Even though she’d released three albums, Vanessa Carlton — with only a single worldwide smash to her credit, 2002’s “A Thousand Miles” — was teetering on one-hit-wonder status. That should quickly change with her fourth effort, “Rabbits on the Run,” a whimsical, chime-chorded masterpiece she recorded in analog with English producer Steve Osborne at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios outside of Bath. From the opening “Carousel” to “London,” “Hear The Bells” and the neo-feminist anthem “I Don’t Want to Be a Bride,” every track is a potential chart-topper. And Carlton — who plays San Francisco tonight — thinks it’s her best work since her pre-debut demos.
What changes have you experienced? A very important change occurred in terms of my approach to making music, which led to a lot of other changes as well. And I think it came out of not being productive anymore, and feeling dishonest with my own approach and my own work. I was feeling like there was something inauthentic about it, and I was losing touch with what I needed to be doing. So I just sat for a couple of years and started listening, paying attention again.
What did you discover? That I had pretty severe writer’s block! I was still writing instrumental music, scoring ideas for phantom films that don’t exist. But I was traveling a lot to the U.K. — just traveling a lot, period, every two weeks, and living like a gypsy. But that led me to figuring out the plot for this record, and the gate-opener was this song “London” that broke the writer’s block.
Hasn’t K.T. Tunstall been raving about “Rabbits” for months now? K.T. is one of my friends — she’s a complete badass, and just a lovely, inspiring person. So I was staying with her on her little hobbit farm in Britain, and she had a bonfire party. And I realized the night before that the producer I was gonna hunt down was Steve Osborne. But then he serendipitously showed up at K.T.’s party! And I was totally drunk — I’d made my infamous raspberry-infused vodka drinks that are way too strong, so I ended up spitting out all my album ideas to him in a very inarticulate way. But Steve was just a wizard — he starts moving knobs, and it’s like he’s opening doorways into other dimensions.
“I Don’t Want To Be A Bride” should be huge, right? We’ve all heard songs about getting married. But I felt very differently, and I’d never heard my perspective represented before. So I had 12 pages of typed lyrics for “Bride” — it was a real struggle. But I’m grateful for the time I devoted to making it right.
IF YOU GO
When: Tonight, 8 p.m.
Where: The Swedish Hall, 2174 Market St., San Francisco