Grammy nominated and Country Music Association award winner Deana Carter will be in concert at Allerton Park and Retreat Center this Friday in the Allerton Meadow. Leading off the evening will be The Barefoot Movement at 6 p.m., followed by Carter at 8 p.m. An afterglow featuring acoustic songs by Lindee Cavalier follows at 10 p.m. in the park’s Gate House Lawn, 515 Old Timber Rd. near Monticello.
Carter is known for her recording of “Strawberry Wine,” which earned her a CMA song of the year award. It was part of her wildly-successful debut 1996 debut album, “Did I Shave My Legs for This,” which resulted in three Grammy nominations.
The Journal-Republican had a chance to interview the Nashville native, who talked about her songwriting success, classic rock roots and the trouble people have pronouncing her name correctly.
J-R: Are you looking forward to the Allerton venue?
Deana Carter: “Absolutely. I’ve heard great things about it. It looks fabulous on the website. It’s a great time of year to come. It’s always nice to be in middle America and close to home.”
J-R: Country music is so wide-ranging with so may sub-genres right now. Do you have a genre you identify with? It’s hard to categorize things as just country anymore.
Carter: “We were actually one of the first new (country) artists to come out with a rock vibe. Our records were more tame, but at our live shows we always had lava lamps and incense, and I was the first one to do Persian rugs on the stage. All of that stuff, no one was doing that. I was playing electric guitar, and no other girls were doing that.
“I was a huge classic rock fan. The vibe at the time was very progressive, I mean the bridge on “Strawberry Wine” is very Beatles-esque.
We put little things in that weren’t happening at the time. So I want to make sure our live shows are a hyperextension of the musicality I love, the rock shows that I love.”
J-R: So, what were some of those classic rock people you enjoyed growing up, if that was your background?
Carter: “I mean, I loved Skynard. They played on my second record, we had them come in and sing with me. I’m hugely influenced by Journey. Bread, AC/DC, and Boston and Queen. The Bee Gees were a huge influence on me. I mean, I’m a kid of the ‘70s and high school and college in the ‘80s, so it was that era. Growing up in Nashville there was country music around for sure, but me and my friends at school were listening a lot more to the rock stuff. That’s why it’s such a natural progression for me.”
J-R: With that background, how did you become a country artist?
Carter: “Originally I was signed as an alternative artist with Liberty (Records), which was sort of a branch with Willy (Nelson). Now it would be called Americana. When they nixed Liberty, they just folded us all into the same brand under Capitol, and we re-recorded and geared the sound to be more towards country radio, but still retaining individuality.”
J-R: I’m hearing rock bands and lava lamps. It’s sounds kind of hippie-esque.
Carter: “Oh, it was.”
J-R: So, are you a closet hippie? If so, are you still one?
Carter: “Now it’s so ‘in’ to have the bolero hats and the macrame tops and holey jeans, and all that stuff. We were doing that, but I don’t think it was really being a hippie. I think it was just unpolished. There was a chic element, but it was just comfortable. It was just a little more down-to-earth and organic.
J-R: Do you still play barefoot on stage?
Carter: “I don’t (laughs). After a few mishaps of stepping in things, getting some splinters on stage, and honestly the need to be careful, I started wearing shoes.”
J-R: I know you are also a noted song writer. Are there favorites you have written, even if you did not perform them?
Carter: “‘You and Tequila’ would probably be one of those top notch ones, as far as it was such a shock that it was such a hit for Kenny Chesney. It was written for my record, ‘I’m Just a Girl’ in 2003, and there is a version somewhere that I had done. But when he recorded it, he said it helped him get through a breakup. Just the imagery and stuff. Being able to write that with Matraca (Berg) was tremendous. We’ve got a big history. But you never see it (a hit) coming. When it’s just really honest, and you’re just speaking the truth, just writing very humbly and honestly, you’re not even trying that hard. I mean you’re trying to make it good, but those are easy.
“The NSAI, the Nashville Songwriters Association (International) voted it one of the songs they wish they had written, and that was like winning an Oscar for us, for the songwriting community to acknowledge us and give us that award, it was really special.”
J-R: When you write a song, when it comes quickly, do you see that as a good sign?
Carter: “I think so. I have a thing about if we don’t finish it in one session, I’m not one to go back. I’ll tweak and make small changes, but the most honest things are the most fluid.”
J-R: Would you rather be remembered as a songwriter or a performer?
Carter: “It’s funny. My husband asks me this all the time: ‘Would you rather have a song that won a Grammy that someone else sang, or would you rather have the Grammy for a song you didn’t write?’ And it’s always sort of a tough call, because either one can just be a beautiful thing. Neither one is a bad choice. I guess songwriting is good for longevity and your income, so in the long run would probably be the better option; but it’s also just beautiful to be able to connect to an audience as an artist and deliver a message that is heartfelt and connected and real and honest and all that.
“I’d love to have a Grammy for song that I wrote and sang, so hopefully that’s somewhere here down the road!”
J-R: Outside of music, what do you enjoy?
Carter: “I love remodeling, I love home design, I love health and fitness. I’m constantly scrolling through new vitamins and how to stay young. So health and wellness is huge on my list, and home renovation, alternative ways of living and saving energy. I like lifestyle stuff. Those are big deals.”
J-R. Do you have anything else to add?
Carter: “Thank you for saying my name right, and spelling my name right. You’d think after 25 years people would know it’s DEAN-uh, and you have my total permission to phonetically write it out that way in the article.”
Tickets for Prairie Sky are still available at www.allerton.illinois.edu.