Grammy-nominated singer Vanessa Carlton talks albums, shows, more
Grammy-nominated artist Vanessa Carlton will perform in Dallas at the Granada Theater Friday, March 24. The singer recently released “Earlier Things Live.” After leaving her label in 2008, Vanessa Carlton has been focusing on making the music she wants to make and playing the shows that she wants to play. The Daily Campus was lucky enough to be able to speak to Vanessa about her new album, her upcoming show and more.
Campus Weekly: You just released a live album. I was wondering how the process was different for that than a studio album.
Vanessa Carlton: The live album was super easy. We just recorded an evening, actually it was the last show of the tour, which was in Nashville. So we recorded that night and that was the record.
CW: Is there any pressure in knowing that’s going to be on a lasting record for the performance to be anything extra?
VC: I mean, kind of. You definitely don’t want to f*** it up but there’s only so much you can do.
CW: So what was the inspiration for that? What made you want to do a live album?
VC: It was my manager Sean’s idea. He really liked the last tour. It was a strong show, and my voice has changed so much over the years. I’m really in a solid spot at the moment. It was a long time coming but it was the right time.
CW: What changed for you to put you in so good of a position?
VC: I left the major label system in 2008, which was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I was able to kind of start over, and it’s really amazing when you don’t have a panel of executives to answer to and you just kind of explore on your own and you can follow your curiosities. I think for me I just didn’t really do well enough for them; I didn’t make for a good pop star, it was not my trajectory at all. So I think 2011 when I made “Rabbits on the Run”–that was the beginning of me really finding my footing, so to speak. And making the record I always wanted to make and that led to “Liberman” which led to my version of that.
CW: That was your first record off the label, as you said, so what was different about that approach for you creating that album?
VC: “Rabbits on the Run” was actually the first. I started conceiving that record in 2009. It was a huge collaboration amongst artists that I always wanted to work with, and I kind of pieced it together on my own. And then “Liberman” was my first concept album so I wanted everything to sound a certain way, like a dream for lack of a better word, and to just generalize the sound. I wanted it to sound like a dream. I would say when you’re working outside of a system that’s, quite bigger than you, you get to create your own rules, you don’t think twice about taking risks. So I think that’s how–that only makes an art project better in my opinion.
CW: So I would imagine that your style definitely changed a bit leading the way to that, but since then do you believe your sound has evolved as well?
VC: Yeah, if you listen to “Liberman” compared to my first record it probably sounds like two different people. “Rabbits on the Run” was definitely the bridge. I think it’s been a big evolution.
CW: Back to that live album: would you consider yourself more of a studio artist or a live performer, or is there a crossover? How do you think about that?
VC: They’re two totally different experiences. The only reason why I prefer the studio is because I, and this isn’t until I started working with Steve Osbourne, who is the producer and engineer who’s really taken me under his wing on the last two albums, he just gets you to play with sound. You discover another side of just playing your instrument when you just start turning knobs and manipulating sound; it can be incredible. I find that talent to be really interesting and I could spend a lot of time in the studio figuring out different sounds and piecing them together. I love finding a great producer because they’re amazing artists that you get to just soak up what they’re doing and learn from them. So I enjoy that process very much. I think performing live, I’ve gotten way better at it over the years; I’m probably the best live performer I’ve been since I started. And you hope that you just keep getting better and not worse, that’s for sure. So I think I’m in a really solid spot at the moment, I would say that the only reason it’s not my favorite thing to do is only because of the travel in between the shows. I’m so very lucky that’s my job–that I get to connect with people and just be on a stage playing. It’s definitely a cool job. Touring is grueling, so you know if I could do it in a private jet? Fine. I don’t care. I could do it all here!
CW: Is there anywhere you look forward to specifically when you’re on tours?
VC: I really like playing. I like coming to cities where I have a lot of friends, so I guess at every tour it’s like I get to see all my old friends that live across the country. My best friend lives in LA now. She’s having a baby any minute so I’m looking forward to that show. And I can’t wait to play Largo, which is a rad venue, and I get to see the new baby so I’m looking forward to that. There are a lot of shows, though. I love New York. New York is where I used to live. And honestly there’s a lot of, it’s not just New York and LA, the big cities. There are so many cities in between that end up being your favorite shows and you never even predicted it. I honestly can’t pick a favorite.
CW: What can we as an audience expect from a Vanessa Carlton concert these days?
VC: Well the last tour, the “Liberman” tour, was really about creating that psychedelic sound. It wasn’t like trance music but I wanted to create a trance. And if you listen to “Liberman,” I don’t know if you’ve heard that album, but if you check it out, it’s kind of like this dome world of sound. And so we wanted to recreate that. And I believe that we did a pretty good job at that. It’s not like some straightforward, singer-songwriter, pianist record so I wanted to represent that. And then for this tour, all the people that came to that show and for the people that are coming back to see another show of mine, I wanted to change it up. So we’re doing the first half of the show is older songs, classic songs. We redid the arrangements and then we’ll move into that more trance stuff towards the end. And when I say that I don’t mean the actual genre of trance music but you know we have all of these sounds, even though there’s two people on stage, we can recreate a lot of the sounds from the album so we record live on stage and then we can record over that, to create kind of a huge collage of sound. And it’s a quiet set in the beginning but then it gets… you definitely, hopefully feel like you’re going into a different dimension by the end.
CW: Sounds pretty cool! If you had to pick a song from your post-record label career for people that are just getting to know your music, what would that song be?
VC: I would say, “Blue Pool”, which is from “Liberman.” I love “Take It Easy” from “Liberman.” From “Rabbits on the Run,” I would say “Hear the Bells.”
CW: Last question I have: do you have any tips for any aspiring artists out there?
VC: I would say don’t feel pressured to be like anybody else. We all mimic artists that we love whether it be Nirvana or Alanis Morissette. When you’re growing up in the 90s you’re like, “Okay I’m going to play like that person because I love that. Let’s see what that’s like.” And maybe that’s always on the path of who you are as an artist but I think in the end you have to let go all of the styles out there that are popular. You have to follow your own style.