At age 21, singer, songwriter and pianist Vanessa Carlton is starting on her second career. When she was 14, she gave up her studies at the School of American Ballet and decided to pursue her first love, music. Vanessa's debut album Be Not Nobody was released on April 30. It made an impressive showing, selling nearly 102,000 copies its first week of release.
More than two months before Vanessa Carlton's debut album was released, radio stations and music television channels were featuring her first single, A Thousand Miles.
Now a Top 10 hit, the song showcases her use of piano and orchestra in pop music. Vanessa admits, "Classical music is the fire beneath me," but she also loves the classic rock of Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac and Neil Young. Critics have been comparing her to singer/songwriters such as Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Carole King and the late Laura Nyro.
Encouraged by her mother, a piano teacher, Vanessa picked out her first melody on the keyboard at age two, and wrote her first song when she was eight. Attending New York's School of American Ballet, Vanessa became frustrated with the regimented system and started skipping classes. She says, "Ballet ate me up and spit me out. Music healed me."
Vanessa traded in her dorm room for a tiny apartment in one of New York City's tougher neighborhoods, the Lower East Side. She worked as a waitress during the day and performed in clubs around the city at night.
Once she was signed to the prestigious A&M Records label, Vanessa still had her share of difficulties. She comments, "After I was signed, I was drowning, completely drowning. I was surrounded by the wrong people who didn't quite understand the music. You have to find people that will bring out the absolute best in you if you're going to work as a team. It was a tricky situation because I write all my own songs. I was very young and didn't know how to work in a studio. You have to go down a couple of wrong paths before you find the diamond path." Her salvation came through Interscope/Geffen/A&M chairman Jimmy Iovine, former producer for Bruce Springsteen and A&M president Ron Fair, who also acted as producer for Be Not Nobody. Fair calls Vanessa "a female piano goddess baring her soul with an orchestral angle."
On her album Be Not Nobody, Vanessa Carlton explores the topics of infatuation, longing, love and devotion. Her songs range from a crush turned into an obsession, to a yearning for happy, fairy tale endings. "Everything I write is pretty personal," she says. "But that doesn't necessarily make it nonfiction, because there are times when you have your little fantasies going on in your head, and that will sometimes come out in my lyrics." She also reveals that her songwriting process is spontaneous, comparing it to a tide or wave over which she has no control.
Vanessa has been named one of the Top 10 Artists to Watch in 2002 by Rolling Stone magazine. She'll be playing in outdoor venues across the United States through June.