Born Deana Kay Carter on January 4, 1966, in Goodlettsville, TN. Education: University of Tennessee. Addresses: Record company-Capitol Records, 810 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019; Fan Club-DKC Fan Club, P.O. Box 559, Hermitage, TN 37076-0559.
Minneapolis Star-Tribune reporter Bruce Fuller asks, "What music coming out of Nashville these days seems suitable for early mornings with a cup of expectations, for twilight on a doubtful summer evening, for that midnight hour between disappointment and dreams?" The answer? The real, honest, bare-footed performer, Deana Carter. From her bittersweet, "Strawberry Wine" to her ironic "Did I Shave My Legs For This?" Carter burst onto the country music scene in 1996, just as her Dad nicknamed her, with a "Little Bit of Sunshine."
Deana Kay Carter was born on January 4, 1966 in Goodlettsville, Tennessee. Named after famous crooner, Dean Martin, Carter and her two brothers, Ronnie and Jeff were raised by their practical mother Anna, a homemaker, and their musician father, Fred Carter, Jr. Carter told People magazine that "there was always music in our house. At family gatherings, you either found a harmony part or washed dishes. I chose the harmony part." Carter also recalled working for Nugget, her Dad's record label: "I lived in that place, packing 45s and labeling them in the back room with my brothers and my mom. It's just something I love." As Carter saw her father become a studio musician legend-playing guitar on, according to Carter's website, "over 90% of all recording sessions in Nashville" throughout the 1960s and 1970s, including Roy Orbison, Simon & Garfunkel, and Elvis Presley-she too longed for a career in music. At age 17, Carter tried to land a record deal, but failed. Carter told Country Standard Time reporter Robert Loy that, "it didn't work out because I wasn't ready. Plain and simple at 17 you've just haven't lived enough."
Carter began "living enough" by attending the University of Tennessee where she earned a degree in Rehabilitation Therapy. After working a year and half with stroke and head injury patients, however, she quit. As she told Loy, "It just broke my heart everyday. I had a couple patients that died." Carter told People, "I don't take death well." Thus, she fell back into music by playing in Nashville clubs, but supported herself and paid back her student loans through waitressing and other odd jobs.
In 1991, Carter landed her first record deal with Capitol; however, her first album was only released in Europe. Soon after, as she remembered in People, "I was dropped, picked up and dropped again [by Capitol]. I just wrote more songs." As Loy wrote, Carter "made a difficult task [songwriting] even harder by refusing to settle for writing anything less than the perfect, definitive song." Carter further told Loy, "I wanted to write a song that was credible enough to have depth and meaning . I ended up sabotaging myself cuz I was trying to write deep, murky, dark stuff, trying to be creative-which means I was just faking it. And it doesn't resonate if it's not real."
By the middle 1990s, Carter's career and personal life took an up turn. In 1994, Carter finally received her big break. After hearing her demo tape, Willie Nelson invited her to sing at Farm Aid-the only solo woman to perform that year. In 1995, Carter wed musician and video art director, Chris DiCroce. That year she also resigned with Capitol records, even though she was 45 minutes late to her audition with Capitol's president Jimmy Bowen. Bowen seemed not to notice Carter's tardiness because, "he was screaming and cussing on the phone with Tanya Tucker's dad." Carter, with just a guitar, played Bowen a song-in between his refusing to take phone calls-and Carter recalled, "he liked it, but needed time." Carter knew that Bowen had worked with her father, and as she told Country Spotlight's Elianne Halbersberg, "at least his credibility was impeccable," so she brazenly told Bowen, "You need to decide today because I'm not taking a phone call." Bowen said, "I guess we got a deal."
In 1996, Capitol released Carter's debut album, Did I Shave My Legs For This? Carter's imprint on the album went beyond her singing. She co-wrote six of the album's songs, and was the inspiration behind its unusual 3D-hologram cover art. As she told Atlanta Journal reporter Miriam Longino, "country music honestly has the most boring album covers I thought, 'Let's broaden our horizons a little bit. Let's try a new idea.'" However, there was some indecision on what should be the first single. Capitol had planned to release "I've Loved Enough to Know," but Carter, playing showcase concerts for radio stations, received a stronger reaction from radio programmers with another song, "Strawberry Wine." Programmers told Carter, as she recalled to Los Angeles Times reporter Michael McCall, "Why are you trying to introduce yourself slowly to radio? Why not come out with that killer song?" But Carter felt that her killer song would not get support from Capitol. "They're never going to go for it," she told McCall. "The fears were: It's a waltz, the subject matter of the song, and, as a first single, it being a slow song For a new artist and the first single, it was swan diving." Capitol eventually did go for it and "Strawberry Wine" was released. Reviewing a concert in support of Did I Shave My Legs For This? Los Angeles Times reporter Robert Hilburn wrote that Carter "injects a song with the seemingly natural intimacy that is sometimes hard to spot in the entertainment-conscious razzle-dazzle of the pop and country worlds." Thus, "Strawberry Wine," became Carter's breakthrough hit. In 1997, Carter and "Strawberry Wine" received the Country Music Association's (CMA) award for Song and Single of the Year.
Carter's next single was the album's title tune, a song that Halbersberg described as "the result of a gripe session over her philandering, freeloading ex-boyfriend, whom she supported for almost two years by working three jobs." Thus, "Did I Shave My Legs For This?"-a funny rant about a man's total ignorance of his wife's attempt to grab his attention-showed Carter's ability to not only sing bittersweet melancholy, but also playful irony. However, Carter told McCall that, "Music is a very serious business with me. It's something I hold up high and respect. If I'm writing a funny song or a parody, it still has to hold weight and have credibility. You can have fun with what you're doing, but don't let the music suffer."
Carter's success continued in 1998 with the release of her second album, Everything's Gonna Be Alright. The title song, written in 1971 by Carter's father for his sister who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, is "a message that I think can make a difference in people's lives. It offers a bright ray of hope." Carter has remained, as country.com's Shannon Wayne Turner stated, "adamant about maintaining personal and professional integrity, choosing to make music that reflects her own life and, she hopes, those of her listeners as well."
Everything's Gonna Be Alright spotlighted Carter's growth, both musically and lyrically. She told Country Weekly Online that "by digging a little deeper, more of my different tastes have surfaced [and] there's not one song that's alike or similar to anything else on the radio it's shedding more skin-skin I didn't know I could shed." From the title track, the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynrd influenced, "The Train Song" to the cover of 1960s singer Melanie's "Brand New Key", Everything's Gonna Be Alright again hit all the right notes with country music radio programmers and fans. Carter believes that her audience once again connected to the honesty and integrity of her music: "I never try to do music to please somebody else," she told Turner. "I just don't. I do it for the honesty and the way it comes out of me. I follow my heart, and that's just the way I live my life."
by Ann M. Schwalboski
Deana Carter's Career
Worked for father's record label Nugget before failed attempt to land a record contract at 17; signed to Capitol records in 1991, but was dropped before releasing a song; received big break when Willie Nelson invited her to sing at Farm Aid-the only solo woman to perform that year; married musician and video art director Chris DiCroce in 1995; released first album, Did I Shave My Legs For This?, Capitol Records,1996, included the hit single, "Strawberry Wine;" contributed songs to two movie soundtracks: Anastasia and Hope Floats; released second album, Everything's Gonna Be Alright,Capitol Records 1998.
Deana Carter's Awards
Country Music Association (CMA) Single of the Year, "Strawberry Wine" 1997 Country Music Television (CMT) Female Video Artist 1997
- Selected discography
- Did I Shave My Legs For This? (includes "Strawberry Wine"), Capitol, 1996.
- (Contributor) Anastasia (soundtrack), Atlantic Records, 1997.
- Everything's Gonna Be Alright (includes "Absence of the Heart"), Capitol, 1998.
- (Contributor)Hope Floats (soundtrack), Capitol, 1998.
- (Contributor)Touched By An Angel (soundtrack), Sony Music, 1998.
August 2003: Carter part ways with her record label, Arista Nashville. Source: Launch, launch.yahoo.com/read/news.asp?contentID=214355, August 14, 2003.
- Atlanta Journal-Constitution , September 21, 1997.
- Country Spotlight , January 1, 1997.
- Country Standard Time , November 1996.
- Los Angeles Times , February 2, 1997; March 15, 1997.
- Minneapolis Star-Tribune , February 9, 1997.
- People , February 24, 1997.