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Carlene Carter grows "Stronger"

By Jeffrey B. Remz, March 2008

Page 3...

"We were hanging out in the same group of people," says Carter. "We became friends first. Then it was a little bit before we consummated (the relationship), another year before we got married. It's really important that we live together a year before we got married. I just really wanted this to be it, which it is. I was kind of done. I didn't really want to date or have a boyfriend or anything. He was irresistible. So cute and so funny and smart and talented. Easy on the eyes."

"Nothing's really working for us in Nashville. (Breen) wanted to build houses. We figured would move to Covelo, which is, 4 1/2 hours north of San Francisco. We just decided to take a leap of faith and just go. We (had) lived in this house for two years, and we packed everything we had and moved."

"It's a really tiny tiny town, 800 people," she says. With "Stronger," Carter is on Yep Roc, home to such acts as Nick Lowe and Jim Lauderdale.

"I've always had the umbrella of the big record company thing, but it's been really freeing to not have that because I've been able to do whatever I wanted to do. Fortunately, my money from the grave - 'Will the Circle Be Unbroken' money that I get - is what's paid for this record. I know my grandmother and my mom would be so happy for that. I've carried on my legacy by making new music that's Carter family music."

"I thought it was going to hurt too much...I wasn't sure I had the stamina to wanna boot back up. I was going to make a record that we really liked, not one that I had to worry about what the record company thought about or if there was a single or the fact that I'm not 30 years old any more or any of that bullshit. Not that I weigh 100 pounds, all of these silly things they put on you when you're in the big record company world. We're still young. We're still rocking. I wanted to do it the way I liked it...without someone breathing down our necks. We delivered it just as it is."

"Everything was pretty much the way we wanted it. That felt really good...being the master of your own creativity and destiny."

"We can't control who's going to listen to it or who's going to like it," says Carter.

Yep Roc head Glenn Dicker admits the record came his way out of the blue, or so he thought. He says he was "kind of surprised because I wasn't really thinking about her at all. I wasn't trying to convince her to make a record. The record was done more or less. They reached out to us. When I got it, I listened to it. I thought it was really good. I thought the songs were really strong."

Dicker acknowledges that unbeknownst to him, Lowe recommended Carter contact his label, Yep Roc.

Carter wastes no time in getting personal on "Stronger" with the opening song, "The Bitter End." The song talks about getting hitched at 15, a mistake.

And yes, the song is autobiographical as Carter got married when she was a teen and quickly had a child.

"You're either stupid or pregnant," says Carter, joking, about getting married as a young teen, before adding, "I was both. I really thought I was madly in love. I was very into church, and I thought I was going to go to hell."

"That song is very personal, but there's nothing in it that hasn't been publicly documented," she says laughing.

Carter goes back in time to 1980 with a remake of "I'm So Cool." The new version is very different, far less pop oriented. There are even a few different words, something Carter didn't even realize until told.

"It still flied after all these years, actually in some ways even more," says Carter. "It was never a serious song. It was completely tongue in cheek, taking the piss out of myself."

Carter says she was "thrilled" with the results. "I didn't know exactly how we were going to do it...It's more edgy. The original was only acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, drums and me, and it was all live. No overdubs or anything. It was super easy. This is a lot bigger and a lot bolder. I think it needed to be brought up to today."

She goes a bit further back than that with "It Takes One to Know Me." Carter never recorded the song, but her step dad did. Carter wrote it for Johnny Cash when she was 19 as a birthday present for him.

"It was when I first started writing. I didn't have enough money for a birthday gift...Whenever they had a party, they had a guitar pull where everyone would pass the guitar around, and you would have to sing something, or you had to tell a story. That night, I sang my song for him as a birthday present from me."

"He recorded it with mama as a duet, and we didn't even know about it until after they passed away. We didn't even know it was in the vault."

The song ended up appearing on his box set "The Legend" in 2005; then on his "Personal File" CD in 2006.

"John Carter sent it to me to put my voice on (the recording), and I got to sing with them after they had both left this world," Carter recalls. "Oh man, it was intense, and it also hadn't been that long since they'd passed away...It might've been just a year. It was hard, but it was also great - where something is so wonderful and you hurt so bad."

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