August 16: Singer, pianist Vanessa Carlton, "White Houses," "Carousel" "A Thousand Miles," is 31-years-old today.

Carlton was born in Milford, Pennsylvania. Her mother a pianist and school music teacher and her uncle, Larry Carlton, a jazz guitarist. Carlton's mother exposed her to various classical composers such as Mozart and Erik Satie. Through her father, she was exposed to classic-rock artists such as Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.

Her interest in music began at an early age; after returning from Disneyland at the age of two, she played "It's a Small World" on the piano. Her mother then began tutoring her on the piano.

She developed an interest in ballet at the age of nine and was accepted at the School of American Ballet at age fourteen while attending high school at the Professional Children's School.

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At age eighteen, she decided to devote her time to piano-playing and songwriting, choosing not to become a dancer on graduation. Instead, she attended Columbia University and performed in bars and clubs in Manhattan, New York while waitressing in Hell's Kitchen.

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Be Not Nobody

One of her first demo tapes consisted of songs such as "Little Mary." It contains the original version of "Ordinary Day," which has the lyrics of "if we walk now we will divide and conquer this land" in place of the released version lyrics which read "don't you see your dreams lie in the palm of your hand?" It also contains the original version of the songs "Twilight," "Burden," and "Faces."

She also has one unreleased album, which was to be entitled Rinse. This album consisted of the songs "Carnival," "All is Well," and "Morning Sting" amongst others.

She also has a cover of "Where the Streets Have No Name" by U2, which can only be found on the Japanese edition of Harmonium.


Carlton met Peter Zizzo at a singer-songwriter circle. A few months later, Zizzo invited Carlton to his studio to record a demo.

Three months later, Carlton was signed by Jimmy Iovine and began to record an album entitled Rinse. It was never released, but a few tracks were reworked for the album Be Not Nobody. (One song, "Carnival," was re-recorded as "Dark Carnival" for the Spy Hunter 2 video game.)

Other tracks included in Rinse are "Interlude" (later known as "A Thousand Miles,") "Rinse," "Ordinary Days" (later known as "Ordinary Day,") "Twilight," "Pretty Baby," "All I Ask" and "Superhero." Of these, only the first five are included in Be Not Nobody.

Other unreleased tracks from her early demo tapes include "Faces,"  "Meggy Sue,"  "Little Mary,"  "Burden,"  "Wonder,"  "Devil Dance" and "Last Fall."

A&M president Ron Fair upon hearing her demo to "A Thousand Miles,"  began organizing recording sessions for the song, producing and arranging the song himself.It became a hit, peaking inside the top five on the Billboard Hot 100 and went on to become the sixth-most-played song of the year, as well as garnering Grammy Award nominations for "Record of the Year,"  "Song of the Year," and "Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)."

Fair would produce the rest of the album. Be Not Nobody was subsequently released in April 2002 and debuted at number five on the Billboard 200 albums chart with 102,000 units sold. It went on to sell more than two million copies worldwide. Two more singles, "Ordinary Day" and "Pretty Baby" were released.

Carlton began touring in support of her debut album, opening for the Goo Goo Dolls and Third Eye Blind, before headlining her own tour at the end of 2002. She later toured Europe in 2003.

Carlton had collaborated with other artists before the release of her sophomore album. She provided the descant vocals for the Counting Crows song "Big Yellow Taxi,"  played piano for Italian singer Zucchero, along with Haylie Ecker on violin, for the song "Indaco Dagli Occhi Del Cielo" and provided backing vocals for "Moving On" by Kimya Dawson for her album Hidden Vagenda.

Carlton began recording her second album, Harmonium, at Skywalker Ranch near San Francisco. It was produced by Stephan Jenkins from Third Eye Blind, and included darker themes than those on her debut. Harmonium debuted at number thirty-three on the Billboard 200.

A single, "White Houses,"  released to radio in late-August 2004, entered the Billboard Hot 100 in October, peaking at 86. MTV censored and later banned the single's music video because of a controversial lyric in the song that refers to sexual intercourse.
In 2007 Heroes & Thieves debuted at number 44 on the U.S. Billboard 200.

Carlton's fourth studio album, Rabbits on the Run was released on July 26, 2011 under Razor & Tie, her latest record label. Vanessa chose the title for the symbolism often depicted by rabbits – 'time slipping, mind floating' – which she has been contemplating recently.

The dreamy, fantastical sound of the album was also inspired by Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, and Richard Adams's Watership Down. The album's first single, "Carousel" was released in May.