Vanessa Carlton: The Culture Brats Interview

Vanessa Carlton will be releasing Blue Pool, a four-song EP, on July 24th, which will be followed by the full-length album Liberman in October on Dine Alone Records. We recently spoke with her about her new singles, what fans can expect from the new album, her grandfather, and motherhood.

You've released two songs, "Blue Pool" and "Young Heart," in the past three months. Tell us what "Blue Pool" means to you.
"Blue Pool" is a really dreamy song. The verses are these vignettes that are set in reality that have happened to me and the chorus of that song is kind of based on The Secret Garden. It's a very decidedly feminist chorus, but that doesn't mean it's about a man or a woman. It's correlating the secret door that she finds to the garden to the secret door to a woman's mind. The song, sonically, it's a waltz. I love to write waltzes, which is very much inspired by my past as a ballet dancer, but I wanted it to not feel traditional at all. I wanted it to go psychedelic.

Many are calling this a new direction for you. Do you agree with that?
Yeah. I've been honing this type of sound for years now but kind of under the radar. People are rediscovering me with this project, that's really cool because I feel like me and Steve Osborne have spent time working together. This is our second album together and we've really arrived at this recipe that we really love.

What led you to name your upcoming album after your grandfather?
It didn't occur to me until after the record was done and people were asking me why did I name it after him. He was a painter. He was a church designer and a shopkeeper and also a painter. When he passed away, my grandmother gave me this enormous oil painting of his that was hanging on my wall in New York where I wrote most of the album. It has these really unusual colors in it, bright turquoise and hot pinks. It's not the traditional colors that one would paint. It's an image of three nude women and he makes really unusual choices. It just occurred to me that what I wanted to create sonically with the album was how I felt when I looked at this painting.

In addition to the painting, Liberman, that was a name that was changed. I was raised thinking my Grandma and Grandpa Lee were Grandma and Grandpa Lee and my mother's maiden name was Lee. It wasn't until I was in my twenties that my mom told me that's not their real name, it was actually Liberman and my grandfather changed it when he opened his business because he felt it would be better if it didn't have a Jewish last name. Coincidentally, Ralph Lifshitz was this tie designer that really liked my Grandpa and his store and wanted to sell his ties at my grandfather's store. Ralph Lifshitz went on to change his name to Ralph Lauren.

I just felt like I wanted to go back to what was true.

What else can we expect from Liberman?
I think we're doing a nice roll out, preparing people or giving them a cool hors d'oeuvre of what the meal of the album is, a taste of what the journey of the album is. It's not a long record but it's very otherworldly. When I put it on, I am totally in that space of the album. I really hope that people find it as some sort of escape or it enhances the moment that they're in. I really look at it as absolutely a great thing to put your headphones on and take a walk with it. If you live in a city, it's a great walking album. I love those albums. You listen to those types of albums forever. They're not at all about the time that they were released. There's nothing timely about it.

Do you have any special guests appearing on the album?
Yes, my husband John McCauley, he's a really great writer and musician and great at a lot of different stuff. He has his own band called Deer Tick which is a totally great band. I was able to steal him and get him to play some guitar on a couple of the tracks. When you have the chance to work with John, you take the chance to work with John. He's like that level of musician. It was really amazing to me to have Steve Osborne collaborating and playing everything. I recorded seven tracks in England with Steve and three tracks in Tennessee with Adam Landry. Adam created a bunch of stuff on the tracks he produced as well.

Congratulations on the birth of your daughter. How much has that changed your music and writing or has that not even been an issue yet?
I don't know. I haven't really written much since she was born. I was working a lot on the artwork for this album. I was writing some instrumental pieces when I was pregnant. I think having a family is really cool. I feel very balanced. I wonder how that will affect my future work. I have some ideas about what I'd like to do for my next project already. This project, I finished most of it before I got pregnant, so I've been sitting on it for like a year. We'll see but I do know a lot of organic changes definitely happened.

I saw on Facebook where you took her to a Wilco show. Are you planning on having her hit the road with you as well?
Totally. We are a traveling family. We are a circus caravan. I also travel with my dog Victor. We're a motley crew. Sid and Victor are hilarious together. We have our own unique style of touring, let's put it that way.

We have one question we ask everybody. You're in charge of a music festival and you get to pick any five acts, living or dead, to appear on the bill with you. Who do you choose?
I would choose Deer Tick. I would choose Neil Young, Linda Perhacs, Kurt Vile, and Steve Nicks.

What song do you all perform together as the final jam?
I don't know. Maybe we could all play "Rockin' In The Free World." That sounds kind of epic.

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