of the record?

I did seven songs in England with Steve Osborne … and then I did four songs with Adam Landry at Playground Sound [in Nashville]. He has this very cool setup where he’s transformed his garage into a studio. It’s super low-key, but it’s definitely one of those magic rooms that has its own vibe. Though Adam and Steve are two different artists, I really wanted to match what we had in the U.K. So I think I pushed Adam to not be too raw or live. It’s not supposed to sound like a raw album or a live album. It’s definitely supposed to feel like it’s from another space and time. So I don’t think that this record is my Nashville record. I think it’s partially recorded in the U.K., partially recorded in Tennessee, and maybe a couple of the tracks that I could do here [in Nashville] were definitely … a little more effortless because of just the nature of being in Nashville … but my record that would be at all kind of inspired by the people here and the artists that I’m meeting here in Nashville, this is not the one yet.

If you could collaborate with any musician or songwriter, who would it be and why?

I think my dream would be to write or somehow apprentice with Hans Zimmer. He writes scores for movies, music for films like “Inception” … I’m a little bit more intrigued by doing that and studying under someone or at least working with somebody on a project who kind of is a master at that. I love music, but when music is great with a film, it’s a whole other level of greatness. So I would love to try that.

What can fans expect to see and hear on tour?

My husband, John McCauley, who is also a musician; he may be there for that show. Some shows on the tour, he’ll be there, [and] I’ll talk him into playing with us. But if it’s not a trio, it’s a duo. Skye, my partner in crime here for this tour; he really has expanded his talent and realm of playing beyond just the violin. He has pedals and a small keyboard, and we really want to match the sound to a certain degree off record because it’s really not a straightforward singer-songwriter record, so we’re trying to really go there live too.

What has been your proudest moment as a musician so far?

I think when I first started touring with Stevie Nicks. She took me on the road with her [and] that was really the beginning of an amazing friendship and also being able to learn so much from … an artist that I really respect. The fact that she saw something in me … that made me feel like I had places to go, like I was not finished yet, like I could still continue to evolve. She’s such a great example of the evolution of an artist because she reinvents herself and she stays so curious, which I think is key. So I think Stevie is definitely a part of a proud moment for me in my career.

Vanessa Carlton’s “Liberman” is available now on iTunes. Tickets for her show on Dec. 4 are available for purchase from the Northampton Box Office.

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