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Deana Carter does music her way

By Jeffrey B. Remz, March 2003

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"More than anything, it's just saying the simple things are all you need whether it's Swedish or German or American or whatever."

Carter also recorded the very country sounding "Waiting" with fellow Angeleno Dwight Yoakam.

"He lives in LA four miles from my house to be exactly. (When thinking about) the writing process I thought there are some people I want to write with. I just called him and asked him if he wanted to write. I didn't plan it on a duet until we got into the room. It just worked out that way. It's nostalgic of George Harrison and a little bit of Bread. It's kind of got kind of a classic rock feel to it."

While the first time Carter recorded with Yoakam, she had previously toured with him.

"Dwight's cool. He's a little edgier, a little different. He's revered as an icon I think."

Carter, who certainly possesses cover girl looks, gets humorous on "Cover of a Magazine," a co-write with Wendy Waldman, part of the SoCal rock community in the '70s with several albums of her own. Now she's more known for songwriting.

"I always have magazines. I'm a magazine whore. I love magazines and articles. I was writing with Wendy, and I've got these magazinesŠAll of these people are on the cover. I want to do that sometime. It's my sick fantasy to be a Cosmo cover. We were sitting and laughing. It came out as a lot of laughter from girls."

"Me and the Radio" is one of the more autobiographical songs on the album ­ "basically deciding to leave Nashville and go to LA. That one is probably the most directed at my divorce and a turning point in my life to having to make a conscious choice to move on. That song to me represents that no matter what you do for a living, all we have is music to get through certain situations. The only thing that can help you feel better or help you run 10 miles might be music. I think that song represents that."

"It's also being real honest for me as an artist and stating what my true influences are, and that is folk rock. That's an honest statement from me."

Music was in Carter's blood thanks to father Fred Carter, well known as a session musician. He played on Bob Dylan's "Nashville Skyline" and did the guitar work on Simon & Garfunkel's "The Boxer" and "Sounds of Silence." He also toured with The Band.

"Even though I grew up in Nashville, I didn't absorb the country influence as much as maybe those that weren't from here and came here and had more of that influence. For me, I could never do a country heritage show or a retro show. I don't know. It's not that I don't care or don't respect it. It just wasn't my influence."

"I didn't pick up appreciation of country music until the mid '80s when I heard Randy Travis sing," says Carter.

"It's not me trying to be a rebel at all. I had a plethora of influences. In the house every day was George Benson and the Bee Gees. All kinds of music going on. More than anything, I love the songwriters whether it was Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty. Dolly Parton. I knew as a kid who wrote and who didn't."

"That's what I gravitated to from a very early age. There's no one who loves one kind of music."

After trying but failing to get a record deal at 17, Carter opted for the University of Tennessee where she studied rehabilitation therapy. Her father gave her her first guitar when she was a senior in college.

While waiting tables at Zaney's, a Nashville comedy club, Carter learned about the art of performing. She also hit the writer's night club circuit for a few years.

Deciding that her future lay in music, she quit therapy for music, but had to do a stint of odd jobs along the way like cleaning, selling china door to door and temp work.

Thanks to hearing a demo, Willie Nelson gave Carter her first break by signing her up to perform at Farm Aid 1994 without any music out.

Carter hooked up with Capitol. Label head Jimmy Bowen produced and "Did I Shave My Legs For This?" was released in Europe in 1994, but not the U.S.

The next year, Scott Hendricks took over at Liberty and had Carter remake the album under producer Farren, but the disc wasn't out until September 1996.

Tthe first single, "Strawberry Wine," may have been a career song. The simple, laid back song with sweet singing from Carter is a slice of life about a first romance.

It turned into a huge hit, but it wasn't necessarily meant to be. Label execs weren't so sure about releasing the song as the first single. "I've Loved Enough to Know" was going to be the first single until a tour of radio stations by Carter had programmers asking for "Strawberry Wine."

Two weeks before the release of the first single, a fortuitous change was made. "At the time that record came out, it was pretty left field," says Carter. "It was off the radar for what people had been programmed to listen to."

Carter followed that up with the hits "We Danced Anyway" and the title cut "Did I Shave My Legs For This?," which the label wasn't always so wild about as the title.

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