By Kristi Kates
Mary Chapin Carpenter was in San Jose, California at the time of this
interview. And yes, shes on tour. But that doesnt mean Ms. Carpenter
isnt up for a little fun in between all of those rehearsals, gigs, and,
well, interviews like these.
We have a day off today, she says by phone, and I went to the movies
this afternoon with some bandmates to see Super 8 - it was a really great
summer film, Carpenter enthuses.
Its all about balance for the singer-songwriter, who cut her musical
teeth in the Washington DC area before signing a deal with Columbia
Records in the late 80s. She didnt truly hit the road, in the touring
sense of the word, until later; but she says that shes been fortunate to
have tuned-in supportive audiences for much of her journey to date.
That journey will include a performance this Friday, July 15 in Traverse
Citys Opera House.
CLIMBING ON THE BUS
Well, in the late 80s, I was still a local DC songwriter, she explains,
I really began touring in the 90s. That being said, it is such a
privilege to be able to still maintain a touring life, to make records, to
play out - I find out audiences to be sophisticated and generous in their
responses, and, ultimately, it is the connection I feel with them every
night that keeps us wanting to still climb on the bus and spend so much
time away from home.
With such a positive attitude, one might think that Carpenter wouldve hit
the ground running after being signed. But marketing uncertainties at
Columbia left things moving slowly at first; Carpenters first album,
Hometown Girl, got airplay, but - against Carpenters wishes - more
interest in her music was generated once the label began promoting her as
a country music performer.
MORE THAN COUNTRY
Subsequent albums proved she was more than just that, though. Carpenter
has musically experimented with everything from guitar effects to sitars,
and has included sound elements from folk and country right on through to
rock, although Carpenter herself has stayed away from the visual trappings
that accompany the genres, keeping her look simple and personal and
avoiding any country-music cliches (think big boots and big hair.)
Throughout the 90s and the 00s, she collaborated with the likes of Cyndi
Lauper, Dolly Parton, and Shawn Colvin, while her own songs were recorded
by such peers as Trisha Yearwood and Wynonna Judd; her own cover of John
Lennons Grow Old With Me would see success as a chart hit, adding to
Carpenters roster of successes and awards that would grow to include five
MIRACLES OF MUSIC
Today, shes promoting her latest album, The Age of Miracles, which was
released in April of this year; her studio work is another facet of her
life in which she works to keep the teeter-totter level and the
Working in the studio is always a combination of intense focus and
intermittent hilarity, she chuckles, you work feverishly to fulfill your
visions for the songs, and hopefully it always balances out.
The challenge, Carpenter says, is to serve the songs themselves - to
get what you want from them in a recording, she explains.
If we walk out of there feeling good, Carpenter continues, then we have
met the challenge.
Her Traverse City audience will likely be challenged a bit by her setlist
for her upcoming show at the TC Opera House, as Carpenter says she plans
to draw from albums both old and new to comprise what fans will hear
during her performance.
I play a healthy mix, she says, and some new, new songs for my next
recording. We are really looking forward to coming to Traverse City, she
continues, it is so beautiful up there, and I know the venue to be
intimate and charming. A week into this tour, the response has already
been tremendously gratifying.
Mary Chapin Carpenter will be performing at the City Opera House in
Traverse City on Friday, July 15 at
8:00 p.m. Tickets and more info via