By Sydney Hancock–

There’s no denying that instinctive foot tapping, humming, whistling or singing that begins the moment we hear the piano interlude to Vanessa Carlton’s hit “A Thousand Miles.” It’s a tune nearly every millennial knows and it’s one we can’t help but jam along to.

Although most of us know Carlton by her epic “A Thousand Miles” song, she’s a successful artist with a career that began in 1998. After interviewing Carlton over the phone, I quickly learned the star has much more to her than her 2001 hit.

For starters, Carlton went to college, not for music, but for ballet. She attended college in New York anticipating a career in dancing, however, she realized that career wasn’t going to work out as she had hoped.

She then turned to singing and began performing in clubs in New York by age 16. Although it may seem like Carlton made a huge transition, she actually had a significant background of singing, so the change was nothing too foreign. According to Carlton, her mother was a pianist and Carlton grew up singing and performing with her. Carlton told me once she realized dancing wasn’t going to work out, she “retreated back into herself.”

Singing was practically second nature to Carlton. She experienced instant success with her first publishing deal by age eighteen and her hit “A Thousand Miles” was released by 2001. Since Carlton was so young at the start of her career, she’s had a lot of experience, change and growth.

Since she was young, she said she was more vulnerable to the “big storm,” referring to the different record labels and producers she experimented with at the beginning of her career.

Now that she’s older and more experienced, she’s “out of the machine” and “started over.” Her current music differs vastly because she’s more individualistic.

“I honed in on the concept of my sound,” she said.

After learning how Carlton escaped the conveyor belt mentality of music labels, I asked her what advice she had for college students. Carlton answered by explaining life is all about taking risks. She advises to take life “day by day” and to stay curious. Carlton said we should always follow our instincts and produce work that “reflects ourselves.”

Carlton is on tour and will be performing at Zanzabar on March 30.