Vanessa Carlton Interview


Vanessa Carlton became reclusive for two years, and during those two years she turned to Richard Adam’s Watership Down and Stephen Hawking’s Brief History of Time for inspiration. Vanessa entered the pop scene in 2002 with her debut album Be Not Nobody. But nearing thirty, she felt lost. Luckily, Vanessa made her way to Real World Studios in Box, England and began recording her new, mostly-instrumental music directly to tape. Her writer’s block quickly receded; she proceeded to create the dreamy and evocative 10-track album Rabbits on the Run. Now, Vanessa tells us about her upcoming fourth studio album Rabbits on the Run as well as some advice, philosophy, and how her music has evolved over the past decade. Check out my exclusive interview with Vanessa Carlton below.

Candace Butler: What would you say is new or different about Rabbits on the Run as compared to your albums in the past? Any similarities?
Vanessa Carlton: As an analogy, I’d say this record is my first album that’s pure muppet….as opposed to being part muppet part CGI. I feel that my heart and brain is all muppet, so it’s about fuckin’ time.
CB: What’s your favorite song on Rabbits on the Run? Why?
VC: Hear the Bells.  It chronicles my search to fix my health.  My favorite cemetery and my witch doctor make appearances. I was a pretty sick bird there for a while.  The idea that all the while the remedy is pretty much inside of you the whole time.  So simple and true.  Sonically, it’s exactly what those thoughts feel like.  Steve Osborne is a wizard.
CB: Referring to Richard Adams’ Watership Down, your biography quotes you saying: “My whole being related to this story. I realized how lucky I am to be an artist in this world, how I somehow got out of the burrows.”  Could you elaborate on this quote? What does it mean for you to escape the burrows?
VC: I try hard not to live a Karaoke life…..everyday it takes maintenance.  Have you heard the Malcolm McLaren TED talk? It’s rad. Watership Down can be used as a totem if you want it to be that.
CB: Can you tell us about your songwriting process? How has this evolved over the years?
VC: Words and melodies that I would have been okay with in the past don’t make the cut anymore. I have almost shed all of the mimickery that I used to propel my process back when I was 17….when I was learning to write a pop song.  
CB: Can you tell us about your process for writing the instrumental portion of your music?
VC: It starts with one note or one chord or one idea and my mind starts to weaves it together with the next thing.  I feel very much out of control of it, but at the same time I’m very particular about what I like to hear come out of my hands. First part of the process is sitting myself down, which can be difficult at times.


CB: Why was recording your latest album in analog an important aspect of the recording process?
VC: If you go back to the way records used to be made, it changes your recording process.  You only have a few takes to get it right.  The vibe has to be there already.  We rehearsed a lot.  The sounds of tape, the palette of sounds of the 60’s and 70’s, is what we were working with.  Those colors are what inspired this record.  It was the only type of record I wanted to make.  I mainly listen to vinyl, so it makes sense.
CB: Recently in a live chat session, you stated that you’re an atheist.  In regard to the lyrics “colored stained glass cathedral/ confines a past that won’t let you go” from your song “Tall Tales for Spring,” do these lyrics refer to a religious upbringing that you’re leaving behind?
VC: It is easy to be continuously ravaged by the past, but what about embracing that chaos and respecting it for what it is? Understanding that the pattern and creation of the universe can reflect the way your own micro-universe (your brain) works is such an awesome idea.  It makes so much sense to me.  Stained glass steeples are beautiful and can focus your mind, but they’re not gonna rescue you from your own thoughts. There is so much more to this than what I’m saying in this moment.  We’ll have to do a part II or something.
CB: What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
VC: Be brief.

CB: Rabbits on the Run was initially scheduled to be released June 22nd, but is now being released on July 26th. For fans eagerly awaiting your album drop date, could you give some insight into the release date change?

VC: Razor and Tie gave themselves a bit more time to set up the release. Rad.

CB: After your tour this summer, what’s next?
VC: All about bringing this record to life every night. Tour in fall.  I want to go back to the UK…release this record where it was created and tour lots.  Indonesia, Europe, Asia…if they’ll have me, of course. : )

First published on BeatCrave, July 2011.

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