An interview with Vanessa Carlton

Vanessa Carlton is an artist who has made a remarkable transformation since her first career hit in 2002. In withdrawing from pop music’s mainstream she has evolved as a songwriter and is now creating refined and distinctive music, which as Pitchfork state, ‘…could share headspaces with Perfume Genius or Angel Olsen’. Her latest album Liberman, released in the UK later this month, is testament to her new creative direction, and is a continuation of her work with producer Steve Osborne. Ahead of her show at Band on the Wall on 6th May, we spoke to Vanessa about Liberman and her working at Real World studios, her thoughts on artistic development and the music that she is currently enjoying.

The music of your latest album Liberman has retained a rawness, while seeing you experiment, and make some inspired choices with electronic production. Was it important to you that you not lose these acoustic components, or were you willing for them to vanish completely if it felt right on a given song? Could you see that being the case with future work?

I don’t feel loyal to any type of sound I’m only loyal to my instincts. So if a project didn’t feel right with any acoustic elements I would have no problem losing them. I find it exciting in my older age to experiment with different palettes of sound and I want to push myself further the older I get.

You first worked with Steve Osborne in 2011 for Rabbits on the Run, and you have recorded together in England since. What possibilities did the Real World studio open up for your music, and what convinced you Steve was the right producer?

I went searching for Steve because of the work he did with Doves. I knew he was a wizard. No one can get the sounds he gets. He has a very distinct aesthetic. His music feels like happy drugs. But everything is watery and macabre at the same time. Really interesting artist. When I found him at Real World it was too good to be true. Im not surprised he works there. Its a special place. And disconnected to the things that one should be disconnected from, when they work, in my opinion.

How have the live arrangements for Liberman material come together; are they straight recreations of the studio recordings or have you been able to play around with certain tracks?

We play around a little but the live show is really bringing the album to life. I want to recreate the album note for note if I can. I love performing the album!

Has your experience of motherhood altered your creative process and the music you’re writing?

I haven’t written a song since she was born. There is no time to play around on the piano. So Im gonna have to start scheduling writing time which terrifies me. Ive never done that before and I’m afraid!

You listen to a range of music, new and old. What are you currently enjoying?

I’ve been listening to Bob Marley’s Catch a Fire and Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother.

You’ve previously suggested that you may have been signed too early. Do you feel it’s important to find your feet as an artist prior to gaining widespread exposure, and looking back, what might you have altered in the early stages of your career to ensure you were able to do so?

I think it’s important that an artist gives themselves time to develop their sound. I was so young when I got signed and I totally drank the Koolaid. I was working with misogynistic executives. I fell into the trap of trying to please them.  It was sad. Things just took off without me being able to even have time to think. I didn’t trust anybody and I had no mentors at the time. But I got it together by the time i turned 29! better late than never right?

What are your plans for the foreseeable future, creative or otherwise?

I’m going to finish touring this album and invest more time into performing live. I want to crush the idea that people think of when they hear my name. And for those that have been connecting with me since Rabbits in 2011, I want to give them more of the goods. At the same time I want to be a really good mama and wife and nurture this amazing family I have. I feel really lucky. I wasn’t sure I was gonna make it there for a sec.

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Friday | 06.05.16

Vanessa Carlton + Jerry Williams

Band on the Wall, Manchester