The Hippo


Jul 24, 2019








Mary Chapin Carpenter. Courtesy photo.

Concert for the Cause with Mary Chapin Carpenter with Tift Merritt

When: Sunday, Oct. 26, at 8 p.m.
Where: Lebanon Opera House, 51 North Park St., Lebanon
Tickets: $42.50, $75 VIP through Child and Family Services of New Hampshire; call 518-4156 for more info.

For the cause
Mary Chapin Carpenter performs benefit show

By Michael Witthaus

Songs From the Movie fulfilled a longtime wish for Mary Chapin Carpenter. Released last January, the album reinvents a carefully chosen batch of her songs as the soundtrack of an imaginary movie. She spent most of this year performing it with symphonies across the world, most recently at London’s Royal Albert Hall. 

Carpenter shifts gears with an intimate trio tour that will appear at Child & Family Services of New Hampshire’s Concert for the Cause on Sunday, Oct. 26, at the Lebanon Opera House. 
“It is very special,” she said of the charity event. “I am happy to lend my name to such a wonderful cause.”
The singer-songwriter spoke with the Hippo from California as she prepared to play a rare two-night stand at Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage music club. 
After a year of touring, you’ve probably spent lots of time discussing Songs From the Movie.
I love the project so much; I don’t think I’ll ever be tired of talking about it. Because it has been life-transforming — it’s a joyful, wonderful thing.  
Now you’re appearing with a trio — is the transition challenging? 
I really love the sense of one day you’re doing something, and a few days later something very different on the spectrum. It feels really energizing and liberating to be nimble that way. To … just parachute in and do something different. 
You’re playing a very intimate show at a small club tonight. 
It’s smaller than we typically play [but] because of the nature of this show it just becomes intimate, even though you may be in a much larger space.  It just invites this quiet, small, lots of stories — the stripped down nature of the music … even in a large space, the show you are trying to present [is] like playing in a living room. 
You’re on the road with Tift Merritt.  
My dear friend Tift! She and I started touring together about four years ago, all over England, and since then the U.S. for a couple of tours. Now we’re back together in this incarnation. 
Will there be collaborations?   
Oh yes. We just met up three days ago, so we haven’t yet had time to set some songs aside for just her and me, but that is certainly the plan. We’ve done it before.
The new album draws from lesser-known songs; what was the selection process? 
I always felt that if this album were to come to fruition, the songs I wanted most of all were real listener-intensive ... it really demanded lyric-driven story songs [that] lent themselves to this treatment by my amazing collaborator, Vince Mendoza. I wanted them to be these cinematic renderings. … I wrote a master list of 30 songs [for] Vince and my co-producer Matt Rollings, then we all retreated to our corner and picked our candidates [and] talked it out as to which songs that we may not all agree on. For example, “John Doe #24” — Vince explained to me that as much as he loved that song, the way it’s structured is very repetitive. It’s a circular guitar song and he felt that he couldn’t take it to as many places from a composer’s standpoint, as he could with other songs.  And that never occurred to me.  
Songs like “Only a Dream” and “Mrs. Hemingway” are mini movies.   
Exactly. All these years ago when I decided to do it, it was because I heard Vince’s work. … I thought, ‘If I ever get a chance to work with him, that is what I want to do.’ I had this idea [and] I’ve been walking around with it on a wish card in my back pocket. It’s amazing to me that so many years down the road it could happen, and it’s opened so many doors for me. I have met so many amazing people and other things have come along because of this project. It’s just been so transformative. 
Is there a moment this year that stands out a favorite? 
It’s been a gift — playing Red Rocks, for example, this summer in Denver. I was on the stage, smelling weed coming at me and here we are on stage with this orchestra, the wonderful Colorado symphony and I just started giggling. The whole thing has been wonderful. 
It sounds less like work and more of a long vacation. 
Every single time I get to go do it, present the music, it just doesn’t feel like work. Quite honestly, I don’t ever feel like walking out on the stage is work. I feel like somebody just gave me a gift that night, and I get to open this gift on stage with a bunch of friends. It’s not a job. You can ask everyone — I walk off the stage and I say I had so much fun I want to do it again! It’s not like a project that has a shelf life either. As long as we are invited to present it, the songs that have a timeless appeal. You can do it now or five or 10 years from now. We are trying to create a spell. 
As seen in the October 23, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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