Carter is releasing her first regular album in five years , "I'm Just a Girl " March 18 on Arista. The disc leans more towards roots and pop. Think Sheryl Crow with country and pop influences.
And Carter, who left Nashville for Los Angeles a few years ago, thinks the new music represents exactly who she is in 2003.
"I'm so in love with this album," Carter says in a telephone interview from a Nashville hotel room. "It feels like my skin. I can say that because it's very similar to the making of the first record where I had a lot of time to work on it. What I have I had - at least three years, four years?"
That's not going to be the case forever," says Carter, joking. "I'll be 60 when the third album comes out for Arista."
"This album just represents my personality I think. This record is kind of a very ironic, humorous, sarcastic twist of what I've been through in my life."
And Carter sure has gone through a lot in recent years including a divorce from her husband Chris DiCroce and a split from Capitol Records after three albums, only one of which did boffo business.
Carter started recording the music at her own house while she was still on the Capitol roster. "I was just writing songs," she says. "We (Capitol and Carter) were kind of at the end of our relationship. We were at wit's end. I was just writing about life - about how I was feeling."
"I wasn't worried about whether it was pop or country or (about) marketing," Carter says.
Carter seems to have a good amount of angst regarding Capitol. "Our feelings for each other weren't great at the time," she says. "I was trying to get somebody to fall in love with me. Every song I gave them, they turned down. They sent me a very clear message that they weren't into what I was into."
"I just think with so many executive changes there, I don't think they knew who I was," Carter says. She says she went through 5 label heads in 10 years there.
"I think they thought I was this chick singer who had hits, but didn't write the songs. They didn't take inventory on my artistry and my production and the whole thing. I'm the whole ball of wax. They didn't appreciate it to be honest with you?"
"What else am I going to do?" she asks. "I'm a songwriter/producer. I'm just going to keep doing that."
"When they turned down half this record, which was an honest place in my life, I knew it was time to move on. I wasn't willing to compromise my artistry." Capitol could not be reached for comment.
Carter worked out a deal to leave Capitol, though she did not supply the details. And, in turn, Arista quickly came on the scene and signed her to a deal.
"They needed to do the right thing at the end of the day," Carter says of Capitol. "They made it tough for me to get out in a way, but they knew it was the right thing to do. They were kind of bullying a little bit. My managers were like 'Come on. This is not a win win situation for anybody.'"
Carter credits RCA (the parent label of Arista) head Joe Galante with helping in the deal.
"It's all kissy face now," Carter says of her relationship with Capitol.
"The ironic thing is that Capitol will probably make some money off a record they didn't believe in," Carter says. "But to me, it's worth it. Fine. It's worth it to be in a label that believes in me."
Carter, who produced, received help from Dann Huff. He tends to add a more rock-based sound to the music he produces. "He called me and said 'if I could ever work with you, it'd be great.' I said, 'what are you doing tomorrow?'"
"I had been over a year working on these tracks, so he came in and helped me with the new stuff. It's collaboration for sure."
"The first record I did with Chris Farren," Carter says. "I did a lot of that (production), but never got credit for it, which was unfair. This time around, I want to take the credit."
The new disc starts with the catchy, pop-oriented title track, which Carter co-wrote with Billy Mann, who had a short recording career with A&M in the ' 90s. The song talks about going around the world to see life abroad, but when it comes down to it, the viewpoint is one of a simple girl seeking the life's basic pleasures.
"It's so ironic that Billy and I wrote it in '99 and all the American references (apple pie, Chevrolet) took on meaning for us obviously. I'm proud of the honesty in this record in general. It's just making a statement about me and how I feel about myself, and you just need to be yourself."