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A Thousand Miles by Vanessa Carlton

My boyfriend/bandmate has a site called Patrick Goes Pop, where he writes about his musical adventures and reviews albums, concerts, books, and more. He asked me to talk about my favorite song for a series called My Song Story, where people share the meanings behind songs that have a special place in their memories and hearts.

I have many, many favorite songs, and every day I’m remembering and discovering more. I have a playlist called Song Biography to archive them all, and listening through it feels like traveling through time. I could write a novel on each of the 400+ songs on that playlist, but I knew there was only one perfect song for this little assignment. Here are the questions he asked, and my responses.  KM

My Song Story

What is the song and who is it by?

“A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton.

Do you remember the first time you heard it? Did you know right away it was going to be a meaningful song to you or did it grow on you?

My dad actually told me about the song first. He’d heard it at work and asked if I knew “the new piano song”. I didn’t, but I heard it on the radio a few days later and immediately knew it was the song he was talking about.

Do you remember the last time you heard it or went out of your way to listen to it?

I’m listening to it now as I’m answering these questions, but before that it’d probably been about two years. I know the song so well that if I want to listen to it, I can pretty much just think it and hear every note in my head. There was a time when it was played so much on soft rock radio that I would even skip the track when I listened to the Be Not Nobody album.

Fill in the blank: If this song came on at a bar or restaurant I would probably…

Air piano it on the table.

Do you know how to play the song and have you ever performed it?

“A Thousand Miles” is one of only a handful of songs I play every night at Howl at the Moon, whether it’s requested or not. I enjoy playing it, and it always gets a good response from the crowd. I also have fond memories of playing it for my first high school talent show audition, and in Jamie’s basement when we were trying to start a metal band together.

If you could put this song at one point in the Lifetime TV movie about you, what would it be and why? (Opening credits, coming of age scene, action sequence, love interest scene, closing credits, etc. Bonus points for creativity!)

“A Thousand Miles” definitely makes me think of grade eight, so my instinct is to put it somewhere there; maybe in a sequence that showed me waking up and going to school. But since the movie about my life wouldn’t get interesting until the end of college, I don’t think I’d give my grade school any screen time. So I think it would work better over a growing-up montage, with me playing the riff on different pianos and at different ages each time.

What is your favorite lyric (or musical moment, if instrumental) of the song and why?

My favorite lyrics are the wistful, trailing off thoughts in the bridge. “Drowning in memory” is an especially rich idea for me. It might mean deeply reliving memories, or being forgotten. I still find it intriguing to this day. My favorite musical moment is the glockenspiel chiming in the last verse.

Fill in the blank: If someone told you “I HATE ‘A Thousand Miles’” you would say…

I hate you too, Caleb.

How do you feel about other versions of the song? Do you not like hearing anything other than your favorite version or do you enjoy it regardless of who’s singing?

The original recording is absolute perfection. I’m very attached to the drums, and how the strings and guitar lines complement the piano riff. Vanessa Carlton released a live acoustic recording with guitar and strings but no piano, so it’s pointless. But any live cover version I encountered in the wild would make me smile, as long as the piano has the right bass inversions and octave leaps.

Why is this song so important to you?

“A Thousand Miles” is the song that brought me back to playing piano after I quit studying classical music. As I a kid, I took lessons at a music academy four nights a week in piano, voice, theory, and harmony. I didn’t notice if I was any good. I never won competitions, and there was always someone better in masterclass. I practiced less and less, until my parents thought I lost interest. I heard A Thousand Miles about a year after I stopped taking lessons. I printed the one-page free sample from and sat at my keyboard for hours trying to play the riff. It probably took me four hours of sweat and literal tears to master. In the grand scheme of things, that’s not very long, but it was an eternity to a “gifted” thirteen year old who had never struggled with anything before. Flash forward, it turned out to be the best time investment of my life, because it helped me rekindle a passion that’s driven me through countless other challenges in music and in life.