Many artists who have a hit debut feel pressured to rush their second album. Vanessa Carlton, whose 2002 debut, Be Not Nobody, sold 1.3 million copies and generated two hit singles, "A Thousand Miles" and "Ordinary Day," took the exact opposite approach. She spent nearly a year on her second disc, Harmonium.
"I had to get it right," Carlton says. "It's the one chance to do a second record, and I believe it's the most important album in certain ways. I had a lot to prove. I mean, I always feel like I do, whether it's for somebody else or me, I do feel like I have a very high standard to kind of rise up to.
"So I took the time, and ultimately no one's going to care if you release a crappy album. But if you spend the time to get it right, it doesn't matter when you release it, I believe."
So far, Harmonium has yet to connect with music fans the way Be Not Nobody did. But Carlton clearly is pleased with the songs and her development, noting that Harmonium has greater variety and more movement from beginning to end.
"It's definitely a full meal," Carlton says. "I mean ... there isn't one crappy song. That was the intention."
Harmonium certainly will sound familiar to fans of Be Not Nobody. Once again, Carlton's voice and classically influenced piano take center stage, and her music remains firmly entrenched in the pop idiom. But the songs are a bit more musically advanced and mature, while keeping the instant melodic appeal that marked Be Not Nobody.
In making Harmonium, Carlton decided against working closely with Ron Fair, her producer from Be Not Nobody. While Fair was involved as executive producer, Carlton chose to have her boyfriend, Third Eye Blind singer Stephan Jenkins, produce.
Carlton says she knew working with her boyfriend could be a delicate situation. In fact, she would advise other artists to keep romance and their music separate.
"I would tell anyone, 'Stay with that notion,'" she says. "But it just worked. We were on a mission and we survived it."
Despite contrasts in their musical upbringings, Carlton and Jenkins share considerable common musical ground.
"Most people don't know what it's like to sit next to me and hear me play and sing," Carlton says. "First of all, we like similar music. We appreciate similar things in other records and just respect good music. Yeah, he's more of the rock -- he's in a rock band and I'm a piano player, a classically trained pianist. Yet we do meet on similar grounds because of our tastes. If anything, I think it makes for more of a provocative partnership.
"I'm not a straight, straight-ahead pop listener. I like college radio. I like really quirky things," Carlton adds. "I love PJ Harvey. I love Etta James. In terms of the new rock bands, I like (And You Will Know Us By The) Trail of Dead. I like the Doves. I love weird melodic stuff."
-- Alan Sculley
Vanessa Carlton, opening for Stevie Nicks
Wed., July 20, 7:30 p.m.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 2605 Red Rocks Park Road, Morrison
Tickets: Visit ticketmaster.com or call 520-9090.