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Looking for Liberman

Vanessa Carlton

Songwriter Vanessa Carlton’s 2015 release Liberman is partially inspired by her grandfather. “He was a painter,” Carlton tells EW. Carlton’s family changed its surname from Liberman to Lee after World War II “because of anti-Semitism,” she says.

Carlton hangs her grandfather’s work near the piano where she writes her music. “The swirling, beautiful, crazy colors ended up being the inspiration for the type of music I was writing. I wanted to honor his work as a painter,” she recalls.

The critically acclaimed Liberman has been received as an artistic rebirth for Carlton, who had a massive pop hit early in her career with the unavoidable piano anthem “A Thousand Miles.” Like a lot of young musicians, she struggled to replicate her early commercial success.

Liberman is still largely piano- and keyboard-based with pop sensibilities, but the songwriting feels more personal, raw and immediate. “Operator” even recalls Stevie Nicks.

“I really loved making [Liberman],” Carlton says. “We wanted to create a very specific experience and sound, and we had nothing to corrupt that process.” 

Carlton sees the evolution to Liberman beginning in 2009 when she left her last major label. 

“Not until then do I think I had the confidence and the vision to really be myself,” Carlton says. “I’m not a pop star. I’m not piano-pop girl — the way I was sold. I’m finally in the place where I should be.”

Songwriter and improvisational violinist Skye Steele joins Vanessa Carlton 8 pm Sunday, Jan.17, at WOW Hall; $25 adv., $28 door.