Although Vanessa Carlton is still perhaps best known for her 2002 pop mega-hit “A Thousand Miles,” her musical identity has taken a major turn in recent years. Not only did she wed and start a family with Deer Tick’s John McCauley (whose music is of the rambunctious punk and rowdy Americana persuasion), but her latest studio album, 2015’s Liberman, has seen her going in a more serious singer/songwriter direction, even getting critical acclaim from the ultra-snobby-and-hyper-critical likes of Pitchfork, who gave the album 7.8/10 and compared it to the far-more-pretentiously-regarded singing/songwriting of Perfume Genius and Angel Olsen.
Last year Carlton released Liberman Live, a collection of live recordings of songs from her last studio record, and last month she released Earlier Things Live, comprised of recent live recordings of numerous fan favorites from throughout her career. She’s currently touring behind the records (with support coming from another of our favorite Nashville-residing musical buddies, Tristen.) and will be returning to World Café Live this Saturday, March 11th, for a sold out show.
A few weeks ago I got a chance to chat with Vanessa Carlton about the latest chapter in her musical career and she tells me that the two live album’s weren’t actually her idea, but that she’s happy she’s gotten to the point where she enjoys making music in that capacity: “It was my manager’s idea, but I’ve worked on my voice long enough that I feel comfortable enough with it to pull off a live record… I mean, it’s been 15 years since my first record.” She also tells me that the positive acknowledgement from Pitchfork and like-minded sources definitely had an impact on how she viewed her own output.
“A shift happened for me, being accepted. I mean, when you have the dirty past of being a pop star… I now feel officially more accepted. You have people who are like, ‘Why does she not sound like she did before?’ but then Pitchfork gives you a good review and it’s like, ‘Are they accepting you?’ It makes things easier though. It’s been cool. I’m definitely not following any kind of path.”
I addition to her evolving sound, Vanessa and husband John also recently took up the role of parenting their now-two-year-old daughter, Sidney, which Carlton tells me has added a totally welcome and exciting dimension to her life.
“I never knew if it would be possible to have a family like this, but it’s been such an amazing experience. It’s been totally wonderful, I never wanna leave the house [laughs]. Being a mom and being an artist has been such a powerful thing, and one doesn’t detract from the other. There’s something great about women finding their voice, and not their outer voice, their inner voice.”
When I ask Carlton what can be expected of her current tour, she tells me that her upcoming appearance at World Cafe Live is not going to be entirely different from her December 2015 show in the very same room, with a few added tweaks: “I wanna do something different from last time, but I don’t wanna lose the soundscape of the show. I want to try playing songs I haven’t played in a while. The first half of the show will be more singer/songwriter.” She also tells me that she’s just as excited as we are to see Tristen take the stage before her: “Tristen’s like one of my favorites. I remember being blown away by Charlatans at the Garden Gate.” And when I finally inquire about how she plans to spend 2017, Vanessa Carlton tells me that she’s not quite sure, but that that’s okay with her…
“I don’t know. I just want the tour to be good. I want the shows to be good. Once I’m done I’ll be like, ‘What do I do now?’ I’ve been demoing some songs but, I’m not done with touring, but this is going to be my last tour for a good chunk of time. My husband has a new record coming out at the end of the year and we never tour at the same time.”