- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 17, 2002

Pop singer Vanessa Carlton feels like she won a contest. After working on her A&M; Records debut album, "Be Not Nobody," for about three years, Miss Carlton is finally taking the stage. The 21-year-old is scheduled to perform with the Goo Goo Dolls and Third Eye Blind at 7 p.m. Aug. 24 at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md.

"It's pretty surreal," says Miss Carlton, who is originally from Milford, Pa. "It was hard in the beginning when I didn't really know what I was doing. I was on my label for a couple years working and having a bunch of trial and errors. I learned a lot about patience. I also realize how much I wanted to do it. There are definitely times you get frustrated. You are like, 'God, is this ever even going to be finished?'"

Her hit song, "A Thousand Miles," peaked as the No. 5 song on the Billboard Hot 100 a few weeks ago. The video for the single had been released before the album was finished and was receiving heavy airplay on cable's MTV. Miss Carlton says she and her producer, Ron Fair, were racing to complete the album, which was released April 30.

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"It's funny because I guess it's been on the radio all the time, but I'm never listening to the radio," Miss Carlton says. "So I don't really hear it as much."

Miss Carlton, who has played the piano since age 2, says she is more influenced by classical composers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Claude Debussy and Frédéric Francois Chopin than the latest contemporary trend.

"I think it gives me an edge actually as a songwriter and a musician," she says. "If I played guitar, I'm sure it would be more helpful to be raised on the blues and jazz, but being a pianist, I think it exposed me to as many options as possible on the piano from a very early age. I feel like I don't have any boundaries musically."

Miss Carlton credits her mother's support and guidance as one of the keys to her success. As a piano teacher, her mother knew the skills her daughter would need to excel in music. When her mother was pregnant, she routinely played classical pieces to her baby in her womb.

"She has always been the hand on my back, saying, 'OK, you're good,'" Miss Carlton says. "She is always rooting for me, also at the same time giving me my freedom and letting me make my own mistakes. She's not thrilled about the whole rock scene, but she knows this is what I want to be doing, and she's really proud."

Although Miss Carlton loved music, she became increasingly interested in ballet in her teen years. At age 14, she was accepted into the School of American Ballet in New York City. She became frustrated with ballet and found solace in songwriting. She still dances whenever she has time, but most of her focus in now on her musical career.

"There's no ranking," she says. "It all comes from the same place for me. I never had a list or an order of 'The Things Vanessa Wants To Do or Not Do.' It was very organic the way it all happened. I went to study ballet in New York and ended up coming out writing songs."

Most of the songs Miss Carlton writes reflect her life experiences, she says. The lyrics aren't literal stories, but more like moments in time expressed through song.

"Sentences that I can't formulate in real life, I can formulate when I write," Miss Carlton says. "And ideas and emotions that I'd probably never connect with on a conscious level, I do when I'm writing. I get into a zone."

In the future, Miss Carlton sees herself creating more music. Next time, she hopes the first single will not be released until the entire album is complete.

"This is something I want to do for a very long time," she says. "It feels like it's just the beginning for me. So I hope to always come out with great albums for years to come."

WHAT: Goo Goo Dolls, Third Eye Blind and Vanessa Carlton

WHERE: Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md.

WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24

TICKETS: $26 to $36, 410/481-SEAT

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