Mary Chapin Carpenter Biography
Mary Chapin Carpenter (born February 21, 1958 in Princeton, New Jersey) is a highly successful country music and folk singer-songwriter and guitarist with a diverse musical style that is sometimes said to be "unclassifable."
Carpenter, the daughter of a Life Magazine executive, spent two years in Japan as a child, moving to Washington, D.C. in 1974. She graduated in 1976 from the Taft School, a prep school in Watertown, Connecticut, and from Brown University in 1981. She began playing original music and covers in Washington's vibrant music scene in the 1980s, which gave birth to her first album, Hometown Girl, in 1987 (Columbia Records). The album was produced by Grammy-nominated guitarist and singer-songwriter John Jennings with whom she had been performing in the D.C. area and who has remained a long-time collaborator.
Carpenter has released 10 albums and has wide-ranging appeal. Her music includes often humorous fast-paced country-rock songs and slower and softer songs that often speak to social or relational issues. One of her most widely known singles is "Passionate Kisses" (written by fellow singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams), a song with a rock flavor musically and lyrics listing simple desires such as "a comfortable bed", "food to fill me up", and "time to think". Another big hit was "Down at the Twist and Shout", (named after a popular club Carpenter often performed at in Bethesda, Maryland) which she performed in January 1997 at Super Bowl XXXI in New Orleans. A number of Mary Chapin Carpenter's songs speak to women, urging them on through hard times or troubled relationships. In "He Thinks He'll Keep Her", co-composed by Carpenter and Don Schlitz on the 1992 Come On, Come On album, the singer makes the case for strength and self-respect. Another common theme in her music is that of taking life at your own pace, rather than rampant goal-driven materialism, such as "The Long Way Home" from her 2001 album Time*Sex*Love, which pokes fun at a man who "retire(s) at thirty to his big-ass house next to the putting green." The album had a different feel musically, incorporating elaborate orchestra melodies, but with the characteristic lyrical depth. Her latest album Between Here and Gone was released in 2004. Carpenter is currently working on a new album entitled "The Calling", scheduled to be released in March of 2007 by Rounder Record's rock/pop imprint Zoë.
Carpenter has won five Grammy Awards, including Best Female Country Vocal Performance for the years 1991 through 1994, and Best Country Album in 1994. In addition to her solo work, her career has included a number of collaborations with such artists as Joan Baez, Dolly Parton, and Shawn Colvin. Carpenter is also well-known as a songerwriter, writing songs for a variety of artists including friend Trisha Yearwood ("Where Are You Now") and the song "Love Goes On" as a tribute to writer Marjorie Williams, who died of cancer in 2005.
Carpenter has performed regularly on TV shows, such as Late Night with David Letterman and Austin City Limits, and at musical events across the country, including the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Telluride, Colorado. She tours frequently and has remained very loyal to her hometown of Washington, DC, returning almost every summer to perform at the popular outdoor venue Wolf Trap. Besides appearing on TV talk shows and participating in interviews, Carpenter has performed or spoken on numerous music and tribute shows.
Her lyrics have also been used for two children's books published by Harper Collins, "Halley Came to Jackson" (from the 1990 "Shooting Straight in the Dark" album) and "Dreamland." The book "Dreamland" was intended to help chilren deal with war and violence and the song appears on an accompanying lullaby collection "Till Their Eyes Shine," along with contributions from Gloria Estefan and Carole King, as well as on Carpenter's later album "Party Doll and Other Favorites."
Carpenter was married in 2002 in Virginia to a contractor, Tim Smith. They currently reside on a farm near Charlottesville, Virginia and call their home "Elysium." Throughout her career, she has actively supported various charities, including CARE and Habitat for Humanity, and has conducted fundraising concerts for such causes as the elimination of landmines.