Interview with Grammy nominated artist Vanessa Carlton

Photo Courtesy Of | Marissa Hank ’20 interviews Vanessa Carlton about her album, Liberman Live.


Marissa Hank ‘20
Contributing Writer

On 7 Mar. 2017, the town of Northampton has the pleasure of welcoming Grammy nominated artist Vanessa Carlton. One of Carlton’s stops on her tour is The Iron Horse in downtown Northampton. Carlton’s tour is in support of her new album Liberman Live.

As described in the press release for her live album, Liberman Live is the live version of Carlton’s critically acclaimed studio album Liberman, which showcases Vanessa’s musical evolution. Her wistful vocals, poignant lyrics and simple instrumentation bring you into Carlton’s world and highlight a new side to this accomplished songwriter.” When listening to the eight songs from her live album, you are drawn in by the dreamlike quality of her music, and you leave with an uplifted spirit.

Recently, I had the opportunity to conduct an brief interview with Vanessa Carlton in regards to her upcoming tour date at The Iron Horse and her new album. Some of the topics discussed include her opinions and ideas regarding her creative process, what touring is like as a mother and advice she gives to young, aspiring musicians.

What was your creative process like when you were working on the album Liberman Live?

I recorded the majority of the record in England. It was really amazing to be in a studio in the middle of nowhere and record. I set out to make a record that sounded like a dream. The producer was on board. He was a really accomplished, talented artist who was known for that sound, so we really were able to go all the way with it. It was mostly he and I in the studio working off that sound and building around being soft. Then, I finished the record in Nashville, actually, because I ran out of time in England and had to come back home. I finished the record with Adam Landry in Nashville. Actually, that’s why I ended up moving here with my husband.

How do you go about creating songs? Do you work on the lyrics first or the instrumentation?

Sometimes, it depends. Sometimes I work with concepts, a story or lyrics that are written with no home. Then I start writing music and I begin to pair them together, or concepts will work with a certain musical idea. But usually it starts for me that I’m looking at all.

Do you find that it’s easier to puzzle ideas and lyrics together, or do you work in a linear way?

Yeah, there are definitely songs that are kind of far out, and there are songs written as you go. which is really satisfying. But it depends on how many songs you are working on and working on at the same time. I’m not a writer that writes everyday; I actually spend long stretches of time not writing at all. I don’t get anxiety about it either. I never have 20 songs written for an album, I always write the amount of songs needed for a record. I don’t think that’s the common way to do it, but that’s the way it works for me.

Did you come across any road blocks during your creative process? If so, how did you overcome them?

Yeah, I needed to step away often in order to write and to collab, which I have never done before. I think it’s good to put yourself in an uncomfortable environment, or to step out of your comfort zone whatever that may be. It could include sharing it with somebody, playing it for somebody or doing a collaboration, or even just walking away from that song and giving it a break and coming back to it. Reading other people’s work really helped to get out of that funk.

If you had to pick, what is the one song from this album that speaks to you the most?

Blue Pool, because it is kind of a story of a woman’s mind and how that works. I really love listening to that, and the instrumental pieces really reflect the emotion that you’re feeling and that’s cool.

What is your inspiration for the song River from your new album?

I wanted River to be parallel to a dream, and how the flow and rhythm of nature is always coursing through our bodies. You can feel it if you tap into it. I think no matter the train of evolution or connection, all of the little things I talk about in the song–it all flows. When you’re in the moment of pain and you think it will never end and you will never begin again, we all have a million rivers running through us and we are all apart of a bigger river. I feel like this kind of calms us, and you know it’s nothing new, but it’s certainly comforting in the moment. I love feeling connected to the earth. It’s really important to maintain that connection in your body and in the world around you.

When my daughter was a newborn I would sing River to her; she loves that song.

What is it like touring while being the mother of a young child?

It was stressful, there is definitely no manual on how to do it. It was hard. You have to find an amazing girl to go with you, a tour nanny of sorts, because when you’re on stage you need someone to be at the hotel with the baby. We toured in a springer van, which isn’t luxurious or anything. It worked out because she was nine months old, so we could drive for four hours and it would be okay. But, now she’s two so that won’t work. So, we are leaving her at home. They made the tour so that I will go out, then come home, and then go out, etc. That’s the only way I can tour.

What made you decide to include Northampton as a stop on your tour?

I like Northampton as a town, and I have been there a couple of times on the road.

What is your advice to young adults pursuing careers as singer-songwriters?

My one piece of advice honestly is to go with your own style. Sometimes you can learn from other people’s style how you arrive at your own, but you don’t have to. You don’t have to try and turn your taste into something else or make it sound like something else. Whatever your instincts are in aesthetics, that’s what makes your artistry peak. That’s what makes people want to connect with you, because you are revealing something of yourself; it’s yours. Some young musicians feel like they have to make it more commercial, I mean I’ve certainly been there. But I think in the end, not being afraid to really hone your own style is important. Another thing is to be kind and to chuckle.

While on tour, do you ever get tired of singing the same songs, or do you explore them in new ways each time you sing them?

I rehearse them in a lot of different arrangements, so we keep it fresh. Our set list is different from the last tour, so I’m looking forward to this show. The traveling in between is not easy, however.

What was the one piece of advice, musical or otherwise, that helped you along your career thus far?

I don’t know. I think I’ve had the luck of having a mentor in my life who really makes me work my hardest. She’s a generous woman, and she has always pushed me to keep going. It’s been really powerful having her remind me that you need to keep moving forward with your career and making your daughter proud (which I kind of feel anyway). I think having a mentor that really loves and respects you is powerful and important. Finding a mentor is key, I think.

You can visit her website to find out more about her tour and inspiration for the album Liberman. Don’t forget to mark your calendars for Tuesday, March 7, so you can witness her talent live at The Iron horse in downtown Northampton. You don’t want to miss the opportunity to see her perform locally!

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