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Carlene Carter goes her own way

By Jeffrey B. Remz, November 1995

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Carter eventually left that behind, marrying at 15, having a daughter, getting divorced, remarrying at 19, having a son.

Still interested in music, she managed to get a record deal with Warner Brothers and released "Carlene Carter" in 1978. "When I first got my record deal, I didn't know what I was doing," she said. "I didn't do about sticking in some sort of format."

She enjoyed both rock and country. "I didn't know how to combine my two selves," she said. "There are two parts of myself that certain kind of music. I'm happiest when I combine those two, the perfect combination."

"I just hadn't learned at that point," she said. " I didn't know how to combine them. I never had anybody to teach me how and to show me that it was okay. I learned my trial and error. I unfortunately made a lot of mistakes."

In fact, one of her albums was entitled "Two Sides to Every Woman."A single, "Do It in a Heartbeat," made the top 50 of the country charts.

"I didn't really know where I fit in, so how could I try to get there?" she said. "What I did get was a lot of input from managers. 'We have to go in a certain direction. We have to market you a certain way.' I was not what country wanted. They marketed me as a rock act."

After some lower-rung chart success, Carter moved to England married to Nick Lowe, the British pub rocker. "Musical Shapes" was an amalgam of musical tastes was out about 1980. She followed with "C'est C Bon," a poppish effort a few years later. She scored with a hit single, "I Couldn't Say No," a duet with Robert Ellis Orrall of Lynnfield, Mass., in 1983.

Carter also did acting, performing in the musical "Pump Boys and Dinettes" in London. Carter was not exactly playing the role of country first family scion.

"I spent years what people thought I was," she said. "That's when I stopped. I stopped because I didn't feel right. I didn't feel good, and it was getting out of hand. I had the experience of watching other people's careers. If I didn't pull back...I knew if I did another record that way, I was not going to have a career."

When her marriage failed, Carter returned to the family homestead in Madison, Tenn. She toured with her mother, June Carter and aunts Helen and Anita as the Carter Family for two years.

Upon returning to the states, she met Epstein, wrote with him and did a demo to get a record deal. "We couldn't believe it," she said. "It was so much more exciting for me the second time around. I know how precious it is."

She gained some airplay, singing a duet with country group Southern Pacific on their hit "Time's Up" in 1989.

Carter eventually made it back country-wise with "I Fell in Love" in 1990, and another single "Come on Back," both reaching the top five. The album, "I Fell in Love" made it to the top 20.

But a few other singles failed to make much of a dent on the charts.

Carter changed record labels, moving over to Giant and hit it big again a few years ago with "Every Little Thing," which also gained a lot of video play on television, from her album of the same name. But once again, follow-up singles did not have much chart action.

Carter was back on radio last year with "Something Already Gone," a single from the "Maverick" movie soundtrack.

Getting the new album out was no piece of cake either. The disc was slated to come out months ago, but Carter had to go back into the studio and record a few different songs.

"They always schedule these albums when it's totally unrealistic," she said, showing her do-it-my-way streak. "They schedule it in middle of when you have three days off to write an album. I can only do as much as I can do. It's only done when it's done. I can't give it up until I feel I can smile and go out there and talk about."

"I'd be doing them a disservice to play the calendar game and the schedule game because you can't put it out because Pam Tillis record is out that week," she said. "I don't want to live and die by that. I don't want my creativity to be ruled by a calendar. I wrote the majority of this album way before we were ready to record."

Carter recorded and tracked the album in Nashville and brought it to her Los Angeles home where she tinkered and toyed with the disc "which I don't know if anybody notices, but I do. There's a sound to it which is maybe a little bit teeny different. I just do a lot of stuff over and over and over again. I work real hard on my vocals."

" I don't think I'll ever please myself," she said. "I am a perfectionist to a certain degree, but I know when to stop too. I know you have to get on your life, and this is only one record. I don't have that hard of a time letting go of it. It's not done until it's done."

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