Music is My Life: Episode 043

Vanessa Carlton on ‘Love Is An Art,’ Pandemics, Psychedelics, and Stevie Nicks

Vanessa Carlton's latest album is "Love Is an Art."

Vanessa Carlton engages in a candid discussion about the seedy underbelly of the music industry, and why followups to “A Thousand Miles” were more successful than some of the men on her team wanted her to believe. She discusses how her latest album, Love Is An Art, is a new beginning for her and how eager she is to begin touring behind it, once touring in support of an album is something people are allowed to do again. She also discusses some of her most significant relationships with fellow musicians, from the magical (Stevie Nicks), to the amazing (John McCauley of Deer Tick), to the regrettable (Stephan Jenkins of Third Eye Blind). Listen now or read the transcript below: 

Vanessa Carlton: Yeah, I started playing very young because my mom taught piano at our house. I loved it when I was a kid because we’d always have tons of kids over, of all ages, and there would always be lollipops. We had about five pianos in the house.

Five, like official, regular pianos? Not just like electric keyboards?
One baby grand, and the rest were uprights. At one point, my mom was a Baldwin dealer, and we had to store them.

Were they in the same room?
No. On average, three pianos. We lived in this, it was like a Hansel and Gretel house where it’s just all carved wood, in Milford, Pennsylvania, the beautiful woods in Pennsylvania, and it was sprawled out enough so that you could have three students playing piano in the house at the same time and not go crazy. That was my start, and I would just start to join the class around three-and-a-half, four, my mom would let me be with the big kids and I get to sit and play a little piece for her, and then I would just go upstairs and go back to watching TV or something.

Is that anecdote true about you having a real epiphany watching “It’s A Small World” at Disney World?
Well, I guess what happened was, I came back from Disneyland and played “It’s A Small World” on a piano by ear.

Do you have any recollection of this yourself?
I just remember that it scared the crap out of me. That melody. It was a very hypnotic, dark melody to me, and I do remember it having a huge impact on me. I don’t remember playing it. 

Have you ever in your adult life incorporated that into your set at all? Maybe even just the melody or anything?
It’s a very appropriate song these days, isn’t it?
[SINGING] It’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all.
That’s really about globalism, isn’t it? 

Yeah, but now our worlds are so small because we’re just in our houses.
That’s true.

What do you remember about music grabbing a hold of you on a personal level and starting to really seek it out more?
For me, music has always been a very visual thing. I’ve always been a dancer. So my thing was ballet, any sort of movement, but then I got really serious about ballet when I was like eight, and it was always about moving to music. If it was the right music. I just remember dancing and twirling in my living room when I was a kid, and using the fireplace as a mirror, and just being so moved by music. But it was really about how one moves to music. My aesthetic was shaped in a way by huge dynamic music where you have the big swells and then it shrinks down, because that’s the best stuff to dance to and move to, and I’ve always been drawn to shapes like that in music to this day.

So did you officially take lessons with your mom or did you seek it out elsewhere, or you were just interested in music as an accompaniment to the movement?
Yeah, my mom was my teacher until I started coaching with this woman, Vera Tischif, who was my mom’s teacher. On the weekends, I would do that, and that was once I was in ballet school though. I would take lessons with my mom once a week maybe, just to keep it up. But at this point, again, by the time I was eight, I was taking dance classes multiple times a week. By the time I was just turning 14, I had gotten into the School of American Ballet in New York City, so I had moved into my dorm room at Lincoln Center. 

At 14?
Yeah, they have this building in Lincoln Center called the Rose Building where all the dancers stayed. Then I would take piano on the weekends, just like a coaching, learning a lot of Grieg. I remember learning a ton of Grieg, but then I started writing songs. Things started to take shape where music started to become more on the front burner for me where it was like, I would rather do that than dance when I was turning 17.

During this whole time, what were you taking in culturally more of? Were you taking in dance and going to dance performances or are we also going to pop concerts as a teenager?
Yeah, that’s a good question, because I came up in a very insulated environment in terms of the art world. Because if you’re training to be a ballet dancer, that’s all you do, that’s all you see, and all you see is the repertoire of the company or the school that you’re at. When I was 15, 16, walking six blocks up on the upper west side was a big deal. We’re just like these little kids, just obsessed with these classes and had buns all day, all night until we went to bed. So it wasn’t until I was 17 when I would start going to Tunnel. I started going to clubs and stuff where we’d hear dance music and stuff like that. But I didn’t really go and seek out or see any musical shows. It was always coming from the live orchestra as part of a dance performance, for the majority of all my high school. It’s a good question because the first half of my career as a musician, as a recording artist, I didn’t really have a community of musicians that I knew. 

It’s interesting too because when you’re all of a sudden thrust into that industry, I’d imagine, most people I talked to have that moment where like, “Oh, my God, my song was played on the radio right after one of my favorite artists of all time.” Did you necessarily have that wow factor for yourself?
Well, yeah, no. Of course, there’s incredible musicians out there that I’ve always loved, artists like a Stevie Nicks, or a Carole King, or a Neil Young. There’s artists out there that I knew of and I was under their spell. But when it came to seeking out a recording, like if you hang out with a bunch of musicians, you’re all going after the same thing. You want to support yourself by doing your music full time, if this was the ’90s, you really wanted to try and get a record contract or a publishing deal or whatever, and I was just the lone dancer in the Rose Building, who was having a meeting with Ahmet Ertegun that week. I know it’s incredible in hindsight, but for me it’s like I could tell anyone that and they’re like, “Who’s that?” I was just really in a very insulated environment and then I got a publishing deal first as a writer which was cool. But again I could come back and tell my friends and they were excited for me, but there’s like no context any of us had.

That’s amazing. Do you think that helped you keep your cool throughout the first part of your immersion in the music industry?
I think I took a lot of stuff for granted and I think that, yes, but I have always been unimpressed by fame in the context of being a dancer. It doesn’t really exist, especially neoclassical ballet. It’s like you never become a star, that’s not part of what I was going after. But that part was good because it keeps you level-headed. 

Yeah. Keeps you honest I imagine and by that logic then it seems like you could have been perfectly happy not having the huge success you enjoyed right off the bat. But I don’t know if that’s true. I’m just making an assumption for you.
I get it now. It was such an incredible anomaly to have such huge success off the bat, and of course as almost a 40-year-old mom, musician, I’m like, wow, the chances of that happening, I mean, it couldn’t happen today because the music industry was so different then. I was very much part of a machine that I didn’t even know I was a part of. I was surrounded by a lot of shady people, a shady manager, a shady A&R guy, I mean there’s so many bad situations that I was in actually in hindsight that as a dancer though, coming from a dancer point of view, you’re just always trying to make it work. Maybe it’s a female thing as well. Now I’m used to being the only woman in a room of men having a meeting, and I think that being in my early 20s, I was always trying to manage everybody’s emotions and try and be like, okay, well, so they’re not going to give me this budget unless I do that. They’re going to approve the budget for me to go in and do this unless . . . it has to sound like that. I think in hindsight, yes, it was a huge success in certain ways that first record, but there is a lot of situations there that were not successful at all.

Did you have to make a lot of compromises artistically? I know later in your career you definitely did, or you didn’t actually and that’s why you did what you did and that’s great. But were you in situations where you had to make those decisions all the time?
The first records, they’re all my songs and I just feel like I was so young and underdeveloped as a songwriter. But I had these melodic things that people liked. I got signed based on that. They were going to drop me before the record even came out because they didn’t like the producer, and the producer was also like totally weird and harassing and I was really struggling with him as well. But my A&R guy was also totally creepy, and my manager, I mean, I was just, oh, my god, there’s so many stories there, but they were going to drop me and I said to my manager, I can’t work any way with this A&R person. He calls me in the middle of the night. He’s giving us drugs. He wants to hang out with me and my friends, like we were 19 or 20. This guy’s like 35, with a really fancy platinum credit card, spending all of Interscope’s money, and going to all these dinners and stuff.

Did he just hand you drugs?
Yeah, he’ll be like, “You guys want to do ecstasy tonight?” I mean he was like this older A&R guy, it was just me and my dancer friends and I had just gotten this record deal, and he wanted us to do that with him. It was just so weird. But I said to my manager at the time, “I don’t want to work with this person anymore. I can’t do this. I’d rather lose my record deal and not do this.” I said, “I want to call a meeting with Jimmy Iovine,” and this is all before my first record came out. 

Meanwhile you hadn’t seen the HBO documentary because it didn’t exist. I’m guessing you weren’t intimidated by him.
Well, Jimmy always is intimidating because you always knew how much power Jimmy had. But he was also has an incredible reputation. He’s worked with the greats, Tom Petty, Patty Smith, Bruce Springsteen, I mean everybody, and I respected him a lot, but I wasn’t scared enough of him that I wasn’t going to call a meeting with him and be like, “I can’t work with your guy.” My manager was not okay with that idea. He said to me, “If you make this meeting, I’m not coming.” Anyway, I did the meeting. I think my manager did come, just sat there, and I told Jimmy, and Jimmy, you know what, he was really awesome. He was like, “Has he touched you?” Like trying to really get down to all the details of what had happened. I said “No, but I don’t feel comfortable anymore,” and he’s calling me in the middle of the night. Now, he thinks this new song I wrote is about him. He’s like giving out ecstasy, like I can’t do this anymore.

I didn’t tell him how much money I think this guy is spending on his card, and now the 39-year-old mom be is like, “Can I just tell you how much this guy is spending of your Interscope money?” But Jimmy handed me off to Ron Fair, so I didn’t get dropped, and he handed me off to Ron Fair under the context of like, “We don’t know what to do with this girl. We’re going to drop her unless you have an idea.” Then Ron had a great idea to have interlude, which is now “A Thousand Miles” be the single and hired some of the greatest musicians. I mean, Leland Sklar played bass, I had Abe Laboriel Jr. playing drums, a string section. But there’s a lot of dark moments in that too. We got to the end of it and then the rest is history with that record. 

Then came record number two, which I imagine is very difficult with all the expectations after such meteoric success.
Yeah, I mean I wish I had waited longer and I wish I had taken Ron’s advice, actually. So Ron’s advice was, you can work with any producer in the world. Why are you working with your boyfriend? At the time I was trying to get away from him. I knew that Ron wanted to do it again, and he’s the president of my label, and I didn’t want the president of my label to produce the record again, and there’s a lot that I wanted to change and there’s so much I needed to learn, really. But I just ended up from one power control freakish guy to another one, which was then my boyfriend at the time, Stephan Jenkins, who is in Third Eye Blind. 

I just thought, well, I guess I’ll just try this and not knowing that Stephan wasn’t really a producer either. But anyway my second record, it was just me. Don’t hire your boyfriend. I was just so young, I was 23 years old, 24 years old. Then Ron resented me because I didn’t want to work with Ron anymore, and I chose Stephan over Ron, and then, “White Houses” came out. They censored it because they didn’t like that any part of it was about sex or anything. There were moments of that song that were censored on MTV. So he stopped promoting that record, so it was like the classic sophomore slump in comparison to the first. That led to one more record. Squeezing one more out with Stephan, but it was also a pretty misguided idea on my end.

Now, when you look back on that, Heroes & Thieves, the third album, do you at least take away, well, you got to work with Linda Perry and I imagine that was a good milestone.
That was cool working with Linda. She really gets these, like . . . the land of lost toys show up at her door. I’m sure she’ll say that too and they’re like, “What do I do?” Like Ron, they sent me to her. Labels will send artists to her who are I think on the verge of either being dropped or I don’t know. She’s a very healing person in many ways. It was nice to work with her. But at the same time I was with Stephan at the time, and he wanted credit to be in A&R. He wanted to A&R the record too. It was just very stressful in terms of the credits that he wanted and I felt like I was managing a lot of stuff that I didn’t know how to manage. Then I was able to get out. I got out of the system after that.

When you look back on those collections of songs, you still draw from those for your setlists, right?
Yeah, and there’s some really nice ones in there. I would totally have a different approach to producing them and arranging them. I can’t listen to a lot of them because I just hear the guy that was working on it and his interpretation of it. That makes me crazy. But I’m no victim. What’s wonderful about reflection is you can take responsibility for . . . even though you’re young, you could forgive yourself, but I take responsibility for those decisions.

Well, it’s interesting you mentioned that because for some reason I see that relationship from way outside, obviously, and imagine him as sort of a predatory person.
I mean he was how much older than me? I think he’s 18 years older than me. Back then my dad wanted to get on a plane and fly to California and actually kill him. I wasn’t even close to my parents at the time, like there was a total riff in my whole world. It is a classic predatory, womanizing, gaslighting situation, 100 percent. He was with other women. I mean, a year in and he started with tons of other women I didn’t even know about. But like I didn’t know the definition of gaslighting until a couple years ago when I heard it and I was like, “What does that mean?” Because it’s very confusing when you’re with an older man. I guess this doesn’t necessarily have to be a male-female situation, but an older man where they’re like really propping you up in certain ways, but taking you down in other ways. Like, “You should be the big this and that. You’re the only one that can do it like this.” But like, “Why don’t you read the newspaper? It’s really stupid that you don’t read.” He’d always say, “You can’t produce your own stuff. You’re not that, you’re not producing.” I love when people are like, “You’re not a producer.” Meanwhile, they’re not either.

Right. I was just reading an article that you just wrote the very first and last song about that whole situation.
Yeah, the canary in the coal mine. Poor little canary in the coal mine. I was writing this record with Tristen, my songwriting partner on this, which I’ve never really had before, and my brother had told me what a miner’s canary was. I was like, “What is that?” I looked up all the images and I was like, “Oh, my god, this is a song.” Then I told Tristen about the situation and it’s like I don’t really want to write about that. She really pushed me to. She was like, “Yeah, you should write about that. This is what this is.” Okay, fine. But that’s the end of it.

Do you feel a great release having written that? Like, wow, that chunk has been dealt with artistically. Now, I can cut it off or something.
Yeah. Well, it’s forgiving the younger me. It’s forgiving her for being so stupid. I was feeling like, “Vanessa you’re so stupid, everybody sees on the outside was happening, but you can’t see it.” You have to arrive at your own stuff. You have to arrive at your own revelations.

Well, it’s good though that you’ve finally forgiven yourself, and I’m sorry it took so long to get there.
Well, it’s growing up. We all make mistakes. “Miner’s Canary” is a song that I did not want to write because I don’t want to write about that guy. I mean, please, I have this incredible life and this family. I’m obsessed with my family. I have such gratitude for them and my partner, John. He’s like a unicorn or something. 

You mentioned Stevie Nicks before. How on earth did you have her officiate your’s and John’s wedding?
Going back to Jimmy Iovine. Really, Jimmy is who introduced us in a way because Jimmy gave Stevie my first record. This was like in 2003 or 2004. Then coincidentally, Stevie and I were at a record plant together, we’re working on stuff. I was working on my second record, and she was editing some live TV thing with Lindsey. I met her at that studio, and then up a few months later once the record came out, my record, “flops.” This is back in the day, there’s no streaming, so it’s like, “Did you hit the number in the first week? Oh, she didn’t. It’s a flop.” I was so sad. Then Stevie calls me. She’s like, “Do you want to come out on tour with me? Open the tour?” I was like, “Oh, my God.” She just knows when you need her. That’s when I really got close to Stevie. I would say 2005 when we started touring together.

She’s one of the most, if not the most important relationship in my life, in a way, because she has traveled this very unique road. She was there, for instance, when I was in the middle of having my child, cut out of me in a c-section. She’s there singing to me in my ear holding my hand. We are very, very close. She’s one of my best friends. So yeah, when I met John and we decided not to have a wedding, I just asked her, because I spend usually every Christmas with her. I was like, “Well, this Christmas, I’m going to bring John along. Could you officiate it?” I think there’s some website you go to get a card. She was like, “Yes.”

Then we go on to album number four, Rabbits on the Run. You have this way of looking back in hindsight at all the other albums, with both two and three not being so fond. What is your takeaway from Rabbits on the Run?
It was just like what I always imagined making a record would be. It really stems from this relationship and friendship with Patrick Hallahan. Once I left the labels, and I was just basically just completely starting over. I was like, I want to make my dream record, I’m going to make it. I’m just going to go for it in every element, every angle on this record, I’m just going to go for the dream, the vision that I have in my head, I’m just going to go for it. I wanted a children’s choir. I’m going to go for it. I want this to be recorded on tape no matter what, I’m going to go for it. I’m going to find Steve Osborne, my dream wizard producer, I’m going to go for it. Patrick Hallahan is my favorite drummer in the world. I’m just going to find his email and email him. 

All that stuff that takes so much courage and audacity, in a way. We’re represented by the same business manager actually, My Morning Jacket and me, so I got to connect with Patrick. I don’t know if he knew who I was at the time. I really was hoping that no one knew anything about me. I wanted to feel like a new artist, I wanted to start over. So I sent him some of my shitty GarageBand demos, and the beginning of Rabbits on the Run started there. He loved it. He wanted to work with me, which gave me such confidence. Then from there, I met Steve Osborne, which was another whole story, but I met him randomly at a party in the middle of the English countryside, at my friend KT Tunstall’s house. It’s a whole other story, but yeah, so that was the beginning of Rabbits on the Run, and in my opinion, the beginning of my real career, a sustainable and incredible journey of exploration and creativity. That’s what I’m in right now.

"'Rabbits on the Run,' in my opinion, [was] the beginning of my real career, a sustainable and incredible journey of exploration and creativity. That's what I'm in right now." —@VanessaCarlton Click To Tweet

It’s interesting. I just spoke with Lisa Loeb. She talks about “Stay,” her biggest hit to date. A lot of her friends had a big, huge hit. Some of them, it made them bitter and stuff. But she has come away with a healthy relationship about it. Just like, “Well, it’s my introduction to people, and if it still brings people into my concerts to hear my current material, then that’s great.” I guess there’s growing pains to get to that point, and it sounds like around Rabbits on the Run, you are basically against the prior part of your career. Is that right?
Yeah, because I felt so boxed then, but I would still play “A Thousand Miles” when I toured Rabbits on the Run. At the time too, though, I was with another manager who also just turned so inappropriate. I ended up signing a non-disclosure agreement and getting out of it. I can barely talk about it because of the contracts that I signed, but I did tour on Rabbits, so I was able to squeeze out this very strange tour I was on opening for another artist, because my manager at the time, he was managing a huge pop band and he did not want me to make Rabbits on the Run. He wanted me to work with a Swedish dance producer. I think the tour for that record was not very well thought out, or not a lot of energy was put into it. Not like my manager now who’s so awesome. 

So anyway, long story short is, yeah, I would play “A Thousand Miles.” I wasn’t going to do it for this tour for Love is an Art, which right now is rescheduled, but I play it first, just to get it out of the way, and then just be like, “Okay, are we ready?” People always stay. It’s a test for people that aren’t the real fans who’ve been following and the people that are either nostalgia people, or they just want to get drunk and sing karaoke to that song. They’re all welcome to the show, but I control the order. So if we’re going to start out with that, I think this is a nice way to just relieve people from waiting for it, and then people can just enjoy whatever is going to happen next.

That’s a great approach. Was it on the Rabbits on the Run tour that you came up with that approach?
Actually, I think Liberman was when I really did that every night. With Liberman too, the next record, we had a meeting about whether we’re going to submit this record with no name on it, or I’m going to change my name.

Yeah. That album does definitely strike me as, this is a new start. What were you considering calling yourself?
I don’t know [LAUGHTER].

You could have been called Liberman.
I could be Liberman. Everyone would pronounce it wrong, but that’s fine. Liberman could be totally my artist name, which would be pretty rad, but it can be frustrating for someone like me who had a song out almost 20 years ago that was such a big song, that it’s such a defining song for sound. This came out in the early 2000s. The record industry was still selling records. You could release a song, and it would have a bigger impression on pop culture in a way because there were smaller avenues to get songs out. For instance, I haven’t done this, my parents have, but like Pandora Vanessa Carlton channel, any algorithm thing for me is totally off because it’s from the early 2000s, so I could group with anyone who came out with the song then.

It was a big successful song, meaning, any top 10 song in 2002 is going to be my algorithm. That’s how streaming works, so for me, I have to just ignore that and just pretend like this isn’t happening, and hopefully, people that do want to check out my music, I just hope that they won’t be influenced by that because it doesn’t sound like that. Whatever. That’s something I just have to deal with and not complain about too much. Every now and then, when I’m feeling down, I’ll just tell my manager about like, “What do we do about that?” He’s like, “Vaness, there’s nothing you can do. You just have to just continue working.” In any way we can, you’re controlling the past.

So around what time in that timeline did you move to Nashville?
Halfway through Liberman, we finished it here with this producer, Adam Landry. The majority of the record was done with Steve Osborne, but we ran out of money. I couldn’t keep going back to England to do it, so we finished it here in Nashville, I met through my husband, John McCauley, who was working with Adam Landry. He’s brilliant. So I finished it here in Nashville. We rented an Airbnb. I just loved it here. Again, remember, early on in this interview, we were talking about like I didn’t come up with a community of musicians because I was a dancer, but a community of musicians is Nashville.

You go anywhere, there’s like six people in the restaurant, the bar, the farmers’ market, or whatever, John knows all the musicians here. I’m like, “This is crazy.” John is a pretty quiet man. He was living with me in my apartment in New York, and he just seemed happier in Nashville. I was like, “Maybe we should consider living here.” He was like, “Sure, that’d be great.” I was like, “Do you like New York?” And he was like, “Not really.” I was like, “Why didn’t you tell me this?” So we found a little cabin, our little bungalow here, and we moved here a little while after Liberman came out.

That’s great. When you recorded with Steve Osborne, was that in Bath?
Well, he lives in Bath. Peter Gabriel’s studio is called Real World and it’s actually in Box, which is a 15 minute drive from Bath. Rabbits on the Run and Liberman were done in Real World Studios with Steve Osborne. Part of Liberman was done in Nashville with Adam. 

So tell me, apparently you did the unsolicited GarageBand demos to Dave Fridmann as well, right? 
Yeah. That was Rashan, who is just such a great manager and someone so fun to work with. He’s so down to earth too, and I was like, what do we do? I don’t know if Dave Fridmann is going to have any interest in working with me, but do we know someone, an agent that he has or manager, and he was like, “No. What we’re going to do is we’re going to go to his website and you’re just going to send me the demos and we’re going to send them to the email address on the website.” Okay, great.

So it’s just coming from you, your personal email address, and there’s these demos and he just answers it himself? 
No, it’s through Rashan. I actually have not ever asked, “Did you guys know who I was before you listened to the demos?” He does have a manager and he sent a note through his manager to my manager and said he was interested in working together, which was so mind-blowing to me. It was so exciting because I really wanted to work with him. I knew that we’ll be pulling each other out of our normal zones if we worked with each other, which I think is always exciting, because that’s the alchemy of collaboration, and that’s what I was chasing.

Yeah, I really love the new record. Whenever I listen to somebody’s music before I interview them, I pick out little lyrics here and there and I’m just like, “I wonder if that means that.” This conversation basically validates that my theory like that line in “I Can’t Stay the Same”: “Revelation as a long, slow line.” It just seems so appropriate for everything we’ve been discussing.
That’s exactly right. It’s like a long, slow Wikipedia line. I think Jennifer Lopez said it recently, which I love her so much, and she’s so brilliant, and she’s broken so much ground for herself and for others for so long. Not even fully appreciated for the work that she does. She was asked, because she’s 50 years old and she just did Hustlers. They asked her, “What’s the secret to your success? What’s the secret to your longevity?” She said, “You just keep working.” 

You just keep working. When you say working, we can define that because working does not mean chasing an audience or chasing fame. That’s not working. For me, the version of that is coming up with new concepts or new ideas musically and executing them, that’s it. “I Can’t Stay the Same,” I thought that was a great idea for our first song. In many ways, it’s really about psychedelics and taking acid, in Michael Pollan’s book, How to Change Your Mind, which I’m obsessed with changing, just trying to push myself and change my own behavior push myself out of my comfort zones that keep me back. But it’s also about my own view of myself or others that don’t know anything I’ve done in the past couple of years. Well, we all have permission to change.

"Working does not mean chasing an audience or chasing fame. That's not working. For me, the version of that is coming up with new concepts or new ideas musically and executing them, that's it." —@VanessaCarlton Click To Tweet

It must be so frustrating having put together such a great album. I bet you’re just itching to play these songs for a live audience.
Yeah. Releasing an album that I worked on for two years in the middle of a pandemic is really something. It’s really a rollercoaster of emotions, I must say. I’m figuring it out. We have a tour, we’re trying to reschedule for January. I have this incredible band of musicians I get to play with. Hopefully, they’ll still be able to do it in January. I don’t know. In my mind, I had these goals for the record, because every record for me, it’s this thing that’s going to chip away and help break me out of the past. I feel like the impact of the record is diminished because of the pandemic, but I’m like, that’s an incredibly selfish thing to think. There’s been so many moments where I’m like, “Am I allowed to be sad about this? I don’t think so.” Then there’s moments I’m like, “Okay, just be sad about it and then move on.” 

Yeah, I think you are. We’re dealing with a lot of students who have been here with Berklee for four years and they can’t have a real graduation ceremony. Then they’re totally bummed out about it, but then they feel guilty for being bummed out about it.
Right. Same boat, yeah.

Are you able to get some catharsis from doing what you’re doing on Instagram for your fans?
Yeah. I like to just play and sing. I think in times like this, you can tell the musicians that can just play. They could just sit and play the song. If you can’t just sit and play the song and make people feel something, or people want to like it, and people don’t want to swipe away, that’s the ultimate. We live in scroll culture now, so it’s like, “Okay, well, all right, Vaness, can you just sit and play a little bit of your songs? Piano, vocals?” That’s why I’ve started with Instagram, the IGTV, which I’m such a granny, I had to update my app before I could figure out how the fuck to do that. But people will find you and I’ll find my people. We all are just looking to connect right now.