Be Not Nobody
“I'm so busy, but I do have a full life. I can express myself. I'm not silent anymore.” Vanessa Carlton
Grammy-nominated pop singer/pianist Vanessa Carlton broke into the music scene with the worldwide hit single “A Thousand Miles” from her platinum debut album “Be Not Nobody” (2002). Following the commercial failure of her sophomore album “Harmonium” (2004; spawned the singles "White Houses," "Private Radio," and "Who's to Say"), Carlton left her original recording company, A&M Records, and was signed by The Inc. Records. Her third album, titled “Heroes and Thieves,” is slated for release on October 9, 2007. Its first single, “Nolita Fairytale,” hit radio stations in the U.S. on July 17, 2007.
Carlton, who is often mistaken for singer/guitarist Michelle Branch and vice versa, writes her own songs and plays both the piano and guitar. She was named one of the "Top 10 Artists to Watch in 2002" by Rolling Stone magazine. The 5' 6" singer, who was one of “The Eleven People You'd Most Like to See Naked” by Jane magazine, dated “Third Eye Blind” lead singer Stephan Jenkins from 2002-2007.
Childhood and Family:
“He loves rock, he introduced me to Pink Floyd, Yes and U2. It was a great combination of sounds.” Vanessa Carlton (speaking about her father)
In a tiny town of Milford, Pennsylvania, Vanessa Lee Carlton was born on August 16, 1980, to Ed Carlton, a pilot, and Heidi Carlton, a piano and music teacher. The eldest of three children, Vanessa has one younger sister, Gwen, and one younger brother, Edmond.
Vanessa is of Scandinavian descent on her father's side and of Russian Jewish descent on her mother's. Although she was not raised in any religion, she has referred to herself as Jewish and said she is spiritual.
Vanessa began playing the piano at age 2. Afterward, Vanessa's mother began exposing her to various classical composers such as Mozart and Eric Satie. At age 8, Vanessa composed her first piano piece.
Vanessa became obsessed with ballet at age 9 and was accepted into the School of American Ballet in New York City at age 14. She lived in a dorm in the famous Lincoln Center and enrolled at the Professional Children's School. After being in the top of her class, she became frustrated with the strictness of the discipline. She eventually decided not to become a dancer at graduation. She attended Columbia University, in New York City, in 2005.
Being asked why she originally wanted to be a ballet dancer and later opting not to pursue it, Vanessa explained, “It was the music. That is the common bond between singing and dancing. I fell in love when I was 4 years old; I was pursuing so intensely when I was 12 years old. I was enrolled in the School of American Ballet. I moved away to NYC when I was 14. It's like training for the Olympics, but you could say that I dropped out the day before the trials. Artistically, I was kind of like shriveling up and really had gone numb and was no longer connecting to it. It was scary to be a 16-year-old professional not knowing what you are doing or why you are doing it.”
Vanessa, who enjoys running and Yoga, completed the New York City Marathon in 2005 and donated the pledge money she collected to “Musicians on Call,” a nonprofit organization that brings live and recorded music to patients' bedsides.
A Thousand Miles
After graduation, 17-year-old Vanessa traded in life as a ballerina for an apartment in Hell's Kitchen where she supported herself by working as a waitress. She also began performing in bars and clubs all over Manhattan in the hopes of being discovered. During that time, she met Peter Zizzo, who invited her to his studio to begin recording a demo.
Three months after recording the demo tape, she was signed with Interscope Records, where she began recording the album “Rinse” with Zizzo. It was never released, but some of its twelve tracks were reworked for her debut album, “Be Not Nobody.”
“Be Not Nobody” was released on April 30, 2002. The first single from the album, "A Thousand Miles," a piano-driven pop song supported by a string orchestral arrangement, was a worldwide top ten hit and was one of the biggest singles of 2002. It reached the top five on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, number one in Australia and the top ten in the United Kingdom. The song, taken from her previous unreleased album “Rinse,” was originally titled “Interlude.” It was nominated for three Grammy Awards: "Record of the Year," "Song of the Year" and "Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)." It lost "Song of the Year" and "Record of the Year" to Norah Jones' "Don't Know Why," while the "Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)" award went to "Mean Old Man" performed by James Taylor. "A Thousand Miles" was also featured in the films "Legally Blonde" (2001; starring Reese Witherspoon) and the Wayan brothers' comedy "White Chicks" (2004), and was used for promotions for the NBC sitcom "Good Morning, Miami."
The second and third singles of the album, "Ordinary Day" and "Pretty Baby," both taken from her previous unreleased album “Rinse,” were far less successful than "A Thousand Miles." "Ordinary Day" charted inside the top forty on the U.S. Hot 100, but didn't make it in Australia or the UK. As for "Pretty Baby," which was nominated for a 2003 Teen Choice Award for "Choice Love Song," it did not appear on the Hot 100 or the UK top seventy-five. The album “Be Not Nobody” was certified gold by the RIAA in June 2002 and eventually went platinum the following October.
During that time, Vanessa provided back-up vocals for Counting Crows' cover of Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi," which was recorded for the 2002 romantic comedy film, “Two Weeks Notice,” starring Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant. The song became a big hit and still remains one of their most aired songs.
In 2004, Vanessa collaborated with Italian rock and blues singer Zucchero, along with Haylie Ecker on violin, for a cover of The Korgis' song "Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime." It was moderately successful, reaching the top forty in France. That same year, Vanessa was also featured in the song "Moving On" on Kimya Dawson's critically-acclaimed fourth solo album, “Hidden Vagenda.”
"Harmonium," Vanessa sophomore album, was released by A&M Records in the United States on November 9, 2004. She co-wrote some of the songs of the album with then-boyfriend Stephan Jenkins, the lead singer of the rock band "Third Eye Blind," who also produced the album. Unfortunately, the album did not do well on the charts.
During her “Harmonium” tour, Vanessa debuted three new songs in June 2005 at The Living Room in New York City: "Put Your Hands on Me," "This Time" and "The One". She also premiered the songs "Best Behavior" and "All Is Well" while on tour with rock singer Stevie Nicks in 2005 and 2006. Meanwhile, during her rehearsal for a scheduled performance on “The Tonight Show” in November 2004, she was “Punk'd” by Ashton Kutcher. The “Punk'd” episode aired in May 2005. She also appeared in a TV commercial for “Time Warner Cable.”
In October 2006, prominent hip hop and R&B record producer Irv Gotti announced that he had signed Vanessa to The Inc. Records (formerly Murder Inc.). She is currently working on her third album titled “Heroes and Thieves,” set to be released on October 9, 2007. The album's first single, “Nolita Fairytale,” was released as a digital download at the U.S. iTunes Store and to U.S. radio stations on July 17, 2007. According to Vanessa, the song is about her life in Nolita, a neighborhood of New York City. The music video for the song, shot in the area of Lafayette Street and Bond Street in Nolita, premiered on AOL Music on August 22, 2007, and is now in rotation on VH1. It has since debuted at number 11 on VH1's show Top 20 Countdown and climbed to number 7 the following weekend.
Meanwhile, Vanessa is a featured artist on Channel 7's (formerly known as 7 Aurelius) debut single, "M-A-K-E L-O-V-E T-O M-E." 7 co-produced Vanessa's third album, “Heroes and Thieves,” with Irv Gotti, Rick Rubin and Stephan Jenkins.
“I've learned that everything happens for a reason and when it should happen. It's an unexpected journey. You need to know what you are trying to do, what you wish to express, and never compromise.” Vanessa Carlton