Vanessa Carlton is back with “Harmonium”, the follow-up to her multi-platinum debut “Be Not Nobody”, which produced the number one single “A Thousand Miles” along with the top ten hit “Ordinary Day.” “Harmonium” produced by Third Eye Blind front man Steven Jenkins, combines melodic hooks, strong songwriting, and the signature Vanessa Carlton piano lines. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Vanessa in to discuss the record, the industry, and her thoughts on being a “career artist.”
I read a quote where you said about so many second albums ‘being made in fear.’ Did you feel like that on this album or were you confident even though you took some time off between records?
I don’t think that I realized how much time that I was away until I came back. Probably if I had known I would have been more nervous.
The new record has very descriptive lyrics. Is this something that you pride yourself on?
Part of it was writing with Steven Jenkins, who wrote some of those lyrics which were pretty amazing. The other part was me trying to create more of a detailed record than I have ever done before and just kind of pushing myself lyrically.
When you came out with your first record Be Not Nobody pop music was pretty much at its peak. Were you nervous at first of being cast in that pop mold or did you intentionally try and distance yourself from that?
I just am who I am. I mean I was aware of what was popular when I first kind of broke into the scene. I guess also that you just have to keep your fingers crossed and hope that people want something a little different as well. I think I am very comfortable being in a place where I can be the alternative to what is super mainstream pop. I am somehow able to be the alternative and be popular at the same time and that is something that I would like to maintain.
How much has Steven Jenkins influenced you as a songwriter, producer, artist, and person?
He is great to work with and a great guy and a talented producer. I think that he really pushed me to reach my potential and was able to help with lyrics and structure of songs. We were really able to call each other out when making the record. Since he is an artist and I am an artist it made it easier than working with some producers who aren’t necessarily songwriters.
From what I have read, the music seems to be the most important part to you being an artist where some other artists kind of use music to get into film and make money. Is that one of the things that is wrong with the Industry now?
The industry seems like that due to the overexposure that artists can have and the media in general turn being a successful artist into making you a celebrity. I think it has become a more multi-faceted industry where it is more than just the music. You have to be aware of it and once you are aware of it you are able to protect what you value and also utilize what can help you. I do try to take advantage of the other outlets in media to promote my music because at the end of the day my music is most important. But the more successful I am in music the better my chances are if I want to go into musical theatre or score a film or act or whatever else is interesting to me. But it all starts with the music.
What do you think it takes to be a “career artist”?
It takes a very strong sense of self and you have to be humble enough to know when you need to work on something, humble enough to know your weaknesses, and how to possess that certain talent that people will want to hold on to for the rest of their lives and pass down to their children. It is a crapshoot in some ways. But if you release an album at the wrong time it can affect you. Also, I think some artists are christened “career artists” way too soon. I think that it takes a few years to prove yourself as an artist.
Is the Internet and downloading going to kill the actual physical CD?
Yes, CD’s themselves will be obsolete very soon. We live in a digital world and music is going to have to adapt to that.
Are you a big fan of touring or would you just like to write and be in a studio all day?
I have really come to love touring. I love just being on stage and by myself at the piano and having that connection with the fans that I kind of missed. I used to think that I didn’t like lugging my crap around and I’d rather be in the studio and perform at a local bar once a week but I have come to realize that I really adore having that connection with people every night. But my ideal situation would be to play a theatre like down the block from my house and go home and into my own bed. But that doesn’t work unless you’re in Vegas and you’re Celine Dion.
+ Sam Conjerti