Vanessa Lee Carlton (born August 16, 1980) is an American soft rock/Piano pop singer, songwriter, and pianist best known for the single "A Thousand Miles" from her debut album, Be Not Nobody which was released April 30, 2002, which was certified platinum in the U.S. The commercial failure of Carlton's second album, Harmonium (released November 9, 2004), led her to part company from her record label A&M, though she still holds a dedicated fanbase. Her third album, Heroes and Thieves, was released on October 9, 2007 on Irv Gotti's record label The Inc.
Carlton was born in Milford, Pennsylvania to Ed Carlton, a pilot, and Heidi, a pianist and school music teacher; she has two younger siblings, a sister named Gwen, who is a student at George Mason University, and a brother named Edmund, who is a member of his school's acapella group and who attends St. Andrew's School in Delaware. She 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 was "spiritual". She began playing the piano as a toddler, and received tutoring from her mother. After returning from Disneyland at the age of two, Carlton played "It's a Small World" on the piano. This event inspired Carlton's mother to expose Carlton to various classical composers such as Mozart and Erik Satie. She attended the School of American Ballet in New York City beginning at age fourteen. The stress and rigid training of the ballet lessons proved too much for her, and as the School of American Ballet is a finishing school for ballet, classes became too difficult once Vanessa started going through unexpected growth spurts. She chose not to become a dancer on graduation.
She attended Columbia University and performed in bars and clubs all over Manhattan. Carlton met Peter Zizzo at a singer-songwriter circle and a few months later, Zizzo invited Carlton to his studio to begin recording a demo with instruments accompanying Carlton's piano and vocals. Three months after recording the demo tape, Carlton was signed onto Interscope Records, where she began recording the album Rinse with Zizzo. Rinse was never released, but some of its twelve tracks were reworked for her debut album, Be Not Nobody, such as "Ordinary Day", "Rinse", "Pretty Baby", "Twilight", "Interlude" (later entitled "A Thousand Miles"). Others remain unreleased in any form, except for internet bootlegs (which exist for at least seven of the twelve tracks), such as "All I Ask" and "Superhero". One song, "Carnival", was re-recorded under the title "Dark Carnival" for the 2003 Sony PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, Microsoft Xbox and PC game Spy Hunter 2.
Carlton's debut album, Be Not Nobody, was produced by Ron Fair and released in April 2002. It included the hit piano pop single "A Thousand Miles", which peaked inside the top five on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Follow-up single "Ordinary Day", however, was less successful, and the final single, "Pretty Baby", failed to chart on the Hot 100. In 2003, Carlton received Grammy Award nominations for "Record of the Year", "Song of the Year", and "Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)" for "A Thousand Miles". She provided the descant vocals for the Counting Crows' cover of Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi", recorded for the film Two Weeks Notice. Carlton was frequently compared (both positively and negatively) to other singer-songwriters like Norah Jones, and Michelle Branch who rose to prominence at around the same time. She also has appeared on MTV many times.
Carlton's 2004 collaboration with the Italian rock and blues singer Zucchero, along with Haylie Ecker on violin, for the song "Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime" (a cover of The Korgis' song) was moderately successful, reaching the top forty in France. She provided backing vocals for a song on anti-folk singer Kimya Dawson's 2004 album Hidden Vagenda.
She began recording her second album, Harmonium, at Skywalker Ranch near San Francisco. Harmonium was released in November 2004 and yielded the single "White Houses", which reached number 86 on the Hot 100. Produced by Stephan Jenkins, Harmonium debuted outside the top twenty on the Billboard 200 album chart and was a commercial failure; consequently, Carlton left A&M Records in mid-2005.
In May 2005, in a post on her official site's forum, Carlton said to her fans — whom she, and they, often refer to as "nessaholics" — that she would be releasing a third album in 2006, although she added "most people will know it as my second!" because of a perceived lack of commitment to Harmonium at A&M Records. During her Harmonium tour, Carlton debuted three new songs in June 2005 at The Living Room in New York City: "Hands on Me", "This Time", and "The One". When on tour with rock singer Stevie Nicks in 2005 and 2006, Carlton premiered the songs "Best Behavior" and "All Is Well". In September 2005, Carlton entered the studio with producer Linda Perry to record her next album, and in May 2006 a studio version of "This Time" premiered on the website PromoSquad.
Irv Gotti announced in October 2006 that he had signed Carlton to The Inc. Records. Carlton's third album is titled Heroes & Thieves, and Gotti co-produced the album with Linda Perry and Stephan Jenkins. Carlton is a featured artist on 7's debut single, "M-A-K-E L-O-V-E T-O M-E". Heroes and Thieves was released in October 2007 to critical acclaim (the highest critical praise for Carlton during her career), with the first single being "Nolita Fairytale". Her second single Hands on Me was sent out to radios January 19 and the video was released February 15.
Carlton dated singer/producer Stephan Jenkins of the rock band Third Eye Blind until 2007 when they broke up. Jane magazine in the U.S. named Carlton one of the "eleven people you'd most like to see naked"; she posed for the magazine's July 2005 issue.
Ashton Kutcher Punk'd Carlton in November 2004 during a rehearsal for her performance on The Tonight Show. 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 currently resides in an apartment in New York City, Manhattan.
|U.S. Hot 100||U.S. AC||U.S. Top 40 Mainstream||UK||AUS|| IDN† ||TWN|
|2002||"A Thousand Miles"||5||1||1||6||1||1||1||Be Not Nobody|
|2003||"Big Yellow Taxi" |
(Counting Crows featuring Vanessa Carlton)
|42||5||30||16||3||—||—||Hard Candy |
|2005||"Who's to Say"||—||—||—||—||—||45||—|
|2007||"Nolita Fairytale"||—||26 ||—||—||—||—||—||Heroes & Thieves|
|2008||"Hands On Me"||—||31||—||—||—||—||—|
†  for Indonesia charts.
- "Red Ditty" ("A Thousand Miles" single B-side, 2002)
- "Swindler" ("Ordinary Day" single B-side, 2002)
- the aforementioned Big Yellow Taxi
- "Greensleeves" (Maybe This Christmas, 2002)
- "Wishin' and Hopin'" (American Dreams soundtrack, 2003)
- "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" with Al Green, Melissa Etheridge, Kelly Rowland, Stephan Jenkins, Ginuwine, Musiq, Heather Headley and Gavin DeGraw (Gap holiday television campaign, 2003)
- "Dark Carnival" (Spy Hunter 2 soundtrack, 2003)
- "Moving On" (Kimya Dawson featuring Vanessa Carlton, included on Hidden Vagenda, 2004)
- "Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime [Indaco Dagli Occhi del Cielo]" (Zucchero featuring Vanessa Carlton, included on ZU & CO (Zucchero), 2004)
- "Time Is on My Side" (Time Warner DVR television commercial, 2005)
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