On the road with Mary Chapin CarpenterWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary Chapin Carpenter has sung about “The Dreaming Road,” “Stones in the Road” and how “A Road Is Just a Road.”
She’s taken the “Long Way Home” and on “The Way I Feel” expressed: “Nothing like this empty road/ To take some trouble off my mind… / When I’m all alone on a midnight highway/ There’s nothing like two hands on the wheel…”
The singer-songwriter likes to be in the driver’s seat.
“I find driving to be very meditative,” Carpenter said. “I like to listen to music in the car and turn it up really loud and sing along. I think it’s a good tool.”
For 2012’s “Ashes and Roses” disc, the musician penned “I Tried Going West”: “Back on the road with the radio up/ Singing at the top my lungs/ Driving and crying and driving some more/ Oh the South is a good place to hide/ Hot nights, cold beer and creaky screen doors.”
Some encounter enormous detours during their travels. Carpenter suffered a life-threatening pulmonary embolism in 2007, then her marriage ended, and her father died in 2011.
“[‘Ashes and Roses’] was a very personal record, but, to me, I don’t know what else I would have written about,” she said during a call from her Virginia home.
“Loss and grief and divorce and all that stuff that goes along with those things, you don’t just figure them out and then move on; they’re a part of you. And it’s more about how you learn how you navigate the world after the fact. And I think that’s still going on for me, and I expect it to go on for quite a while.”
But there is some light.
“I think the record has a narrative arc to it, which, about halfway through, things start to shift a little bit and that to me mirrors what life is like. You have these awful things that happen to you at one time or another and you go through them,” Carpenter said.
“And one day or ever so gradually, you do feel this intuitive thing that you’re getting past something. And it’s not like a big kaboom goes off, but I think the gradual sort of awakening to it is very true.”
Over the years, Carpenter’s expressions have ranged from poetic to humorous to heartfelt. That was recognized in October when she was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Hits that she wrote include “Down at the Twist and Shout,” “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her,” “I Take My Chances,” “I Feel Lucky” and “Shut Up and Kiss Me.”
“I just can’t believe that I got in,” she said of the honor. “It’s the coolest thing that’s ever happened.”
These days, the five-time Grammy Award winner is hitting the road with longtime friend Shawn Colvin. Carpenter called the tour “freewheeling.”
“We share the stage for a couple of hours and like to imagine that it’s very informal and off the cuff, and we kind of go wherever we want to go conversationally, and we play the songs of each other’s and other artists that we’ve grown up revering and just have a fine old time,” she said.
“We’ve played on each other’s records and appeared in each other’s videos, and we’ve traveled the world together as artists, but we just had never done this very sort of personal collaboration where it’s just us. And it’s been extraordinarily fun.”
Carpenter and Colvin will perform an acoustic show at 7:30 p.m. May 21 at the University of Michigan’s Power Center for the Performing Arts in Ann Arbor. Tickets range from $30 to $60.