Vanessa Carlton with Tristen
To an earlier generation, husky singer-songwriter Vanessa Carlton is still probably best pegged to that catchy hit song “A Thousand Miles,” she recorded 15 years, and an artistic lifetime, ago. But Carlton continues to tour and hone her musicianship. Her latest album Liberman, a mix of quirky pop, rock and folk tracks, provides so many reasons why she is worth listening to right now, and catching when she performs live in Toronto in The Great Hall’s intimate Longboat Hall in 2017.
“The whole message of the album is expressing a lot of philosophies about my life, peace, pain, and happiness over the past ten years,” she says. “I wanted this record to not only be very personal to me, but an expression of these ideas. A performance is not just about the performer at all; it’s about the connection between the audience and the artist. You’re at your most vulnerable on stage, and you’re singing songs that are an expression of yourself. That’s when a performance works. That’s when an album works. Liberman was special because it does that.”
“It’s a calm record,” Carlton says. “I didn’t want any angst in there. I thought, ‘What would I want to hear back? What would make me feel better in my darker times?’ Even a phrase like ‘take it easy,’ which is in a million songs, brings happiness. This album leans toward seeing the good in humans and in the world.”
Carlton began writing in the summer of 2012, beginning with “Unlock The Lock,” an evocative piano-driven track that set the tone for the songs to come. She’d recently finished touring 2011’s Rabbits On The Run, an album conceived through inspiration from Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time” and Richard Adam’s “Watership Down.” Carlton found herself in the desert and the song emerged, reflecting a newly revealing songwriting sensibility for the artist.
“I imagined a group of people listening to it,” she says. “It was the first time I ever wanted to make something like séance music – something that would make a human brain feel at ease, something that would feel right in an everyday ritual. I also realized I wanted the record to be really soothing lyrically and not so much a reveal of me.”
Carlton followed that thread as she continued writing for the next year and a half, this time inspired by books like Joseph Campbell’s “The Power of Myth” and Aldous Huxley’s “The Doors of Perception.” Carlton’s primary influence, however, was a colorful oil painting by her grandfather Alan J. Lee, who was originally named Liberman. The painting, a nude created in 1963, hangs in Carlton’s home and showcases three woman captured in swirling pastel colors. She wrote many songs while looking at the image, eventually deciding to title the album after her grandfather.
Ultimately, Liberman feels like a new chapter in Carlton’s storied career, revealing new facets of her musical skill and instigating fresh inspirations.
Opening for Vanessa Carlton at The Great Hall, feisty singer-songwriter Tristen (CAVES) mixes bright pop melodies with sharp lyrics, moody interludes and some big synths, to create pure enjoyment.