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Vanessa Carlton

Background information
Birth name Vanessa Lee Carlton
Born August 16, 1980 (1980-08-16) (age 29)
Milford, Pennsylvania, United States
Genres Soft rock, piano pop, pop rock, Adult album alternative
Occupations Singer-songwriter, producer
Instruments Piano, vocals
Labels A&M, The Inc.

Vanessa Lee Carlton (born August 16, 1980) is an American singer-songwriter and pianist. She is best known for the single "A Thousand Miles" from her debut album, Be Not Nobody, which was released in 2002. Carlton's second album, Harmonium was released in 2004. Her third album, Heroes & Thieves, was released in 2007.


Life and career

1980-2001: Early life and career beginnings

Carlton was born in Milford, Pennsylvania, to Ed Carlton, a pilot, and Heidi, a pianist and school music teacher. Carlton is of Scandinavian descent on her father's side, and Russian Jewish descent on her mother's.[1] She has two younger siblings, a sister, Gwen and a brother, Edmund. Her interest in music began at an early age; after returning from Disneyland at the age of two, she played "It's a Small World" on the piano. Her mother then began to tutor her on the piano.[2]

Carlton began her education at a Montessori school.[2] She developed an interest in ballet at the age of nine and was accepted at the School of American Ballet at age fourteen while attending high school at the Professional Children's School. At age eighteen, she decided to devote her time to piano-playing and songwriting, choosing to not become a dancer on graduation. Instead, she attended Columbia University and performed in bars and clubs in Manhattan, New York while waitressing[2] in Hell's Kitchen.[3]

Carlton met songwriter/producer Peter Zizzo at a singer-songwriter circle. A few months later, Zizzo invited Carlton to his studio to record a demo.[4] Three months after recording the demo, Carlton was signed by Jimmy Iovine and began to record the album, Rinse.[5] It was never released, but a few tracks were reworked for Be Not Nobody. One song, "Carnival", was re-recorded as "Dark Carnival" for the Spy Hunter 2.

2002–2003: Be Not Nobody

With her previous unsuccessful recording efforts, Carlton felt there was a lack of direction at her label.[6] However, A&M president Ron Fair upon hearing her demo to "A Thousand Miles," began organize recording sessions for the song, producing and arranging the song himself.[7] It became a hit, peaking inside the top five on the Billboard Hot 100 and went on to become the sixth-most-played song of the year, as well as garnering Grammy Award nominations for "Record of the Year," "Song of the Year," and "Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)."[8]

Fair would produce the rest of the album. Be Not Nobody was subsequently released in April 2002 and debuted at number five on the Billboard 200 albums chart with 102,000 units sold. It went on to sell more than two million copies worldwide.[9] Two more singles, "Ordinary Day" and "Pretty Baby" were released. Carlton began touring in support of her debut album, opening for the Goo Goo Dolls and Third Eye Blind, before headlining her own tour at the end of 2002.She later toured Europe in 2003.[10]

Carlton had collaborated with other artists before the release of her sophomore album. She provided the descant vocals for the Counting Crows song "Big Yellow Taxi", played piano for Italian singer Zucchero, along with Haylie Ecker on violin, for the song "Indaco Dagli Occhi Del Cielo"[11] and provided backing vocals for a song by Kimya Dawson.

2004–2005: Harmonium

Carlton began recording her second album, Harmonium, at Skywalker Ranch near San Francisco. It was produced by Stephan Jenkins from Third Eye Blind, and included darker themes than those on her debut.[12] Carlton stated that the album contained more of her own aesthetic as opposed to Be Not Nobody which was more influenced by Ron Fair.[13] Harmonium debuted at number thirty-three on the Billboard 200[8] and has sold 179,000 copies as of February 2006.[14]

A single, "White Houses," released to radio in late-August 2004, entered the Billboard Hot 100 in October, peaking at 86.[15] MTV censored and later banned the single's music video because of a controversial lyric in the song that refers to sexual intercourse. Carlton attributed the censoring of the song to the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show controversy involving Janet Jackson which had occurred earlier that year.[16]

To support the album, Carlton embarked on a North American concert tour, which began on October 21, and concluded on November 21; her opening act was Low Millions. She also recorded a cover of "Time Is on My Side" for a Time Warner digital video recorders commercial. A second tour, with Cary Brothers and Ari Hest as supporting acts, ran from March 9 to April 30. Carlton left A&M Records in mid-2005[17] as she felt there was a lack of support for the album on the label's part because of her nonconformist attitude.[8]

2006–2008: Heroes & Thieves

As early as her Harmonium tour in 2005, Carlton had debuted three new songs — "Hands on Me," "This Time," and "The One". [17] When she supported Stevie Nicks on her Gold Dust U.S. tour,[18] Carlton premiered two more songs, "Best Behavior" and "All Is Well." In October 2006, Irv Gotti announced that he had signed Carlton to The Inc. Records.[8]

Heroes & Thieves was released and greeted with generally positive reviews.[19] It debuted at number forty-four on the U.S. Billboard 200[20], with "Nolita Fairytale" as the first single. As of December 2007, the album had sold 41,000 copies in the U.S.[21] To promote the album, Carlton embarked the Haunted Club Tour, from November 2 to November 24, 2007.[22] Second single, "Hands on Me", was sent out to radios on February 19, 2008. Carlton later went on a summer U.S. tour with Joshua Radin and Alexa Wilkinson in 2008.

2009–present: Tall Tales for Spring

In an interview in April 2009, Vanessa stated that she was half way done with a new album.[23]


Carlton's mother exposed her to various classical composers such as Mozart, Erik Satie, and Claude Debussy. Through her father, she was exposed to classic-rock artists such as Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.[6] As a new artist, Carlton was compared to other female singer-songwriters, who played their own instruments like Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell, Carole King,[24] Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, Norah Jones, Alicia Keys,[25] Michelle Branch, and Avril Lavigne.[26]

Charity work

In 2005, Carlton completed the New York City Marathon and donated the pledge money she collected to Musicians on Call, a nonprofit organization that brings live and recorded music to patients' bedsides. She also contributed a song to Songs for Tibet, in support of Tibet to underline its human rights situation.[27] On September 25, 2008, Carlton and several other musicians and scientists, departed on a nine-day trip to the Arctic Circle. On behalf of the charity Cape Farewell, they worked alongside researchers for the purpose of studying climate change.[28]



Year Album details Peak chart positions Certifications
(sales thresholds)
2002 Be Not Nobody
US: Platinum
2004 Harmonium
2007 Heroes & Thieves
2010 Tall Tales for Spring
  • Release Date: 2010
  • Label: [TBA]


Year Title Peak chart positions Album
2002 "A Thousand Miles" 5 Be Not Nobody
"Ordinary Day" 30
"Pretty Baby"
2004 "White Houses" 86 Harmonium
2007 "Nolita Fairytale" Heroes & Thieves
2008 "Hands on Me"
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that country.

As featured artist


Year Song Artist Album
2004 "Indaco Dagli Occhi Del Cielo" Zucchero Zu & Co.
2008 "Circle Dance" Stevie Nicks The Soundstage Sessions


Year B-side A-side
2002 "Red Ditty" "A Thousand Miles"
"Swindler" "Ordinary Day"

Other contributions

Year Song Album
2002 "Greensleeves" Maybe This Christmas
2003 "Wishin' and Hopin'" American Dreams OST

Music videos

Year Single Album Director
2002 "A Thousand Miles" Be Not Nobody Marc Klasfeld
"Ordinary Day"
"Pretty Baby" Marcos Siega[30]
2004 "White Houses" Harmonium Sophie Muller
2007 "Nolita Fairytale" Heroes & Thieves Marc Klasfeld
2008 "Hands on Me"


  1. ^ Lamb, Chris (2002-04-29). "Vanessa Carlton: A Thousand Miles To Here". TeenMusic. Retrieved 2006-08-19.  
  2. ^ a b c "Vanessa Carlton Bio". Retrieved 2006-08-19.  
  3. ^ Staff. "Second Cup Cafe: Vanessa Carlton", CBS News, November 17, 2007. Accessed August 10, 2009. "A few years ago, this three-time Grammy nominee was living in New York's Hell's Kitchen and working as a waitress in Lower Manhattan between performances at open mic nights in the city's clubs."
  4. ^ "handwritten Vanessa Carlton Bio". Retrieved 2008-04-17.  
  5. ^ "Billboard interview". Billboard Magazine. Retrieved 2008-04-17.  
  6. ^ a b "Sarah Parkin Bio". Retrieved 2008-04-16.  
  7. ^ "The Making of A Thousand Miles". Retrieved 2008-04-17.  
  8. ^ a b c d Petrie, Saidah, Vanessa Carlton,,, retrieved 2009-12-02  
  9. ^ Vanessa Carlton - Entertainment News, Los Angeles, Media - Variety
  10. ^ "Artist Bio". Rock on the Retrieved 2008-04-20.  
  11. ^ "Top 40 chart overview". Top40 Charts. Retrieved 2006-08-19.  
  12. ^ D'Angelo, Joe and Pak, SuChin. "Vanessa Carlton Recalls Her Days As A Naughty Ballerina". MTV News. October 25, 2004. Retrieved February 11, 2007.
  13. ^ Miserandino, Dominick A. "Vanessa Carlton - Singer/Songwriter". Retrieved September 21, 2006.
  14. ^ Hasty, Katie. "Billboard Bits: Pearl Jam, Vanessa Carlton, Don Caballero". Billboard. February 24, 2006. Retrieved August 2, 2006.
  15. ^ "Vanessa Carlton - White Houses". MusicSquare. Retrieved September 16, 2006.
  16. ^ Dionne, Bethany. "Not just an 'ordinary night' with Vanessa Carlton". Quinnipiac Chronicle. April 6, 2005. Retrieved June 10, 2006.
  17. ^ a b Cinquemani, Sal. "Vanessa Carlton: A Pop Princess in Her Living Room". Slant. June 14, 2005. Retrieved September 16, 2006.
  18. ^ "Stevie Nicks: Says she couldn't feel any luckier right now". Grand Rapids Press. June 23, 2005. Retrieved August 2, 2006.
  19. ^ "Heroes & Thieves by Vanessa Carlton". Metacritic.
  20. ^ Harris, Chris. "Kid Rock's Jesus Overpowers Bruce Springsteen's Magic On Billboard Chart". MTV News. October 17, 2007.
  21. ^ Watson, Margeaux. Frayed Irv. Entertainment Weekly. December 14, 2007. Retrieved May 10, 2009.
  22. ^ Universal Motown. "Vanessa Carlton Announces 'Haunted Club Tour' in Support of Highly Anticipated New Album, Heroes & Thieves". Business Wire. October 8, 2007.
  23. ^ Staton, John (22 April 2009), Vanessa Carlton ready for next thousand miles,,, retrieved 2009-12-02  
  24. ^ "Being Somebody".,,j3t6-8,00.html. Retrieved 2008-04-20.  
  25. ^ "Formal Route". pressclipping. Retrieved 2008-04-20.  
  26. ^ "Gamma Gamma Hey". Village,weisblott,35755,22.html. Retrieved 2008-04-20.  
  27. ^ E-Online (July 22, 2008) Sting, Matthews, Mayer Gamer for Tibet Than Beijing
  28. ^ d'Estries, Michael (8 September 2008), KT Tunstall And Vanessa Carlton Head To Arctic To Study Climate Change, Ecorazzi, LLC,, retrieved 2009-12-02  
  29. ^ a b Vanessa Carlton Album & Song Chart History, Nielsen Business Media, Inc.,, retrieved 2009-12-02  
  30. ^

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