With her latest album Earlier Things Live, Vanessa Carlton honors her classics in a stripped-down fashion that’s true to the musician she’s become since stepping onto the scene more than a decade ago. We caught up with the Grammy-nominated singer in advance of her stop at the Sinclair on March 6.
Why did you decide to make Earlier Things Live? It’s the songs that didn’t make Liberman Live, my last record. [Earlier Things Live] was a way to combine all the older songs. They’ve changed so much—or my voice has changed so much over the years—I liked the idea of showing where I am at the moment. I think the Liberman tour was really strong and I’ve really found my footing in the past five years.
You’ve now done two back-to-back live albums. Is there something about performing that you hoped to capture by producing them? People only know me from recordings from when I was 21 years old. I mean, for God’s sake, that’s like 16 years ago. I’m 36 now. My voice has changed so much. My approach to playing and singing has evolved. When I left the major label system in 2007 or 2008, that was a huge opportunity for me to really get my feet under me and figure out who I was as an artist and to not have to answer to any sort of executives was a big deal. I was able to really work on my vocals. I sounded like this little pipsqueak—when I listen to those older records, it’s crazy! Rabbits on the Run was my first record off the major label system. It came out completely under the radar, but people discovered it and that was basically the starting point of where I’m at now. I sort of look at that as my first real album, in a way.
Do you have any memories of your last show in Nashville where these songs were recorded? The last show of every tour is really loose. You’re so happy to be home. It was also like my hometown—my new hometown—show. You just feel really in your own skin. When you’re really present, that’s usually your best performance.
Was it important to you to include the duet, “In Our Time,” with your husband? I was lucky that I got him. He played with me that night because, you know, he lives 10 minutes down the road. He wrote that song, and I love the story in that song, and, yeah, I thought it fit really well.
Do you feel like you’re a thousand miles from the start of your career? Oh, like a million.