Vanessa Carlton wants to clarify her distinction from her piano pop roots.
Her 2001 breakout hit, “A Thousand Miles” earned her three Grammy noms and top 40 hit. The piano riff played in and out of a decade’s worth of rom-com heroines’ morning strolls, and just last month, returned once again as a sample on Cam’ron’s forthcoming single “10,000 Miles.”
But it’s her 2015 album, “Liberman,” a lush, sparkling 10-track that strays into synth territory that Carlton likens to a defining thesis statement. And 2011’s “Rabbits on the Run,” the “start of [her] real life.”
“‘Rabbits on the Run’ went under the radar, but for me, it was the first album I did outside a major label system. And 'Lieberman' was a foundation album for me,” explains Carlton, en route to Ann Arbor, MI. “It was for the people who were eyeing me — as journalists or as my peers, musicians I admire and respect — they heard it and were like, ‘Oh, this is what she’s doing now.’”
“Liberman” gets a second consideration with “Liberman Live,” an eight-track recording of the album from Carlton’s 2015 stop at 3rd and Lindsley in Nashville. This month, she follows it up with “Earlier Things Live,” a collection of six songs from her earlier catalog (including “White Houses” and “A Thousand Miles”), recorded in concert, that same evening.
Carlton and her manager chose to lay down a recording of the night after a successful live run with “Liberman,” having decided the vibes created should live “beyond the tour.” Deer Tick singer-guitarist John McCauley guests on the album, as do the Watson Twins and folk violist Skye Steele. (Carlton and McCauley have been married since 2013; Stevie Nicks performed their ceremony.)
“It was cool to put those older tunes together, because obviously my voice has changed so much over the years,” she adds. “It was like, ‘actually, this is what I sound like now, and these are those songs, the older stuff.’”
As for Carlton’s drift from pop, she recognizes the role working outside a major label played in her evolution. “Liberman” was released on Caroline/Dine Alone Records, an indie label that Tokyo Police Club and Twin Forks also call home. (Prior, Carlton had been signed to A&M, where she released 2002’s “Be Not Nobody” and 2004's "Harmonium.")
“It’s a real change to get over the hurdle of the marketing structure I was in, and the sound I had in the major label machine, but in the end, that’s not who I am,” Carlton says. “I think because of ‘Liberman,’ I’m ready to up my game even more. I want to put myself in a role I’m not uncomfortable in, and push myself. I want to keep evolving. I have no interest in the past, really.”
If you go:
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