This story is featured in the March 8 print issue of CityBeat.
“A Thousand Miles” was everywhere in 2002, an era when MTV and radio still held the keys to the kingdom. For better or worse, Vanessa Carlton’s cortex-sticking phenomenon — marked by that catchy opening piano riff — transformed her from an unknown 22-year-old singer/songwriter/pianist into a ubiquitous presence, informing nearly everything that has happened to her since.
The Pennsylvania native was a student at the School of American Ballet when she discovered that music was better fit for her ambitions. Carlton saw herself in the artistically adventurous Fiona Apple mold, but industry expectations infected her experience after “A Thousand Miles” — they wanted more of the same, while she was over it.
“My husband describes it as lighting in a bottle,” Carlton told Billboard in a 2022 interview. “I look at her [the song] like she’s a beast, you know she is of me, but also separate from me. And I think the way that I look at the song now is as a miraculous moment in time. I know so many great songwriters who have written amazing songs that people won’t hear, so I actually think [“A Thousand Miles”] is sort of a miracle.”
That’s not to say Carlton has been silent since — she’s released six studio albums over the last 20 years, each delivering her accessible brand of introspective, piano- driven pop. Her most recent effort, 2020’s Love Is an Art, dropped just as the pandemic shut everything down. But now, five years since her last live show, she is ready to hit the road again for what she’s calling the “Future Pain Tour,” which is a reference to a song in which she repeatedly admits, “I’ve got nothing to lose and nothing to gain but future pain.”
Carlton announced the tour with this brief message on her website: “Things that I know for sure: Life is pain. Life is joy. It is hard to be a human being. Music is medicine. I like to get lost in a song. Let’s get lost together. See ya at the show!”