Vanessa Carlton Talks Working With Her Husband & What Inspired The Teen Breakup Anthem On Her New EP
Vanessa Carlton has been keeping very busy. The singer is set to release her "Blue Pool" EP on July 24, and a full-length album titled "Liberman" is due out in October. The release of "Blue Pool" has already offered fans a preview of the haunting, whimsical qualities that envelop each of the four tracks on her upcoming EP. It's a sound that proves the singer can be quite the chameleon when it comes to her artistry, and even within the most stripped down songs, Carlton's stirring vocals and intricate piano melodies are enough to leave listeners feeling transported to a dreamlike state.
The singer first impressed critics and fans alike with her precocious debut in the music industry in the early 2000s, and her creative prowess has continued to arc upward. Her latest album is sizing up to be her most dynamic yet. Along with her artistic evolution, Carlton has also enjoyed some personal milestones over the past few years. She wed Deer Tick frontman John McCauley in December 2013, and the couple welcomed daughter Sidney Aoibheann in January 2015. Recently, Bustle caught up with Carlton to discuss her new EP, working with her spouse, and how the past and present have worked to influence her new sound.
Although Carlton had already completed her album shortly after marrying McCauley and before welcoming their daughter, she told me that the positives in her personal life have lent themselves to her professional life as well. "I think I was really clear-headed [when creating the album]. When things just kind of fall into place with your life and your family, and when everything is going really peaceful and love-filled, you just feel very able to think. I was very clear-sighted about finishing the album, for sure," she said.
Carlton went on to praise her husband's musical acumen and noted that the two collaborated on a song together for her upcoming LP. "[For the song], John played guitar and I sang, and it was one of those things where you just perform it in a couple takes and you pick the best take. It was really simple production but the vocal sounds were really haunting and it was beautiful."
"Haunting" seems to be a theme throughout the four tracks on Carlton's EP. The last song featured is titled "Nothing Where Something Used To Be," a ballad that deftly maintains the dreamy quality of the other three tracks while also conveying an extremely relatable message about early experiences with heartbreak. When I asked Carlton about the track, she told me she had created it as a sort of "teenage breakup anthem" to touch on the particularly wrenching elements that come from heartbreak at a younger age. "You know when you’re in your most simplest emotions about things? I call ["Nothing Where Something Used To Be"] a teen anthem breakup song; I wanted to make a teen breakup song. Nothing cuts more deeply than when you are younger and it doesn’t work out."
She went on to say, "The first time is the worst — you will never feel that bad again. I wanted it to feel really youthful in the way that it was lyrically, in terms of it just not working out between two people — not really heady, very simple."
The ballad's poignant simplicity is one that is sure to pull a few (many) heartstrings. Although the messages conveyed in the song and other Carlton tracks speak to the modern generation, each track seems nuanced by classical influences, making them all the more breathtaking. When I asked about Carlton's early influences, she told me, "My early influences when it came to classical music were people like Aaron Copland. He's more of a modern composer, but really dynamic, and I love how things rise and fall in music like that. I also like things that are a little more traditional like [Sergie] Prokofiev. I love Peter and the Wolf — my mom used to play that tape in the car, but the music is really cool." Along with those influences, Carlton told me she learned "all the classics" growing up, and "was raised on a very traditional, classical cannon of music."
Those music lessons clearly paid off, as Carlton has managed to blend an array of sounds and styles into her impressive work that fans will surely be unable to stop listening to.
Image: Eddie Chacon