GA Voice - - Out­spo­ken -

Traces of the singer are wo­ven into the ethe­real fab­ric of 2015’s “Liber­man,” Carl­ton’s fifth stu­dio al­bum ti­tled af­ter an oil paint­ing her grand­fa­ther made. Last year, the al­bum was re­leased as a live set, recorded in Nashville’s 3rd & Lind­s­ley. “Liber­man” isn’t just the most co­he­sive col­lec­tion in her reper­toire, dat­ing back to 2002’s break­out LP “Be Not No­body,” it’s a ma­jor sonic shift from “A Thou­sand Miles.” Her break­through piano ditty left such an indelible mark on her ca­reer that Carl­ton’s pub­li­cist asks jour­nal­ists to limit their ques­tions re­gard­ing the song to one.

“I will tell you, I play it first at my shows,” she said, not­ing that her core fan­base now comes to hear songs from 2011’s “Rab­bits on the Run” and “Liber­man.” “And then there’s al­ways the peo­ple who go, ‘Oh my god! It’s Vanessa Carl­ton! We’ve gotta go see her!’ They don’t know the other stuff, and I’m like their ‘Get Drunk With It On YouTube Girl’ and they just want to re­live that mo­ment, but it’s not that kind of show, re­ally. It’s a mood­ier show. So, I open with that song, and if they’re want­ing to stay for the rest of the set, then great; if not, then they got what they wanted.”

‘I never kissed the right ass’

Though “A Thou­sand Miles” has fol­lowed the mu­si­cian around since the be- gin­ning of her pro­fes­sional ca­reer, Carl­ton ad­mits it’s af­forded her, both fi­nan­cially and oth­er­wise, the abil­ity to pur­sue more per­son­ally ful­fill­ing ven­tures. Af­ter sign­ing to A&M Records, a now-de­funct Univer­sal sub­sidiary, it be­came ap­par­ent to the singer that, “I wasn’t in­ter­ested in be­ing a pop star.”

“Be­ing a pop star at a ma­jor la­bel – there are a lot of rules, there are a lot of walls, there’s a lot of ex­pec­ta­tions, there’s a lot of lim­i­ta­tions,” she said. “It’s just not my vibe. I never was good at it. I al­ways alien­ated peo­ple along the way. I never kissed the right ass. It was a dis­as­ter. It was bound to change.”

Fif­teen years af­ter launch­ing her ma­jor­la­bel ca­reer, that evo­lu­tion fully ma­te­ri­al­izes on “Liber­man,” which, from the ce­les­tial mur­mur “Take It Easy” through its dream­like fin­ish, was “made to be that sooth­ing, cool feel­ing on the brain.” On the road, while sup­port­ing “Liber­man” as well as her re­cent re­lease, “Ear­lier Things Live,” a six­song col­lec­tion of early-ca­reer sta­ples like 2004’s “White Houses,” she hopes to nur­ture more Pride-type con­nec­tions – sans pol­i­tics, though.

Vanessa Carl­ton

“It’s just about hu­man be­ings and dis­sec­tion of emo­tions of hu­mans and con­nec­tion and fear and beauty,” she said. “If I can high­light that in a time like this – I guess this tour is a good time to play this record.”

Her mood, about hu­man rights and even her pur­pose these days as a mu­si­cian, strikes the same gen­eral chord as the world at large: un­cer­tainty. Her blood pres­sure rises just talk­ing about Pres­i­dent Trump and how his ad­min­is­tra­tion could strip her friends and fam­ily of their in­alien­able rights, so when asked to shift top­ics – from pol­i­tics to mu­sic – she hap­pily obliges with a “no, please!”

But there’s hope yet, and it’s the mu­sic, a glo­ri­ous es­cape. “It re­ally calms me down play­ing it,” she said of “Liber­man.”

The truth is, though: It’s as much a refuge for her as it is for us.

Vanessa Carl­ton, who came out as bi­sex­ual at Nashville Pride in 2010, plays City Win­ery on March 18. (Photo by Emilia Paré)

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