Vanessa Carlton

If it weren’t for a definite twist of fate, the industry may have never heard the name or music of singer/songwriter Vanessa Carlton. At an age when most 22-year-olds are trying to pick a college major, the Pennsylvania-born artist has essentially taken the music world by storm.

It was during Carlton’s studies at the School of American Ballet in New York that the classically trained pianist turned to music and songwriting to express her frustrations over the intense pressure and competition that is part of a dancer’s life, changing the course of history, so to speak.

After graduation, she worked as a waitress in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen and road-tested her songs on the New York club circuit, where she eventually met her manager, Peter Malkin.

“I guess I was in the midst of signing a publishing deal. I didn’t have a manager for a long time; I was kind of dreading the decision, so I didn’t get it together,” Carlton told POLLSTAR. “And then I met Peter. He would come to my shows, he was so tenacious, but he gave me my space at the same time. I guess I just liked his whole vibe.”

Malkin liked her vibe as well, which led to many meetings with the singer and her father about the future. Carlton’s music, piano backed by a full orchestra, blends classical, pop and other influences in a way that is fresh, human and distinctly her own.

“I got a demo from her attorney, Nick Ferrara, almost two years ago. I just fell in love with it immediately, and told him I had to meet this artist, Vanessa,” Malkin told POLLSTAR. “It’s been building and shooting up for a straight year now. … To see the reaction all over the world, this is what a manager lives for.”

Since the release of her now-platinum A&M Records debut, Be Not Nobody, in March, Carlton has been on MTV’s “Total Request Live,” toured with the Goo Goo Dolls and Third Eye Blind, taken her act to Japan, played the prestigious Bridge School Benefit organized by Neil Young, launched a solo tour and been asked to perform at an Elton John tribute next year.

“Japan was unbelievable. I was able to kind of try (out) my tour on the audience, and they were so responsive … and it felt so good,” Carlton said. “Every time I’ve gone to Japan I’ve done promotion, but to go there to do a show … to me, it all comes to life.”

“It’s a great show and I’m so proud of it. Just to be able to share it with the fans makes it worthwhile.”

Vanessa Carlton

The show was a definite hit with the Bridge School crowd, Malkin said. Before taking the stage, the breakout star was introduced by Young an artist Carlton said she would love to sing backup for.

“When you get your peers and respected idols like Neil Young and Elton John asking you to play events, that, I think, is the most rewarding for her,” Malkin said.

The fact that Be Not Nobody has gone platinum is even more significant in that Carlton was co-executive producer on the album with Ron Fair, giving her the opportunity to learn the process from start to finish.

“It was quite an experience and I learned a lot. You see, this is my music, they’re my children, these songs. I don’t think there’s ever going to be a point in my career when I’ll hand over this material and just allow someone to have their way with it,” Carlton said. “I do see myself being partners with other musicians and artists with unique perspectives. It couldn’t have gone any other way.”

While the songstress’ focus is on the current tour, which ends mid-December, and recording her next album, Malkin said there are plans for Carlton to take a well-earned break before starting a 16-date European club tour in late January.

Carlton may have also discovered a new career passion while learning the tricks of the trade, acting. Her recent video for “Pretty Baby” included a lot of acting that she said was a “blast” since she loves being on camera.

“I believe it’s harder and harder these days … to develop a career artist, but I think if anyone can do it, [Vanessa] can,” Malkin said. “She’s a true artist. She’s a ballerina, she has acting aspirations. I think that’s how you build the longevity.”

Carlton and Malkin are as one in that way of thinking. The singer may be enjoying the accolades she’s earning but she’s not letting it go to her head.

“It’s amazing. I kind of have to pinch myself every now and then. I’m a very lucky girl,” Carlton said. “Although I’ve worked very hard, you’re not really ensured this kind of run.

“I understand and see everything for what it is. I don’t have much interest in being a celebrity, but I do have a huge priority to grow as a musician and an artist, and remaining creatively provocative to people.”