It’s 2003, and Deana Carter is out on tour with Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban, promoting her album I’m Just a Girl and songs like “There’s No Limit” and “You and Tequila,” which would later become a life-changing track for the singer, thanks to Chesney.
She’s riding high and living her dream with tremendous success from hits like “Strawberry Wine,” “We Danced Anyway” and “How Do I Get There” But if there’s one constant in the music business and in life, it’s change.
And soon Carter’s life would become a series of changes — some welcome ones like the birth of a son in 2004 and some not-so-welcome ones like failed relationships and numerous jumps from one record label to another.
But through it all she focused on her joy — her child — and eventually made the decision to pull back from her career to focus more on raising her son.
Despite the occasional longing over the years to be back on the scene, Carter was confident in her decision and content, enjoying the role of motherhood and all of its responsibilities and rewards.
But as her son grew up and became more independent, Carter began to contemplate her next move and wondered if a return to music could become a reality for her.
Still, she hesitated as she thought of her family, until one day a conversation with her wise son changed it all.
“I was at a fork in the road, really, of not knowing,” she told me during a chat at the recent 30A Songwriters Festival in Florida. “It had been a long time since I’d had a record and been on the radio, and I’d kind of pulled away from the limelight to focus on being a mom and making sure my biggest priority — my son Hayes — was OK. It was a tough time.
“So coming out of all that, Hayes was old enough to wonder what the heck does Mom do? He asked, ‘Didn’t you used to be in the music business?’ because he’s just old enough to figure this stuff out. That’s when I was saying my prayers about it. Like, ‘Well, what’s going to happen now? He’s growing up and time’s wasting. Am I going keep doing music or go back and work in the real world?’”
The call and pull of music had always been strong for Carter, so she continued seeking out answers in the best ways she knew how — by praying and writing.
“I wrote a song called ‘Do or Die’ right after my prayer time of asking that question,” she said. “About two weeks later, I got a call that Kenny Chesney had recorded ‘You and Tequila’ from 10 years prior. I had no idea. It was a blessing and a direct message that it was time to get back at it.”
Chesney’s recording of the single with rocker Grace Potter would go on to command the charts and earn Carter and her co-writer and close friend Matraca Berg nominations at the Grammy, ACM and CMA Awards which brought them back into the mix. Both she and Berg joined Potter onstage for the first time to perform the song during the festival.
The song’s success was not only a victory for Carter but also a victory for fans who missed her and loved her.
“For me, it was important as a writer because I’d kind of been overlooked in that world,” she revealed. “It’s been incredible, and God just keeps blessing my life. I don’t always get it right, but I’m trying to be clued in and do what He put me on this Earth to do. And I’m very clear what that is — to sing or write songs or mentor new artists coming up. I’m back in it, and that’s where I’m supposed to be.”
For Carter, art almost always imitates life, whether it’s in music or in film. Thus is the case with her upcoming movie Painted Horses, in which she plays Aunt Nora, the voice of reason to a wild-child niece and a woman who has traveled the world only to return home and realize the beauty of a simpler life.
With new music, new roles and new adventures, Carter’s own life is good.
“I’m just grateful,” Carter told me. “But I’ll take that lottery ticket, if it ever comes. I’ll take my name in lights on Broadway, too,” she joked. “I’m just excited. I’m in a really exciting phase of my life as just a woman, a mom, a writer. I’m excited.”
Enjoy the new video for Deana Carter’s “That’s Just Me.”