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Interview with Vanessa Carlton: new music, fame, Norah Jones and Stevie Nicks

Many artists come and go, but only a few have a few rounds in the music industry. There is a wave of artists who have started their own labels, and many who transcend from mainstream to independent. Nelly Furtado, Melanie C, Backstreet Boys, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and Janelle Monae are a few of the examples of those who remain true to their artistic ways whilst keeping their fans connected to their music. Vanessa Carlton has done the same.

"A Thousand Miles" (2002)"White Houses" (2004)"Nolita Fairytale" (2007)"Carousel" (2011)"I'll Wait For You" (2013)
"A Thousand Miles" (2002)"White Houses" (2004)"Nolita Fairytale" (2007)"Carousel" (2011)"I'll Wait For You" (2013)
A&M Records/The Inc./Universal Motown/Razor & Tie
Photo by Janette Pellegrini

After her successful debut in 2002, she released her sophomore album Harmonium, and then began a shift through the last two albums, into the upcoming parent album of lead single "I'll Wait For You". This, her fifth album, will follow 2011's Rabbits On The Run.

Vanessa has toured consistently in support of her albums almost yearly ever since 2007's release, Heroes and Thieves. Her coming show, which will come to The Birchmere in Virginia, will be on February 6th. The show will also feature Patrick Sweany.

For more on Birchmere shows, read the concert reviews for: Natasha Bedingfield, Andy Grammer, and Kate Voegele.

Other tours:: Cher, Ellie Goulding, Lady Gaga, Laura Pausini

Vanessa, it is always exciting to wait for an upcoming project. Each album has marked a very intricate era in your personal world and your recording career. Could you give a glimpse as to what is to come in 2014?

Its traditional songwriting but its all about the experience of the sounds. The textures the sonic experience. That is very Steve Osborne and I wanted him to take it all to another level. More of a meditation and haunting nature to everything is the Carlton/Osborne experience. Take "Hear the Bells" from Rabbits on the Run and keep going down that cave.

You have been recording for over a decade, and currently have four studio albums under your belt. Please, explain how it feels to have gotten to this point. Did you have a set of goals you wanted to achieve before the success of Be Not Nobody?

I wanted to be a musician but I didn't know how crazy I'd become about sound and trying to create an experience that was meditative. I don't like a lot of my work in terms of the way it sounds. Its very bright and earnest. But I had to learn who to collaborate with and I had to distill what I was going after and that took about 10 years. It was an interesting process and it continues to be.

Which track that you have recorded still gives you chills? (Which one do you enjoy performing the most?)

I like playing "Carousel" and a new song called "House of Seven Swords".

Outside of Stevie Nicks, which musical icon would you say has been the greatest encounter? Mentioning Stevie, when was the last time you were together? Do you simply stick to working together or do you consider yourselves friends?

Neil Young. He's wonderful and continues to make records that are great. He is a pure guy. Stevie and I last hung out around Christmas. She's a fantastic woman and very dear friend.

How does it feel being such a strong and important musical influence to younger artists? How does it feel being a role model within the GLBT community?

Am I? I don't know. I just try and be courageous enough to take juicy risks and be honest and make art that I like. Its so great when people connect with it.

A few years ago you told a Pride festival audience that you consider yourself bisexual and it was the first time you discussed your sexuality so openly. Was it deliberate or spontaneous?

Oh that was totally spontaneous. I drop bombs about all different topics during a show. I had no idea that was gonna go beyond that show. Its fine though.

Rabbits On The Run was a fantastic project from the lyrics, to the recording process, to the wonderful promotional tour which followed. Are you hooked on recording directly to tape or was it simply a reflection of that project?

I love tape. Nothing beats it when it comes to getting the best performance from a band. You have to lay it down and there has to be chemistry. This project has the same warmth that tape has but we couldn't use tape because we were crafting the arrangement as we went. There was no live band set up cutting each song. It was just Steve and I bangin on stuff, playing organs and stacking tons of vocals. Its total arts and crafts weird. Its pretty awesome.

When you burst into the scene, a lot of your contemporaries were women instrumentalists, especially pianists. Did you ever cross paths with Alicia Keys or Norah Jones comparing notes on your successes or even to discuss the shift in that moment when it came to successful (popular) music experienced by you all, in your early twenties?

I saw Norah walkin down the street a couple months ago but i didn't say anything. I know Norah - she's a doll - but I had just woken up. I need coffee!

What are your thoughts regarding instrumentalists and singer-songwriters in today's scene? Which new acts have captured your attention?

I like King Krule particulary his ep from years ago, Deer Tick and Caveman. I just bought the Sky Ferreira record. I like that Lorde is doing well. I like Miley. I love the last Horrors album. I like the new Brian Jonestown Massacre EP.

More interviews: KENN, Mary Lambert, SATURN, Stephen Dittmer, Stephan Nance, Mark David Gerson, Eric Himan, Kevin J Thornton, Sammy Crawford, John Carrasco, YogaBear, Bryan Nevin with Christopher Van Etten.

More on Carlton:

Nickname: V
Tattoos: No
Piercings: I got my nose pierced when i was 17 but i let it close. tons of ear holes!
If you were not human, you would be: a horse/wolf
Person responsible for inspiring you to write: I'm not sure. I've always written.
Person responsible for inspiring you to perform: Gelsey Kirkland
Best thing about being a performer: The energy of music when it's going well is like a tonic.
Hardest thing about being a performer: Remembering that your experience on stage doesn't matter to the audience's experience. If both are great simultaneously then that's great but it's not always the case.
Describe yourself in ONE word: Watching

Other new releases by queer artists: CocoRosie, KENN, Sam Sparro, Mary Lambert, Austra

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