By Desarae Gabrielle & Ashley McFaul
There’s more to Vanessa Carlton than the memory of the young girl who played a piano on the back of a moving vehicle in a hit music video in 2002. She’s a complex songwriter and pianist with unique artistry and ability to create lyrical poetry that rivals some of the most well-known songwriters of our time. Talking with her, it’s clear that her music takes on a life of its own. Her songs are reflections of her emotional, creative growth and varied experiences as a woman. Most importantly, Vanessa’s work screams liberation from the confines of her first record, “Be Not Nobody.” Carlton began production on her fifth and newest studio album, “Liberman,” in 2012 and released the 10-track production in late 2015. The album was so well received by audiences during the 2015 tour, Carlton’s manager convinced her to release “Liberman Live” — which consists of eight live tracks recorded on the tour.
Before heading out on tour, Carlton spoke to us about “Liberman Live,” her influences, and what advice she would give her younger self.
You’re incredibly involved in the arts. How did music become such a big part of your life?
I was always a pianist, and my mother taught piano out of our home when I was a child. I started playing at the age of three, but still kept up with the study when I began taking ballet. So, when I quit dance, the piano was there for me.
How did your family react to your passion for a career in songwriting and piano?
My mother wanted me to finish school, but as any artist knows, you have to carve out something for yourself. It’s always more stressful and higher risk, but so worth it. You have to create a life of your own, instead of following a path of something you don’t want to do.
You’ve lived in Nashville for a few years now, a move you made from New York City. Has your new environment changed the way you cultivate a song?
No, I wouldn’t say so. My life direction in general has, but not necessarily my writing. But I would say I feel more comfortable exploring avenues I’ve never explored before. Like the situation our country is in, and the threat to human rights — it’s not the world I want for my daughter. I feel turned on like a light in terms of my writing. I feel like, as an artist, to be valuable in these times is to work and create something beautiful. So, that’s what I’m trying to do.
In regards to music, who has influenced you?
I think it goes back to the fundamentals, back to the classical musicians. Then, you have the modern artists. The band Air has really made a difference, they’re just from another universe. A lot of the classic Fleetwood Mac songs have punctuated a lot of singer-songwriter’s developments. All together, these different artists form a constellation that makes sense.
What advice has stuck with you through the years?
There are two pieces of advice that I try to remember all the time. One is — in the artist process, it’s important to stay as authentic as possible. And two, when you present your work, perform it and leave your ego out, you are now giving your music to the audience. It’s no longer yours, it becomes the people’s music. That helps me with nerves. You get so nervous before going out because you’re in your own head space. You have to disconnect.
To read more of Vanessa’s interview, order your copy of Inspirer’s spring issue here: inspirer.life/spring