Mary Chapin Carpenter Tickets for Sale

Mary Chapin Carpenter was part of a small movement of folk-influenced country singer/songwriters of the late '80s. Although many of these performers never achieved commercial success, Carpenter was able to channel her anti-Nashville approach into chart success and industry awards by the early '90s.

Carpenter was born and raised in Princeton, NJ, the daughter of a Life magazine executive; she spent two years of her childhood in Japan, where her father was launching the Asian edition of Life. During the folk explosion of the early '60s, her mother had begun to play guitar. When Mary became interested in music as a child, her mother gave her a guitar. Carpenter played music during her high-school years, but she didn't actively pursue it as a career. In 1974, her family moved to Washington, D.C., where she became involved in the city's folk music scene. After graduating from high school in the mid-'70s, she spent a year traveling Europe; when she was finished, she enrolled at Brown University, where she was an American civilization major.

Following her college graduation, she became deeply involved in the Washington-area folk scene, performing a mixture of originals, contemporary singer/songwriter material, and pop covers. Carpenter met guitarist John Jennings during the early '80s and the pair began performing together. Eventually, they made a demo tape of their songs, which they sold at their concerts. The tape wound up at Columbia Records, which offered Carpenter an audition. By early 1987, the label had signed her as a recording artist. Her first album, Hometown Girl, was released that year.

Island, Carpenter deferred college for a year following her high school graduation in order to travel. Around the time of her freshmen term at Brown in 1976, Carpenter, at the urging of her father, began performing at open-mike nights in Washington-area clubs. As she recalled in an interview with Richard Harrington of the Washington Post (June 1, 1989), her first public performance was an uncomfortable experience. "I got a really nice response," she told Harrington, "and I couldn't even talk between songs because I thought I was going to barf." Despite her continuing stage fright, she performed at the campus coffeehouse at Brown, and during summer vacations from school, she became a popular regular on Washington's thriving acoustic-music scene.
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After graduating from Brown in 1981 with a B.A. degree in American civilization, Carpenter returned to Washington, D.C., where she soon became a fixture on the bar circuit, covering songs by such well-known performers as Bonnie Raitt, Billie Holiday, and James Taylor, but late nights and hard drinking soon wore her down. "I had a big problem," she admitted to Rolling Stone (March 21, 1991) reporter Eliza Wing. "It's still so painful to me to think about how I was." Carpenter made the necessary change in 1983, when she took a job in Washington as an administrative assistant with the R. J. Reynolds philanthropic organization, which was involved in human rights issues in Central America and South Africa. The steady paycheck allowed her to cut down on performing and to take better care of herself, so that she was able to concentrate on her writing. Eventually, she began to slip some of her own numbers in among the popular cover songs she sang in her shows.

Carpenter quickly gained a reputation as a talented songwriter, and at the 1986 Washington Area Music Awards (known as the Wammies), she won five Wammies, including best new artist and best songwriter. The awards convinced her that she might have a successful career in the music business. "I started to have a bit of a sense that, 'Gosh, I'd like to think of myself as a singer/songwriter. I think it's okay,'" she has said. In November 1986 Carpenter was close to signing a record deal with Rounder Records, an independent folk-music label, when Gary Oelze, the owner of Carpenter's musical home, the Birchmere Club, in the Washington suburb of Alexandria, Virginia, told Larry Hamby, an executive with Columbia Records, about Carpenter and her imminent agreement with Rounder Records. Hamby flew to Washington the same day, took in Carpenter's show, and listened to a tape she had made to sell at her concerts. The next day, he offered her a contract with Columbia Nashville, the label's country music division.

The demo tape that had caught Hamby's attention became Carpenter's first album, Hometown Girl. Released in the summer of 1987, it was comprised mostly of ballads that averaged five minutes in length. The album sold only about twenty thousand copies in its initial release, but it enjoyed considerable critical success. The country music critic Robert K. Oermann, in an article in the Tennessean, hailed her as "one of the great songwriting discoveries of 1987", and he included Hometown Girl on his list of best country records of the year. Carpenter also took home five Wammies in 1987, including artist of the year, best vocalist (country and folk), and best songwriter.

Despite her success, Carpenter continue to work at R. J. Reynolds, touring only on weekends and during arranged time off. It was not until May 1989, when she negotiated an agreement between her own GETAREALJOB Music and EMI/SBK Music to public her songs that she devoted herself to music full-time. "For me it was more of a validation than signing my record contract," she told Judith Bell of ELLE (November 1990), referring to the publishing deal. "It was somebody saying, 'We believe in you as a songwriter.' I never expected to receive acknowledgment for my writing." In 1989 she again dominated the Wammies, picking up eight awards.
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