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Mary Chapin Carpenter Talks New Songs and Next Album

Mary Chapin Carpenter
Russ Harrington

Mary Chapin Carpenter has written a host of new songs for her next album that she plans to begin recording at the end of January. As she continues to tour behind her 2010 album ‘The Age of Miracles,’ she’s even debuting a few of the new songs that might make the final cut. Although she notes the album process is at the embryonic stage, she says she can begin to feel it taking shape.

“You know, it’s really great to be able to road test songs when you have that chance,” she tells Taste of Country. “The audiences are so great and welcoming and people are interested in hearing the new songs. It gives me a chance to get a sense of how something feels.”

The much-lauded Carpenter, who’s been awarded five Grammys and sold millions of records over the years, says that while she’d like to constantly write, the process is only “creative and fruitful” when she’s able to spend time mulling over words while writing on large legal pads.

“I envy people who can write anywhere, and I know artists that do have that power of concentration, who can wall off the world and find energy and solitude,” she says. “When I’m out [on tour] going place to place [writing isn't feasible]. I wait until I get home. I need to feel the pencil touching the paper, need to erase, and that’s something I can’t do on the computer. It’s slow, writing.”

Although many of the songs on her albums seem to be carefully crafted to flow together, Carpenter admits that such cohesiveness is not planned.

“Someone asked if it was my intention to have grand themes such as on the ‘Age of Miracles,’” she says. “For every record when you are writing the songs … you work and work and work and get in this place where you have 20-25 songs. You can feel intuitively which songs belong together and you go in the studio and the weeding process happens. You then have 12-14 songs that seem to fit together an larger themes tend to reveal themselves. It is a very exciting process.”

Not that Carpenter doesn’t enjoy performing. “When I was growing up I loved to scream and shout,” she says with a laugh. “Music has always been paramount in my life. But since I started to seriously write songs, I always needed both parts.”

Find out more about Carpenter’s music and her current tour on her official website.

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