Singer, songwriter and pianist Vanessa Carlton has sold more than two million copies of her 2002 debut album Be Not Nobody, that included the hit song "A Thousand Miles." On her new album, Harmonium, Vanessa explores some darker aspects of the human condition.
At age 24, Vanessa Carlton represents the new generation of female performers who write their own songs, play their own instruments, and don't rely on slick choreography or special effects during their live performances. She does, however, go one step beyond contemporaries such as Avril Lavigne and Michelle Branch.
Describing her new album Harmonium, Vanessa says, "I'm singing about suicide, insomnia, death and paranoia. There's nothing really piano recital-y about it. It's gothic. I think the album is a reflection of a more womanly point of view on the world. I'm beyond the diary-confessional chapter of my writing."
Vanessa Carlton admits that she had her midlife crisis when she was 17 years old. As an aspiring ballet dancer, she wanted to do things her own way, and started skipping classes. She went back to her piano and started writing songs, which she says helped her get through the difficult situation. Vanessa displays her unconventional dance style in the music video for "White Houses," a song she says is about "jealousy, losing your virginity, living on your own and trying to figure out who you are."
Vanessa recorded Harmonium in San Francisco with production help from her boyfriend, Stephan Jenkins of the alternative band Third Eye Blind. Guest artists include Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac, and R&B producer and singer Pharrell Williams.
Vanessa reveals, "The pressure was in the studio, making and maintaining the sounds of a record that is true to the state that I'm in as a musician. It completely represents me." She feels that "Harmonium" is already successful, even before the sales figures are tallied, because it's an example of her self-expression.
Vanessa says her new challenge is trying to balance her credibility as an artist with a fan base that was built on popular television shows such as MTV's Total Request Live, with its younger audience.
She comments, "I am kind of an alternative to the very popular hip-hop stuff and other really mainstream pop artists. I'm an alternative to the Simpson girls. At this point, I'm just kind of standing on my own and it feels nice to be one of the few people that are doing what I'm attempting to do."
She's just wrapped up a North American club and theater tour.