This is the tour that never ends,” says singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter of her current tour supporting “Songs from the Movie,” her January 2014 album of greatest hits arranged for the singer and a full orchestra. Because it involves arranging a different orchestra for each city, whether it’s Los Angeles, Pensacola or Glasgow, Scotland, it’s not the usual round of bus and plane rides from city to city.
“I see the (orchestral tour) as having a life that goes on … past the horizon. It’s not timed to anything. It exists as long as orchestras invite us to come and present it.”
Those breaks, however, have allowed her to play hooky as it were and visit the Lobero tonight in an intimate engagement backed with a two-piece band.
“For years I’ve liked to strip things down and go out with just a few players,” she says. “Because I’m not promoting a new record as it were, I have a little more room in the set list to pull up some older things, some deeper catalog exploration. It’s a real pleasure.”
That will please fans of Ms. Carpenter and offer her a chance to really dive down into her catalog, and reassess her 27 years in show business, first as a country artist who could also rock, and her later incarnation as a balladeer of deep emotional truths, whose insights can cut very close to the soul. She’s been both a representative of the independent single woman and a documentarian of some of the most traumatic events we can face: divorce, the death of a parent and serious illness. She went through all three roughly at the same time and 2012’s “Ashes and Roses” came out of that. Songwriting, as she has said many times, is the way she deals with the world, but it’s also helped others deal with it too.
For example, “Old Love” from that album is a song that tries to explore the kind of love that long-married couples have. On one hand, it’s a subject that most popular music would rather not talk about when new love is much more exciting. And on the personal level, it came from Ms. Carpenter realizing that her marriage was not going to result in exactly the kind of “old love” she sings about.
“When we were in the studio recording that song my bass player was reminded of a cabin he visits every summer with his family and an old couple that look after it when he’s not there,” she says. “And they’ve been married 60-something years. And one day he was talking to the old man and asked just how do you do that? And the fellow said, ‘Nobody left.’ That’s all he said.”
“As we grow older different things interest us,” she continues. “At the place I am now I think it’s natural to gravitate to the bigger issues in life. It’s more magnetic than writing about going out on a Friday night. Not that those aren’t great songs too. But there are things that you should challenge yourself to address at a certain time in your life. If you want to be energized or constantly pushed from the inside from what you might perceive to be your muse, then that’s what you need to do.”
Talking about songwriting brings her back to just talking about the human condition, because it’s one and the same to Ms. Carpenter.
“We think as we get older that we’d get to know ourselves better, but actually it’s constantly a surprise to realize we don’t know ourselves. And those come to the fore during those times when we realize we’ve made a terrible mistake, or there’s a crisis in your life. You think why didn’t I do better, or how didn’t I know what to do. People are constantly surprising to me. Life is surprising. I know it’s a cliche, but boy, it is.”