Country Singer-Songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter to Perform with St. Louis Symphony

By Cara Wegener
In Culture

This Saturday, June 4, Mary Chapin Carpenter is performing with the St. Louis Symphony at Powell Symphony Hall. The 5-time-Grammy-winner will present her newest album “The Things That We Are Made Of.”

Carpenter worked on the musical arrangements with Vince Mendoza, who has worked with Joni Mitchell, Bjork, Elvis Costello and other greats. The album was recorded with top producer, Dave Cobb, who continues to put out chart-topping albums—including his work with Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson.

Carpenter’s ability to dig deep and return with stories her audience can relate to  is just one of the reasons that this Saturday’s show should be at the top of your list for weekend plans.

Photo courtesy of Mary Chapin Carpenter

Photo courtesy of Mary Chapin Carpenter. Photo by Aaron Farrington.

“The Things That We Are Made Of” has received widespread acclaim from NPR Music and Associated Press, among other publications. Rolling Stone says this album “beautifully sums up where she’s been and what’s yet to come.” The Huffington Post says “… Carpenter is now at the height of her musical career, painting a compelling, relevant piece of art tinged with mixed feelings of grief and joy, all without preaching or darkening our minds with sadness.”

Learn more about Mary Chapin Carpenter with this Q+A!

As one of the great country singer-songwriters, how do you typically go about writing a song?
Gosh, it’s different every single time I sit down to work. I never thought of myself as solely a country music artist. I found myself feeling like the categories were sort of useless. There’s no formula for writing a song. It’s being open to inspiration and sitting down and doing the work. Sometimes, if you’re lucky it feels like it comes out of the air—it feels like it writes itself and I don’t know how to explain that. And then other times, it’s something that I work and work and work at, in a way that I want to, of course. Sometimes it takes years to finish.

What seems to inspire your work the most?
Life, of course. Matters of the heart—just really everything. If you have any familiarity with my discography, you see that there’s everything from the life of Ernest Hemingway to a song about a soldier in Tiananmen Square. There aren’t limits to what you can imagine and write about.

How was your experience recording with Dave Cobb?
Dave is wonderful. I don’t know if you are familiar with his recent work, but they are just really wonderful records. I was thrilled that he wanted to do it. He’s a very positive person and open to all other ideas. I was terrified, but I think terror is a good motivator.

What are you listening to right now?
I am in love with the latest Sam Beam (Iron & Wine) record with Jesca Hoop, it’s such a beautiful record. My tour mate, Rose Cousins, she’s amazing. Then there’s The Beatles, Randy Newman—there’s a million people out there. I grew up listening to everything. A lot of choral and classical music, as well. I listen to more of that than anything.

Have you been to St. Louis before?
Many times. The last time we played a small, beautiful, vintage building.

What are you looking forward to?
Playing with the orchestra. I love every time I get to present the music in this way. I love the arrangements by Vince Mendoza—he’s just extraordinary. He’s done such beautiful work over the years. Making this record with him has just been life-transforming.

How does your new album “The Things That We Are Made Of” compare to past albums you’ve put out?
I don’t know if I’m the best person to answer that. Each new record you make is something your heart and your soul is poured into it. It’s not a judgement, it’s a reflection of a time in your life as a singer-songwriter. I don’t know if I am ever able to be neutral.

What is yet to come for Mary Chapin Carpenter?
The day after our show in St. Louis, I’m going right into rehearsal to tour for the rest of the year. Though, having been doing this now for almost 30 years, I look forward to being busy.

For tickets and information, visit STL Symphony online.

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