Though her fan base consists mostly of country fans, singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter makes music that blurs the line between country, folk and rock, earning comparisons to artists like Nanci Griffith, Rosanne Cash and the Indigo Girls. Born on February 21, 1958 in Princeton, N.J., Carpenter grew up in a wealthy family that loved music, and began playing acoustic guitar at an early age. As she grew up, however, her home life became more turbulent -- the family moved every few years to accommodate her father, an executive at Life magazine, and the stress eventually caused her parents to divorce. After attending the Taft School -- an exclusive private prep school in Connecticut --Carpenter traveled for a while, then attended Brown University, where she began performing at open mic nights.
When she graduated in 1981 she moved to Washington, D.C. and became a regular at local clubs, covering artists like Bonnie Raitt, Billie Holiday and James Taylor, making ends meet by working a day job in the office of a tobacco lobbyist.
By 1986 Carpenter had switched from performing covers to writing and showcasing her own songs, winning five local music awards in the process. She signed with Capitol Nashville late that year and made her debut in 1987 with Hometown Girl, which won positive reviews but didn't appeal to mainstream country radio. Carpenter kept her day job until 1989, when she signed a publishing deal with EMI and released State of the Heart, which featured the Top 10 hits "Never Had It So Good" and "Quittin' Time" and eventually went gold; Carpenter was also nominated for a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance/Female.
1990's Shooting Straight in the Dark was an even bigger smash, going platinum on the strength of its No. 1 single, "Down at the Twist and Shout" (recorded with the Cajun band Beausoleil). This time, Carpenter won the Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance/Female.
Carpenter continued to gather steam with 1992's Come On, Come On, a more mainstream country effort which went triple platinum and won three Grammys, spawning the hit single "He Thinks He'll Keep Her." 1994's Stones in the Road, a more personal, introspective effort that revisited Carpenter's folk roots, went platinum and won a Grammy for Best Country Album. 1996's A Place in the World went gold; that same year she published her first children's book, "Dreamland," profits from which were donated to the enigmatic charity "Voiceless Victims Project of the Institute for Intercultural Understanding." (Carpenter has long been involved in humanitarian causes, and in 1997 appeared at UNICEF's 50th Anniversary concert.) A second children's book, Halley Came to Jackson, based on her song of the same name, was released in late 1998.
MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER DISCOGRAPHY
1987 - Hometown Girl
1989 - State of the Heart
1990 - Shooting Straight in the Dark
1992 - Come On Come On
1994 - Stones in the Road
1996 - A Place in the World
1999 - Party Doll & Other Favorites
2001 - Time* Sex* Love*
2003 - The Essential Mary Chapin Carpenter
2004 - Between Here and Gone… Expand
Mary Chapin Carpenter's Scores