As the Oct. 9 release date for her third album, "Heroes & Thieves," approaches, singer/songwriter Vanessa Carlton has inked with a surprising label: hip-hop music entrepreneur Irv "Gotti" Lorenzo's the Inc.

"I think Irv is a fantastic A&R man, and he really can't contain his excitement," Carlton says. "He has like, no filter, when it comes to expressing himself, and I thought that unbounded energy was so appealing. He's a fantastic music executive. They're hard to find. So, I took the step."

It's an important step for Carlton, whose 2002 platinum debut "Be Not Nobody" was followed by the critically acclaimed but commercially disappointing 2004 A&M effort "Harmonium." The 26-year-old artist says "Heroes & Thieves," which was completely written before she joined the Inc., was produced by Third Eye Blind's Stephan Jenkins and includes a few songs she co-wrote with Linda Perry. The first single, "Nolita Fairytale," goes to radio in early July.

"It's a pretty uplifting album with a lot of layers going on in," Carlton says. "[There are] very complex arrangements but everything just makes me feel good and not in a simplistic way. It's the most honest album I ever made, and it's the only record I've made that I really look at as a body of work as opposed to a bunch of songs put together. I think that shows. It really does feel like a real album."

Currently, Carlton is opening a few dates for Stevie Nicks, with a large club or small theater tour planned this fall to coincide with the release of "Heroes & Thieves." Already getting stage time is the upbeat "Nolita Fairytale," the mid-tempo "Spring Street" and the ballad "Home," which Carlton hints could be the second single.

Having experienced the ups and downs of the music industry over the past five years, Carlton feels as though she's finally catching up to her career.

"I feel like I have more of the tools to be in charge of my own career," Carlton says. "I think I'm at that spot. I was there at the last record, but I feel like I have a much more clear vision of who I am and where I want to go. Clarity brings a lot of energy and power. I'm excited about that."